Navy's bowl chase turns to scoreboard-watching

Independent Mids stand to benefit if tie-ins falter

College Football

November 25, 2003|By Kent Baker | Kent Baker,SUN STAFF

As an independent team with no conference affiliation, Navy finds its bowl-game fate largely rests in the hands of others.

Several scenarios still must be played out before the Midshipmen learn into which postseason game they could land after they earned bowl eligibility with Saturday's rousing 63-34 victory over Central Michigan.

At this point, the best possibilities, in order, seem to be: the Houston Bowl on Dec. 30, the Fort Worth Bowl on Dec. 23 and the Music City Bowl on New Year's Eve.

But the order could change depending on the outcome of games this week and next.

The eight schools selected for the Bowl Championship Series will have an impact on Navy's potential destinations, because if two teams from the Big 12 and/or Southeastern conferences make the BCS, the ripple effect would create openings at the lower levels of those leagues' bowl tie-ins.

For instance, if Nebraska beats Colorado on Friday -- making the Buffaloes ineligible -- the Big 12 would be one team short of fulfilling its eight links to bowl games. That becomes certain because No. 1 Oklahoma and either Texas or Kansas State seem headed for BCS selection. That will happen for Texas if it wins against Texas A&M and Oklahoma defeats Kansas State in the Big 12 championship game on Dec. 6, for Kansas State if it beats Oklahoma.

With Colorado out, an opening would exist in the Fort Worth Bowl, which gets the Big 12 eighth team.

The Tangerine Bowl was eliminated as a possibility for Navy when Kansas won Saturday.

The Music City Bowl (Nashville, Tenn.) might open if Texas loses to Texas A&M and two SEC teams enter the BCS, a possibility if either Florida or Georgia beats Louisiana State in the SEC championship game.

The Houston Bowl is wide-open because of a decision to end its affiliation with Conference USA after last year, although a Big 12 entry is still possible if Texas loses.

"There really won't be a decision made until after the conference championships," said Houston Bowl executive director David Ippoliti. "We're not sure right now, but we might scout Navy's final game. There is always interest."

Fan support is one of the bowls' major considerations, and interest from Navy supporters barely dropped even during the three seasons when the team compiled a 3-30 record. The service academies are different in the sense that their alumni are spread all over the country and the world.

One potential problem for the Midshipmen: 12 conferences have more eligible teams than bowl tie-ins. That situation is most pronounced in the resurgent Mid-American Conference, with six qualifiers and only two secure bowl positions. That will leave several attractive teams -- perhaps Northern Illinois and Toledo -- up for grabs.

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