With Rice University’s regular football season in the books, the Owls now await their postseason bowl destination. For the first time in school history, Rice will head to its third consecutive bowl appearance after winning the 2012 Armed Forces Bowl over the Air Force Academy 33-14 and losing last season in the Liberty Bowl to Mississippi State University 44-7.
According to NCAA Bowl regulations, a team must earn six wins to become bowl eligible, although it does not ensure a bowl appearance. Seven wins in a season essentially guarantees that a team will earn a bid to a bowl game. With Rice’s seventh victory against the University of Texas, El Paso on Nov. 21, Rice practically guaranteed itself a position to play in a number of possible bowl games.
According to postseason bowl procedures, the winner of the Conference USA Championship automatically chooses which C-USA-affiliated bowl game to participate in. This season, Marshall University and Louisiana Tech University will play for that right in the C-USA Championship Game in Huntington, West Virginia on Saturday, Dec. 6.
C-USA is one of the only conferences in the Football Bowl Subdivision that does not have a pecking order for bowl games. Typically, teams are assigned to bowl games depending on their final rankings within their conference. For C-USA, however, bowl-eligible teams (programs with six or more wins) must wait for an invitation from each bowl’s representatives and accept or decline the invitation.
Each of the bowls will typically offer invitations to the schools that they believe will bring in the most revenue via ticket sales and television deals. Therefore, larger schools will usually receive invites from more prestigious bowls over smaller programs, even if they have fewer wins, because of their larger fan bases that are often willing to travel to bowl games.
C-USA has five primary bowl tie-ins: the Gildan New Mexico Bowl, the Zaxby’s Heart of Dallas Bowl, the Boca Raton Bowl, the Popeye’s Bahamas Bowl, the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl, and is secondarily affiliated with the Duck Commander Independence Bowl. The Boca Raton and Bahamas Bowls are both in their inaugural seasons, and this is the first year the New Mexico Bowl has been affiliated with C-USA.
For Rice, any of those bowl games are possible destinations, although some think certain bowls are more likely than others. Rice football beat writer Joseph Duarte of the Houston Chronicle said he believes Rice’s most likely bowl destinations are the New Mexico or the Hawai’i Bowls. According to Phil Steele, a college football pundit with the most accurate bowl predictions for the past 16 years, Rice will most likely head to the Hawaii Bowl to face Fresno State University on Dec. 24.
The article originally stated that the winner of Conference USA could choose the Liberty Bowl, which is no longer accurate as of 2014. Furthermore, the Independence Bowl is only secondarily affiliated with C-USA.