The new bowl cycle set to begin next season will undoubtedly benefit the ACC in one major way -- opponents have been upgraded.
Based on official announcements and various reports, we can take a look at this as an out with the old, in with the new approach. Let's start at the top with the Orange Bowl.
In the current BCS iteration, the ACC has been at the mercy of facing an at-large selection. Most years, that at-large selection has been uninspiring: Kansas in 2008, Cincinnati in 2009 and Northern Illinois in 2013 just to name three. Louisville vs. Wake Forest in 2007 did not exactly light up TV ratings, either.
As part of a 12-year deal with the Discover Orange Bowl beginning Jan. 1, 2015, the ACC champion annually will face either an SEC or Big Ten team, or Notre Dame. Easy to see the more appealing matchup possibilities there (although Iowa-Georgia Tech in 2010 was the worst rated BCS game that year).
Two other bowl games should feature better opponents as well. Both the Belk Bowl and Russell Athletic Bowl are reportedly cutting ties with the soon-to-be renamed Big East. That leaves the ACC to most likely face a Big 12 opponent in the Russell Athletic Bowl in Orlando, and an SEC opponent in the Belk Bowl in Charlotte.
Now on to the future addition of the New Era Pinstripe Bowl. That game announced a new partnership with the Big Ten on Monday. Though the ACC was not a part of the announcement, it is widely expected the league will slide into this game, which currently features the Big East vs. the Big 12. This move provides the ACC a second bowl game vs. the Big Ten. Currently, there are no bowl games pitting these two conferences against each other.
ACC fans should look at the possibilities and smile. No more games against the Big East, and more bowls against the Big Ten, Big 12 and potentially the SEC. The league wants to prove it belongs in the same conversation with the other power conferences. Future bowl seasons will provide the perfect opportunity.