Wyoming needs one more victory to become bowl eligible, and it’s an early 25-point favorite to beat 1-9 New Mexico Saturday in Laramie to get that seventh win.
It’s a pretty safe assumption if the Cowboys are bowl eligible that they will play in their second bowl game in three years. But there are some interesting dynamics that could alter their bowl chances so I thought I would throw out some nuggets for you to think about and comment on.
The Mountain West has ties to four bowls this year: Las Vegas (vs. Pac-12, Dec. 22); Poinsettia in San Diego (vs. WAC, Dec. 21), Independence (vs. ACC, Dec. 26) and New Mexico (Dec. 19, vs. Pac-12).
Las Vegas gets the first choice from the MW, followed by the Poinsettia, Independence and New Mexico. However, bowls like these often work together to find the best teams and match-ups. But it all starts with the Las Vegas Bowl.
TCU’s win at Boise State last Saturday actually hurt some of the other MW teams’ bowl chances. Boise State was on its way to a BCS Bowl before that loss. Now, it’s staring second place in the conference in the face and there will be no MW team in a BCS bowl. It looks like there will be five bowl eligible teams in the conference this year (assuming UW gets there and Air Force wins its last two games against UNLV and CSU) with four automatic ties.
Remember when UW became bowl eligible in 2009? TCU played in the Fiesta Bowl, which helped open up another slot for a MW team for its bowl ties that year. As the dominoes fell, that helped UW land in the New Mexico Bowl. It’s probable that the MW will send all five of its teams to bowls, but one team will have to fill a spot from a bowl that can’t fill a commitment from another conference.
UW is tied for second place in the MW right now, and has a good chance of finishing no lower than third. If that happens, expect the Cowboys to go to one of the four bowl games affiliated with the MW. The higher UW finishes, the better chance it has to landing in Las Vegas or San Diego, but with Boise State losing last week, those chances are slim unless some other crazy things happen.
Bowl officials from the New Mexico and Independence bowls have seen UW play in person this season. Based on its 2004 appearance and win in the Las Vegas Bowl, officials there love Wyoming and the fans it will bring. And, the folks that run the Poinsettia Bowl also run the Holiday Bowl, and they still remember how well UW travelled to San Diego for the Holiday Bowls iin 1987 and 1988. UW still has a good reputation among many bowl reps for bringing fans, and spending money. That’s always a good thing.
The Independence Bowl is new to the MW this year, and that could be a tough draw for UW. It’s in Shreveport, La., the day after Christmas. Better fits would be Air Force (strong ties with an Air Force base nearby) and TCU (less than 200 miles away from Dallas-Fort Worth). But if Las Vegas and the Poinsettia bowls have the first two choices, they also have to consider the integrity of their game. They want the best team possible, so not sure TCU would go there, espeically if it wins the MW title.
Expect the Las Vegas and Poinsettia bowls to target TCU and Boise State if they are the top two teams in the MW. There is San Diego State right there in San Diego, too, but it would be difficult for bowl officials there to go after the hometown team a second straight year with TCU and Boise State there. However, if San Diego State upsets Boise State in San Diego Saturday, all that could change.
What other bowls could land a MW team like UW? The Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl in San Francisco on Dec. 31 has an opening. Army was slated to go there to play at Pac-12 team, but Army suffered its seventh loss last Saturday and isn’t bowl eligible.
Conference USA has six bowl ties, but only four bowl-eligible teams as of now. East Carolina, Marshall and Central Florida all have four wins and need two more to get bowl eligible. If they can’t get there, bowl such as the TicketCity (Jan 2, vs. Big Ten No. 7) or the Armed Forces (Dec. 30 vs, BYU) could open up. The Armed Forces has a tie with the MW if BYU doesn’t get bowl eligible, but that won’t happen. However, if a CUSA team doesn’t make it, could you imagine as a UW fan a bowl game with BYU?
The Humanitarian, or Idaho Potato Bowl in Boise, also could come into the picture for a MW team. If Boise State played in it, it likely would sellout. But I don’t think the Broncos would do that with a chance to play in Las Vegas or San Diego. Then again, you never know.
A big misconception about most bowl games is that schools make a lot of money. With the MW bowl ties, the best case scenario is schools break even. UW won’t turn down an invitation to a bowl game in fear of losing money, but don’t think it will make a lot money by going to one.
Those are just a few things to think about for now. At least it’s a little fun to start thinking about such scenarios. If I had to predict it now, I say UW plays in the Independence or New Mexico bowls.
There have been some great comments from UW fans on their take of UW’s bowl outlook, and good participation so far on the poll question on the blog. Keep them coming!