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Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Football

Houston is primed for three familiar bowl games


The last bowl game the Cougars won was the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl in 2015 against the Seminoles. | Justin Tijerina/The Cougar

Despite three disappointing losses this season, the Cougars’ seven wins make the team eligible for a bowl game this winter.

With UCF still undefeated and Cincinnati having suffered just one loss this season, it is a virtual guarantee that Houston will not finish as the top-ranked Group of 5 team, meaning that a spot in a coveted NY6 Bowl is out the window.

The American Athletic Conference has either a primary or secondary affiliation with 12 bowl games. The AAC has stated that it “works annually with its member schools and bowl partners to create the most sensible and attractive postseason matchups.”

The following list includes the three bowl placements that are most sensible for Houston, in order of most to least likely.

Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl

The Armed Forces Bowl is played at TCU’s Amon G. Carter Stadium. The AAC has a guaranteed spot in the bowl this season against a Big 12 opponent.

The Cougars have been in the Armed Forces Bowl three times in the last 10 seasons, splitting a pair of games with the Air Force Falcons and beating the Pittsburgh Panthers.

The game would be relatively close to home for the Cougars, as the stadium is roughly a four-hour drive from Houston.

In addition, it would potentially allow Houston to be matched up with a fellow Texas team from the Big 12, such as the Longhorns.

Texas, of course, employs former Houston head coach Tom Herman, so this hypothetical matchup would allow for dramatic storylines and a potential revenge game for Houston.

Frisco Bowl

Formerly the Miami Beach Bowl, this will be the second season that the Frisco Bowl has existed and would be another sensible matchup for the Cougars.

In its inaugural game, the Frisco Bowl saw a matchup between SMU and Louisiana Tech, which Tech won by a 41-point margin.

That game should serve as a teaching point for the Bowl Committee. Two teams that can light up the scoreboard are required in order to draw a crowd to a less prestigious bowl.

Enter Houston. The Cougars currently rank No. 2 in yards per game — ahead of undefeated teams like UCF and Alabama — and No. 4 in points scored per game.

Combine those rankings with the fact that over its last 10 bowl, games Houston has had an average attendance of almost 45,000 people, and you get a team that makes almost too much sense for the Frisco Bowl.

Birmingham Bowl

Houston has a chance to get into a bowl that pits an AAC team against an SEC team in the Alabama-based game.

This selection feels less likely, however, because the Bowl Committee seems to have an affinity for USF.

The Bulls have played in the Birmingham Bowl three times since its inception in 2006, going 3-0 in those games. Conversely, Houston lost to Vanderbilt in its lone appearance in the bowl.

Should USF be invited to a different bowl closer to home, such as the Boca Raton Bowl or the Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl, it could open the door for Houston to slide into the Birmingham Bowl against a mid-tier SEC team, such as Kentucky or Florida.

Overall, Houston has proven it can score with any team in the nation on any given night and will provide an exciting matchup in whichever bowl it attends.

There are several options on the table that all have their own benefits. Where the Cougars ultimately end up will be greatly affected by its performance over the final two weeks of the regular season.

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