The Mountain West bowl picture was clarified greatly Monday as the San Diego-based Pointsettia Bowl invited MWC co-champion the San Diego St. Aztecs and the Hawaii Bowl's invitation of the SMU Mustangs from Conference USA.
These announcements came on the heels of the New Mexico Bowl's invitation of the Nevada Wolf Pack Sunday afternoon and the Las Vegas Bowl's announcement on Sunday evening that it would be choosing either the potential MWC co-champs Boise St. Broncos or the current MWC co-champion Fresno St. Bulldogs to participate in the Las Vegas Bowl.
Which leaves three questions:
- Who will the Air Force Falcons face in the Armed Forces Bowl on Saturday, Dec. 29?
- Who will the Nevada face in the New Mexico Bowl on Saturday, Dec. 15?
- Where will Fresno State play its post season? and
- Will Boise State go to Las Vegas regardless of the outcome of their game at Nevada this Saturday?
A story in Monday's Idaho Statesman seems to indicate that the Broncos and MWC sack leader Demarcus Lawrence will head to Las Vegas no matter what happens this Saturday in Reno when Boise State takes on Nevada in what may be the Broncos final game in the MWC.
The Statesman's Chadd Cripe reports:
The Broncos are so attractive to Las Vegas that their game against Nevada is considered almost inconsequential. Boise State needs to beat Nevada to earn a share of the Mountain West title with Fresno State and San Diego State.
"If they lose, they’re still one of our two teams," said Dan Hanneke, executive director of the MAACO Bowl. "I don’t know how much it has a bearing in our final decision because again it’s such a good program with a good fan base... Even if they would lose Saturday, they’d probably come back with a vengeance in a bowl game, getting ready for next year."
Cripe reports that despite being held by the BCS, the Broncos' chances of making it into the top 16 and passing Mid American Conference championship game participant Kent State is minimal.
The Broncos only gained two spots, to No. 20, in the standings released Sunday evening despite losses by the seven teams ranked immediately in front of them. Combined with Kent State’s No. 17 ranking and Northern Illinois’ No. 21 ranking, there is little conceivable chance that the Broncos could qualify for a BCS berth.
As for the Armed Forces Bowl, Conference USA's bowl contingency plan announced Saturday places either Rice or Tulsa in the game at the TCU Horned Frogs' Amon G. Carter Stadium in Ft. Worth, Texas against Air Force and running back Cody Getz according to Jerry Palm of CBSSports.org.
If UCF wins ...
Tulsa goes to the Armed Forces Bowl, ECU ends up at the Beef O'Brady's Bowl and Rice is in New Orleans.
The consensus amongst bowl projection experts is that Nevada and quarter back Cody Fajardo will face the Arizona Wildcats in the New Mexico Bowl to start the season on Saturday, Dec. 15. Monday the Tucson Citizen narrowed down the Wildcats' possibilities to the Las Vegas Bowl or the New Mexico Bowl in Monday's edition.
Here are Arizona’s slimmed down bowl scenarios from best case to worst:
Las Vegas Bowl – Sat. Dec. 22
The reasoning: Vegas decides it wants Boise State from the Mountain West. The bowl committee really wants a team from the neighboring state of Arizona but it prefers to avoid a rematch of last year’s game so they take the UA.
New Mexico Bowl – Sat. Dec. 15
The reasoning: Albuquerque takes the only eligible Pac-12 team left.
The bowl possibilities aren’t as bountiful as they would’ve been if Arizona had finished with an 8-4 record but they’re much better than those of last year’s 4-8.
Which leaves the unanswered question: Who will play the MWC representative in the Las Vegas Bowl?
The consensus is the Washington Huskies. But the USC Trojans are the dream team. And the Arizonas -- State and UofA -- are mentioned as well. The Seattle Times seems to think the Huskies are the front runners.
Washington, at 7-5, will fill one of the Pac-12's seven contracted bowl spots. The bowls are assigned a selection order, with Las Vegas picking fifth.
Hanneke said UW-Boise State could well be the pairing, though there are many other options in play and the bowl won't be able to decide anything until Saturday night at the earliest.
Hanneke said he expects UW to be available, along with Arizona and Arizona State — all three finished at 7-5.
It's generally expected that USC, also 7-5, will likely be taken by the Sun Bowl, which picks before Las Vegas. Oregon State and the Stanford/UCLA loser are likely headed to the Alamo and/or Holiday.
And then there's the wildcard that is the ACC and CUSA not having enough bowl eligible teams, leaving at-large spots in the Independence, Military and Heart of Texas Bowl.
There's no indication one way or the other but the Orlando Sentinel projects that Fresno State and their leading rusher Robbie Rouse will play in the Independence Bowl in Shreveport, La. against Louisiana Tech of the Western Athletic Conference.
If it weren't for the shortages of bowl eligible teams, this would seem like the fantasy of a college football beat writer. But the Independence Bowl has a bigger payout ($1.15 million per team) than the Hawaii Bowl ($650,000).
The Heart of Dallas Bowl ($1.1 million) also pays better and is played on New Year's Day (albeit on ESPNU not ESPN main). So does the Military Bowl ($1 million).
Would the MWC make a deal to move it's co-champion to a higher paying, higher profile bowl? We'll see.
One would certainly hope so...