The bowl season is about to begin and the MWC has 5 of their 9 teams playing in the college post season. Just like the regular season, these bowl games have more meaning for the MWC than they have in the past. It's like the team that has a great regular season and then flames out in the playoffs. Those teams are remembered as either overrated or chokers - both labels that the MWC don't want hanging on them till next year. Having a winning record in bowl games will go a long way in establishing themselves as a premiere conference.
MWC bowl games
New Mexico Bowl
Colorado State (6-6) vs. Fresno State (7-5), 2:30 p.m. (ESPN)
This is one lame bowl game. Does anyone care who wins this one? Fresno State was a major disappointment and you wonder what would have happened if they had beaten Wisconsin earlier in the year. Colorado State isn't exactly a world beater but it did have to finish well to get into this bowl game. It is nice to see them get out of the MWC basement as they used to be a football power. This is a toss up but maybe the fact that it is being played in MWC territory will help declare a victor.
Las Vegas Bowl
Payout: $1 million
BYU (10-2) vs. Arizona (7-5), 8 p.m. (ESPN)
Back to the Las Vegas Bowl again. BYU can't be very excited to be going back to sin city when they had designs on the BCS. In the end, this isn't a bad place for BYU to land. It is practically a home game for BYU with so many fans going down from Utah. They play a weak Arizona team that has already lost to New Mexico earlier this year which means more victory fodder for BYU. They will get credit for beating another PAC-10 squad and go 3-0 for the year against BCS conference teams. I expect them to squeeze out a close victory which is better than getting embarrassed by a good team. There is always next year.
At San Diego
Boise State (12-0) vs. TCU (10-2), 8 p.m. (ESPN)
This is the best bowl matchup outside of the title game and will mean a lot in establishing the Mountain West as the best non-BCS conference. TCU with its speedy defense vs. Boise State putting up crazy points makes it even more interesting. I'm surprised that Boise State took this bowl game. The payout is relatively meager and there are large risks with playing TCU. Boise State is undefeated and ranked in the top 10 but they can't shake the feeling that it is all due to playing in a weak conference. TCU has the defense to shut Boise State's offense down and if they look bad here then they will be exposed as the cream puff beaters that they are. If the win, well they were expected to win because they are undefeated. A loss would also prove that Boise State wouldn't have gone undefeated if they played in the MWC, let alone in a bigger conference. TCU might end up being ranked in the final top 10. I've been betting against Boise State all season and I will bet against them again with TCU stomping them like the stomped BYU.
Armed Forces Bowl
At Fort Worth, Texas
Houston (7-5) vs. Air Force (8-4), Noon (ESPN)
This is a rematch of a close regular season game that Air Force won in Houston. Well the game isn't in Houston but it is in Texas and I imagine it will be favoring the Lone Star representative. Houston has a good offense and really has only one bad loss. They have good wins against Tulsa and East Carolina and other then their slip up to Marshall, their losses come from Air Force, Colorado State, Ok State and Rice. This one will probably be close but Air Force has been consistent in beating the teams that they are supposed to beat and I expect more of the same.
At New Orleans
Payout: $17 million
Utah (12-0) vs. Alabama (12-1), 8 p.m. (FOX)
This is another great game for the MWC. Alabama was the number one team till the last week of the season so this isn't the Pitt team that they trashed in 2005. This is the second best team in the SEC, a top 5 team and was one game away from the national championship. They have a ton of history and a big name coach in Nick Saban to boot. No one in the national media thinks that Utah is legitimate and Alabama will have all of the pressure on them to win. The knock on non-BCS teams is that they play weak schedules but if they beat Alabama which went undefeated in the SEC regular season, it would strongly propose that that Utah could have done the same in a major conference. That will also boost both BYU and TCU as their losses have come from Utah.
Look closely at Alabama's schedule and you will see that it wasn't as tough as you would suspect coming from an SEC team. They have played 3 ranked teams other than Florida. They are Georgia - a former number one that really flamed out, LSU - showed its true colors by the end of the season falling out of the polls and Clemson which finished 7-5. Their pretty boy quarterback John Parker Wilson manages games but doesn't win them. All of their games against good schools were close and he only threw 9 TDs all season. Alabama really doesn't have the firepower to blow people out and it wouldn't be surprising if Utah won this game close. Utah has managed to win its close games and this shouldn't be any different.
So I expect a 4-1 post season, with the Utah and Colorado State games being toss ups. No one remembers the regular season but bowl memories are quite long so hopefully it will turn out well for the non-BCS folks.