North Texas is not the only team bowling from CUSA. NT was one of 10 league squads that reached bowl eligibility this season.
Unlike 2016, when a 5-win North Texas team went to the Heart of Dallas bowl because there were not enough bowl teams available, this year there were too many.
There was some weirdness in the selection process as the league champ seems disappointed, the runner-up has the best bowl, and the third best West division member has a P5 matchup. Without full knowlege of the process we cannot know what deals were made. It seems like the league traded one bowl or two for another to allow Middle Tennessee to get in to a game, but again we cannot know.
In the end of a crazy day, UTSA was the only team left out.
Given the Roadrunner’s poor league record (3-5) and poor record against winning teams outside of Marshall, the pick of Louisiana Tech, WKU, and MTSU over UTSA was understandable. While UTSA fans do travel relatively well, the Runners were boring on offense and fired offensive coordinator Frank Scelfo. Frank Wilson reacted to the news and Inside Runner Sports interviewed him.
On a pure entertainment level, there was little reason to invite UTSA to a bowl.
There is a twitter mini-backlash at the FAU bowl destination. FAU Owl Access writes that there was some disappointment at the choice. FAU AD Pat Chun was quoted as saying the following:
“We’re kind of told what to do and where to go,” Chun said. “We are going to embrace this and see all the positives in it.”
Who is doing the telling? That part is unclear. Obviously, every stakeholder has some say and it is likely that ESPN, owner and operator of several bowls, has the largest say in who goes where.
While the league can advocate for a destination, the politics involved in pushing back too hard are obvious.
For the league, the situation was as good as it can get and there was no doubt some horse trading involved to maximize that situation. Nine of the league’s fourteen members are going to a bowl.
For FAU, UNT, and UAB the non-P5 opponents are a disappointment to a vocal part of the fans. The same argument is being made on the other side. Troy followers have expressed disappointment in facing North Texas as an opponent. That everyone wants a P5 matchup is exactly why the P5s wield so much power.
Here is the bowl slate and some thoughts:
|New Orleans Bowl||Saturday, Dec 16 12pm CST||North Texas vs Troy||ESPN|
|Cure Bowl (Orlando, FL)||Saturday, Dec 16 1:30pm CST||WKU vs Georgia St||CBS Sports Network|
|New Mexico Bowl (Albuquerque, NM||Saturday Dec 16 3:30pm CST||Marshall vs Colorado St||ESPN|
|Comellia Bowl (Montgomery, AL)||Saturday Dec 16 7:00pm CST||MTSU vs Arkansas St||ESPN|
|Boca Raton Bowl||Tuesday Dec 19 6pm CST||FAU vs Akron||ESPN|
|Frisco Bowl||Wednesday Dec 20 7pm CST||La Tech vs SMU||ESPN|
|Gasparilla Bowl (St. Petersburg, FL)||Thursday Dec 21 7pm CST||FIU vs Temple||ESPN|
|Bahamas Bowl||Friday Dec 22 11:30pm CST||UAB vs Ohio||ESPN|
|Independence Bowl (Shreveport, LA)||Wednesday Dec 27 12:30pm CST||USM vs Florida St||ESPN|
Dec 16 Games
New Orleans Bowl
North Texas is the league’s second best team and faces the Sun Belt co-champion in the Superdome. NT will make a NOB-record tying fifth appearance.
The most vocal complaints are about the prestige of the bowl, the opponent (everyone wants a P5) The date does not work as well for a good number of fans, as this conflicts with graduation for a lot of people. Still, of the destination bowls, this combines a good city (New Orleans!), a good opponent, and a decent day of the week. This is the best opponent not named Florida State but is by far the best destination for North Texas fans to reach.
WKU is lucky to be bowling and is looking to salvage the season with a win.
New Mexico Bowl
Marshall is bowling in the far west. This is a fun matchup but for the green-on-green action.
May be tough for Middle Tennessee, a team that was up-and-down all season, to face the Sunbelt’s runner-up. This is a nice little bowl for both teams.
Boca Raton Bowl
The good: The lone bowl on the TV schedule is good for publicity. The bad: Staying home is not the reward for a league champion, and the opponent could be sexier. The league does not have a really good destination bowl for the champ and this will be a problem going forward. Rumors suggest FAU wanted FSU in the Independence Bowl. If Florida State nixed that idea it makes sense as there is no upside to giving a potential recruiting competitor some shine. FAU looks to have swung and missed.
Debut bowl in a small stadium will pit La Tech vs SMU in the Metroplex. This is a fun matchup of Red White and Blue squads and I fully expect La Tech to outnumber SMU fans in this one. This is also the only game on this date.
FIU stole a nice little destination bowl close enough for fans to travel to. Projections and rumors were that FIU was going to the Boca Raton bowl before they swapped (both teams!) to St. Pete. A better bowl than league champ FAU is “going” to. The lone game on the schedule.
We knew this destination before selection Sunday for good reason. The logistics of this bowl require the most heads-up. This is a tough bowl to attend, but has to be the most fun for the players. This is an awful TV time slot, however.
This bowl game was the most desired because of the prestige and the opponent. Southern Miss finds themselves with the most well-known matchup and the toughest challenge. Sure, FSU had a rough season and just lost their coach but this team was once ranked 3rd in the nation this season.