COLLEGE PARK — — Almost any bowl game looks appealing to a Maryland football team that remained on its chilly campus after last season while other Atlantic Coast Conference teams prepared for postseason games in enticing locations such as Miami and Orlando, Fla.
But of course, there is appealing (for example, the Chick-fil-A Bowl in Atlanta, or the Champs Sports Bowl in Orlando) and then there is spectacular (the Orange Bowl in Miami).
With three regular-season games left, many Maryland players and coaches can't help but glance at the list of bowl games and contemplate their possible December or January destinations. Might they end up in Miami? Or perhaps in Charlotte, N.C., or Shreveport, La., or El Paso, Texas, or close to campus in the District of Columbia?
"It's a fight for a bowl game," said offensive linesman R.J. Dill, who was quick to emphasize that most of his attention is focused on this Saturday's game at Virginia (4-5. 1-4 ACC). "You don't want to end up in Boise, Idaho. We'd like to go somewhere nice for a bowl game."
Maryland last played in a postseason game two seasons ago — the Humanitarian Bowl in Boise. While Maryland beat Nevada in the contest, most Terps fans considered the destination too far and too cold to make the trip. Many Maryland band members will long remember the game because their luggage got waylaid en route.
The winner of this season's ACC championship game will play in the Orange Bowl on Jan. 3 at Sun Life Stadium. That's the same stadium in which Maryland (6-3, 3-2 ACC) lost to Miami, 26-20, last Saturday.
"Before the [Miami] game, we were actually saying that this is where we were going to be playing [in a bowl]," said defensive end Drew Gloster. "Coach [ Ralph] Friedgen always says it's in our hands now. The more games you win, the better bowl we're playing in."
Friedgen also recently delivered his players a more sobering message — there is no guarantee that Maryland will play in a bowl game at all. There could end up being more eligible teams than bowl slots.
"I told them that just because you are bowl-eligible does not mean you are going to make a bowl," Friedgen said. "So every win from here on out will determine which bowl we go to."
The Terps became bowl-eligible with their sixth win of the season against Wake Forest on Oct. 30.
The ACC has nine bowl tie-ins. After the Orange Bowl gets the ACC champion, the Chick-fil-A Bow gets its pick of the rest. Then comes the Champs Sports Bowl. After that, the Sun Bowl in El Paso, Texas, the Meineke Car Care Bowl in Charlotte and the Music City Bowl in Nashville, Tenn., make bids for the ACC teams they want.
Then comes the Independence Bowl in Shreveport and the Military Bowl at Washington's RFK Stadium. A San Francisco bowl game — the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl — is also a possibility for an ACC school if the Pac-10 or Western Athletic Conference can't supply bowl-eligible teams. There are also at-large possibilities in other bowls.
Like other ACC teams, the Terps have been shooting for the Orange Bowl for months — an ambitious goal for a team that was 2-10 last season. "That's the only one I want to go to," said quarterback Danny O'Brien. "Hopefully we can get back to Miami and have a different result the second time."
Said Gloster, a senior: "We know the Chick-Fil-A [scouts] have been at a couple of our games. That's a great bowl and we haven't been there since I've been here."
The standings in Maryland's Atlantic Division are so tight that it is impossible to foresee which teams will snag the upper-echelon bowls or advance to the conference title game in Charlotte on Dec. 4.
Florida State (4-2), Maryland (3-2), North Carolina State (3-2) and Clemson (3-3) are all vying for the division title. The jumble of teams has created the possibility of ties atop the standings. There are multiple tie-breaking scenarios. The last one says: "The representative shall be chosen by a draw."
Wide receiver Torrey Smith shook his head when he considered the possibility — however slim — of a division title being decided at random.
"That's crazy," Smith said. "With our [good] luck this year, we might actually get our name drawn if it went down to that. If it was last year, they'd probably pull it out in flames or something."