LARAMIE — Wyoming became bowl eligible with its rout of New Mexico on Saturday to conclude its regular season.
But that doesn’t necessarily mean the Cowboys will be playing in one.
In fact, Wyoming may be on the outside looking in heading into next Sunday when all 39 bowl matchups will be announced. That many bowls means there are 78 postseason spots available, but there are already 81 bowl-eligible teams.
That number could increase if Virginia Tech beats Marshall on Saturday to get to six wins, which could leave as many as four bowl-eligible teams at home for the postseason. Wyoming, which is vying to play in its third straight bowl game for the first time in program history, was the seventh and final Mountain West team to gain bowl eligibility in a conference that has just five automatic tie-ins — the Las Vegas Bowl, the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl, the New Mexico Bowl, the Arizona Bowl and the Hawaii Bowl.
So even if Memphis were to pull the upset against No. 7 Central Florida in the American Athletic Conference championship game Saturday and No. 19 Boise State or No. 25 Fresno State were to jump the Knights in the final College Football Playoff rankings to grab a spot in a New Year’s Six bowl as the highest-ranked Group of Five champion, the MW would still have more bowl-eligible teams than available contracted slots.
“We’d be the first team in Wyoming history to go to three bowl games in a row, so that’s something everyone on this team wants to do,” running back Nico Evans said.
The Cheez-It Bowl, the Frisco Bowl and the Redbox Bowl are also possible destinations for MW teams if the Pac-12, Big Ten or Big 12 can’t fill all of their slots — one would open up if Oklahoma or Ohio State ends up in the College Football Playoff — but the Pac-12 already has enough eligible teams to fill its seven bowl tie-ins. Wyoming might also find itself competing with Army and BYU, a pair of bowl-eligible independents, for one of those spots.
That’s if the Cowboys aren’t selected for one of the MW’s automatic tie-ins.
Boise State and Fresno State will play for the MW championship Saturday, with the winner headed to the Las Vegas Bowl if it isn’t part of the New Year’s Six. As a division winner, the loser will be given priority for selection by the New Mexico, Potato and Hawaii bowls.
After that, the MW will use certain criteria that will prioritize which of its remaining bowl-eligible teams are picked for its contracted tie-ins, according to the league’s website. That includes each team’s conference record, which could help Wyoming after the Cowboys’ four-game winning streak helped them finish 4-4 in league play — good enough for third in the Mountain Division.
Head-to-head results are also factored in, which won’t help Wyoming’s case. The Cowboys, who went 0-4 against the bowl-eligible league counterparts they played this season (Boise State, Fresno State, Utah State and Hawaii), weren’t included in CBS Sports’ updated bowl projections released Sunday.
Wyoming coach Craig Bohl, who serves on the board of the American Football Coaches Association, said he wouldn’t take part in any campaigning even before the Cowboys made easy work of New Mexico with a 31-3 win. His tone didn’t change much afterward as Wyoming’s fifth-year coach only offered hope that his team’s body of work ends up being good enough to extend the season.
“We can only control what we can control,” Bohl said.
It will make for an anxious week of waiting.
“It’ll be nerve-wracking. It really will,” safety Andrew Wingard said. “Every year the past two years waking up on that Sunday, it’s been kind of giddy, kind of like a Christmas feeling. This year, there will definitely be some added juice to that because we don’t know if we’re in or out.”