WKU aiming for fourth-straight season of bowl eligibility

WKU Head Coach Jeff Brohm makes his way onto Feix field before the WKU v. UTEP homecoming football team. This is Brohm’s first homecoming game while head coach. William Kolb/HERALD

Elliott Pratt

WKU is facing a familiar situation.

A Hilltopper win over Texas-San Antonio (3-7, 2-4 Conference USA) on Saturday will place them at the six-win mark for the fourth-consecutive season, meaning the fourth-straight year WKU reaches bowl eligibility.

The downside? WKU (5-5, 2-4 C-USA) has only been to the postseason once with an invitation to the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl in Detroit, Michigan in 2012, where the Hilltoppers dropped a 24-21 decision to Central Michigan.

The likelihood of WKU receiving an invitation for only the second time in four seasons is much higher than it would have been if the Hilltoppers were in the same position as members of the Sun Belt Conference, but that isn’t on Head Coach Jeff Brohm’s mind.

“That’s out of our hands,” Brohm said. “All we can control is winning this football game. It’s important for us. Yes, we have to win this. All we can do is do everything we can to try to win this game and go from there.”

Last season under former coach Bobby Petrino, WKU closed out its season on a four-game winning streak to finish 8-4. However, the Sun Belt Conference only had two guaranteed bowl tie-ins with the New Orleans Bowl and the GoDaddy Bowl. Louisiana-Lafayette and Arkansas State, who finished first and second in the league last season, respectively, were the only two Sun Belt schools to play in the postseason.

The story is much different in Conference USA.

Through 2019, C-USA has 10 bowl affiliations with five guaranteed positions. The conference has primary bowl tie-ins with the Bahamas Bowl, Beef ‘O’ Brady’s Bowl, Boca Raton Bowl, New Mexico Bowl and the Heart of Dallas Bowl.

C-USA also has an agreement with the Independence Bowl if the Southeastern Conference and the Atlantic Coast Conference do not fill the game with an eligible team.

If No. 18 Marshall (10-0, 6-0) finishes the season undefeated, it could earn a New Years Day bowl bid, leaving the five primary bowls for C-USA left to fill.

As of now, Marshall, Louisiana Tech (7-3, 6-0), Rice (6-4, 4-2) and UTEP (6-4, 4-2) are already eligible for a bowl game. WKU, Middle Tennessee (5-5, 4-1) and UAB (5-5, 3-3) have the chance of becoming eligible.

WKU’s path to reach its sixth win of the year Saturday against UTSA appears easy on paper, but players like redshirt senior cornerback Cam Thomas know too well what it feels like to miss a postseason opportunity.

“When you look at our track record, when the big games came, we stepped up to the challenge,” Thomas said. “We definitely don’t like to play down to our competition. That’s bitten us in the butt early in the season. I think we’re re-focused and now we know what’s at stake. That’s what I told the guys before practice and after practice. God put us in this position for a reason and now we just have to attack it and I feel like that’s what we’re going to do.”