MWC Bowl Projections: Aztecs, Broncos Change Fortunes

Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODA

The weekend in Mountain West action included a handful of one-score games that changed fortunes for many teams. Who's rising and who's falling in the eyes of the experts?

Week 13 of conference play saw plenty of developments most of us never saw coming at the season's beginning. UNLV is bowl eligible! San DIego State shocked Boise State again! Wyoming is still alive! Other teams are on the precipice, which means that the last weekend of the regular season still carries lots of uncertainty.

For a quick refresher, here is the list of bowls with which the Mountain West is affiliated, along with the slated opponent. The bowls have an order in which they are allowed to select teams, and the Las Vegas Bowl picks first.

Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl - December 21

MWC #1 vs. Pac-12 #5

San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl - December 26

MWC #2 vs. Army (if eligible) or at-large team

Bell Helicopters Armed Forces Bowl - December 30

MWC #3 vs. Conference USA #3 or Navy (if eligible)

Gildan New Mexico Bowl - December 21

MWC #4 vs. Pac-12 #7

Sheraton Hawaii Bowl - December 24

MWC #5 or Hawaii (if eligible) vs. Conference USA #2

Famous Idaho Potato Bowl - December 21

MWC #6 vs. MAC #3

***

The first set of predictions comes courtesy of SB Nation's Jason Kirk:

Sugar Bowl: Fresno State vs. Auburn

Las Vegas Bowl: Utah State vs. UCLA

Poinsettia Bowl: Boise State vs. Ball State

Armed Forces Bowl: San Diego State vs. Navy

New Mexico Bowl: Colorado State vs. Arizona

Hawaii Bowl: UNLV vs. Marshall

A week after forecasting the conference to meet all of its bowl commitments, Kirk is once again calling for the Mountain West to fall short.  What this essentially boils down to is that he believes San Jose State won't beat Fresno and Wyoming won't beat Utah State this coming weekend.

On the bright side, this forecast features some really fantastic matchups. Who wouldn't watch the Aggies defense try to stop Brett Hundley? The Broncos and the Cardinals would be a tilt between two quality mid-major programs. Kapri Bibbs vs. Kadeem Carey? An upstart Rebels team against a powerful Thundering Herd offense? Yes, please.

What do ESPN's Mark Schlabach and Brad Edwards have to say?

Schlabach

Fiesta Bowl: Fresno State vs. Oklahoma State

Las Vegas Bowl: Utah State vs. UCLA

Poinsettia Bowl: San Diego State vs. Washington State

Armed Forces Bowl: Boise State vs. Navy

New Mexico Bowl: Colorado State vs. Arizona

Hawaii Bowl: UNLV vs. Rice

Edwards

Fiesta Bowl: Fresno State vs. Oklahoma State

Las Vegas Bowl: Boise State vs. UCLA

Poinsettia Bowl: Utah State vs . Bowling Green

Armed Forces Bowl: Colorado State vs. Navy

New Mexico Bowl: San Diego State vs. Oregon State

Hawaii Bowl: UNLV vs. Middle Tennessee State

Finally! All it took for Edwards to change his mind about Fresno State has ten wins and multiple seismic shifts at the top of the BCS. What is most striking about their pair of projections, though, is their divergent view of the Aztecs: A home bowl game seemed inconceivable a month into the season, and yet it's well within the realm of possibility. Whether that is a good idea is less clear.

Lastly, CBS Sports' Jerry Palm gave out his two cents:

Fiesta Bowl: Fresno State vs. Oklahoma State

Las Vegas Bowl: San Diego State vs. USC

Poinsettia Bowl: Utah State vs. Buffalo

Armed Forces Bowl: Boise State vs. Navy

New Mexico Bowl: Colorado State vs. Arizona

Hawaii Bowl: UNLV vs. Middle Tennessee State

What is also interesting is that each expert expects Colorado State to finish its quest for a bowl next weekend against Air Force. He has the grimmest forecast for Boise, but sometimes it isn't your year. The Aztecs in Vegas is another bold call, and a matchup with the Trojans would be interesting.

My predictions are as follows:

Fiesta Bowl: Fresno State vs. Oklahoma State

Las Vegas Bowl: San Diego State vs. UCLA

Poinsettia Bowl: Boise State vs. Buffalo

Armed Forces Bowl: Utah State vs. Navy

New Mexico Bowl: Colorado State vs. Washington

Hawaii Bowl: UNLV vs. Rice

Idaho Potato Bowl: Wyoming vs. Bowling Green

I'm going out on a limb here, but let's be real here: Would it surprise anyone if the Cowboys went to Logan and won with the season they've had? No one has been able to figure out which team is going to show up on any given Saturday, so this is just as good as flipping a coin. Also, I like to be optimistic.

There's still some jockeying to be done, but the fact that Utah State has been winning with defense (and without Chuckie Keeton) and currently has the inside track to the conference title game probably makes them Vegas-bound.

If you have your own thoughts on these bowl predictions or have a set of your own, make sure to leave them in the comments!

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