Close, but not entirely correct
by tf86 (2015-01-16 14:26:40)
Edited on 2015-01-19 00:07:24
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  In reply to: ND almost certainly would be out with a #12 rating  posted by ShermanOaksND



Here's how I see it, in terms of the minimum ranking ND needs to be guaranteed one of the Access Bowls:

Next year (also 2018, 2021 and 2024):

Orange and Cotton host semifinals (1-4)
Rose has B1G vs. Pac-12. Conference champions, if not selected for the playoff; otherwise, highest-ranked remaining team from those conferences.
Sugar has Big XII vs. SEC. Again, conference champions, if not selected for the playoff; otherwise, highest-ranked remaining team from those conferences.

That leaves Peach and Fiesta for at-large teams plus the Gang of Five rep. Also, the ACC champ would get one of these bids if it failed to qualify for the playoff. That leaves two at-large bids in worst-case scenario.

4+2=6 as the lowest rank where ND would be guaranteed an Access Bowl bid.

2016 (also 2019, 2022 and 2025):

Fiesta and Peach host semifinals (1-4)
Rose has B1G vs. Pac-12. Conference champions, if not selected for the playoff; otherwise, highest-ranked remaining team from those conferences.
Sugar has Big XII vs. SEC. Again, conference champions, if not selected for the playoff; otherwise, highest-ranked remaining team from those conferences.
Orange has ACC champ (or highest-ranked remaining team) vs. SEC/B1G/ND.
Cotton has the one at-large bid vs. Gang of Five rep.

This is the one cycle where I think you don't look at the at-large bids, look at the Orange Bowl instead. It's the one year where BOTH the playoff AND the Rose/Sugar Bowls pick ahead of the Orange from the B1G/SEC consortium. Therefore, the highest ranking the Orange Bowl opponent could have is #6, assuming either the SEC's Sugar Bowl rep or the B1G's Rose Bowl rep finished #5. ND is guaranteed an Access Bowl in this year with a #6 ranking.

Caveat: It should be noted that ND is allowed no more than two Orange Bowl non-playoff appearances over the next 12 years. So in the later years of this arrangement it may well be that ND will need a Top 5 finish to be assured of an Access Bowl bid in this cycle, but for 2016 at least, ND would be guaranteed an Access Bowl bid at #6.

Edit to add the following: Actually, ND would be guaranteed an Access Bowl bid in these seasons with a #7 finish. If either the B1G or SEC had both the 5 and 6 teams, those teams would be selected for the Rose/Sugar and Orange Bowls. ND, in that scenario, would be the highest-ranked at-large team at #7. If a non-B1G/SEC team finished in either the 5 or 6 slot, then ND would still be eligible for the Orange Bowl at #7.

2017 (also 2020 and 2023):

Rose and Sugar Bowls host playoff (1-4).
Orange Bowl has ACC champ (or next highest-ranked team, if ACC champ is in playoff) vs. SEC/B1G/ND.

Cotton, Peach and Fiesta have at-large bids, with one of these bowls being required to invite the Gang of Five rep.

Now here's the catch: the conference champions from the B1G, Big XII, Pac-12 and SEC all are guaranteed one of these bowl bids if they fail to qualify for the playoff. Each bid claimed by one of those teams is taken away from an at-large.

As a practical matter, assuming that ND doesn't make the playoff (which is the scenario we're talking about here), as a practical matter a minimum of two of those programs will qualify for the playoff (I'm assuming that the ACC champ and the #2 SEC program round out the playoff in that event). That means that of the six bids in the Access (Cotton/Fiesta/Peach) Bowls, two conference champs plus the Gang of Five rep would be included, the remaining three bids would be at-large.

4+3=7 is the minimum ranking ND would need to be guaranteed an Access Bowl in these years.

I agree that ND has almost no chance at an Access Bowl bid with a #12 ranking. The only possible way that could happen is if the Gang of Five rep finishes in the Top 11. Further, in years where the Orange Bowl does not host the playoff and the ACC champ qualifies for the playoff, 10 is probably the lowest ranking that ND could get and still conceivably qualify for an Access Bowl bid, accounting for the Gang of Five rep and the ACC rep in the Orange Bowl.



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