By Chadd Cripe
© 2012 Idaho Statesman
The Boise State football team appears headed to the MAACO Bowl Las Vegas for the third straight year — but, unlike the last two, the matchup possibilities are enticing.
It’s possible the Broncos could fall to the New Mexico Bowl if they lose one of their final two games, but their name appeal, TV ratings history and ability to deliver fans to Las Vegas make them the preferred choice.
Either way, the Broncos figure to play a Pac-12 team. MAACO gets the fourth choice after the BCS (fifth or sixth overall) and New Mexico gets the sixth choice after the BCS. Here’s a breakdown of how I think the Pac-12 race will fall:
Oregon (10-0, 7-0): Wins vs. Stanford, at Oregon State, vs. Pac-12 South champ USC. Projected: 13-0, 9-0, BCS No. 1.
Stanford (8-2, 6-1): Loses at Oregon, wins at UCLA. Projected: 9-3, 7-2, outside top 14.
Oregon State (7-2, 5-2): Wins vs. Cal, loses vs. Oregon, wins vs. Nicholls State. Projected: 9-3, 6-3, outside top 14
Washington (6-4, 4-3): Wins at Colorado, at Washington State. Projected: 8-4, 6-3
UCLA (8-2, 5-2): Loses at home to USC and Stanford. Projected: 8-4, 5-4
USC (7-3, 5-3): Wins at UCLA, loses vs. Notre Dame, loses at Pac-12 North champ Oregon. Projected: 8-5, 6-3
Arizona (6-4, 3-4): Wins at Utah, vs. Arizona State. Projected: 8-4, 5-4
Arizona State (5-5, 3-4): Wins vs. Washington State, loses at Arizona. Projected: 6-6, 4-5
Utah (4-6, 2-5): Loses vs. Arizona, wins at Colorado. Projected: 5-7, 3-6
In the Pac-12, bowls have to take the available team with the best conference record or a team within one game. For example, a bowl can take a 6-3 team over a 7-2 team but not a 5-4 team over a 7-2 team.
Here’s my selection order:
Sun: Oregon State
Las Vegas: Stanford
Kraft Fight Hunger: UCLA
New Mexico: Arizona
At-large: Arizona State
Two key notes: If a second Pac-12 team makes the top 14 — and it will be close — everyone moves up a slot. That could put UCLA or Arizona in Vegas. If UCLA beats USC this week, the Trojans could slip to Vegas.
New Mexico (MW vs. Pac-12), Dec. 15, Albuquerque: Nevada vs. Arizona: Fresno State would be a better matchup, but the conference has indicated it would rather not send the Bulldogs to Albuquerque again.
Famous Idaho Potato (WAC vs. MAC), Dec. 15, Boise: Utah State vs. Kent State: If Utah State beats Louisiana Tech this week — and I think it will — the Potato Bowl can make a run at the MAC champion. But regardless of which MAC team it lands, it will be a quality foe for the Aggies.
Poinsettia (MW vs. BYU), Dec. 20, San Diego: San Diego State vs. BYU: They might as well announce this game now and start selling tickets.
MAACO (MW vs. Pac-12), Dec. 22, Las Vegas: Boise State vs. Stanford: The last two Boise State teams deserved a better situation than MAACO, but this year’s team is a perfect fit and will be challenged by whichever Pac-12 team lands here.
Hawaii (MW vs. C-USA*), Dec. 24, Honolulu: Fresno State vs. San Jose State: This would be a fun way for the Bulldogs to celebrate a share of the conference title, if they get it, and put a new twist on the rivalry with the Spartans. With all of the openings expected in bowls this year, there will be some trading and San Jose State to Hawaii makes sense.
Armed Forces (MW vs. C-USA), Dec. 29, Fort Worth, Texas: Air Force vs. East Carolina: Air Force’s invitation could be locked down early, too — the Falcons appear to be the clear choice.
Rose (Pac-12* vs. Big Ten), Jan. 1, Pasadena, Calif.: Notre Dame vs. Nebraska: I still think the Rose will take a Pac-12 team to replace Oregon if one is eligible. But if Oregon wins out, that means no other Pac-12 team will have fewer than three losses, so I’m projecting an opening. Notre Dame is a no-brainer to fill it. However, if Kansas State finishes No. 1, the Fiesta will get first crack.
Orange (ACC vs. BCS), Jan. 1, Miami: Florida State vs. Rutgers: This will be ACC-Big East — just a matter of who wins the leagues.
Sugar (SEC vs. BCS), Jan. 2, New Orleans: Alabama vs. Clemson: Alabama and Georgia will meet in the SEC championship game knowing that the winner gets this at worst, and a spot in the championship game at best. Clemson is the beneficiary of the Pac-12 coming up short.
Fiesta (Big 12 vs. BCS), Jan. 3, Glendale, Ariz.: Oklahoma vs. Texas A&M: Sounds like a Big 12 game, but it’s not. Texas A&M makes a lot of sense as an at-large pick because of its fan base, proximity to Arizona and star quarterback.
BCS National Championship Game (1 vs. 2), Jan. 7, Miami: Kansas State vs. Oregon: Both teams will be tested down the stretch, but I think they’re too good to blow their undefeated seasons now. Hard to imagine Notre Dame getting left out of this game with a perfect record, but that seems like the way it’s going.
* indicates conference won’t fill its spot