In stark contrast to a story by Times reporter Bret Bloomquist on Monday, Miami Hurricanes interim coach Jeff Stoutland said his team will be in El Paso on New Year’s Eve when he spoke to the media for the first time in his new capacity.
Stoutland, who will lead the Hurricanes through their bowl game after the firing of Randy Shannon on Saturday, said Tuesday that Miami expects to be in El Paso on Dec. 31.
In an animated news conference, Stoutland said the month leading up to the bowl game is “sort of like the last stand,” for his embattled Miami team, which entered the season with high expectations after a 9-4 finish in 2009. The Hurricanes finished the 2010 regular season 7-5, capped with an embarrassing overtime loss to South Florida. But many figure the Hurricanes will be invited by the Hyundai Sun Bowl, which is in the first year of a contract with the Atlantic Coast Conference. Stoutland certainly seemed to think so. He even said Tuesday that El Paso has a street named after him. (Don’t know how tongue-in-cheek his comment was, but for what it’s worth there is a Stoutland Lane in Horizon City).
The ACC bowl selection order goes like this: BCS (Orange), Chick-Fil-A, Champs Sports, Sun. Florida State and Virginia Tech meet Saturday in the conference title game. The winner gets an automatic bid to the Orange Bowl, the loser will likely be selected by the Chick-Fil-A Bowl. The Champs Sports Bowl seems likely to pick either North Carolina State or Maryland, which have better overall records than Miami. And the Sun Bowl seems likely to jump at the chance to give Miami its first chance to play a game in El Paso.
The other side of the matchup — which contractually is a team from the Pacific-10 — is fuzzy.
And none of it will get any clearer until Saturday when Oregon and Oregon State take the field in their annual rivalry game. Oregon assures itself a spot in the national title game with a win, and joins Pac-10 member Stanford in one of the five BCS games. If Washington beats Washington State, the Huskies become bowl-eligible, the fourth Pac-10 team to do so this season. Should Oregon be upset by Oregon State, the Huskies likely end up here. But if the Ducks win (they are a 16.5-point favorite), then the Sun Bowl will not get a Pac-10 team, with two Pac-10 teams lost to the BCS and two other bowls higher up in the pecking order (Alamo, Holiday). So that means another conference will have to furnish a team. It could be the Big 12. Or the SEC. Or the MAC. But it all depends on how the final day of the season shakes out. Gonna be a fun Saturday.