Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun
Monday, Dec. 2, 2013 | 1:30 p.m.
Mountain West Commissioner Craig Thompson isn’t optimistic that all seven of the league’s bowl-eligible football teams will play in a bowl game.
“I don’t think it will happen,” Thompson said this afternoon on a conference call.
The league has six bowl tie-ins, more than ever before, but it also has more teams eligible than ever before. In its first season with 12 teams, seven of them made it to at least 6-6 thanks to San Jose State’s 62-52 upset against Fresno State. That game set off a domino effect that cost every team in the league a cut of the Bulldogs’ potential BCS payout money and will likely leave one team, maybe even the Spartans, with no game to play in.
“This is not the year to have extra bowl eligible teams,” Thompson said. “In all reality, one is probably not going to be playing in a bowl game.”
The problem isn’t just that the Mountain West has more eligible teams than normal, so does the rest of the country. The last three seasons there have been 72 bowl eligible teams for 70 spots. This season there are still 70 slots for teams, but there are already 77 eligible teams with the chance for three more to get there this weekend.
Thompson acknowledged that there’s interest in moving Boise State to a bowl outside of the Mountain West’s six, but that requires one of those games with a spot to fill to select the Broncos over a field that includes three extra ACC teams and two extra Pac-12 squads.
If Boise State doesn’t move to one of those national bowls, then a Mountain West team is all but assured to be left out. That would most likely be either UNLV (7-5) or San Jose State (6-6). Bowl directors aren’t required to pick based on record.
“Seven wins are more than six wins, but those are decisions the bowls will have to make,” Thompson said.
He said the bowls factor in things like past experience — and attendance at those previous games — plus geography and other factors. UNLV and Colorado State (7-6) are the only eligible teams that didn’t play in a bowl game last season.
Assuming Boise State stays in the Mountain West’s games, the decision will come down to four teams for three games — the New Mexico, Hawaii and Famous Idaho Potato bowls. All three games, plus the Las Vegas and Armed Forces bowls, are owned by ESPN Regional Television, meaning that group will work with the individual bowl directors to make their most desired matchups.
Conversations will continue throughout the week but the eligible teams may not get a final answer until this weekend.
The regular season is over and the postseason hasn’t started, which means it must be awards season. Next Tuesday the Mountain West will release the all-conference teams voted on my media and coaches.
Before the official word comes down, here’s a look at my ballot. I’ve included some notes when appropriate.
Offensive Player of the Year — Derek Carr, QB, Fresno State
• Easy choice here. It’s not Carr’s fault his defense is awful and the numbers are stunning: 405.6 passing yards per game, 70.3 completion percentage and 45 touchdowns against five interceptions.
Defensive Player of the Year — Shaquil Barrett, LB, Colorado State
• UNLV didn’t play Colorado State, so I didn’t see much of Barrett this season, but I do know he lived in the backfield. Twelve sacks, 20.5 tackles for loss and three forced fumbles.
Coach of the Year — Matt Wells, Utah State
• I think UNLV’s Bobby Hauck will get some votes here, and maybe he’ll even win it. I’m not sure how voters will judge the Rebels’ turnaround vs. a first-year coach in his team’s first season in a new league overcoming a loss to a Heisman-candidate quarterback to become maybe the best team in the league. To me, though, this is Wells’ award.
Special Teams Player of the Year — Carlos Wiggins, RS, New Mexico
• Three kick return touchdowns and a 29.6 yards per return average. Enough said.
Freshman of the Year — Darrell Garretson, QB, Utah State
• Votes for this one may be spread around to a few guys, including to Canyon Springs High grad Donnel Pumphrey at San Diego State, but to me Garretson taking over for Chuckie Keeton and performing well in that role is the most impressive freshman performance this season.
QUARTERBACK TIGHT END
Derek Carr, Fresno State Kivon Cartwright, Colorado State
David Fales, San Jose State Crockett Gillmore, Colorado State
RUNNING BACK OFFENSIVE LINE
Kapri Bibbs, Colorado State Austin Wentworth, Fresno State
Tim Cornett, UNLV Weston Richburg, Colorado State
Jay Ajayi, Boise State Michael Husar, Air Force
Kasey Carrier, New Mexico LaMar Bratton, New Mexico
Tyler Larsen, Utah State
WIDE RECEIVER Joel Bitonio, UNR
Davante Adams, Fresno State Brett Boyko, UNLV
Devante Davis, UNLV Terry Poole, San Diego State
Chandler Jones, San Jose State Jamie Markosian, Utah State
Brandon Wimberly, UNR Matt Paradis, Boise State
• I thought for a long time about giving UNLV’s Caleb Herring my vote as the second-best quarterback in the league. David Fales’ numbers are far superior except that Herring has only five interceptions to Fales’ 13. In the end I couldn’t do it but I wouldn’t be surprised if Herring gets a couple of votes.
• Sports information directors really earned their money in the biography descriptions of the offensive linemen. Writers don’t see much if any game film and don’t have the same understanding of what makes a great offensive guard compared to what a coach can see, so we rely on the offensive line descriptions to help us out.
DEFENSIVE LINE LINEBACKER
Demarcus Lawrence, Boise State Shaquil Barrett, Colorado State
Brock Hekking, UNR Keith Smith, San Jose State
Eddie Yarbrough, Wyoming Jake Doughty, Utah State
Brett Bowers, New Mexico Jordan Stanton, Wyoming
Beau Yap, Hawaii Max Morgan, Colorado State
AJ Pataili’i, Utah State Zach Vigil, Utah State
Ricky Tjong-A-Tjoe, Boise State
Mark Garrick, UNLV PLACEKICKER
Jared Roberts, Colorado State
DEFENSIVE BACK Austin Lopez, San Jose State
Bene Benwikere, San Jose State
Shaq Bell, Colorado State PUNTER
Donte Deayon, Boise State Ben Skaer, New Mexico
Derron Smith, Fresno State Chase Tenpenny, UNR
Marqueston Huff, Wyoming
Nevin Lawson, Utah State RETURN SPECIALIST
J.J. Whittaker, San Diego State Carlos Wiggins, New Mexico
Frank Crawford, UNLV Isaiah Burse, Fresno State