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Monday, September 17, 2012
Updated: September 21, 7:54 PM ET
ACC, Orange Bowl close to deal

By Brett McMurphy
ESPN

The Atlantic Coast Conference and Orange Bowl are finalizing a deal that would pit the ACC champion against either Notre Dame, an SEC or Big Ten team starting after the 2014 regular season, sources told ESPN.

The ACC champion, or another team from the conference if its champion qualifies for the national semifinals, will play annually in the Orange Bowl. How the ACC's opponent will be selected from Notre Dame, the SEC or Big Ten is still being determined.

The ACC and Orange Bowl would have the opportunity to take Notre Dame, if it doesn't make the national semifinals; an SEC team not in the national semifinals or Champions Bowl; or a Big Ten team not in the semifinals or Rose Bowl.

The Orange Bowl and ACC's deal with Notre Dame/Big Ten/SEC locks up both sides of the third major bowl when the new playoff format starts in 2014. The Rose Bowl will have Big Ten and Pac-12 teams and the Champions Bowl -- still to be determined whether to be held in Arlington, Texas or New Orleans -- will have SEC and Big 12 teams.

The potential deal is one of the key reasons conference commissioners are leaning toward adding another game to the new college football postseason system.

The original plan for the four-team playoff that will replace the Bowl Championship Series in 2014 called for the national semifinals rotating among six marquee bowl games.

Now it looks as if the rotation will consist of seven games.

"I think there is enough support for it to make it happen," Sun Belt commissioner Karl Benson said in a telephone interview Friday. Last week, Notre Dame announced it would join the ACC as a full member for all sports except football, where the Irish will play five games annually against ACC opponents.

Notre Dame will leave the Big East as soon as it can negotiate a deal with the conference. Last week, Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick discussed the Irish's pending deal with the Orange Bowl.

Brett McMurphy covers college sports for ESPN. Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.