Dallas Colleges: Poinsettia Bowl

Where will TCU wind up bowling?

November, 21, 2011
11/21/11
3:03
PM CT


Landing spots for the TCU Horned Frogs are wide open as college football's regular season winds down to the final two weeks. TCU (9-2), ranked No. 20 in the BCS standings, is idle this week and will do some scoreboard watching as it hopes to move up in its ultimate quest to get to No. 16. That's where TCU must get to keep alive its long-shot bid for a third consecutive BCS berth.

Short of a surprise trip to the Sugar Bowl, three non-BCS bowl options exist. Here's a look at those options in the order that the Mountain West-affiliated bowls select:

1. Las Vegas Bowl, Las Vegas, Nev., Dec. 26: Pac 12 No. 5 vs. MWC No. 1
The misnomer here is that although this game is slotted for the Mountain West champ, the bowl does not have to select the champion. After all, TCU won the conference three other times and has never played in Vegas. In this case, with TCU needing a victory over UNLV on Dec. 3 to win its third-consecutive MWC crown, No. 7 Boise State might be the better choice. The positive side of going to Vegas for TCU is playing a Pac-12 opponent, which at this point could be anybody from former MWC rival Utah to Arizona State to Washington. The negative side is that Vegas presents another costly trip for Frogs fans, who have traveled in huge numbers to the Fiesta Bowl and Rose Bowl the last two years. There's a long history of attendance problems here and the Las Vegas Bowl committee probably would pick Boise if it believes frozen Broncos fans will travel better than Frogs fans during what is typically a slow week in Sin City.

2. Poinsettia Bowl, San Diego, Calif., Dec. 21: WAC champ vs. MWC No. 2
TCU played in this game in 2008, beating Boise 17-16, and not that the Frogs don't enjoy San Diego as much as the rest of us, this would be the bowl TCU would likely least like to play in for two reasons. Again, an expensive travel scenario tops the list and second, the Frogs would face the WAC champion. No offense to the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs, who have the edge in winning the WAC after beating Nevada, but a TCU-Louisiana Tech matchup wouldn't figure to fire up the Frog faithful to make a long trip during Christmas week. And, frankly, it does little to enhance the Frogs' season. A year ago, the San Diego State Aztecs made their return from a long bowl drought by staying home and playing huge regional draw Navy. The Aztecs could stay home again, but if they want to expand their horizons and travel, and the bowl committee sees nationally ranked TCU has a more prominent draw -- even without a large traveling contingent -- it could still select the Frogs.

3. Independence Bowl, Shreveport, La., Dec. 26: ACC No. 7 vs. MWC No. 3
About a four-hour drive from Fort Worth, this just might be the bowl game of choice for the Frogs. It spares fans from a major expense and imagine the purple caravan that would head down I-20 to enjoy a little football, perhaps against North Carolina or North Carolina State, and then a little casino action the day after Christmas. On top of that, the Independence Bowl grants the biggest payday with each team guaranteed $1.1 million. Sure, Las Vegas and San Diego are sexier destinations, and if you ask the players, they certainly might pick either one over this Louisiana border stop. But, the administration might do some lobbying here with the MWC and the individual bowls to allow it to stay close to home and gather up what would easily be its largest traveling party.

Frogs will have eyes on K-State tonight

October, 7, 2010
10/07/10
1:20
PM CT
The No. 5 TCU Horned Frogs will become big backers of the undefeated, yet still unranked Kansas State Wildcats (4-0, 1-0 Big 12) when they take on the No. 7 Nebraska Cornhuskers (4-0, 0-0) in Manhattan, Kan., on ESPN.

Meanwhile, the Frogs (5-0) begin a three-game homestand Saturday against the Wyoming Cowboys, followed by the BYU Cougars and the No. 25 Air Force Falcons, all seemingly must-win games if TCU is to keep alive its BCS hopes.

Those hopes would be aided by a Kansas State victory tonight to knock the Cornhuskers from the ranks of the unbeaten. The bottom line for the Frogs is if they and fellow BCS-buster candidate, the No. 4 Boise State Broncos, finish the season undefeated, the Broncos are on course to likely get the one automatic bid the BCS grants to the champs of the non-automatic qualifer leagues (there is the thought that TCU could pass Boise in the rankings due to overall strength of schedule).

In the case Boise finishes ahead of TCU in the final BCS standings, the Frogs would be left to cross their fingers for an at-large bid, and the only way that would happen is if only two of the six power conferences get a second team into the BCS.

Here's how it works: Ten BCS spots are up for grabs. The conference champ from each of the six BCS conferences earns an automatic berth. One additional team from each conference can get in as an at-large selection. So, for example, if the Big 12, SEC and Big Ten each send two teams, and Boise gets the one automatic berth for the non-AQs, then there's your 10 BCS teams.

That's right, TCU can go undefeated and play in the Poinsettia Bowl. Boise experienced that buzz kill two years ago and then lost to TCU in San Diego.

So the Frogs will root hard for the Wildcats tonight. If K-State can't get the job done, then TCU will have to hope the unranked Texas Longhorns can get it together and topple Nebraska in Lincoln (Oct. 16). After that the Huskers' schedule is quite favorable.

TCU would also love to see the No. 6 Oklahoma Sooners get upset Saturday by the visiting Iowa State Cyclones. And if not, then they'll hope the Sooners get bit playing either at the Missouri Tigers (Oct. 23), at the Texas A&M Aggies (Nov. 6) or at the Oklahoma State Cowboys (Nov. 27). TCU wants the Big 12 South and North champs to have at least one loss heading into the Dec. 4 title game at Cowboys Stadium, ensuring that one will leave with two losses and likely out of the BCS mix.

Similar scenarios in the other power conferences are also preferable to TCU's quest. Having said all that, the Frogs could benefit from relatively weak power conferences this season. The Sooners look vulnerable. Which is the SEC power team beyond the No. 1 Alabama Crimson Tide? How about behind the No. 2 Ohio State Buckeyes in the Big Ten?

If TCU can't help elsewhere, what are the chances Boise loses one of its remaining eight games? The Broncos' most difficult challenge would seem to be the No. 21 Nevada Wolf Pack (Nov. 26). TCU, as of this week's rankings, faces two more Top 25 teams, No. 25 Air Force and at the No. 10 Utah Utes (Nov. 6).

That's the system, folks.

Pros, cons of a MWC-CUSA super game

August, 20, 2010
8/20/10
12:10
PM CT
UPDATE: The Mountain West Conference issued this brief statement on its blog at 1:06 p.m., regarding the Thursday meeting between officials from the Mountain West Conference and Conference USA:

"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.

MWC making TCU look better and better

December, 24, 2009
12/24/09
9:22
AM CT
TCU hasn't even left Fort Worth for Glendale, Ariz., yet and the No. 4 team in the BCS standings is already winning. Why? The Mountain West Conference has put together a solid bowl resume and it's not even Christmas yet.

Wyoming, a pretty big underdog, beat Fresno State in overtime in the New Mexico Bowl. BYU trounced Oregon State in the Las Vegas Bowl and Utah beat California by 10 in the Poinsettia Bowl on Wednesday.

Air Force will play Houston in Fort Worth in the Armed Forces Bowl to give the MWC a chance to go 4-0 before TCU takes the field against Boise State on Jan. 4.

But since TCU got wins over all three of the MWC teams that won bowl games, it makes the Frogs' look even better.

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