While Pitt was guaranteed a New Year’s Six bowl berth after winning the ACC Championship, their postseason destination wasn’t known until this afternoon since the Orange Bowl, the usual home of the ACC champion, is being used for the College Football Playoff.
With the Rose Bowl and Sugar Bowl making their selections based on prior tie-ins, Pitt’s options boiled down to the Fiesta Bowl and the Sugar Bowl, and according to CFP committee chair Gary Barta, the end of the season rankings were the main factor in Pitt’s Peach Bowl berth.
“The committee, we talked a lot about what’s the best way to go about this, and we felt strongly that the most fair way to go forward was to take — use our rankings as the determination,” Barta said on Sunday’s CFP Selection Committee Zoom call. “We went in order of the way that they were ranked, so Notre Dame was at 5, Oklahoma State was at 9, so those two were paired together, and then Michigan State was 10 and Pittsburgh was 12, so those two were paired together.”
However, while the final rankings played a large part in the committee selecting Notre Dame and Oklahoma State to the Fiesta Bowl and Pitt and Michigan State to the Peach Bowl, geography also played a factor in the decisions.
With the Fiesta Bowl being played at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona, Notre Dame and Oklahoma State are the two westernmost teams of the four. The Peach Bowl’s Atlanta, Georgia location (played at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium) is closer for both Pitt and Michigan State.
“Then we considered geography for which bowl to send each of those pairings to, and we sort of moved the West and the Midwest to the Phoenix area and then moved those teams that were a little bit further east to the ACC country and to the East Coast,” Barta said. “That’s how we went about it.
Pitt jumped from 15 to 12 following Saturday night’s win, but the Panthers are still the lowest-ranked Power Five champions. With a bad loss to Western Michigan earlier this season (and another better loss to Miami), the lack of a marquee win held the Panthers back when compared to the Top 10 or so teams.
The ACC title did, however, allow Pitt to remain among the Top 12 teams in the country over teams without conference titles (or a conference at all) in BYU. Barta said that with a combination of reasons, a conference title is what placed teams like Pitt and Utah above BYU.
The Peach Bowl is set for Thursday, Dec. 30 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium at 7 p.m. on ESPN.