Item: Joining the Pinstripe Bowl at Yankee Stadium, the ACC has two other bowl affiliations at Major League Baseball parks this upcoming season, one of which would provide a return home for Dino Babers.
The first order of business in the critical sixth season at the helm for Babers is a winning season. That will take care of bowl eligibility for the first time since 2018, lower the temperature of the hot seat for the coaching staff, and reward the players and fans following last year’s 1-10 debacle.
In the always competitive ACC, a couple of wins is all the difference between the six Tier One bowls, and the four Tier Two games.
Here’s a look at the 2021 conference bowl lineup:
College Football Playoffs – It’s a season in which Miami Garden’s Orange Bowl hosts one of the national semifinal games, meaning if the ACC championship game winner doesn’t qualify for the four-team CFP, it likely has to settle for the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl in Atlanta or the Fiesta Bowl in suburban Phoenix. Neither are a bad consolation prize. The other semi-final site is the Cotton Bowl in Arlington, Tex., with the national championship game at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.
Tier One ACC Bowl Games – As in Syracuse’s successful 2018 campaign with an 9-3 regular season record and Top 15 ranking, the team after the league titlist is slated to play in the Camping World Bowl in Orlando against a Big 12 team. Joining the Pinstripe Bowl on the Tier One list is the Holiday Bowl in San Diego, which moves to Petco Park, the Padres home stadium, along with a major renovation project to ensure that a football field fits into the dimensions of an asymmetrical baseball field.
Babers grew up in San Diego in a military family in that military-based city, before heading to Hawaii to play his college football. How ironic would it be if in a season in which all eyes will be on the program to get back to postseason play, that success occurs in his hometown?
To get there, the ‘Cuse would likely have to finish no worse than 8-4 for a trip west to meet a Pac 12 opponent.
The other Tier One bowl games are in Charlotte (Duke’s Mayo Bowl-Big 10), El Paso (Tony the Tiger Sun Bowl-Pac 12), Jacksonville (TaxSlayer Bowl-SEC), and the aforementioned Pinstripe Bowl in The Bronx (Big Ten). With all due respect to those locales, a trip to San Diego has a different sort of ring to it from both weather and scenery.
Tier Two ACC Bowl Games – Making its debut after the pandemic-plagued 2020 season forced its cancellation is the Fenway Bowl at the Red Sox famed Fenway Park. While it sounds sexy, playing at 11:00 a.m. local time on a Wednesday in late December against an AAC team simply doesn’t have the same cache as a warm weather locale in a better TV window against another Power 5 conference foe.
There’s a couple of other big city destinations among the Tier Two games in Dallas (First Responder Bowl-Big 12) and Tampa (Gasparilla Bowl-AAC), along with the small-town charm of Annapolis (Military Bowl-AAC).
However, as SU fans know all too well of late, playing in a bowl game no matter the region of the country is certainly better than the alternative. If you are interested in betting on football this season, whether at the collegiate or the NFL level, make sure to check out Doc’s Sports handicapping for all the latest analysis and insights.