MIAMI -- Maryland is returning to the Orange Bowl for the first time in 46 years, a fitting end for perhaps the most surprising team in college football this season.
The seventh-ranked Terrapins (10-1) accepted an invitation to play in the Jan. 2 game Tuesday. It will be the team's first bowl appearance since 1990 and first major bowl game since playing in the 1977 Cotton Bowl.
Maryland's opponent - probably No. 6 Florida, but possibly No. 2 Tennessee or No. 5 Nebraska - will be announced Sunday following the Southeastern Conference championship game between the Volunteers and LSU.
"It looks like we're going to get to play one of the great teams in the country," Terrapins rookie coach Ralph Friedgen said. "It's really an opportunity for us and an honor for us to be able to play with the caliber of teams mentioned as the other candidates for this game."
The Orange Bowl, by virtue of losing Big East champion Miami to the Rose Bowl, has the first pick in the Bowl Championship Series.
If Tennessee beats the Tigers and goes to the Rose Bowl, the Orange would get to choose between the Gators and Cornhuskers.
If LSU wins, the Tigers would head to the Sugar Bowl, either Tennessee or Florida would go to the Orange, and Nebraska would slip into the national championship game against the top-ranked Hurricanes.
"If we were fortunate to win the (Orange Bowl) game, we'll definitely earn some respect," Friedgen said. "You're talking about three teams that are really one game away from playing for the national championship."
Maryland finished its regular season Nov. 19 with a 23-19 win over North Carolina State, a victory that locked up the Terrapins' first conference title since 1985 and assured them a spot in a BCS game.
It was quite a turnaround from last season, when Maryland finished 5-6. As a result, Friedgen got every first-place vote in ACC Coach of the Year balloting.
"It's been a dream season in a number of ways," athletic director Debbie Yow said.
After a three-week layoff, the team will return to practice Saturday, hoping for better results from this trip to the Orange Bowl. The Terrapins lost to Oklahoma 7-0 in 1954 and again to the Sooners 20-6 two years later - their only appearances in the game.
Maryland is 6-9-2 all-time in bowl games.
Yow said the school already sold 3,000 tickets and hopes to sell 20,000 total, possibly erasing the notion that Maryland doesn't fill seats for bowl games.
"It's important that we travel well," she said. "We have no recent bowl history. There was a very old and outdated paradigm that Maryland doesn't travel well to bowls. I think we're getting ready to prove once and for all that that's not true and is ancient history."
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