Sources McMurphy has a new report on the status of the Orange Bowl's deal with the ACC, still being finalized:
The Atlantic Coast Conference and Orange Bowl are finalizing a deal that would pit the ACC champion against either Notre Dame, an SEC or Big Ten team starting after the 2014 regular season, sources told ESPN.
The ACC and Orange Bowl would have the opportunity to take Notre Dame, if it doesn't make the national semifinals; an SEC team not in the national semifinals or Champions Bowl; or a Big Ten team not in the semifinals or Rose Bowl.
I really don't see a downside for the ACC here.
The two parties here probably are going to root for Notre Dame to make it every year, given that the Irish are the conference's new BFF and every bowl committee would prefer to take that program it seems. But in years when ND isn't available, this practically ensures that the ACC champion will be playing a non-champion. After all, the ACC title winner isn't likely to make the playoff based on recent history. Only Virginia Tech in 2007 has made it to the final BCS top four out of that league since FSU fell off a cliff a decade ago.
The SEC champ and Big Ten champ have their own prior commitments, to say nothing of their much better chances of ending up in the playoff. And you better believe that the Orange is not going to get a choice of SEC or Big Ten teams before the Champions and Rose Bowls. It follows then that the ACC champ could sometimes face a third place team from those other leagues. That could help the league's abysmal BCS bowl record to perk up a bit.
The logistics of this deal, like just about every other BCS successor system mechanism, are still waiting to be hammered out. We do know this much: a team will have to finish in the top 12 of the selection committee's rankings in order to be eligible to play in the Orange. If all of Notre Dame, a spare SEC team, and a spare Big Ten team aren't in the top 12, which probably won't be too often, they'll have to settle for someone else.
One thing this means is that the third-highest ranked SEC team has an inside track to the BCS successor system, provided that Brian Kelly doesn't turn Notre Dame into a monster. I can't imagine bowls like the Capital One, Cotton, and Outback are going to be too happy about that development. It also shows which conferences are the most valuable. The ACC and Orange could have gone for the Big 12, given its roots as the Big Eight (which once had a tie-in to the Orange). It could have gone after the Pac-12. Instead, it went for the SEC and Big Ten. That tells you what you need to know.
I will mention that it's possible that the Orange could get the Big Ten or SEC champ under this arrangement. In the years when the Rose Bowl is a semifinal game, the Big Ten champ would go to the Orange if it's not in the top four. The same goes for the SEC champ when the Champions Bowl is a semifinal. The Rose and Champions Bowls won't be semifinals as often as the other four bowls in the rotation will be, however.
Also: one other motivation for partnering up with the SEC and Big Ten that I didn't think of earlier is to fill seats. Many ACC programs struggle to fill their own home stadiums as it is, and the Orange Bowl has had a real attendance problem of late. In general SEC and Big Ten fan bases tend to travel the best to bowls, and they're certainly accustomed to coming to Florida for early January bowl games.