Air Force tailback Jim Ollis pointed out Monday after practice that the Falcons are only bowl “eligible.” They haven’t earned a bid yet.
True. But one more victory puts Air Force in pretty good position to get to a bowl. And two more? The Falcons would be a lock.
So the question is, where? The Mountain West Conference has tie-ins with four bowls. Here’s a look at each.
As pointed out earlier today, the Poinsettia Bowl is out if Navy gets to six wins. The Midshipmen have an automatic tie-in if they become bowl eligible, and the Poinsettia Bowl will not host a rematch. And you can pretty much bet the Midshipmen are getting six with the soft remaining schedule they have.
The Las Vegas Bowl has the first choice of bowl-eligible Mountain West Conference teams. It is encouraged by the conference to take the league champion but is under no obligation to do so. If Air Force wins its final two conference games – Thursday at New Mexico and Nov. 17 against San Diego State – and BYU loses two of its final five, Air Force would win the conference. If Air Force wins its last two games and BYU loses one of its final five games, the Cougars and Falcons would share the title.
In either scenario, I think the Las Vegas Bowl takes the Cougars. The simple reason: BYU sells tickets. Air Force has a reputation for not “traveling” well to bowl games.
So that leaves either the New Mexico Bowl or the Armed Forces Bowl in Fort Worth.
The New Mexico Bowl will be played in Albuquerque, and Kirtland Air Force Base is located in southeast Albuquerque. Plus the drive from Colorado Springs to Albuquerque is doable.
The Armed Forces Bowl makes sense for an obvious reason – its name – and because Air Force will not have played yet in Fort Worth this season. Bowls like to award bids to teams that will be playing in their respective cities for the first time that year. Air Force plays in Albuquerque Thursday night.
There is a wild card in the mix – a bowl inviting an at-large team because a conference cannot supply enough bowl-eligible squads. In other words, if a conference has tie-ins with six bowls but only five of its teams have six or more wins, then the sixth bowl would have to choose an at-large team. This scenario is possible but unlikely.
So I wouldn’t quite book your plane tickets yet, but if Air Force wins one or two more games, it looks like they’ll go bowling in either Albuquerque or Fort Worth.
Practice note: Air Force was outside on Monday after practicing inside on Sunday. The Falcons were on their turf field because their grass fields still were covered with snow. They had a split practice – offense first, then defense. Still, Air Force coach Troy Calhoun was pleased with his team’s work.
“Good solid practice,” he said. “Crisp. Good tempo. Physically, I liked the way our guys have bounced back. In 48 hours we’ve had two quality practices.”