If you’re a betting person, the smart money appears to be on Washington to the Fight Hunger Bowl and — somewhat less certain — Washington State to the New Mexico Bowl.
But the picture in the Pac-12 likely won’t gain real clarity until Sunday, the day after college football’s regular season finishes and BCS bowls begin the trickle-down by making their selections.
Sunday, Fight Hunger executive director Gary Cavalli said of the Huskies, who beat WSU in the Apple Cup to get to an 8-4 record: “I would say they’re the most likely team for us, and we’re very excited about the possibility.”
But Cavalli and his bowl counterparts may be stalled for several days, primarily because there’s still a slim chance the Pac-12 could land a second team in the BCS, which would push every team up a notch.
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Typically, the BCS announces this week that some marginal teams are cut loose from BCS consideration so bowls can begin to make backroom selections, but with several important games left, it appears unlikely the Pac-12 will be clarified.
“I was really hoping we could narrow things down a lot,” said longtime Holiday Bowl committee member John Reid, “but we can’t.”
Meanwhile, Washington State is bowl-eligible at 6-6, and an industry source says the New Mexico Bowl “is very enamored of Washington State.” New Mexico Bowl executive director Jeff Siembieda attended the Apple Cup.
But the Cougars will have to fend off Arizona and Oregon State as one of three teams battling for the last Pac-12-affiliated bowl or go outside the conference and try to land in a bowl tied up with a league that can’t fill its commitments: the Independence in Shreveport, the Heart of Dallas or the Little Caesars in Detroit.
In the bigger picture, the games affecting the BCS begin Friday night with Northern Illinois and Bowling Green for the MAC championship. NIU takes a BCS berth with a victory but a loss would vacate a spot.
Saturday’s games include Texas-Baylor, Oklahoma-Oklahoma State and the Big Ten title game between Ohio State and Michigan State. Wins by Texas and/or Oklahoma, plus Ohio State (especially if it’s decisive), would work in favor of the Pac-12 landing not only its champion, but Oregon, in the BCS.
It’s more likely that the league gets only the Stanford-Arizona State Pac-12 championship winner to the Rose Bowl. If Stanford wins, the picture below it gains more clarity, because the Alamo, picking second, would have to choose between Arizona State and Oregon.
But if the Alamo takes ASU, the Holiday would be free to choose between Oregon (7-2 in league games), USC and UCLA (both 6-3), and might opt for the Trojans, whom they’ve never hosted.
It gets more complicated if ASU wins the title, because then the Alamo has four choices — Stanford, Oregon, UCLA and USC (by an agreement reached a few years ago, Pac-12 bowls can pick any team within a game in the standings of the best-available team). There’s some thought that UCLA and the Los Angeles TV market would be appealing to the Alamo.
Meanwhile, there’s a significant possibility Stanford could fall to the Sun Bowl if it doesn’t beat ASU.
None of that should affect Washington — unless the Pac-12 gets two to the BCS.
“We’re feeling pretty positive they’d be a great team for us to have, and a great matchup for BYU,” said Cavalli. BYU (8-4) is already committed to the Fight Hunger.
As for the New Mexico Bowl, WSU might not have lost any ground with its loss to Washington. Oregon State (also 6-6 and 4-5) played a rousing Civil War with Oregon but lost its fifth in a row, and Arizona (7-5 and 4-5) was trounced by ASU.
The Wildcats played in the New Mexico Bowl a year ago, and the prospect of fans booking hotels in Albuquerque for several days is dimmed by the fact Tucson is only a 6½-hour drive away. But the Cougars shouldn’t take Arizona lightly.
“Arizona does a hell of a job,” said John Folmer, Sun Bowl selection committee chairman, adding that last year, when the Wildcats were in consideration for his bowl, they “had billboards in town” and he got a call in support from former ’Zona great Tedy Bruschi.
Said Folmer: “They’re really, really aggressive.”