Rice and Louisiana Tech football players this week are primarily focused on Saturday’s Conference USA West division title showdown.
But with Thanksgiving in the rear view mirror, fans of both schools can’t help but start to look ahead to see where the Owls and Bulldogs could be spending the next major holiday.
Rice (7-4, 5-2 in C-USA) and Louisiana Tech (7-4, 6-1) square off at 11 a.m. CST Saturday on CBS Sports Network. The winner earns a date with No. 24 Marshall in the C-USA Championship game Dec. 6 and could have the inside track of earning a spot in the conference’s only bowl game in Texas.
Here’s the list of bowl eligible C-USA teams heading into the final weekend of the season:
- Marshall (11-0)
- Rice (7-4)
- Louisiana Tech (7-4)
- UTEP (6-5)
- Middle Tennessee State (6-5)
Old Dominion and UAB are 5-6, so they need road victories on Saturday over 3-8 teams to become eligible. UAB is at Southern Miss while Old Dominion is at Florida Atlantic.
Here are the list of Conference USA bowl tie-ins for 2014:
- Bahamas Bowl
- Boca Raton Bowl
- Gildan New Mexico Bowl
- Heart of Dallas Bowl
- Sheraton Hawaii Bowl
(Note- C-USA also could send a team to the Duck Commander Independence Bowl, but it’s contingent on the SEC or ACC not having enough eligible teams).
With 7 wins, Rice is guaranteed one of the five slots. Here’s where it gets interesting. There’s no set order among the five. The conference winner gets first dibs.
If Marshall wins the conference, but is not selected for a New Year’s Six bowl, they will get a choice of the Bahamas; Baca Raton, Fla.; Albuquerque, N.M.; Dallas; or Honolulu. Which way will they go? There’s no obvious choice.
If it was up the players, a week in Honolulu or the Bahamas may get a lot of votes. But the Marshall administration may not want the expense of taking hundreds of people to a resort island. Dallas and Albuquerque are pretty far away, and Baca Raton against a MAC opponent may not sound too appealing. At this point it’s a guessing game; my guess is the Bahamas.
That could leave the Heart of Dallas Bowl open to the Rice-La Tech winner. Dallas is an easy drive from Houston and North Louisiana and many alumni from both schools live in the Metroplex. The Owls drew a big crowd in nearby Fort Worth for the Armed Forces Bowl in 2012.
The Heart of Dallas Bowl will be played on Dec. 26 at Cotton Bowl Stadium. Another appealing aspect is the opponent could be a Big Ten team, albeit a so-so one. Rutgers (6-5) or the Illinois-Northwestern winner (both are 5-6) would be candidates. If Michigan (5-6) upsets Ohio State Saturday, the Wolverines would be a possibility as well.
Mark Schlabach of ESPN is projecting a Rice-Rutgers matchup Heart of Dallas Bowl, while his colleague, Brent McMurphy has Rice playing Fresno State in the Hawaii Bowl. Phil Steele also has a Rice-Rutgers matchup in Dallas, as does Yahoo! In contrast, USA Today has La-Tech playing Rutgers in Dallas, with Rice in Baca Raton to meet Bowling Green.
Regardless of where they end up, this will the first time in school history Rice has went to three straight bowl games.
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