The ACC does not deserve an automatic entry into the 12-team BCS 2.0, based on its football results. That's ignoring from the beginning that it's unfair to give instant slots to some conference champs unless they're given to all, but even within the context of auto-bids, the ACC's getting a better deal than it's proved itself worthy of.
You won't catch John Swofford expressing shame over his league's record in the Orange Bowl over the past decade -- 1-9, to be exact. This is a straight-up win for the ACC. For the Orange Bowl, it will often mean a worse game than it could've gotten by just pairing two at-larges, but that's assuming the Orange would've gotten a spot in the six-bowl New Year's event without a conference tie. You'd think its Miami location would be good enough to give the Orange a spot, but New Orleans, Dallas and Atlanta don't have playoff bowls yet, either. The Fiesta and Sugar have no BCS associations now, and are thus suddenly at the mercy of the system.
Neither the ACC nor the Orange has called to mind a truly elite institution since the '90s, when Florida State won two titles and that Nebraska juggernaut played six times in Miami. But by clinging to each other through uncertainty, they've both established themselves as just good enough. Maybe that's all that matters.
Even more critically, the partnership might just guarantee conference stability. For FSU, the deal removes one very large reason to consider leaving the ACC for the Big 12, which we'd thought last month to be one of only four power conferences. Now there are five, even though the last nine national champions have come from just three leagues.
Not only do the Noles have a very good shot every year at both the playoff and an automatic Orange Bowl bid if they finish second in the ACC, they might tend to have the most navigable road to the tournament of any team in the country.
Based on recruiting resources (FSU ranks No. 6 in recruiting over the last five years according to Rivals, with the next ACC school at No. 14; only USC has a bigger edge), coaching salary resources (Jimbo Fisher is the ACC's highest-paid coach, but he'd be third in the Big 12, fourth in the Big Ten, and something like sixth in the SEC), winning history (half the ACC's four national titles since 1981), and however else you want to break it down, the Noles should contend for the ACC most of the time, with only talent-rich Clemson and rock-solid Virginia Tech regularly in the way, assuming Miami stays down. Whenever FSU doesn't, it should be considered a disappointment. They won't ever match the '90s, but they'll also be better than the past decade. And there's nobody in the ACC that can consistently top that, Frank Beamer's routine overachievement (four BCS trips in the past five years despite ranking No. 23 in recruiting) aside.
If the Noles were to jump to the Big 12 for a few million more per year they'd no longer be the new system's de facto Orange Bowl favorite every year. (That's a lot of money, but let's wait and see how playoff revenue gets cut up.) Texas and Oklahoma have bigger guns, and the Noles probably wouldn't be able to join the Big 12 without Notre Dame coming along too. The Irish cash spigot could rank FSU fourth in that conference, at least in likelihood of winning the league. This is all assuming the Big 12 even wants to expand.
USC, Oregon, Ohio State and Michigan have similar advantages over their conferences, and you could make a case for those four plus Florida State having the most convenient access to the new postseason. That kind of status is even more valuable than just a shot at the playoff.
In return, FSU fans should probably write a nice letter to Swofford. As basketball-centric as the ACC's last realignment move was, Swofford got the conference a bigger piece of the playoff pie than it should've gotten, meaning he succeeded at the most important task he's ever had. Since the Seminoles stand to gain as much from that win as anybody else does, maybe we should hope we've heard the last call for an ACC exodus for the time being.