Maryland must strike for a bowl

November 21, 2003|by BOB PARASILITI

COLLEGE PARK, Md. - It's time to face the music.

It the University of Maryland football team wants to wrap up a New Year's Day bowl invitation, it once again has to become Destiny's Children.

There's no way around it. The Terps (7-3, 4-2) have to win their two remaining games - starting this weekend at North Carolina State - to take away the guess work on whether they weather the storm to earn a fair weather trip for the holidays.

"I told the players that destiny is in our hands," Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen said. "If we win the next two games, we can play in a New Year's Day bowl. If we lose one, we'll be in a bowl, but we don't know where we will be playing. If we lose both, we go nowhere."


Blunt, but realistic.

Maryland assured itself of being bowl eligible by defeating Virginia last week. The Terps' seven wins - six coming against NCAA Division I teams and the other against Division 1A Citadel - meets the basic criteria of being bowl eligible.

But the Terps played themselves out of a national title shot with a first-week loss to Northern Illinois. Their chances for an Atlantic Coast Conference crown - and possible Bowl Championship Series invitation - were tarnished in the second week by losing to Florida State.

It has been damage control ever since for Maryland, which has remarkably bounced back to be in this position.

"(To get into a New Year's Day bowl) would really be a feather in our caps," Friedgen said. "We need to get to a bowl first, but to play around New Year's Day, not many schools get to do that (two years in a row)."

Maryland must defeat N.C. State on Saturday and then follow it up with another road victory over Wake Forest on Nov. 29 to get the coveted bid. Winning those two games will be a major task for the Terps, considering they are 1-3 on the road this season.

Those two victories would take away a lot of the mystery of where the Terps might go. There isn't much mystery in bowl invitations these days.

It used to be that teams, conferences and bowl officials would jockey for position looking for the best matchups. Now they are slotted.

If Maryland sweeps its final two games, it would finish second in the ACC and head to the Jan. 1 Gator Bowl ... most likely. Last year, the Gator Bowl elected to bypass the Terps and chose N.C. State to be the ACC representive in the game.

The other options are:

  • Peach Bowl - ACC's third-place team will play the Southeast Conference's fifth-place team on Jan. 2.

  • Tangerine Bowl - ACC's fourth-place team will play the fourth, fifth, sixth or seventh place team of the Big 12 on Dec. 22.

  • Continiental Tire Bowl - ACC's fifth-place team will play the Big East's third- or fourth-place finisher on Dec. 27.

  • Humanitarian Bowl - ACC's sixth-place team would play a Western Athletic Conference representative on Jan. 3.

"We have to finish things up in order to get the bowl game we want," linebacker D'Qwell Jackson said. "We wanted to win the ACC and get in the big bowls, but since that didn't happen, we want to go to the Peach or the Gator."

Those become the best choices for the Terps. But that means they have to win - starting Saturday at N.C. State - to prove they are worthy of the selections.

"This game could go down a number of different ways. We just have to take care of business," Jackson said. "Ultimately, we didn't take care of business. We take the responsibility (of being in this situation) upon ourselves."

The outcome in the next eight days will put the ultimate wrap on just how successful Maryland's season was.

"We have to play them one at a time and things will work out," Friedgen said. "And if it doesn't, then we have to say we had the opportunities."

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