MAC title game muddles Cats’ bowl picture

2013-12-07T00:00:00Z MAC title game muddles Cats’ bowl pictureBy Daniel Berk Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

Arizona’s bowl scenarios took a turn for the crazy Friday night.

Northern Illinois lost to Bowling Green in the MAC Championship, and the Huskies will now be shut out of a BCS bowl. There’s a chance Oregon could take their spot.

How does that change things for the Wildcats?

If the Ducks sneak into the BCS, all Pac-12 teams will move up a step or two on the conference’s bowl ladder.

This scenario puts the Las Vegas Bowl into play for the Wildcats, who last played in that bowl in 2008 when they beat BYU 31-21.

If two Pac-12 teams go to the BCS, the Las Vegas Bowl would have the fourth pick among conference-affiliated bowls behind the Alamo, Holiday and Sun bowls.

If Oregon and the winner of today’s Pac-12 championship advance to the BCS, that leaves the loser of the title game, UCLA and USC as options for the three bowls ahead of Las Vegas.

The Las Vegas Bowl would then choose between Arizona and Washington. The Huskies finished one game better than the Wildcats at 8-4, but lost in the game last year against Boise State and are without a permanent head coach for the bowl season.

The next choice after Las Vegas is the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl, which hasn’t shown a lot of interest in the Wildcats. The bowl, based in San Francisco, is more intrigued by the Washington schools over Arizona because of proximity.

Of course, Northern Illinois’ loss could mean nothing for Arizona. The Ducks could still be passed over by the BCS in favor of a second Big 12 school.

Got all that?

Now, if Oregon does get shut out (which becomes likely if Oklahoma State and Baylor both win today), a trip to Shreveport, La., or Albuquerque looks likely for the UA.

The New Mexico Bowl will have the final pick of Pac-12 teams and will have the option of choosing Arizona, Washington State or Oregon State.

The Cougars haven’t been in a bowl in 10 years and their fans have been very vocal this week toward the New Mexico Bowl, hoping they earn a spot in Albuquerque.

“We try to look at everything, and that’s certainly something we look at,” said New Mexico Bowl executive director Jeff Siembieda of WSU fans being more likely to travel after a decade bowl drought. “You have to take everything into consideration and see what works. You look at the fan bases and the passion and certainly (the Cougars’) is higher with their recent bowl drought.”

If the New Mexico Bowl bypassed Washington State and went with the UA, it would host the Wildcats for a second straight year. Last year’s game, in 47-degree conditions, drew 24,610 fans.

That figure was the lowest of any of the seven games in the bowl’s history, even though it was the first time it drew a Pac-12 team.

The Wildcats, who staged a wild comeback in the final minutes and won 49-48 over Nevada, enjoyed their experience and wouldn’t be against going back.

“I thought the folks in Albuquerque did a nice job,” UA athletic director Greg Byrne said. “It wasn’t a bunch of banquets that kids aren’t interested in. They had fun activities for them and you want them to have an experience they will enjoy.

“I don’t want to come back in the game in the manor we did last year. But I’d hope we could have a good football game and attract some national attention.”

If the New Mexico Bowl passes on the Wildcats, Shreveport could be the most likely destination.

The AdvoCare was holding out hope it could draw Notre Dame, but the Fighting Irish are expected to accept a bid to the Pinstripe Bowl in New York City.

Extra points

The UA will return to practice today after taking the week off following its 58-21 loss to Arizona State.

The Wildcats will practice today and Sunday, before holding its annual banquet Sunday night.

• Rich Rodriguez and the coaching staff were on the recruiting trail most of this week and saw close to 40 prospects throughout the country. If the UA goes to a later bowl, Rodriguez and his staff will again travel for recruiting most of the next week as well.

With Chris Petersen’s hire at Washington, Rodriguez now ranks third in the league with 90 career Division I wins. Washington State’s Mike Leach, with 93, leads the way. Petersen went 92-12 in his eight-year tenure at Boise State.

Contact reporter Daniel Berk at dberk@azstarnet.com or 573-4330. On Twitter @DSBerk.

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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