By Olin Akisoglu
After a sensational overtime win against Virginia Tech, the Maryland Terrapins secured bowl eligibility and look all but certain to receive their first postseason bid in three years.
Maryland, 6-4 overall (2-4 ACC), was one of eight bowl eligible teams in the ACC in November; however, with only two conference wins, the Terps’ bowl prospects are limited.
The ACC conveniently has eight bowl tie-ins, with the conference champion automatically receiving a bid in the Orange Bowl. Conference leaders and sponsors on bowl committees help determine games based on teams’ fan bases and potential advertising revenue.
“Maryland’s ability to bring a lot of fans and support our game will definitely be considered,” said Military Bowl Director of External Relations Josh Barr. “It’s very possible the Military Bowl won’t know its selection until the season is over. In the end it’ll come down to the bowl pecking order.”
Florida State and Clemson lead the ACC, but they are also potential BCS National Championship contenders. If one gets picked for a BCS bowl, the other will play in the Orange Bowl, in which case everyone in the ACC moves up in the bid order. Still, the Terrapins will likely end up filling a lower-seeded ACC tie-in, or filling a tie-in for a conference that doesn’t have enough bowl eligible teams. Conferences that look like they will come up short of bowl eligible teams this year are the Big 10 and SEC.
However, a team’s record does not always determine their fate for the postseason. For example, Clemson was picked over Maryland for the 2010 Meinecke Car Bowl because its fan base travels better, even though Maryland had a superior record. The Military Bowl, held in Annapolis, has a proximity to Maryland that makes attracting fans easier.
“Maryland fans don’t travel well nationally, but they do travel very well within the mid-Atlantic region,” said Ryan Wormeli, sports director at WMUC and senior broadcast journalism major.
The Terps’ last bowl appearance was at the 2010 Military Bowl, then held in Washington D.C. The game resulted in a bowl-record crowd of 38,794 that saw Maryland triumph over East Carolina, 51-20.
Maryland began the season with a dynamic offense, but after losing wide receivers Stefon Diggs and Deon Long to season-ending leg injuries in week seven, the team has struggled with its passing game. Quarterback CJ Brown missed time in two games after sustaining concussions, and former starting left tackle Mike Madaras left the program in October.
Injuries have also crippled the Terps’ defense. Cornerbacks Dexter McDougle and Jeremiah Johnson are still inactive after sustaining injuries early in the season. Linebacker Yannick Cudjoe-Virgil, who had three sacks and an interception this year, suffered a season-ending pectoral injury against Virginia. Linebacker Cole Farrand, who had 23 tackles against Clemson, sustained a concussion and was absent against Syracuse.
“Our team has been inconsistent and we’ve had some terrible losses. But the team that was on the field Saturday in Blacksburg and the team we were at the beginning of the season, that team definitely deserves to go to a bowl game,” said sophomore economics major Sayema Tareq.
With the team’s scheduled move to the Big 10 just a year away, there couldn’t be a better way to say goodbye to the ACC than with a bowl game victory.