Attractive, but Not Yet Available

Ralph Friedgen and the Terrapins have their eye on a bowl berth, but they must beat North Carolina State first.
Ralph Friedgen and the Terrapins have their eye on a bowl berth, but they must beat North Carolina State first. (By Preston Keres -- The Washington Post)
By Marc Carig
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Maryland Coach Ralph Friedgen said he had not reviewed all of the possible bowl game scenarios involving the Terrapins. But Friedgen didn't need to understand all of the complexities to come to one very clear conclusion.

"I would think that this game is pretty important," Friedgen said of his team's regular season finale at North Carolina State.

The winner of Saturday's game between the Terrapins (5-6) and Wolfpack (5-6) is essentially guaranteed a postseason bowl game. And though Miami (5-6) could jump back into the bowl picture by upsetting No. 15 Boston College this week, a historically shoddy track record of fan travel to bowl games -- a major consideration for selection committees -- among other factors makes the Hurricanes' postseason chances slim. It leaves the door open for the Maryland-North Carolina State winner to reach a bowl game.

When it comes to forecasting which bowl the Terrapins could land, the picture becomes murky. Provided that they win, the Terrapins could wind up in one of several bowl games.

The ACC has tie-ins with eight bowl games, with each game given its first choice of a team based on a ranking agreed upon by the selection committees. After the first four teams are chosen, three bowls -- the Music City Bowl in Nashville, the Meineke Car Care Bowl in Charlotte and the Emerald Bowl in San Francisco -- choose from the remaining pool of eligible teams. The Humanitarian Bowl in Boise, Idaho, holds the final pick.

But even though the Terrapins or Wolfpack would be the final team to qualify for one of the ACC's eight bowl games, neither is a lock to be automatically sent to the Humanitarian Bowl. With a victory on Saturday, the Terrapins could play a bowl game in Nashville, Charlotte, San Francisco or Boise.

"We would look very hard at Maryland if they win," Meineke Car Care Bowl Executive Director Will Webb said. "They could be here."

Gary Cavalli, executive director of the Emerald Bowl, also said Maryland would be an attractive choice. "They've scored some big wins with Rutgers, Boston College and Georgia Tech. They've had good wins," Cavalli said. "They've been injured and it's amazing how they've bounced back after that incredibly devastating loss at Wake. I'm impressed with their character and resiliency."

Maryland's bowl possibilities remain open partly because a team's selection isn't completely determined by its win-loss record, making it possible for a 6-6 team such as Maryland or North Carolina State to be selected ahead of a 7-5 team.

Once such scenario could develop if Georgia Tech falls in its regular season finale against Georgia. With a loss, Georgia Tech's record would drop to 7-5, making it vulnerable to being passed up in bowl selection because of rumors circulating about Coach Chan Gailey's job security. Bowl committees often shy away from schools where a coaching change is possible.

An NCAA rule regarding bowl selection protects 7-5 teams from being shut out of the postseason, stating that all such teams must be placed in a bowl before any 6-6 team. But Dennis Poppe, the NCAA's managing director for football and baseball, said the rule is open to interpretation so long as no 7-5 team is kept out of the postseason.

"[Conferences] can place them however they want, as long as they are assuring that no winning teams goes home without a bowl game," Poppe said.

The rule's liberal interpretation makes it possible for either Maryland or North Carolina State to be selected over Georgia Tech, in which case the Yellow Jackets would fall to the Humanitarian Bowl.

Of course, none of the scenarios come into play if the Terrapins don't take care of their most important task toward reaching a bowl game: beating North Carolina State on Saturday.

"Normally, right now, everybody's lobbying," Friedgen said Sunday. "But it's hard to lobby when you're not bowl eligible yet."

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