October 17, 2013 Updated: October 17, 2013 at 11:04 pm
The Mountain West released its bowl affiliations for the next six seasons, with Air Force's frequent destination in recent years again on the list.
Yes, there a chance under the new structure that Air Force could return to the Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl - where it has played four of the past six years - as the Fort Worth, Texas-based bowl will join seven other bowls that will be part of the conference's rotation between 2014 and 2019.
The structure differs from the past in that it doesn't necessarily outline a set destination for teams that finish two through six and allows for flexibility.
The best-case scenario for the conference would be to place a team in the four-team College Football Playoff, which will debut next season. If not, the top-ranked team from what are now the non-BCS conferences will be guaranteed a spot in one of the system's "New Year's Six" - which include the Rose, Sugar, Orange, Cotton, Fiesta and Chick-fil-A Peach bowls. Those bowls will rotate as hosts of the two semifinal games, with the others serving as top-tier games.
"If history is any indication, the Mountain West more often than not should be in a New Year's bowl," conference commissioner Craig Thompson said.
Indeed, the Mountain West would have qualified a team in that spot in 11 of the past 14 seasons, a span in which five teams from the conference have played in BCS bowls.
The Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl will continue to have the top pick of Mountain West teams to match up with a Pac-12 opponent. However, factors like geography, repeat appearances and more compelling matchups by market will be taken into account.
After the Las Vegas Bowl, the conference and its partners will collaborate on placement for the other games.
The other bowls that are finalizing agreements with the Colorado Springs-based conference are the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl, Gildan New Mexico Bowl, R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl, San Diego Country Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl and Sheraton Hawaii Bowl. The Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl has signed on in a secondary position and could use a Mountain West team if the Big 12 or Pac-12 cannot fill both of its slots.
A position in the Bahamas Bowl - set to debut in 2014 - is also a possibility, though Thompson said he prefers the conference stay in the west where it can play to its recruiting base.
Air Force has appeared in bowls games for six consecutive years, though it must win its remaining five games to keep that streak alive.
"We are excited about this new bowl model," Thompson said. "The flexibility it offers helps maximize the best interests of our member institutions, coaches, student-athletes, fans and bowl partners."