Dallas Colleges: Conference USA
Here are the scenarios.
If Tulsa wins the championship game, this will be C-USA's bowl lineup:
Tulsa: AutoZone Liberty Bowl, Dec. 31, Memphis, Tenn.
Rice: Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl, Dec. 29, Fort Worth
SMU: Sheraton Hawaii Bowl, Dec. 24, Honolulu, Hawaii
East Carolina: R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl, Dec. 22, New Orleans
Central Florida: Beef `O' Brady's Bowl, Dec. 21, St. Petersburg, Fla.
If UCF wins the championship game, this will be C-USA's bowl lineup:
Central Florida: AutoZone Liberty Bowl, Dec. 31, Memphis, Tenn.
Tulsa: Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl, Dec. 29, Fort Worth
SMU: Sheraton Hawaii Bowl, Dec. 24, Honolulu, Hawaii
Rice: R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl, Dec. 22, New Orleans
East Carolina: Beef `O' Brady's Bowl, Dec. 21, St. Petersburg, Fla.
The source also said that Louisiana Tech and Florida International will be joining the Mean Green in Conference USA, along with UT-San Antonio, whose move was approved by the University of Texas System regents on Thursday morning.
The source said that Old Dominion and Charlotte also possibly could be added to the revamped Conference USA lineup.
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They'll need No. 11 Houston and No. 20 Southern Miss to each fumble a golden opportunity, while the No. 19 Frogs -- 8-2 and winners of five in a row -- can ill-afford a stumble of their own in their final two games against below-.500 squads Colorado State and UNLV.
Still, these Frogs, boosted by Saturday's huge road win at No. 5 Boise State -- the non-AQ BCS frontrunner before the loss -- that put a hammerlock on the Mountain West Conference championship and subsequently made TCU the leading dark horse to earn a third consecutive BCS bowl berth.
How is this possible? Let's review:
When Baylor kicked the game-winning field goal with 1:04 to play in the season-opener, TCU swallowed the hard truth that just one game in and the BCS was all but dead to them. A month later, SMU's overtime victory in Fort Worth questioned if the 3-2 Frogs were even capable of capturing a third consecutive league title.
Fast forward five weeks and Gary Patterson's boys provided that answer with Saturday's come-from-behind 36-35 victory on the Broncos' near-invincible blue turf. The heart-and-guts effort, spearheaded by the tremendous play of first-year starting quarterback Casey Pachall, put TCU in the driver's seat for the conference title and, somewhat unsuspectingly, rekindled the BCS flame.
The BCS selection process offers two paths of entrance for non-automatic qualifiers like TCU. The first is for a non-AQ conference champion to finish with a top-12 ranking in the BCS standings. At No. 19, that's highly unlikely considering the Frogs' final two opponents and the number of teams ahead of them. The second route grants a berth for the non-AQ league champ by finishing in the top 16 and with a ranking higher than that of a champion of one of the six AQ conferences.
Say hello to the Frogs' once-future home, the Big East.
That league currently boasts no teams ranked in the top 25 of the BCS standings. Cincinnati (7-2) dropped out of the Associated Press Top 25 poll, falling to 29th, and West Virginia is 27th. Neither team boasts a remaining schedule that would catapult it ahead of a 10-2 Frogs team, one that very well could claim a top-16 ranking.
Standing in the way is Houston (10-0) and Southern Miss (9-1). These two are on a collision course to meet in the Conference USA title game. If the Coogs win out, they'll be assured of the BCS berth. If the Golden Eagles win out, they'll likely hop the Frogs and earn the spot.
Pass-happy Houston, led by sixth-year quarterback Case Keenum, welcomes the disappointing Ponies (6-4) on Saturday (ESPN GameDay will be there) before traveling to Tulsa (7-3, 6-0) the day after Thanksgiving. Southern Miss has games against a pair of 2-8 teams in Alabama-Birmingham and Memphis.
The script favorable to the Frogs would see SMU or Tulsa knock off Houston, and then the Coogs beat Southern Miss in the title game, assuring each another loss. Of course, if Tulsa does the job, it would likely then face Southern Miss and that could hurt the Eagles' chances of jumping the Frogs.
