- The Washington Times - Friday, December 1, 2006

Maryland linebacker Wesley Jefferson was still stinging an hour after Saturday’s loss to Wake Forest when the subject about preferred bowl destinations was broached.

“We want to go to the Orange Bowl, but we can’t do that anymore,” Jefferson said. “I don’t know how everything is going to fall.”

Nearly a week later, the Terrapins remain unsure about their exact holiday travel plans.

Maryland (8-4, 5-3 ACC) will receive their first postseason invitation in three seasons this weekend, likely tomorrow afternoon after the ACC and several bowl committees sift through the fallout of today’s conference title game between Georgia Tech and Wake Forest.

The Terps’ three most likely destinations include a meeting with Purdue in the Dec. 29 Champs Sports Bowl in Orlando, Fla.; the Dec. 29 Music City Bowl in Nashville; or a rematch of last year’s regular-season opener with Navy in the Dec. 30 Meineke Car Care Bowl in Charlotte, N.C.

“It is very unusual to be this undecided at this far along,” Meineke Car Care Bowl executive director Will Webb said. “It’s just a crazy year in the ACC. Wake Forest is in the title game and Miami’s in Boise. That sums it up.”

Part of the ACC’s bowl picture already has sorted itself out. Florida State (San Francisco) and Miami (Boise) will head to more far-flung locales than either traditional power is accustomed.

Virginia Tech appears to be the Chick-fil-A Bowl’s likely choice with the first selection after the Orange Bowl-bound conference champion. The other four bowl berths are contingent on today’s conference title game.

The Gator Bowl, despite some teeth-gnashing this week, would take Georgia Tech if the Yellow Jackets lose today to follow the “plus-one” rule, an ACC guideline preventing bowls from selecting a school with two or more conference losses than another available team. If Georgia Tech wins, the Gator Bowl probably will pick Clemson.

The Champs Sports Bowl owns the next selection and is a possible destination for Maryland regardless of the Georgia Tech-Wake Forest outcome. Clemson could be a possibility if Wake Forest wins today, but the Tigers played in Orlando last season and bowl officials are often reticent to invite the same team two straight years.

Should Georgia Tech win the title, the Champs Sports Bowl would have a choice between two schools with questionable records for luring fans to postseason games (Boston College and Wake Forest) and Maryland, which established a solid travel history earlier this decade.

Either way, Florida Citrus Sports (the organization that runs the Champs Sports Bowl) will not make a decision until tomorrow afternoon when the group’s scout committee — a group of about 180, a bowl spokesman said — will vote on their selection.

If Orlando passes on Maryland, Charlotte would be the Terps’ probable destination. It is the closest bowl to College Park, and the Terps have never played in the fifth-year event.

“They have a great fan base and excited fans,” Webb said. “They haven’t been to a bowl in three years. I think [coach Ralph] Friedgen has everything back on track. That’s what we look for as a bowl.”

Webb also sees the potential allure of Maryland-Navy — the state’s only two Division I-A teams — and he isn’t the only one captivated by the prospect of the programs meeting for only the second time since 1966. Maryland won last year’s game 23-20 at Baltimore’s M&T; Bank Stadium.

“We’ve been very receptive,” Navy athletic director Chet Gladchuk said. “We had a great matchup a year ago. There was tremendous enthusiasm from the two institutions and we sold a lot of tickets. I could envision what would be deemed ‘The Rematch.’ I could see an exodus of 60,000 working their way down 95 south.”

The Music City Bowl might not be as likely a destination for the Terps. The game is obligated to take the ACC title game loser if it is still available, which could happen if Wake Forest falls. However, Music City Bowl executive director Scott Ramsey said there is some wiggle room to find an opponent for an SEC team, likely Kentucky or South Carolina.

“If everybody agrees to agree to avoid a repeat or avoid certain kinds of things,” the title game loser could be passed over, Ramsey said. “To the letter of the rule, yes. If it’s not in the best interest of the conference or the bowl, we all have a chance to talk about it. It’s a commitment we’ve made, and we’re expecting to honor it.”

Of course, everything could change as conference, bowl and school officials navigate a labyrinth of teleconferences and possible outcomes in the next 48 hours.

“Every time I talk to someone, I hear a different potential scenario,” Webb said. “I’ve quit speculating. [The title game] is going to have some impact, but exactly what, I don’t know. We’ll just have to wait and see how everything falls.”

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