With just one weekend of play left in college football’s 2013-2014 regular season, bowl-eligible teams such as the Boise State Broncos are waiting to find out where they will play over the holidays.
The Broncos (8-4, 6-2 MWC) are one of seven bowl-eligible teams in the Mountain West Conference, which has ties to six bowl games in 2013.
With the exception of the first two bowl partners (Las Vegas and Poinsettia), there is no defined pecking order for MWC teams, and bowls are not obligated to choose by record.
However, due to Boise State’s enduring success and marketability, it is safe to assume that the Broncos will be bowling somewhere this year.
Because the Broncos failed to qualify for the inaugural Mountain West Conference Championship Game, it is worth speculating where the team will end up over the holidays. There are several places Boise State may end up, including sites that are not associated with the MWC.
According to Chadd Cripe of the Idaho Statesman, Boise State’s popularity may earn them the right to take the spot of a conference that cannot fulfill all of its bowl slots.
In the following slides, we’ll take a look at some of the most likely destinations for the Broncos this December.
Date: December 21
Time: 2 p.m. ET
Location: University Stadium, Albuquerque, New Mexico
Conference Affiliations: MWC vs. Pac-12
Possible Opponent(s): Arizona, Oregon State, Washington State
If the Broncos wound up in Albuquerque for the New Mexico Bowl, they would be one of eight teams playing on the first day of the 2013-2014 bowl season.
The argument for the Broncos in this bowl game is twofold.
The possibility of a decent Boise State/Pac-12 showdown is also a plus for ESPN, which wants to pique interest in the beginning of the bowl season. Also, fans would likely be willing to make the trip to the game.
However, according to the bowl’s website, the majority of national writers believe that San Diego State will represent the MWC and Arizona the Pac-12 in New Mexico (via gildannewmexicobowl.com).
Although this has little bearing on the final decision, the New Mexico Bowl may be the bowl of choice for some Boise State players. Broncos' running back Jay Ajayi was quoted as saying “I’d like the New Mexico Bowl because we get to play a Pac-12 school.” (via Idaho Statesman)
Accepting a bid to this bowl gives teams the shortest amount of time of any bowl participant to prepare. For a team such as the Broncos, whose young defense could use the extra practice, it may not be the best option.
Date: December 24
Time: 8 p.m. ET
Location: Aloha Stadium, Honolulu, Hawaii
Conference Affiliations: MWC vs. C-USA
Possible Opponent(s): Marshall, Rice, North Texas, Middle Tennessee State
The Sheraton Hawaii Bowl has become a staple of every hardcore college football fan’s Christmas Eve festivities (assuming it does not coincide with Monday Night Football). With a start time of 8 p.m ET, the game often runs into Christmas Day on the East Coast.
Boise State fans will remember the Hawaii Bowl as the place where they were introduced to current Tennessee Titans, and former East Carolina, running back Chris Johnson.
In 2007, just a year after the Broncos’ improbably victory over Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl, Boise State suffered a tough 41-38 loss at the hands of Johnson and the Pirates.
In the game, Johnson set an NCAA bowl-record of 408 all-purpose yards en route to receiving the game’s MVP award (via ESPN.com).
With regards to likely opponents, the list will be whittled down to three by this coming Saturday afternoon. The winner of the C-USA title game between Marshall and Rice is obligated to play in the Liberty Bowl on December 31.
According to Brett Vito of the Denton Record-Chronicle, North Texas is currently being considered by the Hawaii Bowl and Heart of Dallas Bowl. However, based on proximity, it would not be surprising to see the Mean Green headed to Dallas.
That leaves Rice and Middle Tennessee State. The Owls are an attractive opponent, but the Blue Raiders would likely accept the first invitation that the team receives.
Middle Tennessee State was left out of the bowl lineup entirely last season after finishing 8-4 and tied for second place in the Sun Belt Conference.
Date: December 30
Time: 11:45 a.m. ET
Location: Amon G. Carter Stadium, Fort Worth, Texas
Conference Affiliations: MWC vs. Navy
Possible Opponent(s): Navy
The Broncos may finally get a chance to play on TCU’s home turf, which Boise State managed to avoid two seasons ago.
If the Broncos were to play in this bowl game, it would be the latest the team has played in the bowl season since participating in the Fiesta Bowl in 2009.
As far as opponents are concerned, this one is set in stone. The Navy Midshipmen accepted a bid to play in the bowl after earning its sixth victory of the season in mid-November (via Yahoo! Sports).
Navy would be an interesting opponent for the Broncos. The triple-option offense that the service academy runs gives almost every team it faces trouble.
Fortunately, Boise State would have over three weeks to prepare for such an offense. And if history is any indication, time is a huge advantage for Navy’s opponents (the Midshipmen are 1-5 in their last six bowl appearances).
Date: December 31
Time: 11:30 a.m. ET
Location: Independence Stadium, Shreveport, Louisiana
Conference Affiliations: SEC vs. ACC
Possible Opponent(s): Georgia Tech, North Carolina, Boston College, Syracuse
How could the Broncos be a more likely choice for a bowl game that isn’t affiliated with the MWC than for the Poinsettia Bowl, which is associated with the conference?
According to the Idaho Statesman’s Chadd Cripe, the Poinsettia Bowl is expected to take the No. 2 MWC team, which will be the loser of this weekend’s conference title game.
But here’s where it gets interesting. If the SEC ends up getting two teams in a BCS bowl, it will vacate its spot in the Independence Bowl due to only having 10 bowl-eligible teams.
That leaves the Shreveport site open for a team from an unaffiliated conference, which most likely would come from the Pac-12 or MWC (which both have two more bowl-eligible teams than bowl partnerships).
Neither conference has any teams with close proximity to Shreveport, so it would be interesting to see whether fans of any school from either conference would have strong fan support at the game. But with Boise State’s brand, the school is about as likely as the potential Pac-12 schools (Oregon State, Washington State) to take a vacant spot.
Whoever ends up in the game will almost surely take on an ACC opponent. The most likely from the above list appear to be Georgia Tech, North Carolina and Boston College, based on projections from ESPN and Jerry Palm of CBS Sports.