Bowl-bound Pirates are 'Pack's postseason equivalent
Posted November 22, 2013
With the postseason no longer a possibility, N.C. State (3-7) will play its “bowl” game Saturday against ECU (8-2) in Carter-Finley Stadium (12:30 pm, WRAL-TV/Mix 101.5 WRAL-FM).
Where ECU is heading for its bowl game is anyone’s guess with the possibilities ranging from Washington, D.C. to the Hawaiian Islands.
In a perfect world, Pirate fans are wishing for three more wins – at State, at Marshall (7-3) next Friday (Noon) and then back in Greenville on Dec. 7 for the Conference USA championship game, possibly against Rice (8-3) of the West Division. The Owls, 6-1 in the league, are off this weekend and will end the regular season in Houston against Tulane (4-2, 6-4), which hosts Texas-El Paso Saturday in New Orleans.
If it all falls that way, the Pirates would be 11-2 and probably off to Memphis for the Dec. 31 AutoZone Liberty game (4 p.m. EST) against the 8th-slotted bowl team from the Southeastern Conference.
At the moment, that SEC team could be LSU (7-3), Mississippi (7-3), Vanderbilt (6-4) or Georgia (6-4).
Tennessee, 4-6 with remaining games against Vandy and Kentucky (2-8), obviously is the Liberty’s dream team. The Volunteers haven’t been to a bowl since losing to UNC is the eventful 2010 Music City game and haven’t played in the Liberty since taking a 21-14 win over Minnesota in 1986.
A Tennessee vs. ECU game would be an instant sellout and deliver more pre-game energy than any Liberty game in recent history.
But Tennessee first has to win two and even if that happens, the Vols still could be sent to Shreveport, La., as the SEC No. 9 or 10 for the Dec. 31 AdvoCare game against the No. 7 ACC team, which could turn out to be UNC.
The Liberty has the option to skip over the Conference USA champ for the No. 5 team in the American Athletic Conference, but that’s unlikely. The only bowl eligible AAC teams at the moment are Louisville (9-1), Central Florida (9-1), Cincinnati (8-2) and Houston (7-3). The other six teams all have at least five losses each.
Win at Marshall is pivotal
But if the Pirates lose at Marshall and fail to reach the Conference USA title game, their postseason landing spot is entirely unpredictable.
Conference USA has agreements with the New Orleans Bowl (Dec. 21, 9 p.m. vs. the Sun Belt champ), the Beef O’Brady’s in St. Petersburg (Dec. 23, 2 p.m. vs. an AAC team), the Hawai’i Bowl in Honolulu (Dec. 24, 8 p.m. against Hawai’i or a Mountain West rep), Heart of Dallas (Jan. 1, noon against a Big Ten team) and perhaps the Armed Forces game in Fort Worth, Tex. (Dec. 30, 11:45 a.m. against a Mountain West) and the Military Bowl in Washington (Dec. 27, 2:30 p.m. against an ACC opponent).
The Armed Forces has an option of taking Navy (6-4) and the Military can select a Mid-American foe to face the ACC’s No. 8 slot.
While the Pirates control their dynasty, the same is true of Marshall and, for that matter, Rice. But winning at Marshall in what is always an emotional, uncomfortable game will be difficult regardless of how ECU comes out of the game against State.
When the Herd and Pirates last ended the regular season in Greenville, one of the wildest games of the year resulted in ECU winning 65-59 in two overtimes. The loss left Marshall 5-7 and out of bowl season. The Herd has been awaiting ECU since.