WKU bowl prospects still uncertain

Lucas Aulbach

WKU’s bowl hopes, a sure conversation topic around the Hill in coming weeks, will be determined off the field as much as they will be on the field as the season draws to a close.

The Toppers (6-4, 3-3 Sun Belt Conference) have two games left against league competition to prove to bowl representatives they deserve a shot at the postseason.

Earning a bowl berth is bigger than wins and losses, though, and the Toppers know this — despite finishing 7-5 last season, WKU was one of two bowl-eligible schools excluded from participation in any of the 35 FBS bowl games.

Topper players and coaches have talked this year of using that bowl snub as motivation.

Junior running back Antonio Andrews said the team is even more motivated to get to a bowl for the WKU seniors, who have seen the program rise from the bottom of the Sun Belt to bowl eligibility.

“Our biggest goal is to get a bowl game — what better way than to send these seniors out who were here through all those trials and that (2009) 0-12 season?” he said.

But it may take more than just winning their last two games, against Louisiana-Lafayette and North Texas, for the Toppers to secure a bowl bid.

Bowl participants are chosen by selection committees for specific bowl games. Certain games are contractually obligated to select teams from certain conferences.

The Sun Belt has two such games, the New Orleans Bowl and the GoDaddy.com Bowl, that are required to take teams from the conference.

Several other games, though, could pick Sun Belt teams if they can’t find eligible teams from the conferences they are contractually obligated to choose from.

For example, the Little Caesar’s Pizza Bowl, a game that several college football analysts have projected the Toppers to play, is required to choose from teams from the Big 10 and Mid-American Conference — unless there are no eligible teams in those leagues, in which case a team from the Sun Belt can be chosen instead.

Bowls often try to select teams that will potentially bring in the most profit through ticket sales.

Right now, 56 teams have clinched eligibility for the 70 available bowl spots. However, an additional 31 teams are still in the hunt to become bowl eligible.

The only factor the Toppers can control is the outcome of their final two games. That’s why senior punter Hendrix Brakefield said finishing the season strong is the team’s only concern.

“We can’t focus on anything else because nothing’s guaranteed,” he said. “We know that from last year. Last year, seven wins wasn’t enough. This year, we can win out and get eight, so we need to focus on each game.”