Cajuns’ Bowl Projection is Still New Orleans – From the Bird’s Nest
Over the last few days, the rumors have been rampant concerning the bowl future of the Louisiana Ragin' Cajuns.
Even during my basketball trip to Myrtle Beach I was hearing all kinds of stories.
Now, I honestly don't have any more real information than anyone else does. But, as always, I have an opinion. And, as always, it's based on talking to some people and gathering information. Let's see if we can figure out where UL is going and who they are playing.
WHERE DO WE STAND RIGHT NOW? - The Cajuns can clinch a share of the Sun Belt Conference championship and the league's automatic bowl berth with a win over Louisiana-Monroe on Saturday at Cajun Field. They also clinch a tie with an Arkansas State loss at Western Kentucky. The ASU/WKU game is Saturday afternoon. This thing could be over by the end of the first quarter of the Cajuns/Warhawks game.
WHY IS THIS IMPORTANT? - Well, besides winning the conference title, remember the Sun Belt has two bowl tie-ins. They mathematically could have as many as seven bowl-eligible teams. Some teams are going to be staying home. ONLY the league champion is assured of a bid SOMEWHERE. And, it's theoretically possible that appearance could be somewhere other than New Orleans or Mobile, depending on at-large slots available.
WHAT'S TAKING SO LONG? - See above. While the Cajuns are in the drivers' seat for the auto bid, Arkansas State is technically still alive in the quest for the title. An ASU win over WKU Saturday, combined with Cajuns' losses to ULM and South Alabama would give the auto bid to the Red Wolves...and that could really complicate things.
WHY IS THAT? - If ASU gets the auto bid, they HAVE to go to a bowl. They've been to godaddy.com the last two years. And, while there's nothing that says they can't go three years in a row, neither the folks in Jonesboro or the folks in Mobile are enthralled. (godaddy would love to have Bobby Petrino in Mobile.) In this case, third time is NOT the charm. Now, New Orleans has the first pick. But the bowl folks in New Orleans and Mobile are not enemies. And, what's best for all of the bowling teams is the wish of the league office. There is no guarantee any of the bowls that have openings (and the Advocare V100 bowl in Shreveport will certainly have an opening) would want to invite ASU. That leaves New Orleans for the Red Wolves.
SO, DOES THAT MEAN NEW ORLEANS IS OUT IF ASU WINS THE SUN BELT? - No. Not necessarily. I'm just giving you a possible scenario.
WOULD SHREVEPORT WANT THE CAJUNS? - In a New York second. They've seen the ticket sales the last two years. And, while not as many tickets would be sold to the New Years' Eve Bowl, most Cajun fans would be there.
WHY WOULD THE CAJUNS WANT SHREVEPORT? - There is one carrot the Advocare V100 Bowl can offer that the New Orleans Bowl cannot: A name opponent. We don't know who from the ACC will be in Shreveport, but it will be a name familiar to the average college football fan. A win over an ACC team would look better nationally than a win over a Conference USA team. And, while Shreveport may not be glamorous, it's an easy trip for the UL fan base.
WHAT IF THE CAJUNS WIN SATURDAY - I would think an invitation would be extended by the New Orleans folks right after the game. It might be a day or two later. But that would be the likely scenario.
IF THE CAJUNS ARE IN NEW ORLEANS, WHO WILL THEY PLAY? - Every bowl projection suggests the Cajuns would be playing Tulane. And, while that may be the most likely scenario, consider this: Tulane probably isn't that excited about playing a team that will send more fans to the Mercedes-Benz Superdome than the Wave would bring. And, recruiting in South Louisiana is important to both teams. The Cajuns would be favored in this game, maybe by a fairly wide margin. The loss, and the crowd, would be a double negative for Tulane if the Cajuns take care of their business on the field.
SO WHY WOULD TULANE AGREE? - The word (and again, this is just from talking to some people and should not be taken as a cold hard fact) is no other CUSA bowl really wants the Greenies. New Orleans does.
WHAT ARE THE ODDS THE CAJUNS ARE AT THE DOME AGAIN THIS YEAR? - 90 percent. Again, in my opinion.