Monday was an interesting day on Mountain West bowl watch:
— Mountain West Commissioner Craig Thompson said that he expects the Las Vegas Bowl to exercise its option on BYU this year. BYU gets the Mountain West’s spot in Las Vegas either this year or in 2019. It gets the Mountain West spot in Hawaii in the other year. The Las Vegas Bowl has the No. 1 selection out of the Mountain West.
— Thompson also said he expects to lose the Mountain West’s potential spot in the Cactus Bowl. The Mountain West projected to fill the Big 12’s spot if Kansas State (5-6) loses this week to West Virginia. But the NCAA announced Monday that 5-7 teams will be made eligible to fill vacant bowl slots in order based on Academic Progress Rate. Two to five 5-7 teams will be needed. Kansas State is No. 3 among the possible 5-7 teams in APR and No. 2 Missouri has declined a potential bowl berth. That gives the Big 12 enough eligible teams to fill the Cactus Bowl. “That would be an error on the Cactus Bowl’s part if we’ve got a nine-win team, but I don’t make that decision,” Thompson said. “The Cactus Bowl does.” The Big 12 declined comment pending the outcome of Kansas State’s game.
— The Poinsettia Bowl gets the No. 1 choice from the Mountain West if Las Vegas takes BYU. However, the Poinsettia has to pay extra for that right. The bowl could skip that payment, Thompson said, since it might get the team it wants anyway. The Poinsettia has indicated it would like Boise State. San Diego State played in the game last year and Air Force will play in San Diego this week in the conference championship game. Plus, it’s possible the Falcons will be coming off back-to-back losses. If Air Force beats San Diego State, then it’s possible Poinsettia would take the Falcons.
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— Boise State’s possible opponent in the Poinsettia Bowl likely would be one of the top three teams in the MAC: Bowling Green, Northern Illinois or Toledo. However, Toledo already has lost its coach and rumors are flying that Bowling Green is next.
— All of the Mountain West’s bowl-eligible teams are guaranteed bowl bids somewhere.
My updated projections are below. Here’s the thinking behind them (most bowl announcements won’t come until Sunday):
— San Diego State to Hawaii as a reward for winning the championship (these are based on the Aztecs winning this week). The opponent is supposed to come from the American, but I could see that conference making a deal with the Pac-12 to avoid the travel costs. So I put Washington in Hawaii and Tulsa of the American in the Heart of Dallas Bowl.
— Air Force to the Armed Forces Bowl. There’s a logical tie-in for the Falcons with the sponsor and the opponent could be a Big Ten team, although a 5-7 Big Ten team.
— Boise State to the Poinsettia Bowl. Poinsettia likes the Broncos, the Broncos recruit the area heavily and getting done before Christmas is a bonus.
— Colorado State to the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl. The Rams haven’t played in the game yet, so they’d be a good fit. This also would prevent the Potato Bowl from over-using Utah State.
— New Mexico to New Mexico. The Lobos want to be at home, coach Bob Davie said.
— That leaves Utah State and Nevada (and quite possibly San Jose State, which probably would be the fourth 5-7 team to get into a game). I put Utah State in Arizona but that could be Nevada. The other team(s) will be on the open market. Heart of Dallas makes sense because it likely will have openings on both sides. The Cure Bowl could be in play, too.
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 (American) vs. San Jose State (Sun Belt/at-large)