The Washington Times - October 25, 2009, 09:05AM

The EagleBank Bowl began the year eyeing an Army vs. ACC #8 matchup.

And now? How does Conference USA vs. Open sound?


Let’s start, as usual, with Army —- a loser Friday night to Rutgers to fall to 3-5. The Black Knights must go 3-1 the rest of the way over a stretch featuring games against academy rivals Air Force and Navy.

2009 Opponent
Result 2008 Equivalent    
at Eastern Michigan  
W, 27-14
Eastern Michigan
W, 17-13
Duke L, 35-19
at Rice
L, 38-31
Ball State
W, 24-17
Akron L, 22-3
at Iowa State
L, 31-10
at Texas A&M
L, 21-17
Tulane L, 17-16
at Tulane
W, 44-13  
Vanderbilt W, 16-13   
at Buffalo
L, 27-24
at Temple
L, 27-13
Temple L, 35-7
Rutgers L, 27-10
at Rutgers
L, 30-3
at Air Force

Air Force
L, 16-7
VMI   New Hampshire
L, 28-10
at North Texas

Louisiana Tech
W, 14-3
vs. Navy

vs. Navy
L, 34-0

But you know what? Army hasn’t had a .500 season since 1996. Anyone believing the Black Knights would coast into D.C. for the Dec. 29 bowl game were, at best, overly optimistic.

But the ACC had 10 bowl-eligible teams last year. Surely, there’d be an eighth team for the EagleBank Bowl.

Well, let’s see here …

* Maryland (2-6) will clinch a losing season with its next loss.

* N.C. State (3-4) has two victories over I-AA opponents. That means the Wolfpack must go 4-1 the rest of the way against a schedule featuring Clemson, Florida State, Maryland, North Carolina and Virginia Tech.

* Virginia (3-4) must go at least 3-2 against a remaining schedule of Boston College, Clemson, Duke, Miami and Virginia Tech.

* North Carolina (4-3), like State, has two victories against I-AAs. So the Tar Heels need to poach three wins from a slate featuring Boston College, Duke, Miami, N.C. State and Virginia Tech.

* Duke (4-3) has a win over N.C. Central, a team reclassifying to Division I-AA, that counts for nothing for bowl eligibility. So Duke must collect three victories against Georgia Tech, Miami, North Carolina, Virginia and Wake Forest.

* Wake Forest (4-4) needs at worst a split with Duke, Florida State, Georgia Tech and Miami to become bowl eligible.

* Florida State (3-4) must beat three of Clemson, Florida, Maryland, N.C. State and Wake Forest to secure bowl eligibility.

There’s a very real possibility, given the ACC’s quirks, that as few as five teams wind up bowl eligible. Suddenly, eight bowl eligibles looks dicey at best.

And that’s no good for D.C. bowl game in the slightest.

ACC teams with 4+ victories: 8
ACC teams with .500+ records: 8
Bowl-eligible ACC teams: Georgia Tech
Current projected teams on the board for the EagleBank Bowl: Duke (but it’s a stretch)

Not a whole lot changed with the secondary tie-in. Marshall picked up a fifth victory, and the Thundering Herd looks more and more likely to wind up in D.C. —- assuming they don’t go and win the league altogether.

Conference USA East teams with 4+ victories: 4 (Southern Mississippi, Marshall, Central Florida, East Carolina)
Conference USA East teams with .500+ records: 4 (Southern Mississippi, Marshall, Central Florida, East Carolina)

—- Patrick Stevens