Where To, Cajuns? – From the Bird’s Nest
They haven't yet qualified but that doesn't stop the fans (and the media) from starting the speculation of what would happen if the Louisiana Ragin' Cajuns were to be victorious over ULM Saturday in Monroe, ending their regular season at 6-6.
One thing we do know. If the Cajuns win, they are bowling.
Then comes the part open for discussion: Where would that be?
The Sun Belt Conference has five bowl tie-ins: New Orleans, Mobile, Montgomery, Orlando and Tucson. Three of the games (R+L Carriers-New Orleans, Cure-Orlando and Raycom Camellia-Montgomery) are on Sat., Dec. 17. Dollar General-Mobile is on Dec. 23, and the Nova Loans Arizona Bowl-Tucson is on December 30.
As of right now, four Sun Belt teams have reached six wins: Appalachian State, Troy, Arkansas State and Idaho. Two others, South Alabama and Louisiana, can get there this weekend.
If six Sun Belt teams are eligible, one would be placed outside of the guaranteed berths. And, there will be room for them, as only 78 teams, at most, can reach bowl eligibility status.
There is a misconception when it comes to bowl games that teams are slotted according to their record. At one time, New Orleans was required to take the league champion at least once in a three year period, but that stipulation is no longer valid.
Now, bowls take who they want to take. The question is, in which order?
New Orleans, which has hosted a Sun Belt team every year since the football league was formed, has the first pick. They can take any team they want from the Sun Belt, provided that team is bowl eligible. Then comes Mobile, Montgomery, Orlando and Tucson, in that order.
Now, obviously, the league is involved here and can certainly suggest who should be at what locales. Geography usually has plenty to do with that.
But the biggest factor for the bowls is ticket sales. And, that speaks volumes as far as a possible destination is concerned.
The Cajuns last appearance in New Orleans was in 2014 when they played Nevada. It was the least attended game of all four the Cajuns played in. Which means it was the fourth most attended game in the bowl's history, ranking below the other three Cajun appearances (2013, 2012, 2011 in that order).
It would, therefore, stand to reason if the Cajuns win on Saturday, they are New Orleans bound again.
Again, geography could mean quite a bit here. New Orleans has a tie in with Conference USA. The only stipulation that league has is the league champion gets to choose which bowl they play in. Louisiana Tech is at Western Kentucky in the title game. Western Kentucky is expected to choose Boca Raton as its destination. Louisiana Tech, which played in New Orleans last year, would probably not choose the Crescent City again, especially if the Cajuns are there.
That would make Southern Miss a very attractive team to the New Orleans Bowl committee. The Golden Eagles upset Louisiana Tech on Saturday to even their record at 6-6 and become bowl eligible. A 6-6 Southern Miss team and a 6-6 Louisiana team would make perfect sense.
That, of course, doesn't mean it will happen.
But it would be a big surprise if the Cajuns aren't selected to go to New Orleans. And, it would also be a surprise if Southern Miss isn't the opponent.
But that cart is way before the proverbial horse.
As I said, the Cajuns haven't won anything yet. And, there are no guarantees they will.