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Georgia Tech's championship paradox: BCS bowl or no bowl

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CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) -

It's no secret that the Atlantic Coast Conference has had a tough season. But for one half of the ACC Championship battle - it's either win or you're done.

The ACC Championship game kicks off on Saturday night with the Florida State Seminoles taking on the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets. 

For the Seminoles, the game is a chance to put the icing on the cake.  A chance at a conference championship and a trip to a BCS bowl.

The story is a little different for Georgia Tech - the stakes are higher - win or go home.

And somewhere in there - $23.6 million hangs in the balance.

Let's break it down.

The Yellow Jackets, as it stands right now, are barely bowl eligible. They stand at 6 wins and 6 losses on the season and rank third in the Coastal Division of the ACC. 

The team was able to get into the championship game because the teams ahead of them, UNC and Miami, were both ineligible for post-season play due to NCAA and self-imposed sanctions on the season.

Here's where the interesting part comes in.  If they win the championship game - the Yellow Jackets are bound for a trip to a top-ranked BCS bowl. They would also collect the standard $23.6 million for being the ACC automatic qualifier for the Orange Bowl.

In this scenario, the ACC would be represented by a 7-6 team that finished in a three-way tie for its division and lost to Middle Tennessee by three touchdowns. Tech's best win is arguably a 68-50 victory over Carolina on Nov. 10.  

If they lose - they aren't technically eligible for ANY bowl game. 

Florida State is projected by most groups making predictions to easily win the ACC Championship.  That would leave Georgia Tech with a 6-7 season.  A losing season, meaning no bowl game. 

National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) rules dictate that teams must be 6-6 or better to qualify for a bowl. 

But there are 35 bowl games - meaning 70 openings for teams to participate in a bowl game. 

What does this mean for Georgia Tech? 

There are currently 70 bowl-eligible teams. UConn could make it 71 if it beats Cincinnati on Saturday. Pittsburgh would be bowl eligible, as well, if it wins at South Florida Saturday. 

Georgia Tech would have to file an appeal with the NCAA requesting an exemption to their losing season in order to get into a bowl game. 

According to the Atlanta Journal Constitution, Tech has already petitioned the NCAA for a bowl-eligibility waiver in the event that it loses to the Seminoles. School, ACC and bowl officials have been confident that the NCAA will grant the waiver.

"We have full confidence that, at the end of the day, we're going to be playing in a bowl game among the ACC selections between Dec. 27 and the first of January," acting athletic director Paul Griffin told the AJC. "We're doing everything we can to be prepared to play the first of January at the Orange Bowl. Beyond that, everything else is secondary."

Tech could receive an answer from the NCAA prior to Saturday's game against the Seminoles. Reports have suggested pushback against Tech being granted the waiver.

Industry sources told ESPN that "several conferences" are opposed to Georgia Tech getting the waiver, because it would take away a bowl spot from an eligible 6-6 team.

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