- Brett McMurphy, College football reporter
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AMELIA ISLAND, Fla. -- The Russell Athletic Bowl is the leading candidate to get the ACC's second team in the league's new bowl lineup beginning in 2014, sources said.
The ACC's top team is slotted to the Discover Orange Bowl in years when the Orange Bowl is not part of the new College Football Playoff.
Two weeks ago, conference and bowl officials met in Charlotte. At the meeting, it appeared the Taxslayer.com Gator, Belk and American Mortgage Music City bowls would share the ACC's top bowl pick after the Orange Bowl, industry sources said. Each of those three bowls would play an SEC opponent, a source said.
However, the Russell Athletic Bowl in Orlando has surged to the ACC's top spot after any ACC teams advance to the College Football Playoff and the Orange Bowl, a source said.
The new bowl rotations begin after the 2014 season and are expected to be six-year agreements, a source said. This fall is the final year of the current four-year agreements between the 35 bowls and their respective conferences.
The league's spring meetings began Monday. The league is expected to finalize its official bowl affiliations in the coming weeks.
"Those bowls (Gator, Belk, Music City) believed they were going to be pooled at No. 1 (after the Orange Bowl)," an industry source said. "Somehow things changed. This is a huge blow to the ACC" to lose the Gator Bowl exclusively.
With the Russell Athletic Bowl getting the ACC's next selection after the Orange Bowl, the ACC would lose its exclusive deal with the Gator and Music City bowls. Instead, the two bowls would each get an ACC and Big Ten school three times over the six-year period.
From 1996 to 2009, the Gator Bowl, based in Jacksonville, Fla., hosted an ACC team. But since 2010, the bowl has been affiliated with the SEC and Big Ten.
Earlier this month, ESPN.com reported there also is "good possibility" when the Big Ten plays opposite the ACC in the Orange Bowl that the ACC would take the Big Ten's slot in the Capital One Bowl. The Capital One Bowl is expected to keep its SEC versus Big Ten tie-ins, except when the Big Ten plays in the Orange Bowl, a source said.
Besides the Discover Orange (Miami), Russell Athletic, Gator, Belk (Charlotte) and Franklin Music City (Nashville) bowls, the ACC also is expected to have tie-ins with the New Era Pinstripe Bowl in New York (against the Big Ten) and at least three other bowl games.
3dSharon Katz, ESPN Stats & Information
3dAndrea Adelson and Matt Fortuna