Keeping Score

C-USA Bowl Projections: Marshall, Louisiana Tech could see intriguing match-ups

By PATRICK MAGEE

pmagee@sunherald.com

Twitter: Patrick_Magee

For the third consecutive week, we take a look at where Conference USA teams are headed during the bowl season.

We have one team drop out of the picture and several intriguing match-ups to ponder.

Gildan New Mexico Bowl – Rice vs. Colorado State – 1 p.m., Dec. 19 (ESPN)

The Owls (3-3, 2-1) avoided disaster on the road with a late rally to top FAU, 27-26, on Saturday. The Owls appear to have at least three wins remaining on the schedule - Army, UTEP and Charlotte. Colorado State is 2-4, but has four games remaining where it should be favored - Wyoming, UNLV, New Mexico and Fresno State.

R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl – Southern Miss vs. South Alabama – 8 p.m., Dec. 19 (ESPN)

With NCAA allegations swirling around Louisiana-Lafayette, I'm even more convinced that the Cajuns won't be in this game for the first time since 2010. ULL isn't facing a postseason ban at the moment, but it doesn't exactly have a good vibe with a 2-3 record. I'm thinking that the winner of Tuesday night's South Alabama-Arkansas State game may be destined for the New Orleans Bowl. If Southern Miss takes on South Alabama, it would mark the first time the two regional rivals have met on the football field. Also worth noting: Lafayette and Mobile are almost the exact same distance from New Orleans. If USM (3-3, 1-1) plays Arkansas State in New Orleans, it faces popular former USM offensive coordinator Blake Anderson, who is the head coach at ASU.

Miami Beach Bowl – Western Kentucky vs. Temple –  1:30 p.m., Dec. 21 (ESPN)

Go ahead and hand the Hilltoppers the Conference USA title trophy. They are destroying conference opponents, including a 58-28 win over MTSU on Saturday.

Popeyes Bahamas Bowl – FIU vs. Northern Illinois – 11 a.m., Dec. 24 (ESPN)

I had MTSU in this spot the first two weeks, but its postseason fate is shaky with a 2-4 record. The Bahamas Bowl is the more attractive option compared to the Arizona Bowl due to its broadcast partner, ESPN, and the exotic location. When FIU (3-3, 1-1) travels to MTSU at on Saturday, the two teams may be playing for a trip to the Bahamas.

St. Petersburg Bowl - Marshall vs. Memphis - 10 a.m., Dec. 26th (ESPN)

After an underwhelming start to the season, Marshall (5-1, 2-0) looked much improved in a 31-10 win over Southern Miss. If Memphis lands here, it would make for an entertaining matchup.

Zaxby’s Heart of Dallas Bowl - Louisiana Tech vs. Texas - 1:20 p.m., Dec. 26

This matchup looks a little more likely after the Longhorns' upset win over Oklahoma. Texas is just 2-4, but there's a good chance it gets to the six-win mark if it builds on last week's performance. This would offer Texas the opportunity to play in front of a big home crowd against an opponent it thinks it can handle.

NOTE: Conference USA also has a tie-in with the Nova Home Loans Arizona Bowl, but I don't see the league producing a seventh bowl eligible team. MTSU is the lone viable option at the moment, but I don't see the Blue Raiders reaching six wins at the moment. A Sun Belt team would likely fulfill C-USA's tie-in in Arizona if it comes up short.

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