GMAC Bowl Scenario, By-The-Numbers

As the Herd Faithful begin to pack their bags for the Toledo-Marshall matchup this Friday for the Mid-American Conference Championship, there is the little matter of a bowl opponent that has yet to be settled. While sitting in a hotel room or driving back home after the game, we may not know still.

Marshall has already accepted their invitation to the GMAC Bowl in Mobile, Alabama on December 19th, but is still without an opponent. The team designated to take on the Herd is the #2 team from Conference USA, which suspended expansion talks that may have led to the admission of Marshall in as a football-only member.

The main problem right now is finding who number two is.

Heading into the games of December 1st, the Conference USA bowl-eligible members are as follows:
1. Louisville (6-1 conf, 10-2 overall)
t2. Cincinnati (5-2 conf, 6-4 overall)
t2. UAB (5-2 conf, 6-4 overall)
t2. East Carolina (5-2 conf., 6-5 overall)
5. Southern Miss. (4-2 conf., 6-3 overall)

The KB Ratings look like this:
Louisville: 89.18
So. Miss.: 83.84
UAB: 81.55
Cincinnati: 76.27
ECU: 73.34

Southern Mississippi knocked off East Carolina last week, throwing the conference into a three-way tie for the second place spot. The GMAC Bowl officials had not been secretive in their interest to match up East Carolina star QB David Garrard. The Bowl officials said they would attend the game, but no offer was extended to either team, despite even more rumors that the winner would be the Herd's opponent in December. So, what did the Bowl communications people have to say?

"If ECU was to win the game on that day, they would have received the bid. Since they lost...the bowl committee will be meeting on Sunday to discuss the selection. We are looking for the best opponent for Marshall. The decision on who Marshall will play should be the first of this week as it stands now. There are a few games tomorrow, which could help our decision." So, what about the talk that the winner of Southern Miss/Alabama game would receive the invitation, since the Tide is close and could bring a ton of fans? "The Alabama/USM game is currently not a factor in the overall process. "

Now it seems to be coming clear, though, that the Bama/So. Miss matchup will have bowl implications. Reports show that if Southern Miss defeats the Crimson Tide this Thursday on ESPN, they will likely get the bid. Nothing has been said officially, however, on whether Alabama would be extended an offer if they defeat the Golden Eagles.

It seems that by the time we tune in to our favorite NFL team on Sunday, we will know who Marshall will be facing off against in the GMAC Bowl. But here are a couple tidbits that have come to my attention in all this:
1. If you look at the GMAC Bowl website, you will clearly see a CUSA and MAC scoreboard, and they have set up a brand new page to go to the online store for the respective teams' GMAC merchandise. There are two logos: MAC and Conference USA. So the potential of Marshall-Alabama is very dim, since Bama hails from the SEC and shouldn't have any trouble getting one of its conference's many bowl ties.
2. East Carolina would be the choice most favorable to the Herd Faithful. ECU -from team colors to personnel to offensive and defensive schemes- looks like Toledo. Marshall would be well-scrimmaged going into a game with the Pirates.
The Herd family also said goodbye to Nate Ruffin in recent months, a player on the 1970 Marshall football team who didn't make the fateful plane trip due to injury. The final game that his teammates played in was a loss to East Carolina. How fitting would it be to play East Carolina one more time and dedicate it to the memory of Ruffin?

As exciting as life will be for the Herd Faithful next month -who might actually get to go to a Herd bowl game without needing a parka- we will have to wait a few more days to learn our bowl destiny. Whoever it is, they'd better pack some lightning.

Coach Pruett has already promised to bring the Thunder.


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