Navy’s Poinsettia Bowl opponent will not be known until Sunday, officially.

However, there are a lot of projections that the Midshipmen will face San Diego State. ESPN thinks so. Phil Steele thinks so. CBS Sports thinks so. Heck, I shook up my Magic 8 Ball, and it said “All signs point to San Diego State.”

I would guess the probability of SDSU being Navy’s Poinsettia Bowl opponent at 85%.

However, if you want to impress a new friend while watching the Mountain West Championship Game this weekend, or if you are just curious abut what it looks like when someone spends way too much time thinking about bowls, please read on about the path to that near certainty and some other far less likely possibilities.

The Mountain West Conference has a pretty rosy outlook overall this bowl season. Boise State is the lone Group of Five team in the College Football Playoff Committee rankings. If the Broncos win the MW conference championship game, they will get the bid to the Cotton/Fiesta/Peach Bowl. Also, if Oklahoma beats Oklahoma State in Bedlam, the Big12 will fall short of filling all its bowl slots, and the MW’s secondary tie-in with the Cactus Bowl will send a MW team to the $3 million payoff there; the Cactus Bowl will pick right after the Las Vegas Bowl, which would normally get the MW champion. This embarrassment of riches might result in 8 bowl slots for 7 bowl eligible teams.

The Poinsettia Bowl, though, may have moved from being the boss of MW bowls after Las Vegas takes the champ, to three teams being off the table. That’s okay though, as long as SDSU is available, right? The Union-Tribune has been saying that 7-5 Aztecs would be in, but 6-6 Aztecs would be questionable. The story highlighted Poinsettia Bowl Executive Directors Bruce Binkowski’s comments:

“A San Diego State and Navy rematch from the 2010 game would be a great game,” said Bruce Binkowski, the executive director of the Poinsettia Bowl and National University Holiday Bowl. “Would that appeal to us? Absolutely. But what we’re hoping to get is a team with the best record.”

Wait, it’s all about ticket sales, right? Wouldn’t the Poinsettia Bowl love to replicate the record setting attendance of 2010? Well, there is some nuance behind that. Another U-T San Diego story from 2011 paints the picture very well with the numbers up front telling the tale: the record-setting attendance delivered the lowest economic impact. Hometown fans don’t spend on hotel rooms and restaurant meals. The numbers since continue the story. SDSU’s 2010 appearance ranked 4th in attendance, but 5th in economic impact–less than half the economic impact as Boise-TCU in 2008. BYU coverage got Binkowski to rate economic impact as a 10 out of 10 in decision factors.

Wanting a 10-win Boise State or Colorado State ahead of the Aztecs is not just Bowl-Director-speak. But Utah State’s 9 wins are unlikely to be more attractive than SDSU: bowls don’t like repeats, fearing that fans won’t travel to the same destination for a second year in a row. In this case, Aztec tickets without tourist spending is better than neither tickets nor tourists. A similar theory applies to a rematch against Air Force. In 2007, Binkowski  said “No” to a service academy rematch.

So if BSU or CSU would be more attractive than SDSU, how could they still be available for the Poinsettia Bowl? In some universe, 9 win teams like Utah State or Air Force could be grabbed by Las Vegas or Tempe ahead of the 10-win teams. Heck, that CBS Sports prediction had AF in Tempe. Oklahoma State winning could take the Cactus Bowl away from the MW.   If Boise loses Saturday, then the Fresno State Bulldogs would go to the Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl.

There are two football games, a committee ranking and three bowl decisions that could line things up for a rematch of 2005, a rematch of 2010, or a Navy-Boise State Poinsettia Bowl. A football ain’t round – it’ll bounce funny.  But I’m still expecting San Diego State.


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