Bowling for destinations

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Because it’s written somewhere in the college football writers’ constitution that anyone covering a bowl-eligible team must write a story on potential bowl destinations in the final two weeks of the season, I humbly submit this dead-tree edition story for your consideration.

OK, there’s no college football writers’ constitution. But if there was, the over/under on number of unnecessary uses of the word “football” as an adjective would be 17.

In all seriousness, though, it’s tough to figure out just where Maryland will be going next month. Obviously, the Terrapins won’t go to the Orange Bowl. It’s unlikely they would go to the Emerald Bowl in consecutive years. And because of final exams, they’re not going to the EagleBank Bowl at RFK Stadium.

The most realistic destinations are Orlando, Nashville, Charlotte and Boise. But the permutations at this point are almost too crazy to try to break down.

But in general terms, here are five factors that will influence Maryland’s bowl fate:

* Saturday: Maryland wins at Boston College on Saturday and it is 8-4 with a share of a division title. While 8-4 isn’t sparkly, it’s still good in the ACC. And it would mean the Terps will have defeated two ranked teams in the final three weeks of the season, which is a much better line to sell than “got destroyed at home with a chance to play for a division title.”

* ACC rules: The loser of the conference title game is not permitted to fall past the Music City Bowl. The Nashville-based game is a prime possibility for the Terps if they win; but should Maryland lose and Boston College proceed to fall in ACC championship game, go ahead and pencil the Eagles into a trip to Tennessee. The last few years suggest the first commandment of ACC bowl selection is “BC shalt fall as far as possible,” but the Eagles could deliver double damage to the Terps with a win on Saturday.

* Geography: Multiple bowl officials I talked with this week indicated games would likely be more conservative in their selections this season because of fears people would be less willing to travel in tough economic times. This would tend to hurt schools located further away from many bowls – i.e. to the north. Maryland is within a seven-hour drive of Charlotte and there’s plenty of affordable flights to Nashville (trust me, I’ve checked).

* History: Maryland’s reputation in the bowl community is solid, mainly because of how seriously the athletic department mobilizes its forces and emphasizes the importance of selling tickets. The Terps had an excellent history earlier this decade, and did as well as could be expected going to the Emerald Bowl in San Francisco last year.

* Clemson: The wild card in it all. Go ahead and combine the value of geography and traveling history, and Clemson could jump much higher than expected if it becomes bowl eligible with a victory over South Carolina. The Tigers went 4-4 in the league, so they can hop over anyone, and a win Saturday gives them a 4-1 finish. They’re closer than Maryland to the bowl games in Florida, Nashville and Charlotte and are known for bringing a throng of orange-clad supporters. Not saying it will happen, but the potential is there for Clemson to bump a lot of schools down a notch.

Patrick Stevens

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