Upsets have Terps seeing Orange

Results create some chaos, also increase likelihood UM will get bowl in Miami

November 26, 2001|By Christian Ewell | Christian Ewell,SUN STAFF

The National Football Foundation will announce the official Bowl Championship Series matchups in two weeks, but last weekend's games may have punched Maryland's ticket for the Orange Bowl on Jan. 2 in Miami.

That's the bowl that has a tie-in with the Atlantic Coast Conference, which the Terps (10-1) clinched by winning their final regular-season game against North Carolina State on Nov. 17.

But the Orange Bowl also has a tie-in with the Big East, and the BCS has the option of moving teams to other bowls regardless of the tie-ins. If Big East champion Miami doesn't reach the national title game in the Rose Bowl, the Orange could overlook Maryland - which then would have to become an at-large team - to get the Hurricanes.

Or the Sugar Bowl, which has a tie-in with the Southeastern Conference, could send Florida - potentially the SEC champion - to a very willing Orange Bowl in exchange for the Terps.

The chances of either scenario playing out seem slim. The undefeated Hurricanes - already No. 2 in the BCS - dominated Washington, 65-7, for their 20th straight victory. Though they have one more regular-season game, this weekend at Virginia Tech, their days as an Orange Bowl option appear over.

Two major upsets in the Big 12 reduced the chances of Florida, which accounted for 24,000 purchased tickets to the 1999 Orange Bowl, going to Miami again. The shock of No. 1 BCS team Nebraska's loss to Colorado was the score - 62-36. But hardly anyone could have expected defending national champion Oklahoma, third in the BCS, to fall at home, 16-13, to lowly Oklahoma State (3-7).

The Gators still must beat Tennessee - which hasn't won in Gainesville since 1971 - this weekend to reach the SEC championship game.

A Florida loss likely would have little bearing on Maryland, unless the Gators were to somehow play the Terps in a bowl game.

Pairing Florida and Miami in the Rose Bowl doesn't eliminate the chances of Maryland's getting shipped to a different BCS bowl. It does, however, take away two of the most obvious ingredients for such a development.

Maryland officials would be satisfied with a trip to Miami or New Orleans' Sugar Bowl but are lukewarm about anything that would take them to Tempe, Ariz., for the Fiesta Bowl.

The Terps' opponent remains to be seen, partly because there are two conferences - the Big 12 and SEC - that have yet to decide their champions. For the moment, Illinois, which became the Big Ten champion when Michigan lost to Ohio State at home Saturday, seems to be the choice among those predicting the Terps' opponent.

Such a pairing in the Orange Bowl would make sense for several reasons. For one, if the bowl keeps Maryland, it has the last at-large selection and Illinois would probably go to the bowl.

Second, with both teams still somewhat unproven despite 10-1 records, they seem to match up against each other better than they would against any other BCS team, unless Colorado comes out of the Big 12 or the SEC produces Auburn or Louisiana State as its champion.

Both teams have gone ages without major bowl games - Illinois since 1983, Maryland since 1976 - which could temper mild concerns about attendance, and the game would deliver local television audiences from the No. 3 (Chicago) and No. 4 (Baltimore and Washington combined) media markets.

At this point, Texas remains a possible opponent if it gets swapped out of the Fiesta Bowl (because it played the other team slotted for that bowl, Oregon, last season in the Holiday Bowl). Tennessee, which faced Maryland in the 1952 Sugar Bowl, is also a possibility.

The new BCS standings will be released at 2 p.m. today.

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