2010 Bowl Projections: Meineke Claims Clemson, Terps Looking Like Military Bowl Lock

Bowl selection is an incredibly murky process. Realistically, an argument could be made for Maryland to fall into nearly any ACC bowl, from the Champs Sports to the Music City to the Independence to the Military. One bowl they can't fall into anymore: the Meineke Car Care Bowl in Charlotte. That's because they just claimed Clemson as their ACC rep.

Meineke was my favorite, personally, but Clemson had been the favorite there for some time based on geography and prestige. It was always a longshot for Maryland, anyway.

Not a lot has changed since the last time we did this dance. Maryland is still probably the least attractive team of all of the ACC bowl eligible teams outside of maybe Boston College, which will potentially rate better than the Terps on the 'tube. There's not a big football culture in College Park. Maryland football isn't a name brand. And, most importantly, fans just haven't been there at the games this year. Attendance is big for bowls, and Maryland isn't providing it this year.

Maryland will be in the conversation for all of the bowls past the Chick-fil-A Bowl, which has promised to take the ACC's #2 team, but might fall all the way to the #8 bowl: the Military Bowl in Washington, D.C. That's not a necessarily bad thing: it'd be close, it'd be nice for Maryland from a financial standpoint, a lot of fans would go, and playing in RFK would be cool. But a quick bus-ride to D.C. isn't a particularly nice reward for a team that went 8-4, saw a six-game turnaround from last season, and was probably the third- or fourth-best team in the ACC.

Their best chance at escaping that fate comes from the Champs Sports Bowl in Orlando, Fl. Most seem to think that's where Maryland's focusing its efforts, and it seems to be paying off. According to the bowl's selection chair, Maryland and N.C. State are the two leaders for the bowl (emphasis mine).

"If Florida State is out of the picture [ed's note: they will be] then you have NC State and Maryland as eight-win teams, and a couple of 7-win teams in Miami and North Carolina. I'd say the 8-4 teams are right in the middle of it for us. We're looking to land a very solid, winning team."

One problem: attendance. Champs seems pretty dedicated to getting a solid team, and Maryland would definitely provide that. But they have their own needs, too, and getting fans in the seats is a big one. Maryland's best showing of fans this year was still nearly 10,000 less than N.C. State's. These guys got 97% of tickets sold for Western Carolina. Maryland couldn't get that for Florida State.

That might be why five sources with direct knowledge of the selection process told Eric Prisbell that Maryland's chances to get into the Champs Bowl were "slim to none." Past that, Prisbell calls the Military Bowl a near-lock for Marlyand. He goes kind of overboard in that post with the "evils of college football" thing (in a nice move to endear himself to his critics), but if he's right about the sources, he's probably right about Maryland having a poor chance at ending up anywhere other than DC.

So, yes, that's an uphill battle. And it's clear that other bowls past Champs have preferences: the Music City would like North Carolina, the Sun Bowl seems favoring Miami, the Independence Bowl is writing love letters in the AJC in a thinly-veiled attempt at courting GT fans, and so on. Maryland might be in the discussion for every bowl down the line, but they definitely aren't the frontrunners for any. If the Champs Bowl passes Maryland up, the Terrapins bowl status will be dropping like Brady Quinn's draft stock.

It's bowl season, and anything can still happen. I wouldn't be entirely shocked if Maryland ended up in either the Champs Sports or the Music City bowls. But the Military Bowl is looking like it always has: the frontrunner.

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