Keeping Score

C-USA Bowl Projections: Rice's collapse brings changes

By PATRICK MAGEE

pmagee@sunherald.com

Twitter: @Patrick_Magee

TIM ISBELL/SUN HERALDSouthern Miss receiver Casey Martin scores a touchdown against Old Dominion, Saturday, Nov. 21, 2015.
TIM ISBELL/SUN HERALDSouthern Miss receiver Casey Martin scores a touchdown against Old Dominion, Saturday, Nov. 21, 2015. SUN HERALD

Conference USA won't fulfill its seven bowl tie-ins thanks to Rice's late-season collapse.

The Owls are 4-7 with four straight losses after falling 34-24 at UTSA last week and the conference needs Old Dominion (5-6, 3-4) to beat FAU (2-9, 2-5) on Saturday to have six teams eligible for the postseason. The Monarchs' chances of winning this week took a hit with the loss of quarterback David Washington to a season-ending knee injury and it appears FAU is playing its best football after pushing Florida to the limit in a 20-14 loss on Saturday.

The ODU-FAU game is in Norfolk, Va., and the Owls do have a knack for losing close games.

Here are my Week 13 bowl projections for Conference USA:

Gildan New Mexico Bowl – Old Dominion vs. New Mexico – 1 p.m., Dec. 19 (ESPN)

This will be a long trip to Albuquerque for the Monarchs, but it will be the first bowl game in program history. With the Lobos (6-5) holding the home field advantage, attracting a crowd won't be a problem.

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

Arkansas State (7-3) should roll to a perfect mark in the Sun Belt with New Mexico State and Texas State left on the schedule. Southern Miss (7-3, 6-1) has a chance to make a slight upgrade to its bowl plans with a win over Louisiana Tech on Saturday, but that game is in Ruston, La. UL-Lafayette, which has been in this bowl the last four years, is unlikely to reach bowl eligibility with a 4-6 mark and a trip to Appalachian State set for Saturday.

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

The Hilltoppers (9-2, 7-0) can lock up a spot in the C-USA title game with a win over Marshall in Bowling Green, Ky., Friday. If they win that game, I'm sure WKU will land in Miami. Temple (9-2) appears to be the most likely opponent, but South Florida (7-4) should also be an option if the Owls choose to go to Hawaii.

Popeyes Bahamas Bowl – Middle Tennessee vs. Ohio – 11 a.m., Dec. 24 (ESPN)

I hear  that Middle Tennessee (6-5) prefers the Bahamas over the New Mexico Bowl. Both games would be a long haul for fans, so why not choose the Bahamas?

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

I had Cincinnati as the opponent last week, but the Bearcats are stumbling late and may be just 6-6 after a trip to East Carolina Saturday. The only way Marshall (9-2) ends up in Miami is if it beats WKU on Saturday.

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

Washington (5-6) hosts Washington State in the regular season finale and has a good shot to pick up the win and earn bowl eligibility. Louisiana Tech (8-3, 6-1) is one C-USA team that could land in a variety of spots, but Dallas still seems the most attractive option.

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