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The Path to a Tier 1 Bowl Game for the Canes

It starts with a win. After that? Let’s look at the possibilities.

Miami v Virginia Tech Photo by Michael Shroyer/Getty Images

The Miami Hurricanes are finally bowl eligible after earning their 6th win of the season, beating Virginia Tech 38-14 this weekend.

Late on Saturday night, I wrote a piece refreshing your memories about the ACC’s bowl tie-ins, and how selections for those bowls are made. What, you didn’t read that piece? No problem. Click the link:

(waits for you to finish reading that piece)

Okay, cool. Welcome back.

As you saw in that bowl piece, there are separate tiers of bowls. Tier 1 bowls (better competition, higher visibility, more desirable locations, more $), and Tier 2/additional bowls (usually G5 competition, less visibility, earlier in bowl season, non-premium locations). If you’re not going to make the College Football Playoff (spoiler alert: Miami won’t), then obviously you want a Tier 1 bowl, if possible.

Who makes it to Tier 1 bowls? As I said in the above-linked piece, those bowl placements go to teams who finish between 3rd and 6th in the final ACC Conference Standings. That’s key. Gotta be both bowl eligible and in the top half of the conference standings to be selected for a Tier 1 bowl.

For the Miami Hurricanes, the potential to be placed in/selected by a Tier 1 bowl game for 2018 is still there. But, it is far from certain at this time.

Discounting Clemson and Pittsburgh, 2 teams who are locked into ACC standings slots 1 and 2 (or tied for 2 but with the tiebreaker at worst), there are 7 teams — Syracuse, Georgia Tech, North Carolina State, Boston College, Virginia, Miami, and Virginia Tech — fighting for 4 slots from 3rd to 6th in the final ACC standings. Lots of competition for coveted bowl slots.

After putting pen to paper to sketch out some scenarios for Miami to make it to a Tier 1 bowl game, I’m letting my fingers do the walking on my keyboard to bring that info to your eyeballs.

Step 1: Beat Pitt, get to 4-4 in Conference

Winning matters. For Miami to have any chance to get to a Tier 1 bowl game, the Canes absolutely must beat Pitt on Saturday afternoon. That would put the Canes at 4-4 in conference and open the door for the rest of these steps to fall into place. With a loss, Miami would be 3-5 in the league and definitely out of Top 6 range.

Many steps are needed, but the first one is winning. I mean, that’s why they play the games, after all.

Step 2: Root for help

This is general, sure, but it matters. If Miami is to have a shot at a Tier 1 bowl game, the Canes will have to root for a bunch of teams to have the same record.

One such scenario would be several teams tied at 5-3 in 3rd, and others (including Miami) be tied with other teams at 4-4 in 4th.

Here’s how that can happen:

  • Syrcause loses to Boston College
  • NCState beats UNC
  • Virginia beats VT

That would then leave the conference records for all 7 teams in this group as:

5-3: Syracuse, Georgia Tech (locked into this record already), NCState, Virginia (tied for 3rd)

4-4: Miami, Boston College (tied for 4th)

If you’re going straight down the line, that would put Miami at the bottom of that group (BC would hold tiebreaker via head to head win), but still eligible (technically) for a Tier 1 bowl.

Bowls would then have a choice to make, as there would be 5 teams for 3 slots, with one of the 5-3 teams out of contention by being selected to play in the Camping World Bowl, the 3rd highest bowl placement possible for an ACC team.

Here’s another way that teams could end up tied in that cadre:

  • Syracuse beats Boston College
  • UNC beats NCState
  • VT beats Virginia

This scenario would have the final standings as:

6-2: Pittsburgh (2nd as Coastal Champ), Syracuse (3rd)

5-3: Georgia Tech (4th; locked into this record already)

4-4: Miami, Boston College, Virginia, Virginia Tech, NC State (tied for 5th)

In this scenario, Miami would be behind BC and UVa because of head to head losses, but ahead of VT, and tied with NCState. But, they’d be in the range to be selected for a Tier 1 bowl game.

This ends up giving Miami slightly less favorable odds, with 6 teams vying for 3 Tier 1 slots. Pitt and Syracuse would be eliminated by making a NY6 bowl and the Camping World Bowl, the top 2 non-CFP placements for ACC teams, respectively.

Step 3: Hope Clemson wins the ACC Championship Game

I know this seems like a foregone conclusion at this point, but if Pitt were to upset Clemson in the ACCCG, that would throw a serious wrench into things.

With Pitt as conference Champions, they would get the New Year’s 6 slot for the ACC — likely the Peach or Fiesta Bowl. Clemson would then be a prime team to get another NY6 placement, if available. And, the Tigers are one of the 3-5 best programs in the country right now, so they’d be picked up for one of those games.

BUT IF THEY WEREN’T, that would be bad for the conference in general and Miami specifically. Clemson dropping to the Camping World Bowl would bump everybody down a slot, and put even more teams in contention for the 3 Tier 1 bowl slots.

So, just to make things easy, Clemson should win the ACCCG and remove themselves from this conversation by making the College Football Playoff. Thanks in advance.

Step 4: Hope the name brand of The U resonates with bowl committees

Okay, so if steps 1 and 2 play out the way we want, Miami is 4-4 and tied for 4th or 5th in conference.

Miami is eligible to be selected by a Tier 1 bowl game.

At that point, it comes down to the Bowl committee picking the Canes to be in their game.


Bowl Games are exhibitions. Bowl Games are, at their core, TV shows. While Miami is not a championship contender at current, they are a national brand which routinely does well when featured on TV.

Don’t believe me? What time were the games during Miami’s losing streak all played? 7pm Primetime. That wasn’t by happenstance. TV networks know what they’re doing.

So, following that logic, Bowl Game committees, which are entrusted to present an interesting and engaging TV product, could look at Miami as a great team to have in their game. And, with several of the Tier 1 options relatively close to South Florida — Belk Bowl in Charlotte, Gator Bowl in Jacksonville, Music City Bowl in Nashville — having Miami in their game could be a strong move.

The other Tier 1 bowl games — the Sun Bowl and the Pinstripe Bowl — are held in El Paso, TX and New York, NY, respectively. Those aren’t prime Miami locations, but they have the upper visibility status of the Belk, Gator or Music City (an ACC team will be placed in either, not both), so those are potential options as well.

With Miami (hopefully) being tied at 4-4 in conference, there are other teams both above them and tied with them that could be selected for these bowl games. But, the strength of the #Brand could help propel Miami into one of the Tier 1 bowl slots available to ACC teams.

There are a lot of moving parts, to be sure, but for Miami to be selected by a Tier 1 bowl game, but everything in this piece is predicated on beating Pittsburgh on Saturday afternoon on Senior Day at Hard Rock Stadium.

So, let’s go win. Then hope things fall our way after that.

Go Canes