A dip in the at-large pool

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This maddening bowl odyssey isn’t going to come to a conclusion just yet.

And as such, there’s plenty of time to kill while trying to figure what sort of at-large possibilities are out there in case Maryland is sent scurrying because of a Boise State-Ball State matchup.

Here’s the pros and cons of about a half-dozen games, none of which are guaranteed to be options for Maryland if it somehow doesn’t end up in one of the ACC’s tie-ins.

Motor City Bowl (Dec. 26)

* The matchup: Would theoretically take the MAC’s tie-in and meet Big Ten #7 if Ohio State isn’t a BCS pick. Otherwise, it’s an at-large opponent.
* Pro: Plenty of flights to Detroit, distance isn’t a major factor
* Con: Day after Christmas  probably limits fan travel investment. Plus, players will have serious game prep on a holiday.

Independence Bowl (Dec. 28)

* The matchup: It would appear to be a meeting with Louisiana Tech, which tied the Terps in the 1990 Independence Bowl.
* Pro: Less of a holiday conflict than Detroit
* Con: Shreveport isn’t exactly easy to get to, and Louisiana Tech (while a good team) is hardly a brand-name opponent

papajohns.com Bowl (Dec. 29)

* The matchup: With a Big East team, quite possibly Connecticut or Rutgers
* Pro: Southwest Airlines flights from BWI to Birmingham, a possible preview of next year’s meeting with Rutgers, ideal game date
* Con: Might be subjected to Papa John’s Deal or No Deal during every timeout. Also, might not be an option if Arkansas State beats Troy to ensure an extra seven-win Sun Belt team takes an at-large spot

Texas Bowl (Dec. 30)

* The matchup: Against a Conference USA team, with hometown schools Houston and Rice distinct possibilities
* Pro: Perfectly situated game date, a reasonably warm-weather site given the circumstances
* Con: Game is televised on NFL Network, thus shutting out many fans who don’t have access to the game on their basic cable packages

International Bowl (Jan. 3)

* The matchup: Theoretically (again, the ACC would be getting this spot from the MAC), it would be against a Big East team; Connecticut would seem a logical fit.
* Pro: Absolutely no cramming to prepare for a post-New Year’s bowl
* Con: With 7-5 Buffalo so close to the Toronto-based game, why would the MAC give up the tie-in?

GMAC Bowl (Jan. 6)

* The matchup: Another of the MAC’s current tie-ins; the opponent is the second choice from Conference USA
* Pro: Mobile wouldn’t be an ultra-cold destination, and a game with East Carolina or Tulsa or another crazy C-USA team would be good.
* Con: I’m not even sure how anyone gets to Mobile. My guess is that would be an obstacle for the possibility of fan travel.

Obviously, this all speculation. But at least that’s a primer to what else is out there.

Patrick Stevens

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