Wolfpack 'very, very high' on Charlotte bowl list

jpgiglio@newsobserver.comNovember 27, 2011 

N.C. State's comeback win over Maryland puts the Wolfpack "very, very high" on the Belk Bowl's wish list, bowl president Will Webb said Sunday.

The bowl game in Charlotte, which will be played Dec. 27 (8 p.m., ESPN) at Bank of America Stadium, has to wait until after the ACC title game on Saturday to make its selection, but the Wolfpack is among its top options.

Virginia and Wake Forest are also possibilities from the ACC, Webb said, with West Virginia (8-3), Louisville (7-5) and Rutgers (8-4) from the Big East side of the equation.

One of the top determining factors in the bowl's selection is how the team finished the season, Webb said. State (7-5) rallied from 27 points in the second half to beat Maryland, 56-41 on Saturday in Raleigh. Virginia (8-4) lost at home to Virginia Tech, 37-0, and Wake Forest (6-6) lost at home to Vanderbilt, 41-7.

"Are there fans disappointed or are there fans excited? That's what we look at it," Webb said. "State's comeback was incredible, which will have everyone fired up, which is good."

N.C. State has won five of its past seven games to get back to a bowl game for the third time in four years. The Wolfpack beat West Virginia 23-7 in the Champs Bowl last December and might be headed for a rematch with the Mountaineers (8-3).

With one week left in the Big East race, there are still three teams that could win that conference and its automatic Bowl Championship Series bid (to face the ACC champion in the Orange Bowl). With Notre Dame likely headed to the Champs Bowl, the Belk Bowl will have the first choice of Big East teams after the league champion.

Cincinnati, which beat N.C. State 44-14 in September, would not be option to face the Wolfpack in Charlotte, Webb said. The bowl prefers to avoid regular-season rematches if at all possible.

Louisville, which has finished the season with a 5-2 Big East record, would win the conference if Cincinnati loses to Connecticut on Saturday.

Cincinnati, 4-2, would win the Big East with a win and a West Virginia loss.

West Virginia, 4-2, would win the Big East if it finishes in a three-way tie with Cincinnati and Louisville, based on the tiebreaker using the BCS standings. West Virginia plays at South Florida on Thursday night.

The Wolfpack has been to the bowl in Charlotte once, a 14-0 win over South Florida in 2005. West Virginia has been twice, beating North Carolina in 2008, and losing the inaugural game to Virginia in 2002.

If N.C. State ends up in Charlotte, Virginia would likely go to the Music City Bowl in Nashville, to face an SEC team, likely Mississippi State.

Since Wake Forest finished the ACC schedule at 5-3, it can't be jumped by UNC, 3-5 in the ACC, in the conference's bowl selection order. That would leave Wake to the Independence Bowl in Shreveport, La. on Dec. 26 against a Mountain West team, likely San Diego State or Wyoming.

The Tar Heels, who are making their fourth straight bowl appearance, would then be ticketed to the Military Bowl in Washington, D.C. on Dec. 28. Neither Navy nor Army qualified for the Military Bowl, and there isn't an extra Conference USA team to fill the slot, which means UNC's opponent could be an extra team from the Mountain West or the Big Ten.

Air Force (7-5) would be the natural option for the Military Bowl, but it could be selected ahead of either Wyoming or San Diego State in that conference's bowl order.

The Big Ten has a surplus of teams, including Purdue (6-6) and Northwestern (6-6), and not enough bowl slots.

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