If it plays out, the two-loss Frogs could very well become the first non-undefeated, non-AQ team to play in a BCS game.
If that happens, consider these Frogs charmed.
Crawford's two long returns in the first half accounted for the Mustangs' first two touchdowns in the dominating 38-17 victory over Central Florida. SMU was beaten by the Knights in the Conference USA championship game last season.
The game was played against a backdrop of more conference chatter, as both schools are expected to receive and accept invitations to the Big East in the next few days.
As for this season, the Mustangs (5-1, 3-0) sit alone in first place in the West Division of C-USA.
** The Mustangs got started early, scoring on their first possession. The 47-yard punt return by Crawford set up SMU on the UCF 19. Zach Line (82 yards rushing and two TDs) scampered around the right side from 11 yards out two plays later for a quick 7-0 lead.
** Crawford wasn't done. The senior topped his near-TD return with a 92-yard beauty he took to the house midway through the second quarter. Crawford caught the punt off a bounce, retreating inside the 10 before spinning towards the sideline. He broke a couple of arm tackles and followed a caravan of blockers into the end zone.
The return tied Val Joe Walker in 1951 for the longest in school history. It's also the second longest ever in C-USA.
** SMU's defense did a fantastic job for much of the first half getting the Knights off the field. UCF managed only four first downs on its first five possessions, punting three times and losing the ball once on downs.
** The Knights did get on the board with a 36-yard field goal with 4:05 left in the first half. SMU held on a third-and-2 at its 18 to force the kick.
** SMU took a 17-3 lead into the half despite have 40 fewer yards of total offense (184-144) and UCF having twice as much time of possession (20:01-9:59). Crawford's 141 yards in punt returns more than made up the difference.
** Mustangs quarterback J.J. McDermott improved to 5-0 as a starter with another strong showing. The senior transfer threw for career-high 358 yards and two touchdowns, completing 20-of-31 attempts.
** After the Knights scored their first touchdown early in the fourth quarter, SMU needed just one play to get it back. McDermott hit Der'rikk Thompson on the dead run with a perfectly-lofted pass that went for 78 yards.
** The announced 22,932 in attendance at Ford Field had to be a disappointment considering SMU's 4-1 record coming in, which had the Ponies receiving votes in both polls, and the fabulous weather. It was also SMU's first game since upsetting No. 20 TCU two weeks ago.
The proposed move has been met with excitement at SMU, which has made no secret of its desires to move into an AQ conference. Despite the Big East's seemingly shaky standing with Syracuse, Pittsburgh and TCU defecting, the league remains a step up in stature from Conference USA.
"We will continue our efforts to achieve the university's goal of competing at the highest level of college athletics and are evaluating opportunities in the conference landscape," Mustangs athletic director Steve Orsini said in a statement released during halftime of Saturday's SMU-Central Florida game.
The Big East's invitation to the five schools is divided with SMU, UCF and Houston potentially joining in all sports. Air Force and Boise State would be football-only members.
Orsini believes the commitment made to athletics, namely the coaches and facilities for football and men's basketball, has positioned SMU to take a step up. Orsini held talks with the Big 12, while continuing to monitor the ongoing conference realignment.
SMU's chief rival, TCU, had agreed to join the Big East for next year with the same AQ goal in mind before snagging an invite to the Big 12 with Texas A&M's departure. The Big East's losses forced the league to become aggressive in reconstituting its football membership, opening a door for SMU.
"It seems to me that’s where it’s headed. It still has to happen. I think, though, within the next 15 to 24 months that will take place," Jones said Monday at SMU's kickoff luncheon at the Hilton Anatole. "Money drives all those decisions and those are all BCS schools, and if that’s what they want to happen, that’s what’s going to happen."
Jones said he believes A&M "jumped the gun" with last week's bold attempt to quickly exit the Big 12 for greener (think dollars) SEC pastures free of shadow-casting Longhorns. Jones said he believes the SEC slowed things down only to allow itself time to secure four schools and make one major announcement instead of doing it one-by-one.
