For the past two seasons, four Mountain West teams had been bowl-eligible at season’s end, but only three teams were allotted bowl berths, leaving one team unhappy.
This season, even though the Mountain West now has four berths, a lot more people aren’t likely to be pleased, as there may not be four eligible teams emerging from the conference. Several teams struggled in their preseason, non-conference schedules, leaving their bowl possibilities up in the air.
When Mountain West Conference commissioner Craig Thompson announced he had secured four bowl slots for the conference this past off-season, he probably didn’t envision that his conference would be struggling to fill those spots. Nevertheless, Thompson remains confident.
“That would certainly be frustrating for the programs themselves and for the coaches of the teams that thought they had a pretty good chance to go to bowls, but it won’t hurt us (as a conference),” Thompson told The Rocky Mountain News (Italics) last week, when asked about the situation.
Two teams, Air Force and CSU, have already clinched berths and are bowl-bound. Two other teams, Utah and Wyoming, cannot make it to a bowl. That leaves four teams vying for two spots.
BYU (4-5, 1-3) probably has the easiest road to a bowl. The Cougars need to win two of their three remaining games to become eligible. Two of their games (Wyoming, New Mexico) are at home while their remaining road game is up the road at conference doormat Utah.
After BYU, each of the remaining three teams has a tough road. UNLV (4-5, 2-2) needs to win two of three games, but two of their remaining games are at CSU and against Air Force, while the third is on the road at Utah.
New Mexico also has work to do. Playing a 13-game schedule, the Lobos must win three of their four remaining games, including road spats with BYU and CSU.
San Diego State, the only team left with a shot at overtaking CSU for the conference title, can still make a bowl game if they win all of their remaining four games. Three of those games come away from San Diego, including trips to New Mexico, Air Force and Hawaii. The Aztecs one home game comes against CSU.
Essentially, two teams (and two teams alone) need to get hot or plan on waiting until next year.
“I think it’s great that our coaches can go into a season and say, ‘We have 30-something TV appearances and four bowl games to play for,” Thompson said. ” ‘If it doesn’t work out this year, we still have those four bowls next year.'”
The Mountain West champion goes to the Liberty Bowl in Memphis, Tenn. The Las Vegas Bowl gets the second choice of bowl-eligible MWC teams. San Francisco has next choice, then Seattle.
If two teams aren’t able to get on a hot streak and emerge from the middle of the pack, there might not be enough bowl-eligible teams to go around, leaving San Francisco and Seattle without MWC teams.
Edited by Jon Ackerman and Josh Hardin