Now that the Orange Bowl is out of the realm of possibility - because it was so realistic before - it's time to start looking at where Maryland could land in the post-season. I've avoided bowl projecting for much of the year, but there's no better time to start than now, I guess.
First off, a quick explanation of how this works, in case you're not sure: each bowl has a slotting among the conferences (Chick-fil-A Bowl is two, Champs Sports Bowl is third, and so on and so forth). With the exception of the Orange Bowl, which is locked in to the #1 ACC team, the rest of the teams can choose whomever makes the most sense to them. That is, if N.C. State is second, they don't have to be picked above FSU if the Chick-fil-A Bowl decides that FSU will be better for them financially.
There used to be a rule that the a six-win team couldn't be picked above any team with seven wins, but that legislation is now gone. (It does apply to some bowls specifically, but I don't believe it does for any of the ACC's bowls). So the pecking order doesn't apply to the teams, but the bowls. That said, they do generally try to follow the standings as a very light guide.
Obviously, Maryland's not going to be one of the more attractive teams to the bowl organizers. Maryland's fanbase is large enough, but they don't travel particularly well and are a little apathetic toward football. Who do you think would send more fans to Nashville: Maryland or Clemson? Not to mention that the Terps don't have the same "name" as many of those that they'll be competing against.
The ACC bowl tie-ins are, in order:
- Orange Bowl
- Chick-fil-A Bowl (Atlanta, GA) vs. SEC
- Champs Sports Bowl (Orlando, FL) vs. Big East
- Hyundai Sun Bowl (El Paso, TX) vs. Pac-10
- Meineke Car Care Bowl (Charlotte, NC) vs. Big East
- Music City Bowl (Nashville, TN) vs. SEC
- Independence Bowl (Shreveport, LA) vs. Mountain West
- Military Bowl (Washington, D.C.) vs. Army/C-USA
- Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl (San Francisco, CA) vs. Pac-10/WAC if Pac-10/WAC can't fulfill obligations
Interesting thing here: the ACC has nine bowl eligible teams. That means that someone will be left out of the mix and go to
an at-large bowl an at-large bowl or the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl if the Pac-10 or WAC can't provide enough bowl-eligible teams. (It doesn't look particularly good for the Pac-10; they only have 3 bowl-eligible teams, USC can't go, Oregon State has to beat one of Stanford or Oregon, one of Washington or Cal will eliminate the other, and UCLA has to beat ASU on the road and USC at home). I'm fairly certain that'll be Boston College - it's a small private with a fanbase to match - but it's something to keep in mind.
You can cross off the Chick-fil-A Bowl and Champs Sports Bowl; the top three are definitively FSU, VT, and N.C. State. Past that, the Sun Bowl picks from Maryland, Miami, BC, Clemson, GT, and UNC. I'm getting a feeling that they'll pick the team with either the biggest name - Miami - or the biggest fanbase - Clemson.
The Military Bowl, due to Maryland's proximity to DC, has long been viewed as the most likely and most sensible of all the bowl options. But the bowls don't really work in tandem, so they'll have to hope another bowl committee doesn't snatch up the Terrapins first.
Sense says that Maryland's probably going to drop down to the Independence or Military Bowls, and I'd be delighted if they were able to get the Music City Bowl. ESPN's Mark Schlabach thinks they'll land in Charlotte against Syracuse, which I'd take in a second; his counterpart, Andrea Adelson (same link), thinks they'll be in the Sun Bowl against, of all teams, Toledo. CBS says the Music City Bowl against Mississippi State. I wouldn't trust any of those three for a second, but there you have them.
For now, there's too much up in the air to make a real guess as to where Maryland will end up. I will say this, though: if I was on the bowl committees of each of these bowls, I'd go VT-FSU-NCST-Clemson-UNC-Miami-GT before falling to Maryland.
Hey, it's the truth. It hurts. Imagine how BC Interruption must feel?