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Utah State's bowl picture muddied even with title game appearance

SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah State football team won’t know this year’s bowl destination until sometime Sunday morning.

Even if the Aggies defeat Fresno State Saturday night in the Mountain West Conference championship game in Fresno, they may not know where they’re going for several hours.

MWC Commissioner Craig Thompson talked about the bowl possibilities for his conference in a teleconference Monday afternoon and said no bowls were locked in to any teams, not even the Las Vegas Bowl to the league champion.

In a word, it’s complicated.

The MWC has seven bowl eligible teams with only six spots available, and with 77 teams bowl-eligible for 70 spots, Thompson said it’s not likely his league will get all seven teams into bowls. Not when there are three extra ACC teams and two extra Pac-12 teams eligible for bowl games.

When asked how the bowl selections were made, Thompson said, “It’s really easy. The bowls will make those decisions. The conference office has no voice or say in it.’’

When asked if the first- and second-place teams would get placed in the Las Vegas and Poinsettia bowls, Thompson said, “not necessarily,’’ although he did say he thought it was “99 percent” that Saturday’s winner would go to Las Vegas on Dec. 21.

However if the Aggies lose, they may get passed up by another MWC school, say Boise State or San Diego State, for the berth in the Poinsettia Bowl, which is played on Dec. 26 in San Diego.

That would leave the Aggies vying with five other schools for the four remaining bowl spots — the New Mexico Bowl on Dec. 21, the Famous Potato Bowl on Dec. 21, the Hawaii Bowl on Dec. 24, or the Armed Forces Bowl in Fort Worth on Dec. 30.

“After first two picks (Las Vegas and San Diego), basically the other four are tied for third,’’ said Thompson. He said because they are all ESPN games that the bowls could work together to determine the best matchups.

The other MWC bowl-eligible teams besides USU and Fresno State are Boise State (8-4), San Diego State (7-5), UNLV (7-5), Colorado State (7-6) and San Jose State (6-6).

So is there a chance the Aggies could get left out of the bowl picture all together?

Not according to Thompson.

“I will say, the three 8-win teams (USU, Fresno State and Boise State) are all but guaranteed of three of the six positions,’’ he said.

Utah State coach Matt Wells has declined to speculate on where the Aggies are going, preferring to wait and see after this week’s game. However a lot of Aggies fans would be excited to see a new destination after playing in Boise’s Potato Bowl the past two seasons.

GAME NOTES: Saturday’s game in Fresno will begin at 8 p.m. MST and be televised nationally on CBS-TV. … Bulldog Stadium holds 41,031 for football. … The game is a matchup between the league leader in total offense and scoring offense (Fresno) against the league leader in total defense and scoring defense (USU). … Fresno State will be trying for its first outright conference championship since 1991 when it played in the Big West Conference. … Utah State will be going for its second straight outright title to go along with last year's WAC title. … USU’s Wells and Fresno State coach Tim DeRuyter are good friends, having coached together at Navy in 1999-2001. … Utah State has won 11 straight road games against league opponents. … Fresno State leads the all-time series with USU 16-10-1.