Even with the seismic news surrounding the Fresno State football program this week, there is still the matter of a post-season bowl game.
There was no consensus among national football writers’ bowl projects for the Bulldogs. With the defection of head coach Kalen DeBoer — and reportedly his top assistants — to Washington, as well as quarterback Jake Haener’s exit from Fresno State, where will the Bulldogs play?
The picture will come into focus on Sunday after the College Football Playoffs are announced. The remaining 40 bowl games will be set shortly after.
My projection — dependent on several other factors, mainly in the Big Ten — is the Bulldogs vs. Texas Tech in the Guaranteed Rate Bowl in Phoenix on Dec. 28.
San Diego State “hosts” Utah State in the Mountain West title game this weekend (the game takes place in the Aztecs’ home-away-from-home in Carson). The Jimmy Kimmel LA Bowl has the first selection of MWC teams.
While Fresno State could provide an attractive alternative— the Red Wave showed they travel to southern California games — it is unlikely the bowl would buck the tradition of taking the conference champ.
Will Guaranteed Rate Bowl Slot Be Available?
The Guaranteed Rate Bowl has the second pick of MWC teams — but only if the game has to make a replacement choice from its scheduled matchup — Big Ten vs. Big 12.
The Big Ten has affiliations with eight bowl games and has nine teams that qualify for bowl games (a minimum of six wins). However, with Michigan (personal note: Go Blue!) likely in the playoffs, and Michigan State also qualifying for the New Year’s Six bowl games, that leaves six teams for seven bowl slots.
For the Big Ten, after the Rose and Citrus bowls, there is no rank order for the remainder. But, the bottom bowls appear to be the Quick Lane Bowl in Detroit and the Guaranteed Rate Bowl.
If the conference sends its final team to the Quick Lane instead, that would leave a spot for the Bulldogs.
The Mountain West’s bowl lineup:
— Jimmy Kimmel LA Bowl (Dec. 18, SoFi Stadium in Inglewood vs. Pac-12) with the first pick.
— Guaranteed Rate Bowl (Dec. 28, Chase Field in Phoenix) would have the next pick if there are not enough teams to fill the Big Ten vs. Big 12 match-up.
There is no rank order for the remaining games:
— New Mexico Bowl (Dec. 18, University Stadium in Albuquerque vs. Conference USA);
— Famous Idaho Potato Bowl (Dec. 21, Albertsons Stadium in Boise vs. MAC);
— Hawaii Bowl (Dec. 24, Clarence T.C. Ching Athletics Complex in Honolulu vs. American);
— Arizona Bowl (Dec. 31, Arizona Stadium in Tucson vs. MAC);
— An ESPN-produced bowl to be determined (either Dec. 17 Cure Bowl in Orlando; Dec. 18 Boca Raton Bowl in Florida, or Dec. 21 Frisco Bowl in Texas).
Seven Mountain West teams qualified. That means an MWC team could fill another bowl slot.
My other projections:
LA Bowl: San Diego State vs. UCLA
The LA Bowl will take the MWC champ, with the Aztecs favored to beat Utah State. A matchup versus UCLA could draw a crowd. The teams face each other irregularly; the last time was in 2019 and the next scheduled regular-season matchup is in 2023.
Idaho Potato Bowl: Boise State vs. Northern Illinois
Not the best year for the Broncos, but a home game seems attractive. Boise State hasn’t played at a bowl game on the blue turf since 2005.
New Mexico Bowl: Wyoming vs. UTEP
The Cowboys earned their sixth win to qualify. They haven’t played in the bowl game since 2011. Geography makes UTEP the most sensible Conference USA opponent.
Arizona Bowl: Utah State vs. Eastern Michigan
Not the most exciting matchup, but some team has to play in this New Year’s Eve game.
Frisco Bowl: Nevada vs. North Texas
The bowl game in the Dallas Metroplex is one of several games operated by ESPN. The opponent is likely another Group of 5 team.
Hawaii Bowl: Hawaii vs. Memphis
This is a late development. The NCAA on Thursday decided to add a 42nd bowl game, allowing all 84 teams with at least six wins to play. Nearly everyone overlooked Hawaii. While the Rainbow Warriors have a losing record (6-7), they technically qualify. Memphis has already accepted a bid.
First Responder Bowl: Air Force vs. SMU
Who is better to respond first than Air Force? SMU would have the home-field advantage at Gerald J. Ford Stadium in the Dallas Metroplex. And, the stadium is not named after the president; this Gerald Ford is a Texas businessman and funder of the building.
Where do other college football prognosticators see Fresno State going?
SI.com/Mitchell Wolfe: Idaho Potato Bowl vs. Western Michigan
Yahoo Sports/Nick Bromberg: Idaho Potato Bowl vs. Northern Illinois
CBS Sports/Jerry Palm: LA Bowl vs. Oregon State
USA Today/Erick Smith: Arizona Bowl vs. Central Michigan
College Football News: Arizona Bowl vs. Northern Illinois
About the Author
David Taub covers Fresno State football for GV Wire.