Conference USA bowl picture beginning to take shape
Now that the smoke has settled on the Conference USA regular season, the league’s bowl picture is starting to take shape. Three of CUSA’s bowl eligible teams—Southern Miss, Houston and Memphis—have already accepted invitations while three—UCF, Tulsa and East Carolina—are still awaiting the announcement of their destinations.
Southern Miss (7-5, 5-3) closed its season with a 16-10 home win over Arkansas State on Saturday and is going bowling for the 10th time in the last 11 years. The Golden Eagles are headed to Birmingham to play in the second annual PapaJohns.com Bowl (www.papajohnsbowl.com). Their opponent will be from the Big East and will likely be one of the following teams: UCONN, Rutgers, Cincinnati, or USF. The game will be televised nationally on ESPN2 at 1 p.m. (EST) on Saturday, December 22nd.
Memphis (7-5, 6-2) survived a scare from SMU on Saturday and defeated the Mustangs, 55-52, in triple overtime. The Tigers, who are making their fourth bowl trip in the past five seasons, will face the Sun Belt champion (Troy or FAU) in the R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl (www.neworleansbowl.org). The game, which is played in the Louisiana Superdome, will be televised on ESPN2 and is slated for an 8:00 p.m. kickoff on Friday, December 21st.
Houston (8-4, 6-2) will have the luxury of remaining at home to play in front of its home fans, as the Cougars accepted an invitation to the Texas Bowl (www.texasbowl.org) on Sunday. UH, which is bowling for the fourth time in the last five seasons, could face an opponent from the Big 12 or an at-large selection such as TCU from the Mountain West. The game is scheduled for an 8 p.m. (EST) start on December 28th and will be televised on the NFL Network.
Conference USA title game participants UCF (9-3, 7-1) and Tulsa (9-3, 6-2) will be vying for a trip to the Liberty Bowl (www.libertybowl.org) when they play on Saturday. There would be a SEC opponent awaiting in Memphis and it would likely be one of the following: Kentucky, Arkansas, Alabama, South Carolina or Mississippi State. The nationally televised contest on ESPN is scheduled to kick at 3:30 p.m on December 29th.
The loser of Saturday’s C-USA championship game will likely be headed to the GMAC Bowl (www.gmacbowl.com) in Mobile, AL on January 6, 2008. The opponent will be the champion of the MAC, which will be the winner of Saturday's MAC Championship Game between Miami (OH) and Central Michigan.
East Carolina (7-5, 6-2), which defeated Tulane 35-12 in its season finale’, is likely headed to the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl (www.sheratonhawaiibowl.com) to face a WAC opponent—which would likely be Fresno State. If Hawaii’ slips up in its final regular season game against Washington this Saturday and does not make a BCS game, the Warriors could stay home and play in the December 23 game. The contest will be televised at 8 p.m. (EST) on ESPN and is the only bowl game held on December 23rd.
If UCF wins the CUSA title and receives the Liberty Bowl invite, it is possible that East Carolina could be the league’s representative in the GMAC Bowl due to the fact it would bring more fans than Tulsa. However, the scenario may not be probable since the Golden Hurricane has a 9-3 record and won the C-USA Western Division.
Stay tuned to CUSA-Fans.com for the latest bowl announcements and for in-depth previews of each of the six bowl games featuring Conference USA teams.