Notre Dame’s status as an independent, but also sorta-kinda ACC football member until 2037, makes the Irish’s bowl tie-ins a bit more confusing than most. Notre Dame has access to most of the ACC’s bowl tie-ins as long as they are within one win of the potential qualifying ACC team (the Orange Bowl being the exception), as well as access to the New Year’s Six bowls and College Football playoffs.
With that in mind, we created the following reference guide to help figure out where the Irish can land in the current bowl landscape. Keep in mind that specific bowl contracts can change and the College Football Playoff/New Year’s Six agreement ends with the 2023 season.
New Year’s Six & College Football Playoffs
Like the rest of FBS football teams, Notre Dame qualifies for the College Football Playoff if they are ranked in the top four by the playoff committee. Conference championships are not a requirement and that isn’t unique to Notre Dame.
As stated above, Notre Dame does not have the ACC tie-in to the Orange Bowl; however, they still can qualify for that game, taking the slot for the Big Ten/SEC slot against the ACC. For ND to take that spot, they must rank above the remaining B1G and SEC teams after the Semifinals, Rose Bowl, and Sugar Bowl make their selections.
Beyond that, Notre Dame can take the at-large slots from the Cotton, Peach, and Fiesta bowls in years which they aren’t hosting a semifinal. There is technically no ranking requirement for the at-large bid, but the goal of the New Year’s Six is to fill those six games with the top twelve teams in the nation. As such, you’ll often hear about needing to reach the top-12 to qualify, with the top-10 being a safer bet.
All the tie-ins are below. Keep in mind that, if the #1 team isn’t available due to a playoff bid, the next highest-ranked team is taken:
- Rose Bowl – #1 Pac-12 vs. #1 B1G
- Sugar Bowl – #1 SEC vs. #1 Big XII
- Orange Bowl – #1 ACC vs. Highest Ranked of #2 B1G/#2 SEC/Notre Dame
- Fiesta Bowl – At-Large vs. At-Large/#1 Group of Five
- Peach Bowl – At-Large vs. At-Large/#1 Group of Five
- Cotton Bowl – At-Large vs. At-Large/#1 Group of Five
Citrus Bowl & Camping World Bowl
The Citrus Bowl and Camping World Bowl are in a weird “tier” all their own. Below the New Year’s Six, and above the ACC Tier 1 Bowls, the Citrus Bowl and Camping World Bowl are the first of bowls that Notre Dame can “steal” an ACC bid from, as long as they are within one win the ACC team that would be in line for that spot.
There’s some additional weirdness here as the Citrus Bowl isn’t a guaranteed ACC bid. The ACC only gets a bid to the Citrus Bowl if a B1G team is in the Orange Bowl. If an SEC team lands in the Orange Bowl, the ACC doesn’t get a spot.
- Citrus Bowl – SEC vs B1G or ACC/Notre Dame, if B1G team in Orange Bowl
- Camping World Bowl – Big XII vs ACC/Notre Dame
ACC Tier 1 Bowls
Much like the Citrus and Camping World Bowls, ND can take the ACC slot if they are within one win of the qualifying ACC team.
There is still some weirdness in this tier as the Music City Bowl and Gator Bowl are contractually obligated to each get an ACC team three times. Currently, the Gator Bowl has priority if they wish to select an ACC team.
There is no selection order. The bowls, ACC, and schools all collaborate to fill the below:
- Belk Bowl – SEC vs. ACC/Notre Dame
- New Era Pinstripe Bowl – B1G vs. ACC/Notre Dame
- Tony the Tiger Sun Bowl – Pac-12 vs. ACC/Notre Dame
- Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl – SEC vs. B1G or ACC/ Notre Dame
- TaxSlayer Gator Bowl – SEC vs. B1G or ACC/Notre Dame
ACC Tier 2 Bowls
And now things get incredibly simple along with incredibly sad if the Irish end up in this tier.
Bowls select in order and are as follows:
- Military Bowl Presented by Northrop Grumman – AAC vs. ACC/Notre Dame
- Walk On’s Independence Bowl – SEC vs. ACC/Notre Dame
- Quick Lane Bowl – B1G vs. ACC/Notre Dame
ACC Bowls of Sadness
Technically still in tier 2, these bowls will only take a bowl-eligible ACC or Notre Dame if their original conference tie-ins can’t fill their slot. This is the bad place.
Here are said bowls in selection order with their contracted tie-ins:
- Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl – CUSA vs. AAC
- Birmingham Bowl – SEC vs AAC