On Monday, members of Florida Citrus Sports’ Team Selection Committee met yet again, this time to discuss the gridiron action representatives took in during Weeks 5 and 6 of the college football season.
And while the selection windows for the Citrus Bowl and Camping World Bowl are far from clear as we approach the midway point of the season, a number of teams have begun to make strong cases for an Orlando bowl trip this December.
Steve Caplan led off Monday’s presentations with a recap of his and David Crabtree’s trip to College Park for Maryland’s loss to Penn State in Week 5. And while the result wasn’t ideal for the Terps, Caplan returned with a positive recollection of the trip.
“One of the nice things about scouting at Maryland is that Washington, D.C. is nearby which makes for some great sightseeing,” Caplan said of the weekend. “It was really a perfect trip, and it was pretty much a sellout crowd.”
Later, Mike Buell shared an encouraging note from the trip he and his son, Cy, made to Tallahassee for Florida State’s win over North Carolina State last week.
“The fans seem to be coming back,” Buell said of the Florida State faithful. “I thought it was a good directional win for Florida State. They looked like they were back on track, but there are still some challenges ahead.”
Perhaps the biggest challenge will come this week, when the ‘Noles return to the field against No. 2 Clemson. The Tigers were off during Week 6, but barely eked out a 21-20 win over North Carolina during Week 5, with Jim Aleo and Robert Norby in attendance in Chapel Hill.
“We talked to a lot of people, and a lot of folks came [for UNC’s last Orlando bowl appearance] in 2015,” Norby said. “North Carolina is really starved for football attention, because a lot of times this time of year you’re waiting for basketball season, and I think they’d love to come back.
“I give Mack Brown a lot of credit for going for two,” Norby added of North Carolina’s failed two-point conversion with 1:17 to play. “That was pretty gutsy.”
That sentiment was echoed this weekend in Atlanta, where Ted and Steve Ruta were in town for the Tar Heels’ 38-22 win over Georgia Tech.
“We walked the crowd at the tailgating, and there were a number of North Carolina fans there,” Steve Ruta said. “The North Carolina fans were happy to be here in 2015, were excited about the prospects of coming back here and were really excited about Mack Brown.”
Over in the Big 12, Todd LeDoux was on hand in Stillwater for Oklahoma State’s Week 5 win over Kansas State, after which Mike Gundy was highly complimentary of the team’s experience at the 2017 Camping World Bowl.
“When the postgame presser was over, I got up to thank [Oklahoma State sports information director] Gavin Lang for his hospitality, and he shook my hand and said, ‘Hey, come here,’” LeDoux recalled. “Then he grabbed Mike Gundy and introduced me to Coach. He couldn’t stop talking about what a wonderful time he had at the Camping World Bowl and said if it ever came down to it again, he’d love to bring his team back down”
Tim Loftin then rounded out the Week 5 presentations with a dispatch from his trip to Auburn for the Tigers’ win over Mississippi State.
“This was a good trip for me,” Loftin said, adding that, “I grew up right between Auburn and Atlanta and that weekend my family had a reunion, so I got a lot of comments about being a traitor for going to the football game.”
In the Big Ten, Rob Rudolph visited the heartland for Nebraska’s last-second win over Northwestern in Week 6.
“This was my first trip to Lincoln, and it was a beautiful town with beautiful weather,” Rudolph said. “Nebraska’s fan base is well-known, legendary, and has 272 consecutive sellouts, an NCAA record.
“It’s an interesting time at Nebraska because they’re in a transition phase and are being as patient with Scott Frost as they can,” Rudolph added. “But they are bowl-thirsty — they haven’t been to a bowl in two years and haven’t been to Orlando since 2013.”
Elsewhere in the conference, Billy and Sam Crozier took in the sights and sounds at Iowa-Michigan, while Steve Battista and Michael Potyraj were at Michigan State-Ohio State.
“We felt like we were supposed to be there,” Potyraj said of the experience in Columbus. “We felt like we were part of the organization, and it makes a huge difference, especially at a game that big.”
Rounding out the presentations, Ramon Raiford, Troy Sands and Mike Langford each offered reports from Week 6 trips to Florida, Ole Miss and Tennessee.
“We kind of followed Kirby Smart to the press conference, and as he waited with his SID, he talked with Jim [Bridges] and I,” Langford said of the aftermath of Georgia’s road win over the Vols. “They obviously have high expectations, but he was very cordial, very polite and was glad we were there.”
“There’s a lot of confidence in Gainesville right now,” Raifrod added of the mood during the Gators’ win over Auburn. “The place was loud, and it was deafening in the stadium.”
The Team Selection Committee is an all-volunteer community that represents Florida Citrus Sports at games across the Big Ten, SEC, ACC and Big 12, and participation is open to all active members. To learn more about membership options, visit our information page.