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What New ACC-Orange Bowl Deal Means For Pitt, Big East

The ACC's deal with the Orange Bowl helps ensure the stability of the conference (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
The ACC's deal with the Orange Bowl helps ensure the stability of the conference (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
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Funny how one deal can elicit two completely different responses.

ESPN's ACC blogger, Heather Dinich, had this to say following the ACC's recent Orange Bowl deal:

Immediately following the announcement of the ACC's continued partnership with the Orange Bowl, an assistant coach in the ACC sent me a text message that read: "Orange Bowl lockin Great 4 Recruiting!!!! Thank u Swofford!!!"

ACC fans should feel free to thank the commissioner, too.

Meanwhile, the outlook (at least immediately) from the Big East side isn't very good:

Just like the ACC and Orange, if any of these other conferences have teams in the four-team playoff, they get to send a backup to their tie-in game. Automatic bids, to use another word.

How is that different than the system we have today?

It's not. In fact, as many of you voted in our recent poll, the access for the Big East may very well be worse.

Seriously, I don't like piling on the Big East. And all this idiocy about Pitt/Syracuse fans somehow feeling a personal sense of superiority about their schools being in the Big East ... please. Just stop. But with everything going on, it's really difficult to not see how this is bad for the Big East.

With a proposed six major bowls, there are 12 slots open (Forget the names of the bowls right now, because that's pretty irrelevant - just know that there are six biggies). Two of those come in the form of the new playoff system and those four teams will be selected by a committee. Of the remaining eight spots, five are eaten up from contract deals that the SEC, Big 12, B1G, Pac 12, and, now, the ACC hold. Here's the lineup of major bowl games as we currently know it:

Playoff Semifinal: At-large vs. At-large

Playoff Semifinal: At-large vs. At-large

Champions Bowl: SEC vs. Big 12

Rose Bowl: Pac 12 vs. B1G

Orange Bowl: ACC vs. At-large

Other Major Bowl: At-large vs. At-large

That, of course, leaves three at-large selections after the playoff. As Andrea Adelson said in that Big East ESPN link above, it appears as if the conference is actually in worse shape, even with all of those at-large spots floating around. That's because the Big East previously had a BCS guarantee ... that, friends, no longer exists.

Before you go all 'Big East is completely irrelevant' on me, here's why the conference isn't quite sunk. If a very strong team comes from the Big East, they should get in ... somewhere. If a team like Boise State runs through the season, it's possible they'll at least have a chance (probably a bit dependent on what other teams do, as well) of even reaching the playoff. If not there, a very strong team should have a good look at getting an at-large spot outside of the playoff. The bottom line is that a one-loss Big East team will, in my mind, have a decent chance at getting into a major bowl if they schedule responsibly in the non-conference and can impress a bowl committee.

Still, not having a guaranteed spot anymore means the days of three- or four-loss teams getting into a big time slot are effectively over. So, the conference surely takes a hit based on that.

Okay, enough doom and gloom - what does this mean for Pitt?

Pitt is, in a few words, sitting pretty right now.

Look, the school is still a ways off from competing for one of those four playoff spots - let's not lose our heads. But the good news is that if Pitt has a great year and wins the ACC, they're guaranteed to head to a major bowl game at the very least. Even if they have two losses. Or even three. Win the conference and you're in.

I know, I get it, the Panthers haven't even been able to win an eight-team Big East outright, let alone a stronger, larger conference. Well, there's hope there, too. If an ACC team gets into the four-team playoff, the ACC still sends another representative to the Orange Bowl.

Again, I think we all understand that Pitt needs to improve a great deal for any of this to matter. But the point is that they are in significantly better shape than if they were still in the Big East.

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