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ONLY 2 WAC TEAMS MAY EARN BOWL BIDS

In 1992, the Western Athletic Conference sent five football teams to bowl games. Four WAC clubs went bowling in '93. Three league schools played in bowls last season.

The trend may continue. There's a strong possibility the WAC will get only two bowl bids this year."Right now we have commitments that will send two teams to bowls," said WAC associate commissioner Jeff Hurd.

The WAC champion will go to either the Cotton Bowl or Holiday Bowl, with the Copper Bowl getting the choice of any league team other than the WAC champ.

The WAC actually had a third bowl tie but lost it when the financially troubled Freedom Bowl went out of business.

The only two bowls that the WAC's No. 3 team could possibly go to this season are the Poulan Weedeater Independence in Shreveport, La., and the Liberty in Memphis, Tenn. The other bowls already have pre-set commitments.

"We have had discussions with the Independence Bowl, but nothing has been set at this point," Hurd said. "They could have locked into an agreement with us, but as one of only two open bowls, I think they feel our No. 3 team will be there if they want it anyway."

The third WAC team will likely be as good or better than any teams the Independence or Liberty Bowl would be able to scrape up, but the distances could be a problem for WAC schools. It's hard to imagine fans from, say, Salt Lake or Fort Collins traveling en masse to Shreveport to see a football game. If the WAC teams can't guarantee ticket sales, the bowls will likely look closer to home for teams.

ONE-YEAR WONDER?: Much has been written about the WAC's success against foes from the more prestigious Pac-10 last season. WAC teams were 7-3 against Pac-10 opponents in '94.

It was the exception rather than the rule, however. Pac-10 teams beat the WAC nine out of 10 times in '93, for instance.

Even WAC coaches admit last season's success will be hard to duplicate. "The WAC is a good, solid conference," Colorado State's Sonny Lubick said, "but a 7-3 record against the Pac-10 was not a true measure of the strengths of the conferences."

Said BYU's LaVell Edwards, "Going 7-3 (against the Pac-10) again is unrealistic, but I think we can get to the point when WAC teams can break even against them."

This season there are eight WAC vs. Pac-10 games. Utah (Oregon and Stanford), BYU (UCLA and Arizona State) and Fresno State (California and UCLA) face two Pac-10 foes each.

PREDICTIONS: The BYU-Air Force contest is the only WAC game this opening weekend. The Falcons finished strong last year and will contend for the title, but for some reason the Cougars always seem to break the wishbone. BYU has beaten Air Force 12 straight times. Make that 13 . . . BYU 31-23.

Meanwhile, the Ducks have revenge on their minds . . . Oregon 24, Utah 14.

In other WAC action, it'll be Colorado State 41, Montana State 10; New Mexico 27, Northern Arizona 12; UTEP 32, New Mexico State 31; Fresno State 49, Northeast Louisiana 26; California 24, San Diego State 21 and, in a late-night upset special on the islands, Hawaii 21, Texas 18.