The Mountain West likely won’t be able to place a team in either of its top two bowl destinations this season.
The Las Vegas Bowl is expected to exercise its option to take BYU instead of a Mountain West team, Commissioner Craig Thompson said Monday. BYU gets the Mountain West’s spot in Las Vegas or Hawaii this year and the other spot in 2019.
The Las Vegas Bowl holds the No. 1 pick from the Mountain West.
The Cactus Bowl in Phoenix is the Mountain West’s No. 2 destination, but the conference is a dual backup to the Pac-12 and Big 12. The Pac-12 has enough teams to meet its obligation. The Big 12 doesn’t yet. If Kansas State (5-6) beats West Virginia on Saturday, the Wildcats would fill the Cactus.
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But on Monday the NCAA announced that 5-7 teams will be eligible, prioritized by Academic Progress Rate (APR), to fill any holes in the bowl system. There will be at least two holes, and possibly as many as five, because not enough teams have reached the six-win standard. Kansas State’s APR is high enough that the Wildcats are assured of bowl eligibility win or lose.
And for an extra Mountain West wrinkle, San Jose State is tied for third with Minnesota in APR among potential 5-7 bowl teams. So there’s a decent chance the Mountain West will have eight bowl teams for six spots. The other two would be placed in non-Mountain West bowls.
Boise State’s likely destination remains the Poinsettia Bowl on Dec. 23 in San Diego versus one of the top teams in the MAC.
Here are our updated projections:
New Year’s Six projections
Cotton, semifinal (Dec. 31, Arlington, Texas): No. 2 Alabama vs. No. 3 Oklahoma
Orange, semifinal (Dec. 31, Miami Gardens, Fla.): No. 1 Clemson vs. No. 4 Iowa
Rose (Jan. 1, Pasadena, Calif.): Stanford (Pac-12) vs. Ohio State (Big Ten)
Sugar (Jan. 1, New Orleans): Baylor (Big 12) vs. Mississippi (SEC)
Peach (Dec. 31, Atlanta): Houston (Group of Five) vs. Florida State (at-large)
Fiesta (Jan. 1, Glendale, Ariz.): Notre Dame (at-large) vs. Michigan State (at-large)
Mountain West projections
Las Vegas (Dec. 19, Las Vegas): BYU (MW/BYU) vs. Washington State (Pac-12)
Cactus (Jan. 2, Phoenix): Kansas State (Big 12/MW) vs. Arizona State (Pac-12/MW)
Armed Forces (Dec. 29, Fort Worth, Texas): Air Force (MW) vs. Minnesota (Big Ten)
Hawaii (Dec. 24, Honolulu): San Diego State (MW/BYU) vs. Washington (AAC/at-large)
Famous Idaho Potato (Dec. 22, Boise): Colorado State (MW) vs. Central Michigan (MAC)
New Mexico (Dec. 19, Albuquerque): New Mexico (MW) vs. Arizona (C-USA/at-large)
Poinsettia (Dec. 23, San Diego): Boise State (MW) vs. Toledo (MAC)
Arizona (Dec. 29, Tucson, Ariz.): Utah State (MW) vs. Akron (C-USA/at-large)
Heart of Dallas (Dec. 26, Dallas): Nevada (Big 12/at-large) vs. Tulsa (C-USA/at-large)
Cure Bowl (Dec. 19, Orlando, Fla.): Connecticut (AAC) vs. San Jose State (Sun Belt/at-large)
Harsin gets extension
Boise State coach Bryan Harsin earned an automatic, one-year contract extension when the Broncos gained their eighth win of the season Friday.
That extends Harsin’s deal through the 2020 season. He would make $1.85 million in the final season under the current terms. Harsin’s annual pay for the five upcoming seasons: $1.3 million, $1.55 million, $1.65 million, $1.75 million and $1.85 million. That’s a total of $8.1 million.
Safety Darian Thompson (Senior Bowl, Jan. 30) and center Marcus Henry (East-West Shrine Game, Jan. 23) accepted invites to senior all-star games. ... Sophomore running back Jeremy McNichols leads the nation in touchdowns with 23.