So, Where to, Cajuns? – From the Bird’s Nest
Louisiana's Ragin' Cajuns got their sixth win Saturday against Western Kentucky, and thereby becoming bowl eligible for the second straight year.
So, now, the question becomes, where to?
Now, for those of you who might suggest there might still be a chance the Cajuns could be left home with six wins, fear not.
Just about everyone with six wins is going to a bowl game. And, if someone is left out, it probably will not be the Cajuns, who showed they could travel to bowl games with that attendance at the R&L Carriers New Orleans Bowl a year ago. It should also be noted the Cajuns will be favored in their final two games. That doesn't guarantee getting a seventh or eighth win, but they'll have more than a fighting chance.
In order to try and discern where the Cajuns might be headed, here are some things to consider:
1. The Sun Belt Conference currently has five bowl-eligible teams. If Troy should defeat Middle Tennessee in Murfreesboro this week, that would make six.
2. The Sun Belt has two guaranteed slots: The R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl and the godaddy.com Bowl in Mobile.
3. Neither bowl has to take the league champion, as long as the league champion is accommodated in a bowl game. The New Orleans Bowl gets the first pick and must take the champion in two of four years. If New Orleans does not take the champion this year, they must do so next year. If there is a tie for the championship, New Orleans fulfills its commitment by taking any of the co-champions.
4. There are 70 bowl eligible slots and all of them are contracted to certain leagues. If a league cannot fill all of its bowl slots, the bowls they don't fill are at-large spots and can be offered to any other school by the participating bowls.
As of today, there are 63 bowl eligible teams. Another 15 schools still have a chance to become bowl eligible. Most have one game left. Some have two. Most need one win. A pair of teams need to win twice. Barring upsets, I estimate anywhere from 68-72 will be bowl eligible.
The good news for Sun Belt teams is a lot of the projected open bowls are what could be considered regional bowls. And, some of them are in very close proximity to the schools hoping for an invite. That's where the negotiating skills and experience of Karl Benson comes in. Trust the commissioner is doing a lot of lobbying......
If you go to the Cajuns' website, you'll find a form to download to order tickets. You can even specify which games you're willing to buy tickets for.
Here are the bowls that have expressed an interest, either to the Cajuns or the Sun Belt.
NEW ORLEANS--Dec. 22 11:00am Contract: Sun Belt #1 vs. Conference USA
The only thing #1 means is New Orleans gets to pick first. It does NOT mean the champion as mentioned earlier. New Orleans would LOVE to have the Cajuns back, especially after last year's record-breaking attendance. But there are other options, especially if the Cajuns are 6-6. If Arkansas State doesn't go to the Liberty Bowl, New Orleans could possibily be their destination.
godaddy.com BOWL-Jan. 5, 8pm Contract: Sun Belt vs. MAC
It's not a secret godaddy would gladly accept Arkansas State again after a good turnout last year. But, there's still the question of Troy. If the Trojans beat Middle Tennessee, they could be a near-lock to wind up here. But if they lose and NO takes Arkansas State, look for godaddy to look toward Cajun country. Middle Tennessee is also a possibility.
AUTOZONE LIBERTY-Sat. Dec. 31 2:30pm Contract: CUSA Champion vs. SEC
The question here is whether the SEC sends a team to this bowl or not. And, it probably boils down to a game in Oxford on Saturday. If Ole Miss wins over Mississippi State, the Liberty will, of course, want them because of their proximity to Memphis. But if MSU wins, Ole Miss is not bowl eligible. That could open a door for Arkansas State, also an hour away, ESPECIALLY if they are the conference champion. Benson can certainly sell the Sun Belt champ vs. the CUSA champ. And, if Tulsa represents that league, you could see a great crowd. The Red Wolves traveled well to Mobile last year and that's a selling point for them. I do not believe the Liberty is interested in the Cajuns, but what happens here could affect where the Cajuns wind up.
BBWA COMPASS BOWL--Jan. 5, 1:30pm Contract: SEC vs. Big East
It's very possible both sides of this bowl will be open. There's always a possibility the SEC may put a team in here because of geography, but if they get two teams in the BCS as expected, their side will probably be open. The Big East currently has four bowl eligible teams and Big East #5 is penciled in here. Pitt and UCONN still have a mathematical chance to get bowl eligible but it's not likely. The Compass would have an interest in a lot of schools, but especially Troy (if eligible) Middle Tennessee and WKU because of their proximity to Birmingham.
BEEF O'BRADY'S BOWL--Dec. 21, 6:30 Contract: CUSA vs. Big East
CUSA should fill it's slot, but there's no way Beef O'Brady's will. That leaves the question of who goes here. Remember, for most of these bowls, choices are MAC, Sun Belt and WAC because those are the leagues with more teams than guaranteed slots. Since there is no Florida team bowl eligible from the Belt, there's really no one close to St. Petersburg. If it is a Sun Belt school, MTSU is a possibility if they don't win the league. A 6-6 Cajuns' club could get slotted here. WKU is a possibility as well, as is ULM.
LITTLE CAESAR'S BOWL--Dec. 26 6:30 Contract: MAC vs. Big Ten
It's a bowl game, not a booby prize. Yet, no one gets excited about going to a bowl game the day after Christmas in the city of Detroit. The Big Ten side of the bowl will be open and the pickin' is slim for the pizza boys. In all probability, it's either San Jose State or it's a Sun Belt school. And, given the proximity, I'm betting on the Sun Belt. Specifically WKU. It's no farther to drive from Bowling Green, KY to Detroit, MI than it is to drive from Lafayette, LA to Jonesboro, AR. A trip Topper fans can drive to. Makes sense. ULM is also a possibility to land here.
ADVOCARE 100 INDEPENDENCE BOWL--Dec. 26, 1pm Contract: SEC vs ACC
There's a very good chance both sides of this bowl will be open and it's a perfect spot for ULM. But Louisiana Tech's loss to Utah State Saturday makes the Bulldogs a prime candidate for one of the slots...and that probably means ULM won't be in the other. If the Indy Bowl doesn't want to play by Tech's rules, then ULM vs. a MAC school or San Jose State is certainly a possibility. The Cajuns wouldn't be any more palatable to Tech than the Warhawks would and I'll be surprised if the Cajuns wind up here.
HEART OF DALLAS BOWL--JAN 1 11AM Contract: Big Ten vs. Big 12
There was thought both sides of this might be open, but the Big 12 will fill it's side. The Big Ten might also, if Purdue beats Indiana this weekend. If a slot is open, this bowl could look to the MAC....or to ULM. The Cajuns would be a candidate at 6-6, but otherwise, no.
MILITARY BOWL--DEC. 27 2pm Contract: Army vs. ACC
At least one side of the bowl will be open because Army did not qualify. And, with Miami pulling out of contention, we're not looking at the ACC providing a team here, either. Again, San Jose and the MAC could be players here as well as the Sun Belt. Given the proximity, Sun Belt schools in the eastern footprint could play into this. And, Troy at 6-6 might be a possibility. Very little chance the Cajuns wind up here.
And, I don't see a Sun Belt school in Hawaii.
My prediction is, if the Cajuns are 7-5 or 8-4 and they wind up anywhere besides New Orleans or Mobile, you'll have a story.....
I've been wrong before, however.