Terps Look to Secure Plans for the Postseason
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
Maryland, the most unpredictable team in the nation's most unpredictable conference, could play in any one of at least six bowl games depending upon what occurs throughout the ACC the next two Saturdays.
Interviews with several bowl officials suggest that the best-case scenario for the Terrapins is a New Year's Day matchup with a tradition-rich program such as Nebraska in the Gator Bowl. The worst-case scenario could be a game against a tradition-starved team such as Louisiana Tech in the Humanitarian Bowl in Boise, Idaho.
So many scenarios remain possible so late in the season because of the tospy-turvy nature of this season's ACC, which has entertained fans with its volatility and given bowl executives headaches as they try to assess potential teams in weekly meetings.
"We are going to have to hire someone to do a seance to figure out what is going on," said Will Webb, the executive director of the Meineke Car Care Bowl in Charlotte. "It is completely insane. It is just crazy."
Webb said Maryland's regular season finale at Boston College on Saturday is a "huge game for Maryland" because it is important for the Terrapins to finish strong instead of entering December on a two-game losing streak. Bowl executives have a general sense of how well each school's fans travel, but they have little idea how any team will finish the regular season.
The winner of the ACC's conference title game on Dec. 6 will play in the Orange Bowl. The next selection belongs to the Peach Bowl, which can pick any ACC team within one conference win of the team with the best conference record. The third selection will be made by the Gator Bowl, whose president, Rick Catlett, said Maryland is one of six ACC teams the Gator Bowl is still considering. Catlett said the Terrapins "took a blow" with their 37-3 loss to Florida State on Saturday and are "not real high on the list, probably in the middle."
Bowl executives are pledging to be conscious of the economic climate and make a concerted effort to select teams closer to the bowl destination. Because Catlett is likely to award one Gator Bowl berth to a team from the Midwest, perhaps Nebraska, he would prefer to select an ACC opponent whose school is within driving distance of the Jacksonville, Fla., game. For that reason, he said Georgia Tech and Florida State are more viable candidates than Maryland. The biggest factor this year has "got to be about who brings the most fans," Catlett said. "Then it has got to be about matchups, then it has got to be about television. And that's not always the case."
After the Gator Bowl, the Champs Sports Bowl in Orlando and the Music City Bowl in Nashville have the next selections. The furthest the ACC title game runner-up can fall is Nashville.
"The good news is that teams are so closely bunched together, any one would be good to select," Catlett said. Catlett said Maryland's fans historically travel "dramatically better" than fans of Miami and Boston College.
Scott Ramsey, the executive director of the Music City Bowl, said Maryland is in the top third in the ACC in terms of teams whose fans travel well. He said that Southwest Airlines flights from Baltimore-Washington International Marshall Airport to Nashville make Maryland a strong option from a travel standpoint.
"We are looking at a team like Maryland," Ramsey said. "And if we are looking for a team that will fly here, that's the perfect kind of base.
"You have a lot of options, direct flights, fairly inexpensive and a fan base that travels. They have a great reputation from a fan base."
Ramsey said this season's ACC is the "most bizarre conference as far as parity maybe ever. Holy cow." He expects Saturday's games to narrow the pool of candidates for each bowl and determine which teams are thriving and which are slumping.
"If you finish a year with a win, you always feel like you have someone excited about coming to your place," Ramsey said, "rather than feeling, 'Oh, man, they dropped to your place.' "
Webb's bowl committee in Charlotte met yesterday to discuss ACC teams, only to hold the shortest meeting they have had on the topic. Webb said "there was nothing to talk about because we're still looking at almost every team. There are too many variables."