Despite the fact that Maryland didn't play, Maryland earned a BCS ranking this weekend, coming in at #23 thanks to getting #21 in the AP and #23 in the USA Today polls. Also, Florida State's loss to Georgia Tech puts Maryland in first place in the Atlantic Division of the ACC with a 3-1 record in-conference, half a game ahead of Florida State and Wake Forest.
With Maryland 6-2, and the college football season going into its last five-six weeks, bowl predictions are rampant. So the question is, where do some media outlets think the Terps will go?
The other strong football team in the state, Navy, will go to the EagleBank Bowl. They accepted after their win against Temple put them at 6-3.
Keep in mind the economics of bowl games. Bowl games want schools that are good, are healthy to play, and have a lot of economic incentives, including a large and loyal fan base plus prestige. A school like Maryland, a large school with a solid fan base but not a lot of national prestige, will have a chance at a better bowl if their records are similar to schools like Boston College (small school, in turn tiny fan base) and Duke (very little prestige in football), but not better than Florida State or Virginia Tech, both with higher fan bases and reputations in football.
If the Terps made the ACC Championship game, it wouldn't matter. If they won, they would go to the Orange Bowl. If they lost, assuming that they wouldn't receive an at-large BCS bid (and they wouldn't with 3+ losses), then they'd most likely head to the Chick Fil-A Bowl in Atlanta. But, if they don't make it there, where do they go? (Note: all projections are as of November 1st, all bowl information provided by the ACC Media Guide)
ESPN's Mark Schlabach's Prediction: Konica Minolta Gator Bowl
--Projected Opponent: Notre Dame Fighting Irish (5-3)
--Bowl Selection: #3 ACC (Payout: $1 million)
--Location: Jacksonville Municipal Stadium- Jacksonville, FL
--When: January 1st, 1:00 PM (CBS)
The Terps against Notre Dame would be a great matchup. Charlie Weis is still trying to get Notre Dame back to past glory, but right now they have many talented and young recruits of the roster. Quarterback Jimmy Clausen (pictured) is having a solid season with 18 touchdowns and nine picks, while completing just under 60% of passes. Though Notre Dame doesn't have a big win this year, they don't have a bad loss either. They are dependent on the air attack as their running game is not solid.
A game between Maryland and Notre Dame would have the Fighting Irish trying to make big plays against the thin Maryland secondary and the Terps Da'Rel Scott getting 25-30 carries against the Notre Dame defensive line. I would favor Notre Dame by six. But with a non-cable national television game against a nationally known program, this would be a fantastic bowl for Maryland.
SportProjections.com Projection: Gaylord Hotels Music City Bowl
--Projected Opponent: Vanderbilt Commodores (5-3, 3-2 SEC)
--Bowl Selection: #5-7 ACC (Payout: $1 million)
--Location: LP Field- Nashville, TN
--Time: December 31st, 3:30 PM (ESPN)
The conference play has brought the Commodores back to Earth, but Vanderbilt is a dangerous SEC team. Sean Walker (pictured) is their leading receiver with 23 catches with 354 yards, but their running game features two backs with 300+ yards, Jared Hawkins and Chris Nickson. Though they have lost their last three games, the Commodores has defeated South Carolina. They mainly win with defense, they only allow 16.5 points a game.
A contest between these two would be all about conservative offenses and strong defenses. Since both rely on the run and are strong against the run, expect a very low scoring game. I would favor Vanderbilt by a field goal if only because they would have a slight home field advantage in Nashville, but it may come down to a final 4th quarter drive by either team. Maryland would gain a lot with a victory over an SEC team in a bowl matchup.
NBC Sports's Cary Estes's Projection: Meineke Car Care Bowl
--Projected Opponent: Cincinatti Bearcats (6-2, 2-1 Big East)
--Bowl Selection: #5-7 ACC ($1 million)
--Location: Bank of America Stadium- Charlotte, NC
--Time: December 27th, 1:00 PM (ESPN)
The Bearcats have become a force in the Big East in recent years, and this year is no exception. The strength of the team is the passing, lead by Tony Pike (pictured), with over 1000 yards and nine touchdowns to only three interceptions with just below a 62% completion rate. But two other quarterbacks have over 500 yards passing, making the air assault very dangerous. Their big win is against South Florida, and their two losses were against Oklahoma and Connecticut.
Chris Turner and Tony Pike would have a fierce battle in the air in this contest, as both teams have strong running defense and weakness in the secondary. I would give the edge to Maryland, because the Terps running game could be a little more effective and help Turner, but the spread would be by four points. But Maryland probably wouldn't want to play in Charlotte, the possible markets of Nashville and Orlando are better, but overall it would not be a bad bowl.
ESPN's Bruce Feldman's Projection: Roady's Humanitarian Bowl
--Projected Opponent: Louisiana Tech Bulldogs (4-4, 2-2 WAC)
--Bowl Selection: #8 ACC (Payout: $1.1 million)
--Location: Bronco Stadium- Boise, ID
--Time: December 30th, 4:30 PM (ESPN)
Terry Bradshaw's Alma mater would take to the blue field for the WAC. Their star is Daniel Porter (pictured), who has averaged 5.3 yards a carry, totaling 690 yards on 129 carries, scoring five times. Their passing game is not nearly as effective, so they rely on a conservative game plan. Their big win is against Fresno State, and two of their losses came against Kansas and Boise State. Their weakness is in the passing defense, though their run defense has been solid.
Maryland would have Turner throw all day against the Bulldogs, much like the Wake game. The Bulldogs would have trouble gaining much on offense and would be hard pressed to stop Darrius Heyward-Bey. The Terps would be favored by 14. The Terps would take the bowl, but they certainly do not want it. Their is nothing to gain by going to Idaho and defeating a WAC team in a bowl, but there would be a lot to lose if they were defeated. Only good thing about this bowl is they could say they played on a blue field.
CBS Sports's Projection: EagleBank Bowl
--Opponent: Navy Midshipmen (6-3)
--Bowl Selection: #9 ACC (Payout: $1 million)
--Location: RFK Stadium- Washington D.C.
--Time: December 20th, 11:00 AM (ESPN)
This first ever EagleBank Bowl (originally dubbed Congressional Bowl) would feature the state of Maryland's two best football teams, Maryland and Navy. The balanced offense of the Terps versus the triple option offense of the Midshipmen would add another chapter in the rivalry. Shun White (pictured) has gotten the most rushing yardage, 834 yards, and quarterback Kaipo-Noa Kaheaku-Enhada has recently returned to the field. Navy has 510 rushes and only 60 passes this year.
These two teams tangoed in 2005 with Maryland edging out a close victory. Expect a lot of the same from that game, Maryland trying to dominate in the air and Navy running, running, running. Maryland has trouble against a type of team like Navy, but I give them the edge by a touchdown. But I seriously doubt this game happens. Maryland would have to lose four straight and not get accepted to Boise. But, it would be a decent game to try to sway local talent.
Overall, I think it is reasonable to assume the Terps can get to at least one of the #5-7 bowls, but if they continue to play well, they can get the Gator Bowl or the Chick Fil-A Bowl. The next game against Virginia Tech is an important one, a nationally televised game against a strong ACC squad. If they can win, then the Terps may be the favorites to win the Atlantic Division.
Feel free to mention what bowl you think Maryland will get to.
Photo credits: Maryland athletics (Maryland crowd), NBC Sports (Jimmy Clausen), Athlon Sports (Daniel Porter), Baltimore Examiner (Shun White), Nashville CityPaper (Sean Walker), Cincinnati Athletics (Tony Pike))