Boise State could help all Mountain West football teams go bowling

The league has seven bowl-eligible teams, but only six guaranteed spots.

ccripe@idahostatesman.comDecember 3, 2013 

  • STATESMAN BOWL PROJECTIONS

    BOWL CHAMPIONSHIP SERIES

    National Championship Game (Jan. 6, Pasadena, Calif.): Florida State vs. Ohio State

    Fiesta Bowl (Jan. 1, Glendale, Ariz.): Oklahoma State vs. Northern Illinois

    Rose Bowl (Jan. 1, Pasadena, Calif.): Stanford vs. Michigan State

    Sugar Bowl (Jan. 2, New Orleans): Auburn vs. UCF

    Orange (Jan. 3, Miami): Alabama vs. Clemson

    MOUNTAIN WEST BOWL TIES

    Las Vegas Bowl (Dec. 21): Fresno State (MW No. 1) vs. USC (Pac-12 No. 5)

    Poinsettia Bowl (Dec. 26, San Diego): Utah State (MW No. 2) vs. Ohio (MAC)

    New Mexico Bowl (Dec. 21, Albuquerque): Boise State (MW) vs. Washington State (Pac-12 No. 7)

    Hawaii Bowl (Dec. 24, Honolulu): UNLV (MW) vs. Middle Tennessee (C-USA)

    Famous Idaho Potato Bowl (Dec. 21, Boise): San Jose State (MW) vs. Buffalo (MAC No. 3)

    Armed Forces Bowl (Dec. 30, Fort Worth, Texas): Colorado State (MW) vs. Navy

— The Boise State football team likely won't learn its bowl destination until Sunday.

That will buy the Mountain West time to try to find a home for its seventh bowl-eligible team — a quest that may prove futile but could depend upon the popularity of the Broncos.

Commissioner Craig Thompson said Monday that with 78 bowl-eligible teams nationally — three more are possible — and 70 bowl slots, he doesn't expect the Mountain West to add to its guaranteed allotment of six bowls.

"This is not the year to have extra bowl-eligible teams," Thompson said.

The biggest problem is not the number of available teams but the brand names of them. The Pac-12 and Atlantic Coast conferences are expected to have two extra teams each. Notre Dame also is an at-large candidate.

With only four bowls projected to have openings, the Mountain West would have to secure a seventh spot while two ACC/Pac-12 teams get left out.

Boise State gives the league some hope. The Broncos could bring some notoriety and a TV-ratings bump to games like the Independence Bowl (Shreveport, La.) or Heart of Dallas Bowl. The Independence has an ACC team, so the Mountain West needs only to compete with the Pac-12 there.

"Boise State is extremely marketable and there has been some interest in putting them outside of the Mountain West bowls," Thompson said. "… People are interested in Boise State."

If the Mountain West is unable to find an extra bowl, then one of its eligible teams will be left out.

The Las Vegas Bowl is expected to use the first pick on the winner of Saturday's Mountain West championship game between Utah State (8-4) and Fresno State (10-1). That's 99 percent, Thompson said.

The Poinsettia Bowl in San Diego is expected to take that game's loser. It's possible Boise State could slip into the Poinsettia if Utah State loses badly.

That leaves four games owned by ESPN Regional Television with no pecking order. The final selections will be made by ERT.

Those games: New Mexico Bowl in Albuquerque (vs. Pac-12 No. 7), Hawaii Bowl in Honolulu (vs. C-USA), Armed Forces Bowl in Fort Worth, Texas (vs. Navy) and Famous Idaho Potato Bowl in Boise (vs. MAC No. 3). The Broncos aren't considered a candidate for the Boise game.

The game that best fits Boise State's bowl history — finding the best possible matchup — is New Mexico, which likely will choose between Arizona (7-5), Washington State (6-6) and Oregon State (6-6).

"I'd like the New Mexico Bowl because we get to play a Pac-12 school," sophomore tailback Jay Ajayi said.

Colorado State (7-6) also could be a factor for the New Mexico Bowl. It's a seven-hour drive from Fort Collins, Colo., to Albuquerque, N.M., and the Rams brought about 6,500 fans to town in 2008. But ESPN likely would appreciate a Boise State-Pac-12 matchup for the game that kicks off the bowl season (noon, Dec. 21).

"There's interest in Boise State, certainly," New Mexico Bowl Executive Director Jeff Siembieda said. "Tremendous team, tremendous brand, tremendous people, tremendous fans — sure, there's interest in Boise State. But I think there are a lot of moving parts, too."

The Hawaii Bowl (tie-in with the Broncos' appearance in a men's basketball tournament there at the same time) and Armed Forces Bowl (the Broncos recruit Texas heavily) also could appeal to Boise State.

The Mountain West's other three slots will be filled by some combination of San Diego State (7-5), UNLV (7-5), Colorado State and San Jose State (6-6).

Colorado State, which has a reputation for bringing fans to bowl games, and San Jose State, which has a marketable star in quarterback David Fales, will have some appeal to bowl directors. That could leave the final spot to San Diego State or UNLV. The Rebels just whipped the Aztecs on Saturday, but the bowls aren't bound to make any decisions based on game results.

Chadd Cripe: 377-6398, Twitter: @IDS_BroncoBeat

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