Interview with a Bowl Scout

Terry Lambing, an official bowl scout for Florida Citrus Sports, the managing authority for both the Capital One and Champs Sports Bowls in Orlando, said Michigan State entered the contest against Penn State with an outside shot at visiting Florida in December. (And they still might.)

EAST LANSING - With seven wins, Michigan State is on the bowl merry-go-round and where they end up, nobody quite yet knows.

After Saturday's games, Purdue, Indiana and the Spartans are tied with identical 7-5 records, 3-5 in conference play. They, along with Iowa and Northwestern, were battling for the final two Big Ten bowl slots: the Insight Bowl (Dec. 31) in Tempe, Ariz. And the Motor City Bowl (Dec. 26) in Detroit.

At least that's what conventional wisdom said.

But Terry Lambing, an official bowl scout for Florida Citrus Sports, the managing authority for both the Capital One and Champs Sports Bowls in Orlando, said Michigan State entered the contest against Penn State with an outside shot at visiting Florida in December. (And they still might.)

Lambing said Michigan State could have been a strong contender for the Champs Sports Bowl (Dec. 28) had Michigan gained a BCS bid into the Rose Bowl. A 10-2 Ohio State team would have been an attractive draw as an at-large team in a BCS game, giving the Big Ten two BCS teams. That would have pushed the rest of the conference teams up one slot, giving the Spartans a shot at the Champs Sports Bowl.

"UM losing hurts the Big Ten," Lambing said.

With Ohio State smelling roses, the Big Ten will likely settle for only one BCS bid. But they won't settle for that without a fight.

"Can (Big Ten commissioner Jim) Delaney sell Illinois into the BCS?" Lambing asks. "Some 10-1 teams need to lose to have a shot," he said, explaining that the BCS committee has discretion to choose a 9-3 team, like Illinois, over a 10-2 team.

But even if MSU cannot make it to Florida this season, the team has begun to establish itself as an attractive draw for future seasons. In any event, the success the Spartans have had this season has made an impression on Lambing and other bowl scouts.

Lambing traveled to East Lansing to scout both Michigan State and Penn State for the two bowl games he represents. He says bowl scouts keep the overall state of a program in mind when taking notes, not just how well the fan base travels.

"Bowl scouts will look for how many close games a team has played, what the preseason projections were and if a team has overachieved," Lambing said. He pointed to the excitement around the Spartan program with a successful first season under coach Mark Dantonio as reason to believe Michigan State could still be on the bubble for the Champs Sports Bowl.

And if the Spartans did make a trip to Orlando, they would be part of something bigger than football. Lambing says Florida Citrus Sports (the two bowls as well as the Orlando Citrus Parade) is a non-profit organization devoted to giving back to the community.

"All profits go to underprivlidged kids in the Orlando area," Lambing said. Up to 400 kids participate in one of four weeklong summer sports camps where they get free physicals, their teeth cleaned and learn, among other lessons, the importance of sportsmanship.


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