I have been reading over and over (mostly on other Bruin boards) about how $UC losing this weekend hurts UCLA's bowl chances because $UC* will not go to a BSC game, meaning only the top 6 Pac 10 teams are guaranteed bowls. Let me state for the record that I will NEVER root for $UC*, notwithstanding UCLA's chances to go to a bowl game as a result of a $UC* win. I hope they lose out, even if it means UCLA does not go bowling. But, all of that talk (much of it unfounded or ill-informed) did lead me to do some research about UCLA's bowl chances in bowls where the PAC 10 does not have a contractual relationship.
First things first. As many have pointed out, UCLA MUST take care of business this weekend. No ifs, ands, or buts. That must be the focus of the team. The team cannot look ahead to the weeks to come or what may be.
That having been said, as fans, it is interesting to see what might happen if we do become bowl eligible. Where this team is right now, and assuming the improvement from the last 3 weeks continues, the extra practice afforded by the bowl season would do wonders for this young team and would also help recruiting efforts.
Soooooo, assuming the Bruins become bowl eligible BUT, for any one of several reasons, are locked out of the Pac 10 tie in bowls, there are still a few scenarios in which UCLA could go bowling.
The Mountain West Conference has 5 bowl tie ins. Assuming TCU gets into a BCS bowl, it appears that either the MWC slot in the Humanitarian Bowl and/or the MWC slot in the New Mexico bowl could be available for UCLA. Other slots may also be available in the GMAC bowl in Mobile, Alabama (ACC #9 v. MAC, ACC team not expected to be bowl eligible) or the EagleBank Bowl in D.C. (ACC #8 v. Army, neither of which is expected to be bowl eligible).
(BTW, how it it that the 12 team ACC has 9, count em, 9, bowl tie ins?!?!? What a joke. But I digress . . .)
In my opinion, it is unlikely UCLA would be selected for an "east of the Mississippi bowl" for geographical and financial reasons, even though the teams that are projected for those bowls (the likes of Marshall, Middle Tennessee State, SMU, UCF) are not in the same echelon historically as UCLA. So, for the purpose of this post, I will focus on the Humanitarian Bowl or the New Mexico Bowl, even though the GMAC or EagleBank bowls are not out of the question.
Some projections show Wyoming going to the Humanitarian Bowl. This makes geographical sense (and, as a result brings fans and therefore $$$ to the bowl game) so Bruins need for Wyoming to be "bowl ineligible." The Cowboys are currently 5-5 but have a tough game at TCU this weekend. Obviously, if TCU loses, the MWC will likely lose its BCS slot, which will affect prospective teams for both the Humanitarian and New Mexico bowls. Bruin fans need to be pulling for TCU this weekend. After that game, Wyoming plays lowly Colorado State at home the day after Thanksgiving. Enjoy the Friday off pulling for the underdog Rams to pull off the mild upset, making Wyoming ineligible for a bowl.
Another team UCLA fans should root against is Texas A&M. They are also currently 5-5. Some projections have them going to the New Mexico Bowl if the MWC cannot fill their allotment. As is the case with the Humanitarian Bowl, it will greatly help UCLA's chances if TCU wins out and goes to a BCS bowl. Like Wyoming in the Humanitarian Bowl, A&M in the New Mexico Bowl makes geographical sense which equals more fans traveling and more $$$ for the bowl game. A&M plays at home against Baylor this weekend and at home against Texas on Thanksgiving. Bruin fans need for Baylor to pull the minor upset against A&M and then for Texas to take care of business against A&M.
So, in summary, if either of the above-referenced scenarios comes to fruition and UCLA beats ASU and/or $UC*, UCLA should go to bowling. If both Wyoming and Texas A&M become bowl eligible, it could be a tough sell for Humanitarian Bowl officials choosing UCLA over Wyoming or New Mexico Bowl officials choosing UCLA over A&M.
Go Bruins, beat the Sun Devils!
Go Bruins, beat $UC*!
Go Horned Frogs, beat the Cowboys!
Go Rams, beat the Cowboys!
Go Bears, beat the Aggies.
Go 'Horns, beat the Aggies.
Finally, there are some interesting historical "bowl" sub-plots to some of the above bowls and teams:
(1) Humanitarian Bowl. In 2001, a 7-4 UCLA team DECLINED an invitation to go to the Humanitarian Bowl allegedly because it would have cost the team more money than the $750,000 payout. I cannot imagine the Bruins doing the same thing in 2009.
(2) New Mexico Bowl. Although UCLA has never played in this bowl, Ed Kezarian's one and only game as UCLA head coach was a win over the University of New Mexico (which puts on the New Mexico Bowl) in the Las Vegas Bowl in 2002. Katie Hnida became the first woman to appear in a college football game, when her extra point was blocked.
(3) Wyoming. 2004. UCLA lost in the Las Vegas Bowl to Wyoming in perhaps CKD's most humiliating defeat.
(4) Texas A&M. The last time UCLA won a New Years Day bowl was a victory over Texas A&M on January 1, 1998.