There's nothing like seeing a friendly, familiar face during the holidays.
That's just what could happen if — as seems likely — the University of Maryland football team is chosen for the Dec. 27 Military Bowl, which will be played at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium.
The Military Bowl gets the eighth choice among eligible Atlantic Coast Conference teams and the fourth choice of eligible teams from Conference USA. The ACC entrant could be Maryland, which last played in Annapolis in 1965.
The Terrapins finished 7-5 overall this season, and 3-5 in ACC play. League teams with better records, such as Florida State and Clemson, will be playing in the top-tier bowls.
But Maryland is an attractive option for Military Bowl Executive Director Steve Beck because of the keen interest in the team locally. Maryland's campus is just 30 miles from Annapolis, so the Terrapins are far more likely to draw fans to a game in Annapolis than an unfamiliar out-of-town team.
When Maryland played East Carolina in the 2010 Military Bowl at RFK Stadium, the game drew more than 38,000. The 2011 matchup between Toledo and Air Force attracted 25,000; last year's game between San Jose State and Bowling Green was watched by just 18,000.
“Maryland seems to make the most sense for us,” said Beck, who attended Maryland's Nov. 27 game against Boston College to scout the Terrapins.
Although he would prefer otherwise, Beck will have to wait his turn before he can try to land the Terrapins for Annapolis. Other bowls — such as the Peach, Gator, Music City and Sun — get their pick of the eligible teams from the ACC before Beck gets his chance.
It is possible — though unlikely — that someone else could extend Maryland an invitation before the Military Bowl chooses its ACC entrant.
Those selections won't be made until Sunday, after all of this weekend's game are complete.
“We're all just waiting to see how the ball bounces,” Beck said.
There have been plenty of bounces in Maryland's season so far. The Terrapins started the year with four straight victories and even climbed into the national rankings after their 37-0 victory over West Virginia in late September.
Then, as injuries mounted, they dropped four of their next five. Maryland rebounded by winning two of its last three season games. That late surge included road victories over Virginia Tech and North Carolina State.
“We've overcome a lot of adversity, a lot of adversity,” Maryland coach Randy Edsall said Sunday. “This team has really come together and accomplished some good things this year, despite all that adversity.”
Edsall is a Susquehannock High School graduate.
If Maryland isn't available, Beck still likes some of the other choices he might have from among ACC teams.
Boston College — which features Andre Williams, the nation's leading rusher — could be a potential visitor to Annapolis. So, too, could teams such as North Carolina, Pittsburgh and Syracuse. All of those schools are relatively close and could attract good crowds.
“They're all very good, although Maryland's right down the road,” Beck said.
Pittsburgh has already played in Annapolis this year. The Panthers were 24-21 losers to Navy on Homecoming weekend in late October.
The opponent for Maryland — or another ACC team — is less of a question mark. It seems likely that either Marshall (9-3) or East Carolina (9-3) will wind up in Annapolis from Conference USA.
Again, geography will probably be a factor. Marshall, in Huntington, W. Va., and ECU, in Greenville, N.C., wouldn't have to travel as far as Conference USA schools such as Rice (Houston) or Middle Tennessee State (Murfreesboro, Tenn.).
Though the Terrapins are familiar to many local fans, their appearance here would be something of a novelty. The Terrapins haven't been to Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in 48 years. The last time they played football in Annapolis was 1965, when they dropped a 19-7 decision to the Mids.
The two schools have met only twice since then — in 2005 and 2010. Both games were played in Baltimore.
Maryland's next football game — whether here or somewhere else — will be its last as a member of the ACC. After 50 years in the conference, Maryland's athletic teams will move to the Big Ten next year.