Bowl Eligibility is a tricky topic to cover. Adding a bowl championship series with the top 4 teams complicates bowl selections even further.
Since the inception of the New Orleans Bowl the Sun Belt has been the principal tie in Conference. A few years ago the Sun Belt agreed to a second bowl tie in, the Go Daddy Bowl, in Mobile, Alabama. This gave the Sun Belt an additional option for bowl eligible teams from their conference. It was customary, until the Go-Daddy tie in, that the league champ got the invite to the New Orleans Bowl. Currently the New Orleans Bowl gets the first pick from the Sun Belt and is usually the league champion or co-champion in the case of the 2013 Bowl. The Co-Champion Louisana-Lafayette played in New Orleans and Co-Champion Arkansas State played in Mobile.
In an agreement this year’s opponent to the Sun Belt will come from the Mountain West. In 2011 Conference USA was unable to send a team and the Mountain West had San Diego State available. This year the Mountain West has at least 6 Bowl Game tie-ins and almost as many teams eligible.
A team must have a winning record and not be on probation. For the Sun Belt leading Georgia Southern that is the problem. In their second year of FBS play, they are ineligible for bowl play without an exemption. If the Sun Belt has enough eligible teams an exception may be hard to come by. Currently the Sun Belt has only the University of Louisiana eligible with a 7-4 record. Appalachian State, South Alabama, Texas State and Arkansas State are all 6-5 with one game remaining.
It is expected that the New Orleans Bowl will get the 5th or 6th choice out of the Mountain West Conference. 11 weeks in the 5th and 6th choices would be Nevada or San Diego State. Both of these teams are 6-5 also and need a win in their final regular season game. Many fans like the prospect of a 2011 rematch between the Ragin Cajuns and the Azteks.
South Alabama may have the toughest path to 7 games. They have to get past a tough Navy team Friday night at home. Appalachian State faces the 1 win Idaho Vandals. Texas State also faces a 1 win team with their game against Georgia State. Arkansas State welcomes the 2 win New Mexico State team in Jonesboro for their final game. Two of these teams may find themselves bowl eligible without a bowl to attend.
In the Mountain West the picture is a little tighter. Only two teams are on the bubble for eligibility. San Diego and Nevada. San Diego has the 3-8 San Jose team coming to town on Saturday while Nevada takes the field against the 2-9 UNLV team in Vegas. Most pundits agree that the Mountain West will have 6 bowl eligible teams and we will see one of them in New Orleans on the 20th.
Due to the FBS Tournament picks not happening until December 7, many bowls will be unable to finalize their invitations until then. Stay tuned here on the official #RLBowl blog for the announcement or follow on Twitter or Facebook. We are only 24 days from the 14th playing of the New Orleans Bowl. The R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl is the first bowl game of the season and can be viewed on ESPN on Saturday December 20 at 11 a.m. eastern.