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Why FSU to the Gator Bowl is quite unlikely— but not impossible

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Talking ’Noles and bowls.

NCAA Football: TaxSlayer Gator Bowl-Texas A&M vs North Carolina State Adam Hagy-USA TODAY Sports

Florida State football ending its 2019 season where it was supposed to begin it — in Jacksonville — could happen. The Seminoles are eligible for the postseason once again, and one of the ACC’s bowl tie-ins is the Gator Bowl, held at TIAA Bank Field.

After the College Football Playoff, the Orange Bowl, and the Camping World Bowl (none of which the six-win ’Noles are gonna make), the Gator Bowl is one of five “tier-one” bowls committed to the ACC.

Well, sort of. In any given year, that’s really more like four, and it may wind up having nothing to do with how well FSU finishes its regular season.

Because there’s an important “or” between the Music City Bowl, in Nashville, and the aforementioned Gator Bowl in Jacksonville. While the Belk, Sun, and Pinstripe Bowls are contractually bound to the ACC, the Music City and Gator Bowls have more of a timeshare agreement.

Here’s how that works.

The SEC gets a team in both Nashville and Jacksonville each year. But the deal, since 2014, has been that the Music City and Gator Bowls will split the SEC opponents between the ACC and Big Ten, 50-50, over the next six years, culminating in the present bowl season.

In the last three Gator Bowls (known, unfortunately, as the TaxSlayer Bowl from 2015-2017), Georgia Tech, Louisville, and NC State have matched up against SEC teams. Meanwhile, three Big Ten teams (Northwestern, Nebraska, and Purdue) have faced SEC competition in Nashville.

Translation: the Big Ten is due to face the SEC in Jacksonville this year. That’s why, across a dozen bowl projections I checked, only one had an ACC team — Miami — playing in the Gator Bowl this time around.

Is there wiggle room here? Yes. There often is for bowls that aren’t premier destinations like the Orange or the Rose Bowl. For instance: securing Jacksonville and the Gator Bowl for Bobby Bowden’s final game, against West Virginia.

But an interim (or new) coach at FSU hardly seems to command the same stage, as much as ’Nole fans a short drive away may wish otherwise.