In a move pretty much anyone with a brain could see coming from 10,000 miles away, it appears the Las Vegas Bowl is primed to make a major jump up in the Pac-12’s selection order in 2020, according to Stadium’s Brett McMurphy.
Currently being played in UNLV’s Sam Boyd Stadium, the game is expected to move up to the third selection with the opening of the Raiders’ new NFL stadium in 18 months. (It currently is the sixth selection.) The game would kick off a six-year contract in which the SEC and Big Ten would play in the game three times each.
No word on what the date will be, but it’s safe to assume it will no longer be one of the very early bowls and will likely slot in the general area where the Alamo Bowl and Holiday Bowl currently reside — in the days leading up to New Years.
In a corresponding move, the Holiday Bowl would move down in the pecking order and now host an ACC team opposite the Pac-12’s selection. The assumption is that it would drop one spot, but maybe the Holiday slips all the way to No. 5? That’s currently the Sun Bowl’s spot, which also features a Pac-12/ACC matchup.
The Alamo Bowl would remain the Pac-12’s second choice in the order, which is somewhat odd, given that it’s 1000% easier for everyone in the Pac-12 to get to Las Vegas than San Antonio. Still, the Las Vegas Bowl is a major upgrade over the Holiday Bowl, given the sad, sad state of the stadium down there. (Also, it makes much more sense if you believe that the Pac-12 Championship Game is probably moving there, also — the conference wouldn’t want the loser heading right back for a bowl game.)
Additionally, there will be a Los Angeles Bowl between the Pac-12 and Mountain West at the new NFL stadium there. That’s the same matchup as the current Las Vegas Bowl, so it appears likely the LA Bowl is poised to slot in that same spot.
Which leaves us wondering where the Sun Bowl fits. I know most of you probably aren’t worried about El Paso, but the conference has a long-standing relationship with the game, and the Pac-12 likes to keep those things intact. Here’s to betting the Sun Bowl is still part of an agreement moving forward.
This is a great move! The Pac-12 does not currently have a bowl agreement with SEC and the game will be played in a shiny new stadium in a popular destination for fans.
But it remains to be seen just how great of a move this is — it’s not yet clear what quality of teams the SEC and Big Ten are sending over to the game.
The SEC gets at least two teams in the College Football Playoff/NY6 each year, then sends its next selection to the Citrus Bowl. (Last year, that totaled a whopping five teams.) It would make sense for the Las Vegas Bowl to end up in the pool of games where the SEC is simply assigning teams: Liberty Bowl, Belk Bowl, Music City Bowl, Outback Bowl, TaxSlayer Bowl, and Texas Bowl.
That means the best the Las Vegas Bowl probably would do in any given year is the SEC’s fifth or sixth team. This year, you might have seen someone like the Mississippi St. Bulldogs, Texas A&M Aggies or Missouri Tigers face off against the Utah Utes. (Yay?)
If that’s underwhelming ... well, I think there’s a pretty decent chance the opponent won’t even be that good in the matchup. The other shoe to drop here is this: Whichever league — the SEC or Big Ten — isn’t in Las Vegas will send a team to the Belk Bowl in Charlotte, N.C., per McMurphy. Last year, the SEC sent the South Carolina Gamecocks, who entered bowl season with a 7-5 record as the SEC’s ninth or 10th best team, to that game. The last time the SEC sent a ranked team to the Belk Bowl was 2014 (No. 14 Georgia Bulldogs).
I suspect they’ll send a better team than that to Vegas, but Vegas is probably behind the Outback and TaxSlayer (Gator) bowls in the unofficial pecking order for the SEC.
The Big Ten, meanwhile, currently sends its fourth selection to the Holiday Bowl; with the Big Ten ceasing to be involved with that game, it makes sense that the conference would probably still be sending its fourth selection over to Vegas. But ... who knows, now that this game appears to be on even footing with the Belk Bowl. There might be some reshuffling of the order.
Of course, I’m basing this off the Belk Bowl’s current standing. There’s definitely a chance the Belk Bowl is moving up and going to be looked at more favorably by these conferences going forward. But given the Pac-12’s penchant for making deals where it gets the short end of the stick, some healthy skepticism is warranted.
However, getting into Vegas, moving the Holiday Bowl down, and adding Los Angeles is a win no matter how it is sliced. There’s no doubt the Pac-12 faces an uphill battle when it comes to bowl tie-ins; there just aren’t that many warm places near its geographical footprint. Given that these improvements are generally incremental, and the Pac-12 always is starting from behind the 8 ball, I have to think that getting bowls in Vegas and Los Angeles positions the conference for stronger affiliations in the future — those are travel hubs that are easier for teams from other regions to get to than the ones the conference currently boasts in its bowl games.
(This probably is also what they were thinking with having a bowl in Santa Clara, but ... well, thanks 49ers for building a very dumb stadium in a very dumb place.)
Here’s our best guess at what this now all looks like in 2020
At the end of his article, McMurphy says the Pac-12 will have eight bowl tie-ins, so ...
- Rose Bowl vs. Big Ten #1
- Alamo Bowl vs. Big 12 #2
- Las Vegas Bowl vs. SEC Tier 2 (#7-ish?) or Big Ten #4(?)
- Holiday Bowl vs. ACC Tier 1 (#5-ish?)
- Redbox Bowl vs. Big Ten Tier 2 (#6-ish?)
- Los Angeles Bowl vs. MWC #1
- Sun Bowl vs. ???
- Cheez-It Bowl vs. Big 12 #6
I would not be shocked if the Holiday Bowl drops to fifth, nor would I be shocked if the Sun Bowl replaces the Cheez-It Bowl with the same tie-ins. I’d have a hard time imagining the Sun Bowl remaining ahead of the Los Angeles Bowl.
What it might have looked like this year
- Rose Bowl: Washington Huskies (10-3) vs. Ohio State Buckeyes (12-1)
- Alamo Bowl: Washington State Cougars (10-2) vs. Iowa St. Cyclones (8-4)
- Las Vegas Bowl: Utah Utes (9-4) vs. Missouri Tigers (8-4) or Northwestern Wildcats (8-5)
- Holiday Bowl: Oregon Ducks (8-4) vs. Pittsburgh Panthers (7-6)
- Redbox Bowl: Stanford Cardinal (8-4) vs. Michigan State Spartans (7-5)
- Los Angeles Bowl: Arizona State Sun Devils (7-5) vs. Fresno State Bulldogs (11-2)
- Sun Bowl: California Golden Bears (7-5) vs. ???
- Cheez-It Bowl: No more bowl eligible teams
What do you think? At the very least, now y’all who want to go to Vegas for a WSU bowl game so bad can actually root for the team to win!