Since 1999, the Las Vegas Bowl has hosted some of the Mountain West Conference’s best teams. Beginning in 2001, The Pac-12 Conference joined the Mountain West in the annual post-season match-up in Sin City. The Mountain West holds a 8-6 lead over the Pac-12 in head to head. Of the 14 games, five were within 7 points or less. However, only one of those games has happened in the past ten years (2012 Boise State 28 – Washington 26).
The Las Vegas Bowl has gone through plenty of sponsors in the last 20 years but it has been constant in placing a top Mountain West team against a decent Pac-12 team.
Now that will all end in 2020, just as the Las Vegas Bowl has a chance to reach new heights. As the Raiders move to Vegas, the new stadium will be completed and it will become arguably the best stadium in the country. This will allow the Vegas Bowl to become a national attraction – a bowl game just short of a NY6 bowl. What a great opportunity for both conferences!
But now, the Pac-12 is cutting the Mountain West out for a P5 conference (likely the SEC.) The Mountain West is left without a bowl tie against a P5 team unless the champion gets the NY6 bowl. So what’s next?
The Mountain West will be left alongside the Sun Belt as the only conferences without a P5 bowl tie in. Not to knock the Sun Belt, but the Mountain West needs to avoid similarities with only the Sun Belt.
The Mountain West Conference Champion, excluding the NY6 tie, is currently sent to the Las Vegas Bowl. But after this shift, the champion is going to… the Arizona Bowl?
Yes, against the Sun Belt. The one that just featured 6-6 Utah State vs. 6-6 New Mexico State. The remaining bowl ties are the Potato Bowl vs. the MAC, New Mexico Bowl vs CUSA, and Hawai’i vs CUSA. They also have an option for the Cactus Bowl if there is an availability.
There are no good options for a landing-place for the conference champion.
New Bowls Save The Day
In a world where conference alignment can completely destroy a conference in no time (see WAC football circa 2012), each conference needs to tread lightly. Luckily, this is the same world that creates bowl game after bowl game. Brett McMurphy recently announced that there will be three new bowl games starting in 2020 and one of them just might save the Mountain West indirectly.
The NCAA has figured out two of the three new bowls already. One is projected to be a G5 match-up in Myrtle Beach which while interesting, this one is not likely going to fix the Mountain West’s problem. McMurphy reported that the second bowl is going to be a Big 10 vs ACC matchup at Wrigley Field. For now, we will call it the Wrigley Bowl.
The Wrigley Bowl will likely replace the formerly Foster Farms Bowl for the Big 10 after 2020. That leaves the Pac-12 without an opponent. This is where Craig Thompson, the Mountain West Commissioner, steps in. He offers to send the conference champion to San Francisco in order to preserve the long-standing relationship between the conferences. The Mountain West keeps their only P5 bowl match-up and only real destination for the champion.
Now, all five conferences win. The Big 10 doesn’t have to travel out west. The ACC and SEC each get a new bowl in a big city against a P5 opponent. The Pac-12 gets to upgrade from the Big 10 to the SEC. The Mountain West gets to keep its Pac-12 tie and even gets a new bowl.
Shift Some Things Around
However, this isn’t the only move that the Mountain West needs to make for the 2020 bowl season and onward. The best move for the Mountain West can do for itself and for football fans everywhere is to change bowl ties to play the American Conference. The AAC and the MWC are the two best conferences in G5 football, and they should be facing off in the postseason.
The Mountain West will also gain a bowl tie in 2020 due to the changes in bowl structure. The MAC will gain two, the CUSA gains ones, and the Sun Belt and American stay the same. This could make adding an American vs Mountain West bowl easier since the MW wouldn’t even have to change its ties. However, due to the uncertainty of who will play in the Myrtle Beach Bowl and what the other bowl will even be, for now we will evaluate it according to the current layout.
It only requires changes to three bowls: Frisco, New Mexico, and New Orleans. The New Orleans Bowl would be American vs Mountain West. Why not have the best G5 bowl game match-up in one of the best venues for a bowl game? That Leaves the New Mexico Bowl as CUSA vs Sun Belt and the Frisco Bowl as CUSA vs MAC.
In the end, the Mountain West and American gain a high-profile bowl and each keep their P5 bowl ties. But let’s not forget that there is a third bowl game that will begin in 2020. Maybe if we are lucky, it will just be Mountain West vs American.
No matter what, the Mountain West is currently sitting on a split but with one tough throw, they can get the spare and come out just fine.