While the rest of the country debated the final field for the four-team College Football Playoff, five local teams — James Madison, Maryland, Virginia Tech, Liberty and Howard — all received invitations to play in upcoming bowl games in late December.
James Madison (11-1) is headed to the Armed Forces Bowl to face the Air Force on Dec. 23 in Fort Worth, Texas, with kickoff at 3:30 p.m. James Madison has been ranked in the Top 25 in every poll since Oct. 22 and started the season with 10 straight wins.
The Dukes will head to its first bowl game without coach Curt Cignetti, who resigned after agreeing to a deal to become the new head coach at Indiana. Offensive line coach Damian Wroblewski will be the acting head coach at the Armed Forces Bowl.
“Every member of our football program is honored and excited to represent JMU in its first ever bowl game,” Wroblewski said in a statement. “We understand the unusual circumstances that we are in, and that only makes us smile even more.”
Before receiving their invitation, the NCAA denied the Dukes’ request for a waiver of a rule that could keep them from a bowl game without extenuating circumstances. James Madison are in the second year of a two-year process of reclassifying from the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) to the Bowl Subdivision (FBS), the game’s top tier.
The Virginia Attorney General had hired a law firm to represent James Madison University regarding the NCAA’s decision, but the school backed off with the hope a bid would come if not enough teams reached the six-win threshold.
Meanwhile, Maryland will play in the Music City Bowl against Auburn on Dec. 30 in Nashville, Tennessee, with kickoff set for 2 p.m.
It’s the third straight season the Terrapins (7-5) are participating in a bowl game.
“We’re excited to get back out on the practice field and continue the development of our players before we travel to Nashville to take on a really good Auburn team,” Maryland head coach Michael Locksley said in a statement.
Virginia Tech will not go far to play in its bowl game as they will head to Annapolis, Maryland, to face Tulane in the Military Bowl on Dec. 27 at 2 p.m. After starting the season 1-3, the Hokies went 5-3 in ACC play to finish the year 6-6. It’s the first bowl game for the program in two years.
After finishing with a 13-0 record, Liberty will face Oregon in the 2023 Vrbo Fiesta Bowl on Monday, Jan. 1 in Glendale, Arizona. The Flames recently captured their first-ever FBS conference championship after a 49-35 win over New Mexico State in the CUSA Football Championship game. Liberty is 3-1 in its previous four bowl game appearances.
Lastly, Howard, who defeated Morgan State in the MEAC Championship, has accepted an invitation to the eighth annual Cricket Celebration Bowl, set to be played Florida A&M on Dec. 16 at noon at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Georgia. Both teams will be making their first appearances at the Celebration Bowl.
Event organizers say it is the only FCS bowl game, and it serves as the annual national championship game for historically black colleges and universities, as it features the champions of the SWAC and MEAC conferences.
The Associated Press also contributed to this report.