Who Will the Cajuns Play?–From the Bird’s Nest
We all know (even though it hasn’t been announced formally) that the Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns are headed to the R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl for a fourth straight year.
But the biggest question now is, who will the Cajuns play?
We know the Bowl has an agreement with the Mountain West Conference. Let’s examine that league:
The MWC has six bowl tie-ins: Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl, San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl, Hawai’I Bowl, Gilden New Mexico Bowl, the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl and the R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl.
And, we know the Mountain West has seven bowl-eligible teams: Boise State, Colorado State, Utah State, Nevada, San Diego State, Fresno State and Air Force. Fresno State is playing Boise State for the MWC title this week. The Bulldogs if they lose, would be 6-7, but would still be bowl eligible.
Assuming is difficult, but let’s assume for a minute that Boise State wins the title and is selected by the College Playoff Committee to participate in one of the six major bowl games . That leaves six teams for six slots. Easy, right?
As Lee Corso would say, “Not so fast my friend.”
The Mountain West has a secondary tie-in with the Cactus Bowl, to be played Jan.2, 2015 in Phoenix. The Cactus Bowl is contracted to have a Big 12 team vs. a Pac-12 team.
Let’s assume again.
Let’s assume the Big 12 has a team selected for the playoff (either Baylor or TCU.) Right now that seems likely. If that occurs, the Big 12 will probably vacate the Cactus Bowl slot. The Mountain West would then have the option of taking the Cactus Bowl Slot, which would make sense because of the location . (Again, I’m assuming).
That could leave the R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl open.
And then, the possibilities are (almost) endless.
Now that everything has been assumed, let’s look at some possibilities.
IF THE MOUNTAIN WEST SENDS A TEAM TO NEW ORLEANS---Boise State would be in a “big six” bowl. Las Vegas would probably select Colorado State. The Poinsettia could very well look to the home team in San Diego State. After that, it’s anyone’s guess. Hawai’I could look at Fresno as the Mountain West runner up. Air Force has fans everywhere and they could be in Boise or Albuquerque.
That leaves Nevada and Utah State. One of them takes the slot that doesn’t take Air Force. The other could wind up in New Orleans. Just speculating, but these choices make logical sense (at least to me.)
NOW, IF THE MOUNTAIN WEST TAKES THE CACTUS BOWL---That doesn’t automatically make New Orleans open. The Mountain West would vacate one of their bowl tie-ins, but, according to New Orleans Bowl Executive Director Billy Ferrante, it would “not necessarily” be New Orleans. That would put the above scenario back into play, except one of those teams would be in the Cactus Bowl and a different bowl (Hawai’I perhaps?) would be vacated.
IF THE MOUNTAIN WEST VACATES NEW ORLEANS—The bowl has a secondary agreement with Conference USA, which has seven bowl eligible teams (Marshall, Louisiana Tech, Rice, UTEP, Middle Tennessee, Western Kentucky and UAB) and five guaranteed tie ins (Popeye's Bahamas, Boca Raton, Heart of Dallas, Hawai’I, Gilden New Mexico). The wild card, of course, is UAB, which is reportedly ready to drop its football program. According to a report on espn.com, the players would meet to decide whether to play in a bowl game. While CUSA has five bowl tie-ins, only two (Heart of Dallas, New Mexico) would be geographically desirable to the eligible teams (UTEP/Albuquerque and Louisiana Tech or Rice/Heart of Dallas). The champion gets to choose which bowl they want to attend.
Now, I’m not the sharpest knife in the drawer, but I would think a school would love the chance to play closer to home. The Bahamas, Boca and Hawai’I are great destinations, especially this time of year, but realistically, how many fans from the above schools are going to make the trip? The probability of the participating school losing tens of thousands of dollars is very real because of the expenses incurred and the (lack of) ticket sales by the public.
Ferrante says geography would be important to the bowl if CUSA is in the mix , not only to the bowl but to the potential participant…and that makes perfect sense.
Conventional wisdom would suggest there isn’t going to be a rematch between Tech and the Cajuns. And, I’m not sure New Orleans would be interested in a game between a Sun Belt school and a used-to-be Sun Belt school. That would make Rice the most desirable school to New Orleans…and, I would think the folks in Houston would find it attractive as well.
WHAT ABOUT THE OTHER LEAGUES?—Well, there will be some teams from Power 5 conferences looking to place some teams. But, until we find out who is selected for the “Big Six” bowls, we won’t know which leagues or which teams. And, with the other two scenarios (Mountain West and CUSA) very much in play, it’s not likely we’ll see any of those schools in the Crescent City, although it’s not out of the realm of possibility.
Lots can still change between now and Sunday. But here’s my educated(?) guess.
Utah State, Nevada or Rice will be the Cajuns’ opponent.