Terps climb to No. 10

bowl suspense builds

BCS list due tonight

Sugar berth unlikely

College Football

October 22, 2001|By Christian Ewell | Christian Ewell,SUN STAFF

COLLEGE PARK - Though Maryland, the Atlantic Coast Conference football leader, moved to No. 10 in the Associated Press poll announced yesterday, it only has a slim chance of ending its season in New Orleans.

But that didn't stop Oscar Gwin, president-elect of the Sugar Bowl, from making his first trip to the campus here during the weekend.

The 50th-anniversary reception for the Terps' 1951 Sugar Bowl team provided one reason. Another was the chance to look at this season's Maryland team, which finds itself in contention to play in a Bowl Championship Series game. The first BCS standings come out this evening.

Gwin said the Orange Bowl would have the first shot at Maryland if it wins the ACC, and the Sugar Bowl's tie-in is with the Southeastern Conference. But he said he was impressed with the people here and the Terps' 59-17 win over Duke on Saturday.

"They just need to keep winning," Gwin said Saturday. "If they weren't Orange Bowl-eligible, they would still be in our picture."

It's quite a rise for Maryland, which hasn't been to a bowl since 1990 and for whom bowl interest in the past two years involved the Carquest Bowl and the Aloha Bowl.

Just 11 days ago, when the Terps played Georgia Tech, it wouldn't have been a stretch to suggest that the Tangerine Bowl official in attendance was there for Maryland.

Now, with four games left, three wins and a runner-up ACC finish might be good enough for a berth in one of the four major bowls - the Rose, Orange, Sugar and Fiesta - all played in the new year.

With the ACC in a down season, however, it's unlikely the Terps would be an at-large choice for a BCS game and would instead go to the Dec. 31 Peach Bowl in Atlanta or the Jan. 1 Gator Bowl in Jacksonville, Fla.

In the case of a league title, the most straightforward scenario involves the Orange Bowl, which can choose the ACC champion or the Big East champion to play against any team in the top 12 of the BCS standings. Or it can choose both to play each other.

Orange Bowl president Keith Tribble said Maryland - which hasn't played after Dec. 31 since the 1976 team was in the 1977 Cotton Bowl - would be a draw because of a fan base willing to travel to Miami for the Jan. 2 game, despite the school's failure to fill 48,055-seat Byrd Stadium this season.

"With any team that's in a situation like Maryland, that has not been to a bowl game in a number of years, there's going to be some excitement," Tribble said. "Obviously, they'd be attracted to any bowl game, not just ours."

Though the Sugar and Fiesta bowls can pick Maryland if the Orange Bowl chooses to pass, the national-title game at the Rose Bowl on Jan. 3 remains a long shot.

Even if the Terps complete the regular season 11-0, they may finish behind several other unbeaten teams in the final BCS rankings. But the list of eight unbeaten teams could be whittled down considerably before then.

No. 2 Oklahoma and No. 3 Nebraska play each other Saturday, and may meet again in the Big 12 Conference championship game Dec. 1, the same day No. 1 Miami and No. 5 Virginia Tech meet.

The other unbeaten team ranked ahead of Maryland, No. 4 UCLA, visits another team with a perfect record, No. 14 Washington State, on Nov. 3.

Charting the bowls

The ACC's bowl tie-ins:

First place: BCS bowl (Sugar, Fiesta, Orange or Rose), Jan. 1, 2, or 3

Second place: Gator Bowl vs. first available Big East team or Notre Dame, Jan. 1

Third place: Peach Bowl vs. second available SEC team, Dec. 31

Fourth place: Seattle Bowl vs. third available Pac-10 team, Dec. 28

Fifth place: Tangerine Bowl vs. fourth available Big East team, Dec. 20

Note: The Peach and Gator bowls may swap, as may the Seattle and the Tangerine. The top two teams in the BCS rankings go to the Rose Bowl. The Orange Bowl gets the first shot at the ACC champ.

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