Conference USA

C-USA Bowl Projections: Intriguing possibilities await FAU, North Texas & Southern Miss

Southern Miss running back Tez Parks takes it around the end during the game against Charlotte at M.M. Roberts Stadium on Nov. 18, 2017.
Southern Miss running back Tez Parks takes it around the end during the game against Charlotte at M.M. Roberts Stadium on Nov. 18, 2017. Special to the Sun Herald

UAB already knows it’s headed to the Bahamas Bowl, but nine more Conference USA teams are waiting to find out their postseason fates.

C-USA set a league record this season with 10 teams earning six wins and gaining bowl eligibility. At the moment, I expected nine teams to receive bowl bids. After getting passed over in 2012 and 2014, I see Middle Tennessee (6-6) as being left out of the postseason again this year.

The problem for MTSU is general apathy in the fan base and an uncertain future for head coach Rick Stockstill, who is often the target of criticism from the Blue Raider faithful.

C-USA features six automatic bowl tie-ins and another conditional tie-in with the Independence Bowl, which will probably miss out on filling its SEC bid.

The Heart of Dallas Bowl and the Cure Bowl in Orlando seem likely to host C-USA squads this year with other conferences unable to fulfill their tie-ins.

Most of the bowl bids won’t be handed out until after the C-USA title game, which kicks off at 11 a.m. on Saturday on ESPN2. North Texas (9-3) and FAU (9-3) are both seeking their first C-USA championships.

The C-USA title winner gets the first choice for a bowl game and the runner-up will then make its selection.

There are some intriguing possibilities in the final C-USA Bowl Projections of the year:

▪  Gildan New Mexico Bowl (Dec. 16) — Marshall (7-5) vs. Fresno State (9-3) - Marshall stumbled down the stretch, losing its last two games in heartbreaking fashion. The Herd may have missed out on making a trip to Florida this bowl season.

▪  Cure Bowl (Dec. 16) – WKU (6-6) vs. Appalachian State (7-4) – I see WKU as one of three six-win C-USA teams that will receive bowl bids, this one at Camping World Stadium in Orlando.

▪  R&L Carriers New Orleans Bowl (Dec. 16) — Louisiana Tech (6-6) vs. Troy (9-2) – I think Louisiana Tech lands this spot just based on the proximity. The Bulldogs can make up for an underwhelming season with a win over a good Troy team.

▪  Boca Raton Bowl (Dec. 19) — FIU (7-4) vs. Temple (6-6) – With UAB headed to the Bahamas, FIU seems destined to stay close to home in Boca Raton. It’s an interesting battle for C-USA Coach of the Year between FIU head coach Butch Davis, UAB’s Bill Clark and Lane Kiffin of FAU.

▪  Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl (Dec. 21) — Southern Miss (8-4) vs. South Florida (9-2) – USM should draw consideration from the Independence Bowl, but it’s looking more and more like Florida State may end up in the Independence Bowl. If that’s the case, I expect either North Texas or FAU to take that spot. A battle with South Florida in St. Petersburg would be an attractive option for the Golden Eagles.

▪  Bahamas Bowl* (Dec. 22) — UAB (8-4) vs. Ohio (8-4) – I’m kind of surprised UAB didn’t want to stay closer to home, but any day in the Bahamas is a good day.

▪  Armed Forces Bowl (Dec. 23) — UTSA (6-5) vs. Army (8-3) – UTSA fired its offensive coordinator, Frank Scelfo, after leading a poor effort on that side of the ball this season. The Roadrunners get this bid just based on the relatively short trip to Fort Worth.

▪  Heart of Dallas Bowl (Dec. 26) — North Texas (9-3) vs. Texas Tech (6-6) – This seems like an ideal situation for the Mean Green. If you can beat Texas Tech in front of a big crowd at the Cotton Bowl, that’s a nice boost for the program.

▪  Independence Bowl (Dec. 27) — Florida State (5-6) vs. FAU (9-3) – If FAU wins the Conference USA title as expected, I don’t see how the Owls turn down a chance to play the Seminoles in Shreveport.

*Matchup already set.

Patrick Magee: 228-896-2333, @Patrick_Magee