WKU’s bowl hopes to be decided this weekend

Lucas Aulbach

The Toppers aren’t the only team in America ready to learn their bowl fate.

“I think every team that’s bowl-eligible is ready for that,” coach Willie Taggart said. “They all want to know where they’re going to play so they can plan and get ready to go and put on a show. That’s what the Tops want to do.”

At 7-5, WKU is one of several teams right on the bowl bubble. On the fringe of bowl-eligible Sun Belt Conference teams, the Toppers would likely be one of the first teams left out of a bowl berth if more than 70 teams become eligible.

The bowl pairings will all be officially announced Sunday night on ESPN.

Athletics director Todd Stewart was watching games that had an effect on WKU’s bowl chances last Saturday, and he said he’ll be doing the same thing this weekend.

“Saturday, it was a little like election night with the swing states,” he said. “We had 15 games we were keeping an eye on, and 11 of those 15 didn’t go our way, and if they’d gone differently, we’d be having an entirely different conversation today.”

Three teams that play Saturday threaten WKU’s bowl hopes — Pittsburgh and Connecticut, both 5-6, and Georgia Tech, technically eligible at 6-6 but facing No. 13 Florida State. A loss would make the Yellow Jackets ineligible at 6-7, though they have applied for an exemption due to the fact that they are playing in the ACC Championship.

WKU’s best hopes lie with games such as the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl and the Military Bowl — bowls that are unable to find eligible teams from the conferences they are contractually obligated to choose from and may be looking for eligible Sun Belt teams to fill those voids.

Steve Beck, executive director of the Military Bowl, said several factors are taken into account when bowl committees try to determine which schools to invite.

“We look at their play on the football field first,” Beck said. “Then we look at regional bases, their travel ability, and then we also look at the financial difference between each conference.”

Beck said the Military Bowl’s selection committee, along with most other bowl committees, is planning on waiting until Sunday to announce who they have invited. The Military Bowl has yet to officially invite a school.

He said if there are more than 70 bowl-eligible schools, WKU could be chosen over one of the three eligible Western Athletic Conference schools.

“It’s conceivable that Western Kentucky could be taken over a Louisiana Tech or San Jose State if the bowl feels it would be beneficial, but each bowl is different in that regard,” Beck said.

LTU and SJSU may play in a weaker conference, but both have one glaring advantage over the Toppers — a stronger record. LTU finished 9-3 this season, and SJSU finished 10-2.

Though it’s all still up in the air, WKU will for sure know its postseason fate by Sunday. Beck said it’s hard to determine which team will play where until the regular season is over.

“As soon as you think you have anything done, the next thing you know, everything changes,” he said.