Once it does, the domino effect will unleash chaos across the land. Non-BCS schools such as SMU will be on the outside looking in and pushed further down college football's caste system. They will potentially have no gateway to a BCS bowl such as the one that has methodically and painstakingly been ushered in through the years, but one which requires the non-BCS team to go undefeated simply to achieve BCS bowl consideration.
"We better think about ways to entice them [the BCS] to do it," Jones said of securing a future path to a BCS bowl in a super-conference world. "If we sit around and wait for that to happen, then we’re going to be left behind and I think we’ve got to be pro-active in our thinking."
One idea that surfaced last summer when the Big 12 was teetering on collapse and college athletics was on the brink of major realignment was a championship game between non-BCS conferences, say the Conference USA champ against the Mountain West champ with the winner earning a BCS bowl bid.
"And, I’m not sure they will do that," Jones said of college football's ruling powers. "Unless we’re pro-active, thinking out of the box as a non-BCS participant, I do think we’ll be left behind."
Over in Fort Worth, where TCU thinks it's sitting pretty with next year's move to the Big East Conference and its coveted automatic BCS bid, the Horned Frogs are no doubt quite interested observers.
Picture this shakeup as a potential realignment scenario -- and, mind you, this is pure speculation -- in which A&M and, say, Missuori, Clemson and Florida State complete a 16-team SEC. The Pac-12 adds Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas Tech and Texas (if The Longhorn Network issue can be resolved; if not Texas goes independent), or perhaps BYU for a 16-team league. With the Big 12 and ACC raided, the Big Ten and Big East swallow those major-conference schools left behind and a small, way-out-of-region school like TCU is suddenly squeezed out of a Big East that has now doubled its football-playing member schools to 16 (think additions of Kansas, Kansas State, Virginia, Virginia Tech, Miami, Boston College, North Carolina and North Carolina State -- or some mix that includes Georgia Tech, Maryland, Wake Forest and Duke).
Again, this scenario is pure speculation, but the point is that in such a massive shift, plenty of orphaned major-conference schools will be scrambling for new affiliations in the money-driven conferences and anything can happen.
"The cat is out of the bag," Jones said.
Dia is the first Mustang to earn first-team honors since Quinton Ross in 2002-03.
Tulane's Kendall Simmons, a sophomore guard from Fort Worth Southwest, was a second-team selection. SMU's Robert Nyakundi (Arlington Bowie) was named to the third-team.
The Black Knights, who will make their first bowl appearance since 1996, won their sixth game Nov. 13 against Kent State.
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The game was moved this year from TCU's Amon G. Carter Stadium (44,000 capacity) because a $105 million renovation will have already knocked down the entire west-side seating, which included an upper deck and press box.
The bowl is scheduled to pit a Conference USA team against a Mountain West Conference team. Army signed an agreement to play in the game if it became eligible, which it did on Nov. 13, and so the Black Knights are expected in Dallas to take on a MWC foe.
Bowl officials will announce the two participating teams on Dec. 5. Standing-room only tickets are available for $10 and can be purchased at ArmedForcesBowl.com. The game will be broadcast on ESPN and ESPN Radio.
"Followed up on various media reports regarding a potential Mountain West Conference-Conference USA merger, and confirmed that representatives of both leagues did indeed meet yesterday in Colorado Springs. Included were Commissioner Craig Thompson, Commissioner Britton Banowsky (who have a long-standing personal and professional relationship), and a couple MWC Athletics Directors. The informal gathering, which was previously scheduled, covered a wide range of topics, including concepts regarding television, scheduling and the BCS. Yet another example of the Mountain West's ongoing strategic thinking on a number of fronts, as the league continues to position itself in the national landscape."
So the Mountain West Conference and Conference USA have apparently put their two brains together and are talking a one-game showdown -- champion vs. champion -- with the winner being granted an automatic BCS berth.
First question: On the surface, it seems ludicrous, so why would the BCS agree to give an automatic bid to a non-automatic-qualifying conference team every year?
