No more need to worry about the new four-team playoff and what it means for the ACC. They are going to be just fine.
The ACC can thank the Orange Bowl for this security, as ESPN's Joe Schad points out:
When ACC inks deal w Orange Bowl its champ is guaranteed "BCS" game spot even if the Orange is a semifinal and champ is rated below 12— Joe Schad (@schadjoe) June 29, 2012
What was originally going to be just four strong—SEC, Big 12, Pac-12 and Big Ten—has now added the ACC back into the mix. The "Big Five" will keep the ACC from being left out, as Sports Illustrated's Stewart Mandel tweeted:
While there are no more official AQs, the ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12 and SEC basically are b/c of their individual contracts w/ bowls.— Stewart Mandel (@slmandel) June 28, 2012
So what does this all mean for the ACC? The simple answer is stability. Teams like Florida State will now be less likely to feel the need to leave. With the guarantee that the conference champion will at least be in this new top-tier bowl structure, there is no reason to go anywhere.
This format is now reminiscent of the pre-2006 BCS, when a team that lost their auto bid was guaranteed a spot elsewhere in the BCS bowls. In 2006, the Rose Bowl hosted the national championship between USC and Texas. The Big Ten champion that year was Penn State who ended up playing in the Orange Bowl instead, as their auto bid allowed.
Eerily familiar of the pre-2006 BCS, the ACC is in a good spot. After all, the ACC champion can be ranked lower than No. 12 and still find themselves in one of the top-tier bowls. That's a pretty solid deal for the ACC.
There have been a lot of concerns since the four-team playoff was approved, but the ACC has no reason to worry anymore. Everything seems to be working out nicely for the conference. With more stability means better retention. Don't expect to see any teams fleeing the ACC anytime soon.
Go ahead and thank the Orange Bowl.