Nevada wolf pack in Detroit for the first time
The bowl season begins Friday and features a record eight Mountain West teams.
There are 42 games – one of which was essentially added at the last minute – ensuring all 84 eligible bowling teams across the country make it to the playoffs. The 2021 season will finally end with the CFP Championship game on January 10 in Indianapolis.
Here’s a look at the eight Mountain West Bowls, starting with Nevada at the Quick Lane Bowl, then taking the others by date:
Fast Lane Bowl
Which: Nevada (8-4) vs. Western Michigan (7-5)
When: 27 Dec.
Line: West Michigan by 3.5
Quality of play: 2 out of 5. It’s actually quite difficult to assess this game, which probably started out as a solid 3 out of 5, but needs to be demoted due to the Wolf Pack’s personnel losses. It’s just unclear how Nevada will react, especially under a caretaker coach, and losses on the attacking side are particularly worrying.
Western Michigan is an interesting opponent for the Pack; both teams probably think they could have landed in better places for the bowl. The Mustangs stunned Pittsburgh, 44-41, on September 18, but also managed to lose to Ball State by 25. Their MAC West Division run was more than crazy – all six teams finished between 6-2 and 4- 4 (and all six are in ball games).
Overall, however, the Wolf Pack and their fans can be quite happy with this landing point. It is better to avoid games in Hawaii (Christmas Eve) and Arizona (New Years Eve); a third consecutive trip to Boise would have been disappointing; and New Mexico is starting bowl season, which is too early. Becoming the first Mountain West team to play in the Detroit Bowl isn’t a bad deal.
Western mountain balls
The other seven teams eligible for the MW bowl will play from Saturday to December 31. The Utah State conference champion was an automatic qualifier for the LA Bowl on Saturday.
Here’s how it breaks down:
New Mexico Bowl
Which: Fresno State (9-3) vs. UTEP (7-5)
When: On Saturday
Line: State of Fresno by 11.5
Quality of play: 2 of 5. Like Nevada, Fresno State lost its head coach after the regular season and saw players enter the transfer portal. UTEP is a fun story, however. The miners have been historically awful – 9-47 from 2016 to 2020 – and haven’t won a bowl game since 1967.
Los Angeles Bowl
Which: State of Utah (10-3) v State of Oregon (7-5)
When: On Saturday
Or: Los Angeles
Line: State of Oregon by 7
Quality of play: 4/5. The Aggies are a feel-good story after winning a title at Mountain West just one season away from a disastrous 2020 campaign. Beavers are also well improved, and the Pac-12 is deeper and better than you might think.
Also, it’s true – the official name of the game is the Jimmy Kimmel LA Bowl. Yep, that Jimmy Kimmel.
Which: Wyoming (6-6) v Kent State (7-6)
Line: Wyoming by 3
Quality of play: 1/5. There’s just not much here, and the game is a good example of why Bowls Season needs to include more Power 5-vs.-Group of 5 clashes. An Indescribable Mountain West Game -MAC in Boise just before Christmas? Not convincing.
Which: San Diego State (11-2) vs. UTSA (12-1)
Or: Frisco, Texas
Line: UTSA by 2
Quality of play: 5/5. They are two quality teams and the confrontation is intriguing. UTSA has never won a bowl game, so a story could be written. SDSU is playing excellent defense – not counting that meltdown in the MW Championship game – and has a punter who will break college football’s career average record unless he suddenly starts kicking the ball back.
Which: Memphis (6-6) at Hawaii (6-7)
Line: Memphis by 7
Quality of play: 1/5. The game is arguably the worst of the 42 Bowls Clashes. Memphis have lost six of their last nine games; Hawaii is the only bowl team with a loss record and, according to reports, several players would prefer to play elsewhere.
First Responder Bowl
Which: Air Force (9-3) against Louisville (6-6)
When: 28 Dec.
Line: Louisville by 1.5
Quality of play: 3/5. This is Mountain West’s second game against a 5-power opponent, so he’s noted for it. As usual with the Air Force, play will likely depend on Louisville’s effectiveness in stopping a team that is perfectly happy to throw the ball 90 percent of their plays.
Which: Boise State (7-5) vs. Central Michigan (8-4)
When: 31 Dec.
Or: Tucson, Arizona.
Line: Boise State by 9
Quality of play: 1/5. No need to sugarcoat it – it was a terrible landing point for the Broncos. First of all, this is the only one of the 42 bowls not to be shown on live TV. Second, it’s New Years Eve in Tucson. Finally, the opponent will not excite anyone. If the Hawaii Bowl is the worst of the 2021-22 bowl games, this one could easily be the second worst.
For more on the Wolf Pack, college sports, and Reno’s baseball and football teams, follow the author at @RGJduke. Digital subscriptions to the Reno Gazette Journal start at as low as $ 1 per month; Click here for more details.