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Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Football

Roundtable: Cougars headed to bowl game


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Mulbah Car carries the ball for a first down in the Cougars 52-27 victory over ECU at TDECU Stadium, making them bowl eligible. The Cougar’s sports staff takes their picks of which bowl game the Cougars will play in. | Thomas Dwyer/The Cougar

The football season is coming to an end in a couple weeks, and the Cougars find themselves bowl eligible in Major Applewhite’s first season as head coach. If Houston can finish the season strong, then they have a better shot at a bigger bowl game.

Following this weekend’s college football action, ESPN released their latest projections for the 2017-18 bowl season. With the Cougars at a bowl-eligible 6-3 record, the sports staff at The Cougar makes their own projections for where the football team will travel to for its bowl game.

Assistant sports editor Peter Scamardo

It is wishful thinking to want the Cougars to end up at the St. Petersburg Bowl or the Hawaii Bowl. Fans would love the prospect of traveling someplace warm to cheer on their team one last time this season.

But the Birmingham Bowl is the reality. It just makes sense.

Every year since 2014, the Birmingham Bowl has pitted a team from the Southeastern Conference against a team from the American Athletic Conference. For the last three bowls, the matchup has been a six-win SEC team against an eight-to-nine win AAC team.

Last year was the exception as the 10-win South Florida Bulls beat a six-win South Carolina Gamecocks team. But the Cougars still fit the mold for who goes to the Birmingham Bowl. If the team wins out, they will have come up just short of a conference title, just like every other AAC team from the last four bowl games.

ESPN predicts the team will play UCLA, but do not be surprised if they are matched up against a team like Ole Miss, Missouri or Kentucky.

Assistant sports editor Reagan Earnst

The Cougars have had an up-and-down season to say the least, but a change at quarterback has the team staring down a potential eight-win season. With that said, I think the Cougars could participate in the first-ever Frisco Bowl on Dec. 20 in, you guessed it, Frisco.

Hear me out.

The Frisco Bowl was formerly known as the Miami Beach Bowl until ESPN purchased the rights from the AAC and moved it to Texas. The game is expected to feature teams from the AAC and Sun Belt Conference and will be played in Toyota Stadium – home of Major League Soccer’s FC Dallas.

ESPN Events is hosting the game that will air in prime time on the four-letter network, showing they clearly want to drive interest in the inaugural contest. In the same spirit, inviting Houston would put a proverbial big fish in a small pond and help ensure great attendance and viewership.

In the three-year existence of the Miami Beach Bowl, the AAC representative school finished its regular season with three losses in 2014 (Memphis), four losses in 2015 (South Florida) and three again in 2016 (Tulsa).  With games left against only Tulane and Navy, it’s fair to speculate the Cougars will escape the 2017 schedule with just three losses.

Although I’m probably completely wrong, the Cougars will face Troy in the first ever Frisco Bowl next month.

Sports editor Frank Campos

To determine the best bowl game, we have to figure out how the Cougars will finish the season. Although they have had some issues with figuring out their offense this season, I think the Cougars will finish strong with sophomore quarterback D’Eriq King under center.

Victories against Tulane and Navy will make Houston’s record 8-3 on the season. This may not be good enough for a bid at the conference championship, but it’s more than good enough to get a good bowl game.

Most predictions have the Cougars playing in the Frisco Bowl, but I think the Cougars are destined to head somewhere outside of Texas if they can entice a good sponsor with the dynamic play of King in their last two games.

If I was a betting man, I would say that the Cougars will wind up in either the Birmingham Bowl or the Hawaii Bowl.

The Birmingham Bowl will be played at noon Dec. 23 in Alabama. The game is expected to be an SEC team against an AAC team, so I predict the Cougars will face South Carolina in a good matchup two days before Christmas.

The Hawaii Bowl will be played Dec. 24 and broadcasted on ESPN. If the Cougars can make it to this bowl game, I think they will make a good matchup with Colorado State, which currently has the same 6-3 record as the Cougars.

No matter what game is chosen, head coach Major Applewhite still ends his first season with a bowl game and a quarterback for an even better year next season.

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