Bowl contingency plans

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You can check out colleague Tim Lemke’s take on the financial background on the EagleBank Bowl. But this is the place to get an idea who will be playing in the Dec. 20 game at RFK Stadium.

And right now, it’s a bit up in the air.

In a perfect world for the bowl, Navy will collect its six or seven or eight wins and lock in its contractual tie-in. Not only does that take care of half of the matchup, but it ensures the presence of one local team and a fairly decent chance to hit organizers’ goal of about 34,000 tickets sold for the first season.

If Navy stumbles to a losing record – and the Midshipmen are 1-1 entering their trip to Duke on Saturday – then hitting that target is going to be dicey.

And that’s even before you look at the other part of the equation.

The ACC, you might have heard, has not entirely distinguished itself in the first couple weeks of the season. But as associate commissioner for football operations Michael Kelly pointed out, every team has won at least one time in its first couple games.

It’s the first time that’s happened since 1991.

So maybe the ACC gets nine teams eligible for the postseason. And maybe if the stars align right, Georgia Tech could get shipped to D.C. and coach Paul Johnson will get a shot at his former team. Or the Virginia offense will show some sign of a pulse to set up the George Welsh Bowl.

But if scenarios like that don’t unfold and the ACC has eight or fewer bowl-eligible schools, the EagleBank bowl will go fishing through whatever is left in the at-large pool. There is no secondary tie-in – i.e. the possible Mid-American Conference backup plan floated back in the spring – as of now.

So what sort of team would that leave the bowl to choose from? Probably one that’s 6-6. Last year, only one team with a winning record (Troy) was left out of the postseason. In 2006, no team above .500 was excluded.

As for the crew at .500 that sat at home last holiday season, it included Louisville, Iowa, Northwestern, Ohio, South Carolina and Louisiana-Monroe.

There’s some name recognition with some of those schools. South Carolina has a famous coach (Steve Spurrier). Iowa and Louisville were in BCS games earlier this decade. But like it or not, 6-6 is 6-6.

So a scramble is possible, especially with a league that has not produced nine bowl-eligible teams in its four-year expansion era. And in terms of on-field matters, that will be one of the more compelling storylines to track about the first-year bowl in the next three months.

Patrick Stevens

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