The first of 34 college football bowl games is hoping to have a strong local flavor when it kicks off at 11a.m. on Dec. 20.
The Eagle Bank Bowl, which will take place at RFK Stadium, automatically includes the Naval Academy if the Midshipmen qualify by winning six games this season. Navy currently has four Division I wins with five games left to play, including home contests against SMU this weekend and Temple the following week. In addition, Navy takes on Army Dec. 6 having beaten the Cadets six years in a row.
The big question is Navy's opponent. When the Eagle Bank Bowl was created, the agreement was that the ninth-place team in the ACC was obligated to play in the game. The problem with that scenario is that since the ACC expanded to 12 teams, there have never been nine teams eligible to play in a bowl game with each reaching the six-win plateau to qualify.
This season it appears that could change, and if it does, either Maryland (currently 5-2) or Virginia (currently 4-3) may find themselves as the ninth bowl team selected from the conference. That is the best-case scenario for a large crowd at the 54,000-seat RFK Stadium, which currently hosts D.C. United as its only tenant.
If a ninth team from the ACC fails to qualify for bowl eligibility, the Eagle Bank Bowl committee will be forced to attract Navy's opponent from another conference, where the teams eligible have enough victories but little marquis value. That is something this bowl game will need in its first season to lure teams to Washington in late December, where the draw of playing in a 50-year-old stadium doesn't compare to the warm weather opportunities.
Getting Navy in is the first step. That will most likely happen in the next two weeks. Maryland and Virginia are anybody's guess. You can bet Eagle Bank will be watching the standings as closely as the stock market.