Wac teams pursue bowl bids | NevadaAppeal.com

Wac teams pursue bowl bids

The month of November is the official start of post-season bowl rumors.

The Western Athletic Conference is tied into three postseason games – the Sheraton Hawai’i Bowl (Dec. 24), Silicon Valley Bowl in San Jose, Calif. (Dec. 30) and the MPC Computers Bowl in Boise, Idaho (Dec. 27). The WAC also a tie-in with the GMAC Bowl (Dec. 22) if the Mid-American Conference doesn’t have a representative.

Karl Benson, the WAC commissioner, laid out his bowl philosophy during the weekly teleconference Monday morning.

“My obligation is to make the best possible matchups for our teams,” Benson said. “That’s why we moved Boise State out of its own bowl to play a ranked team (TCU) in the Fort Worth Bowl.

“We try to put the right team in the right game based on geography.”

For instance, Fresno State has played in every Silicon Valley Bowl game because of its close proximity to the Bay Area and the fact that the team travels well.

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Hawai’i is in danger of not appearing in its own bowl game. The Rainbow Warriors are 3-4 and must win four of their last five to qualify. Hawai’i is at home four of those five games, the only road game being at Fresno State on Nov. 13. Hawai’i finishes at home against Michigan State on Dec. 4.

To be eligible for a bowl game, a school playing 12 games needs to win seven games. A team playing 11 games, needs to have six wins. Currently, Boise State and UTEP are the only bowl-eligible teams to date. Louisiana Tech, Fresno State and Nevada would have the best chances of getting eligible.

A year ago, because everybody played a 12-game schedule, teams made it into bowl games with .500 records. Benson said that won’t cut it this year unless there aren’t enough bowl-eligible teams to fill the bowl games. Benson said that issue would have to be decided by the NCAA sub-committee.

Currently there are 28 teams that have at least six wins going into the last month-plus of the season.

• Benson was disappointed that Boise State, a 69-3 winner over Hawai’i last Friday, failed to move up in the Associated Press poll and the coaches’ poll. The Broncos are 15th in the USA Today poll and 16th in the AP poll. The computer rankings have them 13th.

The Broncos are 12th in the BCS poll, which is the last eligible slot to be considered for a BCS game, according to the WAC office.

“The computers have been much-fairer to them than the human polls,” Benson said. “I don’t know what we can do to remedy that.”

Benson pointed out with UTEP’s inclusion in the AP Top 25 (the Miners are 24th), it’s the first time since 1998 that the WAC has had three teams make the top 25 during the season. Fresno State had a brief stay in the top 25 after opening the season with wins over Kansas State and Washington. Air Force, Colorado State and Wyoming all made it into the top 25 in the 1998 season.

• With the season entering its last five weeks, you start looking at post-season awards.

The Coach of the Year award often goes to the coach whose team made the biggest turnaround from the previous year like UTEP’s Mike Price, and not to a coach like Boise State’s Dan Hawkins that has built a tremendous program the last few years.

“I don’t worry about that,” Hawkins said. “I’m not concerned about that. It’s a program thing. I don’t put a lot of stock in it.”

It sounds like Hawkins has the vote of Tulsa’s Steve Kragthorpe, whose squad lost 45-42 to the Broncos on a last-second field goal a few weeks ago.

“Dan has done a tremendous job,” Kragthorpe said. “It’s tough to sustain success. They’ve won 32 out of 33. That’s a tough thing to do with that age group (18 to 22).”

• Price was surprised not that Boise State beat Hawai’i, but the fact that it was a blowout.

“I think Hawai’i can play better than that,” Price said. “They are kind of banged up on defense. Boise State just didn’t stop. They aren’t playing intramurals. They kick your butt and keep going.”

• Tulsa wide receiver-kick returner Ashlan Davis tied a 34-year-old NCAA record when he returned a kickoff for a touchdown for the third straight week, earning the WAC’s top special teams award.

Davis’ 83-yard return came right after Rice had cut Tulsa’s lead to 29-22 The return tied an NCAA record held by Stan Brown of Purdue in 1970.

Kragthorpe said that Davis didn’t have a huge amount of experience returning kickoffs in junior college.

“You want to have a guy that can stick it up in there,” Kragthorpe said. “You want to have a guy back there with guts. His return against Rice wasn’t nearly as clean as the one against Reno.

“I think ownership starts to take place (when you have success). They have a vested interest in what goes on.”

• Jared Zabransky, Boise State quarterback, was named the WAC’s top offensive player after leading the Broncos past Hawai’i. Zabransky, a sophomore from Hermiston, Ore., was 11-for-19 passing for 164 yards and he ran 10 times for 123 yards and four scores, including an 85-yard run which was the longest in school history.

Chris Mineo, UTEP’s top-notch defensive lineman, was named the conference’s outstanding defensive player. He had eight tackles, 3 1/2 for negative yardage in the Miners’ 38-20 win over San Jose State. He also forced and recovered a fumble at the UTEP 1 in the second quarter.

Darrell Moody can be reached at dmoody@nevadaappeal.com, or by calling (775) 881-1281