This time last year, the UA’s bowl possibilities were pretty simple.
The Wildcats were either going to be eating green chiles at the New Mexico Bowl or battling San Francisco traffic at the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl.
This year, things aren’t nearly as clear.
With nine Pac-12 teams bowl eligible and the BCS picture still so unsettled, there are as many as five bowl landing spots for the Wildcats.
They are the:
- Gildan New Mexico Bowl
- AdvoCare V100 Bowl (formerly the Independence Bowl)
- Heart of Dallas Bowl
- Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl
- Texas Bowl.
“We most likely won’t have any resolution until Sunday night or early Monday,” Arizona athletic director Greg Byrne said. “I’ve been on the phone a lot this week, and I’ll continue to be engaged with bowl partners for the rest of the week.”
Of the five options, only the New Mexico Bowl and the Las Vegas Bowl are affiliated with the Pac-12. With nine teams eligible for a bowl and only seven spots, other bowls, like the AdvoCare V100 Bowl have become realistic options for the Wildcats.
“The idea of going outside our bowl agreements is interesting because we could go to a part of the country we don’t often get to,” Byrne said. “As long as it’s in the same financial ballpark, it would certainly be something we’d be interested in.”
The AdvoCare Bowl, played in Shreveport, La., has a reported combined payout of $2.3 million. The New Mexico Bowl’s payout is $912,500.
Byrne said his pitch to bowl directors has been pretty straightforward this week.
“Obviously we’re a strong, good national brand, and we have alumni throughout the country,” Byrne said. “We have the top running back in the country and an exciting offense under the leadership of Rich Rodriguez, who is well known in the football world.”
Here’s a look at the three most likely landing spots for the Wildcats:
Gildan New Mexico Bowl
• Details: Dec. 21, noon, ESPN
• Where: University Stadium, Albuquerque
• Potential opponents: Colorado State, San Diego State, Boise State
• The lowdown: The New Mexico Bowl gets the final pick of the Pac-12 bowls and hosted the Wildcats last year. This year, the bowl will likely select among Arizona, Oregon State or Washington State. Of the three, the Cougars, who haven’t been to a bowl since 2003, may be the most appealing. Even though Arizona finished at 7-5 and the Beavers and Cougars went 6-6, the New Mexico Bowl does not have to pick the team with a better record.
Washington State fans are the most likely to travel at this point, and if the opponent is Colorado State, the New Mexico Bowl would be less concerned about having a second opponent within close distance to Albuquerque.
• Quotable: “There’s not the uncertainty about this game like there was last year. Last year we had to prove ourselves since it was the first time with a Pac-12 school. Last year, it was more of a situation for teams where it was ‘this is the last one left, so that’s where we’ll go.’ This year, it’s a little different; we have more options. We got a little prettier this year.” — New Mexico Bowl executive director Jeff Siembieda
AdvoCare V100 Bowl
• Details: Dec 31, 10:30 a.m., ESPN
• Where: Independence Stadium, Shreveport, La.
• Potential opponents: Boston College, Georgia Tech, North Carolina
• The lowdown: AdvoCare Bowl organizers are still holding out hope Notre Dame could head to Shreveport, but that doesn’t seem likely at this point. The Fighting Irish, who will have their pick, seem poised to play in the New Era Pinstripe Bowl in New York City. The AdvoCare Bowl is supposed to match up teams from the ACC and SEC, but the SEC didn’t fill its allotment of teams this year, forcing the AdvoCare Bowl to look elsewhere.
This game could be the most realistic option for the Wildcats at this point. If the bowl could lock down Boston College and the UA, it would pit the nation’s top two leading rushers, BC’s Andre Williams and the UA’s Ka’Deem Carey, against each other, it would certainly draw some national attention.
• Quotable: “I think that’s a matchup that would be interesting. You’re talking about two tradition-rich programs and two people that are on Heisman watch. That’s always appealing. Our committee looks at all those variables. The Pac-12 will have at least one extra team available, and that’s definitely a league we’re looking at.” — AdvoCare Bowl executive director Missy Setters
Heart of Dallas Bowl
• Details: Jan. 1, 10 a.m., ESPNU
• Where: Cotton Bowl, Dallas
• Potential opponents: North Texas, Rice
• The lowdown: The Heart of Dallas Bowl should have a spot available if the Big Ten sends two teams to BCS bowls, which is expected. If the AdvoCare Bowl somehow lands Notre Dame, then this could be a fallback option.
At this point though, the Heart of Dallas Bowl seems like a distant third in terms of options behind New Mexico and Shreveport. However, the Heart of Dallas is more likely than Las Vegas or Houston. The Las Vegas Bowl comes into play only if the Pac-12 sends two teams to BCS bowls.
• Quotable: “The Big Ten currently has enough teams, but if they play two teams into the BCS then we will be forced to go at-large. There are a lot of teams in the marketplace, so it will be interesting to review all of our options should we need to do so.” — Heart of Dallas Bowl executive director Brant Ringler to 247sports.com.