Answer: They won't (in my opinion, but let's continue...). Conference USA hasn't sniffed a BCS berth since long-departed Louisville in 2004 and Tulane a dozen years ago. Last season, unranked East Carolina knocked off No. 18 Houston in the C-USA championship game. East Carolina went to the Liberty Bowl and lost to unranked Arkansas, 20-17, and finished with a 9-5 record. Houston came to Fort Worth and got shellacked by unranked Air Force, 47-20, in the Armed Forces Bowl to finish 10-4. Since the 2006 season, no C-USA team has finished with fewer than three losses. In three of those four seasons, the league's best team had four losses. Can you imagine the national outrage had 9-4 East Carolina actually played its way into the BCS by upsetting TCU in a one-game bonanza?
That's reason enough to end this conversation right here, right now ... but, having said that, the one reason the BCS might bend and agree to such a scenario would be to avoid the embarrassment of last season when it had to deal with two BCS-busters and threw TCU and Boise State into the Fiesta Bowl to eat their own. A MWC vs. C-USA playoff would lump 23 teams (assuming today's count for the 2011 season of 11 teams in the MWC and 12 in C-USA -- things can change quickly, like, say Houston switching sides, but the numbers would stay the same) together and immediately lop off 22. No longer would the BCS have to worry about two teams messing things up.
Second question: This is a no-brainer for C-USA, which has never sent a team to a BCS game, but why would the superior MWC want any part of this?
Answer: Last year, TCU and Boise State both crashed the BCS, but two years ago, undefeated Boise State was left to play one-loss TCU in the Poinsettia Bowl. Would Boise have taken a one-game playoff against the C-USA champ for a shot to play on the big-money stage? Of course. What if TCU and Boise both go undefeated this season? One scenario: Boise gets the BCS bid and unbeaten TCU is invited to the Las Vegas Bowl. Gary Patterson has worked too hard to elevate TCU to a national platform to just give unproven C-USA a ticket to the BCS gates, but in the current system, Patterson might figure he has a better shot each year to win his conference and then win one more against the C-USA champ to ensure getting into the BCS rather than depend on BCS calculations to determine his team's fate.
Also, this would eliminate the undefeated-or-forget-it situation that now exists in the non-automatic-qualifer conferences, easing pressure on TCU and Boise State and the others to sweep their non-conference schedules, typically highlighted by two to three tough matchups against major-conference schools (TCU plays Oregon State and Baylor this season; Boise plays Virginia Tech and Oregon State). A loss in September wouldn't end all BCS hope as it does now.
The MWC and C-USA are also looking toward the future. Although the superconference model didn't come to fruition this summer, nobody is shortsighted enough to believe the Big 12 is stable and the Big Ten and SEC won't seek to expand. When and if superconferences emerge, schools in the MWC and C-USA won't hold their breath for an invite, and that includes TCU. Arranging this championship game would possibly ensure a spot in the BCS when the landscape again changes.
Third question: Would such a championship game generate more money for the two conferences?
Answer: How much is debatable. Surely, ESPN would pay for an elimination game, but it certainly wouldn't rank up there with, say, the attractiveness and popularity of the SEC championship game. And, revenue generated from a championship game would seemingly have to be split among the 23 teams, further watering down the profit margin.
Alternate solution: Merge. Let's say the Mountain West bids farewell to New Mexico, Wyoming and San Diego State (WAC, anyone?) and moves forward with eight -- TCU, BYU, Boise, Air Force, Colorado State, Fresno State, Nevada and UNLV -- and invites four from C-USA -- Houston, Memphis, Tulsa and maybe Southern Miss for a 12-team conference with a championship game. That's not bad football to take to ESPN and other networks to hammer out a more lucrative TV deal than either conference has now. It's also a stonger product than either can currently take to the BCS for eventual automatic inclusion.
The source said that even though it appears 95 percent certain that an exodus to the Pac-10 is just days away, an internal debate at Texas continues regarding the merits of sticking with a 10-team Big 12.
The Big 12 has been told that a new TV deal, while it wouldn't be as lucrative as if Nebraska remained, would still be considerable, enough to pay out substantially more than the current deal in part because there would be 10 teams instead of 12 to divide revenue. Also, by staying in the Big 12, Texas would remain as the ultimate power broker and could continue with a plan to create its own TV network, something it won't pursue as a member of the Pac-10, which figures to establish a conference network like the Big Ten.
This outcome is obviously favored by the Big 12 North schools and Baylor.
