Even with a disastrous finish to the football regular season, Fresno State will play in a postseason bowl game.
On Nov. 4, the Bulldogs stood 8-1 after a triumphant 37-30 victory over rival Boise State. A Mountain West championship appearance seemed likely, and even an outside chance for a New Year’s Six Bowl.
“I can tell you that certainly Fresno State is one of the top teams we are considering.” — Arizona Bowl executive director Kym Adair
Then, the team got flattened by San Jose State. A loss to lowly New Mexico followed, taking the Bulldogs out of the MWC race. And, the capper — a 33-18 thumping at last-place San Diego State on Saturday.
“We’re an 8-4 football team, OK. We didn’t finish the year as strongly as we would have liked to. We have one more opportunity to play together in a bowl game, wherever that may be. But you know, I love these kids. They are high-character kids,” coach Jeff Tedford told KSEE-24 after the game.
So, where could the Bulldogs be headed?
“I wish I could tell you who I was thinking because I’m not quite sure quite yet. We’re going to have to see how things work out on Saturday after the championship game. But I can tell you that certainly Fresno State is one of the top teams we are considering,” Arizona Bowl executive director Kym Adair told GV Wire.
Fresno State has a reputation as a team with a strong traveling fan base.
“Frankly, we take all of that into consideration. So we’re looking for the best matchup first and foremost for our MAC team. And we are also looking at who’s going to drive the most visitors to come to our great town,” Adair said.
Said Daryl Garvin, executive director of the Hawai’i Bowl: “the Bulldogs and their fans have always represented the University well. If selected, we would welcome the opportunity to host the Bulldogs for a fourth time. A large travelling fan base is always welcome and adds to the atmosphere in the stadium.”
Bowl selections will be announced next Sunday.
Bowl Season: Who Picks First
Seven teams from the Mountain West qualified for one of the 41 bowl games. The minimum needed was six wins.
UNLV hosts Boise State for the MWC championship — Saturday at noon on Fox.
The LA Bowl has the first selection. Although it is not obligated to take the champion, it has the previous two years of its existence (Utah State in 2021 and Fresno State last year).
The second pick goes to ESPN Events, which operates three bowl games with Mountain West ties — New Mexico Bowl (Albuquerque, New Mexico; Dec. 16); Famous Idaho Potato Bowl (Boise, Idaho; Dec. 23); and the Hawai’i Bowl (Honolulu, Hawaii; Dec. 26).
ESPN could fill one of those slots, or send a MWC team to one of several bowls it operates with either a “pool” slot or a slot open because the affiliated conference did not qualify enough teams.
The Arizona Bowl gets the third pick — the second and third picks alternate between ESPN and Arizona each season.
The remaining four teams would go to ESPN-affiliated bowls.
Who is Going Where?
With the Boise State/UNLV winner likely going to the LA Bowl, who would ESPN take next for its bowl game? The loser might be an attractive selection, but a team like Air Force might be needed for the First Responders Bowl (Dec. 26 in Dallas).
Boise State is unlikely to stay home at the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl, Adair said. The Broncos haven’t played a postseason game on the blue turf since 2005.
“It’s important to the student-athletes and the coaching staff in the athletic department that they offer these opportunities and travel opportunities to experience other bowl games,” Adair said.
Boise State was scheduled to play in the Arizona Bowl (in existence since 2015) in 2021, but the game was canceled because of COVID concerns.
Asked on the spot whether she would take Fresno State or UNLV/Boise State, Adair deflected.
“I can’t even tell you today. I don’t know the answer to that right now,” she said.
Garvin, with the Hawai’i Bowl, said all the MWC teams “would be a great fit.”
“If the team has connections to the islands (players or coaches from Hawai’i or that have other ties to Hawai’i) it is a bonus,” Garvin said.
Alas, Fresno State has no players listed from Hawai’i.