Va. Tech's loss throws UM's Gator bid up in air

Terps-W.Va. bowl scenario throws wrench into things

College Football

November 24, 2003|By Kevin Van Valkenburg | Kevin Van Valkenburg,SUN STAFF

Maryland had to put its Gator Bowl travel plans on hold yesterday, and the Terps have only Virginia Tech to blame.

Gator Bowl officials were prepared to extend an invitation to Maryland after its 26-24 victory over North Carolina State on Saturday night, but Virginia Tech's unexpected 34-27 loss to Boston College threw a monkey wrench into the plan.

The Gator Bowl, which traditionally pits an Atlantic Coast Conference team against one from the Big East Conference, wanted a Terps-Hokies matchup, seeking to bill it as sneak preview of next year's expanded ACC.

But Virginia Tech's loss may turn out to be West Virginia's gain. If the Mountaineers defeat Temple this week, they'll finish tied for first (with Miami or Pittsburgh) in the Big East. That makes West Virginia an attractive choice, Gator Bowl president Rick Catlett said.

Problem is, Maryland (8-3, 5-2 ACC) and West Virginia (7-4, 5-1 Big East) already faced each other in the regular season, with the Terps winning, 34-7. Catlett spent all of yesterday trying to figure out if both schools - and the Gator Bowl - would be comfortable with a rematch Jan. 1 in Jacksonville, Fla.

"Right now, both of the two universities have agreed that they'd be OK with it, as have the two conference commissioners," Catlett said. "We just wanted to see if any of the parties involved would have issue with Maryland and West Virginia playing again. ... I think part of the delay is that we were trying to work this out on a Sunday. If this was a Monday and everyone was at work in their offices, the process probably would have been more fluid."

It's possible, Catlett said, that invitations could be extended to the two schools at some point today. If not, then the Gator Bowl will likely wait until the weekend to see if West Virginia defeats Temple and Maryland defeats Wake Forest.

"It's a slam-dunk if that happens," Catlett said.

If Maryland were to lose to Wake Forest, it is possible, Catlett said, that the Gator Bowl could still consider taking Clemson (8-4, 5-3 ACC) over the Terps. The Tigers played their final regular-season game Saturday, defeating South Carolina, 63-17.

"But even then, if Maryland loses, they're 8-4, and Clemson is 8-4, and Maryland won the head-to-head matchup in the regular season," Catlett said. "The committee might have to stop and think, but you'd have the head-to-head as the tiebreaker [to help make the decision]."

In College Park yesterday, the delay was making Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen a bit nervous.

"I'm a little concerned about it, yeah," Friedgen said. "I think we're the team that's deserving. ... We're in a very good position for it. We have a chance to be in sole possession of second place [in the ACC] if we win Saturday, and even if we didn't win Saturday we'd be tied with Clemson, who we beat. To me it's a no-brainer. I don't know what's the problem."

A few other scenarios remain that could change things at the last minute. It's still possible, tough unlikely, that West Virginia could earn a berth in the Bowl Championship Series if Pittsburgh beats Miami this week. In that scenario, West Virginia, which defeated Pittsburgh, 52-31, would have to be ranked within five spots of Pittsburgh in the BCS standings to earn the automatic bid.

Pittsburgh is currently 25th in the BCS standings, and the Mountaineers are outside the Top 25. The strength-of-schedule component, one of the factors used to determine the rankings, would likely hurt the Mountaineers if both teams win. A win over Miami would help Pittsburgh far more than a win over Temple would help the Mountaineers.

Gator Bowl

When:Jan. 1, 12:30 p.m.

Where:ALLTEL Stadium, Jacksonville, Fla.

Pairings:First selection from ACC and Big East or Notre Dame after BCS selection

Payout:$1.8 million per team in 2003

TV:NBC

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