Air Force’s loss to Wyoming and Boise State’s loss to TCU on Saturday made the Falcons’ bowl situation murky, assuming they become eligible for the postseason.
The Falcons need to win their final two games, against UNLV and at Colorado State, to become eligible. Boise State likely lost a spot in the Bowl Championship Series with its loss, and although TCU has a shot at making the BCS, it appears the Mountain West will have five teams for its four bowl spots.
If the Falcons do become eligible, here are some possibilities:
No bowl: Technically this is possible, although very unlikely. A fifth bowl-eligible team from the Mountain West would be attractive for a bowl that needs to fill a spot, and the conference works to get all its eligible teams in a bowl.
“Commissioner (Craig) Thompson is always active on the phone with potential bowl opportunities,” Mountain West spokesman Javan Hedlund said.
Air Force, which has sold an average of 9,771 tickets for its past four bowl games, is unlikely to be left out. Air Force’s ability to sell tickets will be a factor for any bowl selection committee, including the ones that have an agreement with the Mountain West.
Independence: The Poinsettia Bowl went from a good chance for Air Force to a long shot with Saturday’s results. The Las Vegas Bowl gets first pick, and will likely take TCU or Boise State. Poinsettia picks second and would probably take the remaining team. If Nevada is the Western Athletic Conference representative in the Poinsettia Bowl, the bowl could pass on Boise State if either school is against a rematch of that regular-season game.
With the top two bowls unlikely for Air Force, a repeat trip to the Independence Bowl, which has the third pick of MW teams, is an option. The bowl had a good experience last year with Air Force, which sold 12,098 tickets to the game with Barksdale Air Force Base nearby, and doesn’t seem to be against having the Falcons again.
“Any year when Air Force qualifies for the Independence Bowl, they’re an appealing option,” Independence Bowl executive director Missy Setters said.
Wyoming and San Diego State, which each have better records than Air Force and a win over the Falcons, would be considered too.
New Mexico: The New Mexico Bowl has the fourth MW pick. If Air Force is available, it will be attractive because of the ticket sales potential. Wyoming played in the 2009 New Mexico Bowl, so if the choice is between Air Force and Wyoming, the bowl might prefer a Falcons team that has never appeared in that game. San Diego State doesn’t have a reputation for traveling well to bowl games.
A non-Mountain West affiliated bowl: If TCU, Boise State, Wyoming and San Diego State get the four MW bowl spots, Air Force would try to get in a bowl whose conference tie-in didn’t supply enough eligible teams. And it’s tough to figure out which bowl that might be. One possibility might be the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl, which will have an open spot because Army isn’t eligible, although it does have contingency tie-ins with the ACC’s ninth team, the WAC’s fourth team and the Mid-American Conference’s fifth team.
“We'll explore best options including Mountain West,” Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl executive director Gary Cavalli said in an email.
Navy will play in the Military Bowl if it wins its last two games, but Military Bowl executive director Steve Beck said that bowl would be interested in Air Force if it has an open spot and the Falcons are available.
Conference USA will have a tough time filling all seven of its slots, so bowls like the New Orleans Bowl and TicketCity Bowl could have an opening.