How C-USA Bowl Tie-ins will affect WKU

Head coach Jeff Brohm yells at the refs a after a call during the first half of the Conference USA Championship between WKU and Louisiana Tech on Dec. 3, 2016 at L.T. Smith Stadium. Kathryn Ziesig/HERALD

Evan Heichelbech

With one game left on WKU’s schedule, it’s time to look at where the Hilltoppers might end up when bowl season arrives.

There are five automatic bowl tie-ins for the conference, with the C-USA champion choosing which bowl it wants to play in.

After Saturday’s C-USA Championship game between the Toppers and Louisiana Tech, the bowl outlook will be a lot clearer, but for now, a few options serve as possible landing spots for WKU’s postseason.

With the C-USA having no set order for its teams to go to certain bowls depending on records or finishes in the conference standings, the conference champion ultimately has the last choice as to where it wants to play.

The two bowls that WKU is most likely and almost guaranteed to end up in are either the Heart of Dallas Bowl or the Boca Raton Bowl.

This season, the Heart of Dallas Bowl’s tie-ins make it more attractive for teams from non-Power 5 schools like the C-USA because the automatic tie-in partner for the C-USA is a Big Ten team.

But, the Big Ten was top-heavier than expected this season and failed to have enough bowl-eligible teams, so the tie-in changes from a Big Ten team in the Heart of Dallas Bowl to either a Group of Five team or possibly an SEC/Big 12 team.

The Boca Raton Bowl’s tie-ins include the C-USA and American Athletic Conference, and it will be played on Dec. 20 in Boca Raton, Florida.

While the AAC also does not have a true structure as to which bowls its eligible teams go, Memphis (8-4) is the team projected to go to the Boca Raton Bowl by most major networks.

Most networks also have La. Tech projected to play in Dallas on Dec. 27, but that’s assuming the Bulldogs win on Saturday.

ESPN’s Mark Schlabach and Brett McMurphy both have WKU projected to play in the Boca Raton Bowl against Memphis, as does Fox Sports’ Stewart Mandel.

Memphis has managed to put together a nice season together after star quarterback Paxton Lynch was chosen in the first round of the NFL Draft last year by the Denver Broncos.

The Tigers are currently third in the AAC with their best win coming against the University of Houston this past weekend. The Cougars were just coming off a major victory over the previously top-ten ranked Cardinals of the University of Louisville.

Offensively, they are led by quarterback Riley Ferguson who, after transferring from the University of Tennessee, has thrown for 3,326 yards and 28 touchdowns with only nine interceptions on the year.

CBS Sports bowl expert Jerry Palm has the Toppers slated to take on Mississippi State (5-7) in Dallas, and SB Nation also projects WKU to meet a Power Five team in the Heart of Dallas Bowl.

All of this is dependent upon the outcome of the C-USA Championship on Saturday, and if WKU has the choice, it will likely choose to play the best opponent, although warm weather is always enticing.

“We always love going south if we can, but there’s a lot of good destinations for this conference so we’re happy to go wherever we need to go,” Head Coach Jeff Brohm said on Monday. “South and warm is always good.”

Reporter Evan Heichelbech can be reached at 270-745-6291 and [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter at @evanheich.