But, if Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State break away, the source said the remaining five schools -- Kansas, Kansas State, Missouri, Iowa State and Baylor -- could attempt to reconstitute the Big 12 by adding the top teams from the Mountain West -- TCU, BYU, Utah, Air Force and perhaps newly acquired Boise State --plus schools from Conference-USA and even a school such as Louisville out of the Big East, a conference that could soon be facing an uncertain future of its own.
The source said "several teams" have already initiated contact with the Big 12 about such a scenario if the league splits as expected.
The idea behind a rebuilt Big 12 assumes that the league would retain its status as a BCS conference, which grants an automatic bid to lucrative BCS bowl games. That would be an enticing scenario for the Mountain West teams. The MWC is in position to become a BCS conference, but not for another two years once a four-year evaluation period expires.
In the ever-changing college landscape and with the potential for four super-conferences on the horizon, schools are looking out for their best interests. For those four MWC schools, aligning with Missouri, Kansas, Kansas State, Iowa State and Baylor presents a stronger long-term viability than the current MWC makeup with Wyoming, San Diego State, UNLV, New Mexico, Colorado State. It could also be possible that the Big 12 simply absorbs the entire MWC.
The Kansas City Star reported Saturday night that the five remaining Big 12 schools communicated via teleconference earlier in the day to discuss their situation, and Big 12 expansion was among the topics.
Of course, as fluid as the situation is, things can change quickly. If the Pac-10 does expand to 16, the Big Ten and SEC could respond by also growing to 16. In that case, Missouri could land in the Big Ten.
The Big East and the ACC could be in store for major changes as both conferences would figure to be raided in the expansion process.
One potential road block for a Big 12/MWC merger is a perceived dislike and distrust between TCU and Baylor dating back to the breakup of the SWC and the creation of the Big 12. Of course, Baylor was granted membership while TCU was left to fend for itself. However, TCU athletic Chris Del Conte Saturday night said TCU and Baylor "absolutely" could co-exist as conference members. The two schools continue a series in football this season at TCU.
Del Conte contradicted a report on Saturday that TCU would seek to block Baylor's inclusion into the MWC, if the MWC sought to expand by adding the remaining Big 12 teams. Del Conte said he spoke to Baylor athletic director Ian McCaw on Saturday.
"That did not come from myself or the chancellor or anyone associated with TCU," Del Conte said of the report.
As realignment continues to swirl, it might not be Baylor looking to join TCU, but rather TCU -- and friends --moving into the Big 12.
However, there are certainly no guarantees.
While Kyle Padron broke school records and put up 460 yards passing, it's the defense that has to encourage Mustang fans the most. They didn't allow Nevada much of anything (the final touchdown wasn't until late in the fourth quarter when the game was over).
The win is another reminder of how far the program has come this season. It's well ahead of schedule. First, SMU makes a bowl game for the first time in 25 years. Then they get a winning season before getting to Hawaii. Now they've followed that up with a victory in the postseason game. Amazing stuff.
It's a young team that returns plenty at key positions next year. Padron, just a freshman, has a bright future in June Jones' system. There's little doubt SMU is back and the Ponies have staying power.
There's no doubt, though, that there's more excitement and attention when it comes to the program. SMU SID Brad Sutton was busy Wednesday morning borrowing cell phones from co-workers to handle on the phone interviews that various media outlets were seeking from players and coaches. SMU head coach June Jones has heard from plenty of Mustang fans about how proud they are of what the team is doing.
"It's been interesting," Jones said. "Certainly the emotion from the game last week on the field was different than anything that's happened. I think all the players are feeling it walking on campus with professors that weren't real excited about football have a different feeling about it. That's what winning does and hopefully we can prove that we can build a consistent, winning program here."
* Add quarterback Braden Smith to the list of crazy sports injuries. Smith, who is the third quarterback and holder on PATs and field goals, was celebrating after SMU got a sack to clinch Saturday's win and twisted his knee. Jones said someone bumped Smith as he jumped in celebration. Bo Levi Mitchell will now hold as Smith is out for a few weeks.
* OL Jimmy Chase pulled a hamstring Monday and he isn't practicing. "We're just thin," Jones said. "We don't have the depth we had at the start of the season."
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