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The Appalachian

The Student News Site of Appalachian State University

The Appalachian

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The Appalachian

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Multitude of bowl game possibilities for App State

The+Mountaineers+celebrate+after+winning+the+Raycom+Media+Camellia+Bowl.+They+defeated+Ohio+31-29.+
The Mountaineers celebrate after winning the Raycom Media Camellia Bowl. They defeated Ohio 31-29.

The App State football team was given new life this weekend when UL-Lafayette knocked off conference leader Arkansas State.

Not only does this give the Mountaineers at least a share of their first Sun Belt Conference crown, but it shakes up where they will end up in bowl season.

The Sun Belt Conference has five bowl game tie-ins against a Mountain West, Mid-American or American conference team.

The process for teams falling in certain bowl games starts with the Sun Belt making their top five teams available to its bowl partners.

While many conferences have certain slots for how teams finish the regular season, the Sun Belt is given a predetermined list from each bowl partner to pick from those five teams. The bowl partner’s commissioners will pick teams on how they think geography, matchup strength and ticket sales will factor the ratings and bowl game.

The Sun Belt partner bowl games choose in this order:

  • R&L Carriers New Orleans Bowl vs. Mountain West (New Orleans, Louisiana)
  • Dollar General Bowl vs. MAC (Mobile, Alabama)
  • Raycom Media Camellia Bowl vs. MAC (Montgomery, Alabama)
  • AutoNation Cure Bowl vs. American (Orlando, Florida)
  • NOVA Home Loans Arizona Bowl vs. Mountain West (Tucson, Arizona)

Usually, the top two teams from the Sun Belt end up in New Orleans or Mobile, but with the chance of a three-way tie for the Sun Belt title, geography and other factors could make a major impact on where each team falls. Two of the past three conference champions have played in the New Orleans Bowl, the most recent being Arkansas State.

Four Sun Belt teams, Appalachian State, Arkansas State, Troy and Idaho, have all reached the minimum six wins to become bowl eligible, but if UL Lafayette and South Alabama win their respective games this weekend, six Sun Belt teams will be eligible for a bowl game.

If Arkansas State and Troy win their respective games, then the three-way tie will come into play giving bowl games more of a reasoning to select any eligible Sun Belt team they would like.

While it has been thought over the past few weeks that the conference champion would be an automatic selection to first choice New Orleans, if ULL becomes eligible, it may be in the best interest for the R&L Carriers Bowl to choose in-state ULL, who has won four of the past five bowl games in New Orleans.

Montgomery and Mobile have the opportunity to take either Troy or South Alabama which both have in-state ties and can help ticket sales.

Projections throughout the season would show the pecking order choosing the conference teams in order of standings, but with the geographic, matchup and rating factors coming into play, Saturday’s bowl game invites can fall anywhere.

The NCAA has 80 bowl spots for teams and only 74 currently have the minimum six wins. Only ULL, South Alabama and Army still have the chance to clinch an automatic bid, which would once again mean sub-.500 teams have to fill bowl spots based on their academics.

Each conference has a certain amount of designated bowl spots, some by standings and some by bowl commissioner such as the Sun Belt.

If six Sun Belt teams become bowl eligible, the team not picked up by the five tie-in games would be looking for a game elsewhere, which for now would make the bottom two Pac-12 Conference tie-in bowl games a possibility.

The scenario of the Sun Belt having more eligible teams than bowl games has happened on a number of occasions, according to Sun Belt conference senior associate commissioner John McElwain.

There are different variables each season and McElwain said he would hesitate to use any of the previous years as precedent.

The Pac-12 has seven bowl slots and only has six teams that automatically qualify for a bowl game. If Washington is selected as one of the four playoff teams, this would leave two bowl openings for other eligible or sub -.500 teams.

If Washington does not make the playoff, only one Pac-12 bowl game will have an opening leaving more of a question mark about where an extra Sun Belt team will land.

Because of these possibilities, Jerry Palm from cbssports.com has projected that the Mountaineers will end up in the Las Vegas bowl, which would fill in a spot for a Pac-12 team against a Mountain West Conference opponent.

For this to happen, the non-affiliated conference bowl game would have to request a Sun Belt team to the conference and they would have to accept.

Jason Kirk of sbnation.com has App State in the New Orleans playing against C-USA foe Louisiana Tech and South Alabama in the non-affiliated Sun Belt St. Petersburg Bowl against an American conference opponent filling in for an ACC conference team.

NBC Sports projects South Alabama to play in the Heart of Dallas Bowl, filling in for a Big Ten conference team.

If UL-Lafayette and/or South Alabama fall in their final game this coming weekend, then the possibility for the Apps or any Sun Belt team to fall outside of the five tie-in bowl games would become non-existent.

The Mountaineers will find out their fate on Saturday once the regular season and conference championship games come to a conclusion. For now, we wait.

Story By: Tyler Hotz, Sports Reporter and Jason Huber, Sports Editor

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