With an 8-4 record and a head-to-head win over North Carolina State, one would think that Maryland would be virtually guaranteed a spot in one of the top ACC bowl games. But as usual, it's not always what happens on the field that determines a team's bowl placement. Maryland is still locked in a battle with N.C. State, and this time, what happens on the field has little to do with it.
Eric Prisbell of the Washington Post is reporting that the Terrapins are currently competing for a spot in the Champs Sports Bowl with N.C. State. If Maryland loses that battle -- which is a distinct possibility -- they would likely slip all the way down to the Military Bowl against East Carolina here in Washington D.C.
What does all this mean for Maryland? Right now, Maryland is engaged in a full-throttle, backroom lobbying battle against N.C. State for the chance to represent the ACC in Champs. It may prove easier to defeat N.C. State physically on the field - Maryland won, 38-31 --- than it will be to beat the Wolfpack in the verbal politicking duel.
So, for Maryland, if not Orlando, then where do they fall? Some believe I have dwelled too much on the empty seats, but it's been the undercurrent to the entire season, and we'll see in two days if it possesses enough force to carry Maryland to an undesired destination - home.
The big issue for the Champs Sports Bowl is whether they will get a good turnout at the game. Maryland may have had a compelling season, but their fanbase is very clearly smaller than N.C. State's, much less the other top ACC schools. If the Champs Sports Bowl elects to go with fan support over on-field play, then they will select N.C. State.
And that's where the fall begins. The Sun Bowl, played on December 31, is currently leaning towards Miami or even Boston College, though North Carolina remains a possibility. The Music City Bowl is another fallback bowl, but according to Prisbell, "it's no secret Nashville covets UNC." Even if UNC goes to the Sun Bowl, Miami is the logical fallback option.
The only option left if N.C. State beats Maryland out for the Champs Sports Bowl is the Military Bowl, and while that game would be local, it would have to qualify as a disappointment.