Aulbach: Once again, WKU’s postseason hopes in question

November 30, 2013, Bowling Green, Kentucky, USA_ | WKU coaches yell to the players for the next play. WKU won 34-31 against Arkansas State on Nov. 30, 2013 at Houchens-Smith Stadium.

Lucas Aulbach

It couldn’t be easy this time, could it?

Topper fans and football analysts alike had penciled WKU in for the Sun Belt Conference’s slot in the Bowl after Saturday’s thrilling win over Arkansas State but for the third season in a row, the Toppers’ bowl chances are in limbo late in the year.

Two seasons ago WKU missed the postseason after finishing 7-5, the first winning season the team had produced since joining FBS. Last year the 7-5 Toppers picked up a surprise invite to the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl over an 8-4 Middle Tennessee team and 9-3 Louisiana Tech.

Arkansas State accepted a bid to the Bowl on Monday — once again, WKU’s bowl hopes are up in the air.

Some fans might be up in arms over Arkansas State, a team which had a worse overall record and loss to the Toppers, getting the GoDaddy bid over WKU. But really, the Toppers have no one to blame but themselves for this one. The Red Wolves had better conference record and finished second in the Sun Belt while WKU finished third — if the Toppers don’t lose to South Alabama back in September, we’re not having this conversation.

The Sun Belt Conference has two automatic bowl bids — Arkansas State took one, while league champion Louisiana-Lafayette will play in the New Orleans Bowl. That leaves a few options for the Toppers:

— Independence Bowl, Dec. 31, in Shreveport, La. – The Independence Bowl will have an opening if two SEC schools make BCS bowls. Seems likely, but WKU wouldn’t be the only school considered if there’s an open spot. We won’t find out for sure until after the SEC Championship next weekend.

— Beef O’Brady’s Bowl, Dec. 23, in St. Petersburg, Fla. – This is one has been thrown around as a possibility for a Sun Belt team for a while, but the Beef O’Brady’s Bowl will likely stick to the script and take an AAC and C-USA team.

— Little Caesars Pizza Bowl, Dec. 26, in Detroit – For the second year in a row, this is looking like the most likely landing spot for the Toppers. The game will likely have an opening for a Sun Belt or other bowl-eligible team to take on whatever MAC team can qualify.

Athletics Director Todd Stewart indicated on Monday that the Independence Bowl and Little Caesars Pizza Bowl, the two bowls most likely to take WKU, will probably wait until the weekend to make a decision. That leaves plenty of time for Topper fans to keep shaking the bowl berth 8-Ball and hope a ‘yes’ turns up — it’s all anyone can do at this point.