A new bowl frontier, a national TV audience on Saturday afternoon ET, and a 1.35 million dollar payout are probably the three biggest reasons Fresno State accepted a big to play in the Liberty Bowl early today. The opponent is obviously not one.
The Liberty Bowl will match the Bulldogs opposite a Conference USA team. The opponent is more than likely going to be 8-3 Central Florida or 9-2 UTEP. The Liberty Bowl is not obligated to take the conference champion, but probably will take the winner of the CUSA Championship game on December 3.
UCF will play either UTEP or 7-4 Tulsa in the title game. If UTEP beats SMU this weekend then the Miners win the Western Division; a loss would give Tulsa the division title. UCF looks to be the front runner, win or lose, December 3, but the 'Dogs would love to give UTEP some payback.
The rags to riches story of the UCF Golden Knights is a hard one to pass up, and their coach, George O'Leary is another story in itself. UCF went 0-11 last year in the Mid-American Conference, but won the Eastern Division crown over favored CUSA heavyweights: Memphis, UAB and Southern Miss.
ESPN would love either UCF or UTEP since the Miners' head coach, Mike Price, is another high profile name. The Liberty favors UCF, also, because of their proximity to Memphis. An all-western matchup of UTEP and FS is not high on their list, since UTEP is no longer ranked in the top 25.
The Bulldogs have never played a CUSA school. The conference was created in 1996 with 6 charter members. Since then it has undergone many changes, the last, a move to 12 teams this year. The expansion allowed for the creation of the inaugural CUSA Championship game.
Fresno State, however, has played teams that have become members of CUSA. Fresno State went 1-2 vs TCU from 1998-2000 when the Frogs were members of the Western Athletic Conference. Fresno State also beat up on UTEP, Tulsa, Rice and SMU in WAC play before they all joined CUSA this year. Of those four only UTEP(twice) and SMU beat the 'Dogs in WAC play from 1992-2004.
UCF, along with Marshall, left the MAC to join CUSA this year. Of the original CUSA members only Southern Miss, Houston, Memphis, and Tulane remain. East Carolina and UAB joined in 1997 and 1999, respectively. Army and TCU joined in 1998 and 2001, respectively, but both left this year. Army went back to being an independent and TCU left for the Mountain West Conference.
Louisville and Cincinnati were charter member of CUSA but left this year for the Big East, along with South Florida. The Bulls were only a member of CUSA for two years before getting the invite to join a Bowl Championship Series conference. USF began playing DI-A football in 2001, as an independent, and have never been to a bowl game. The program itself is less than 10 years old.
16th ranked Fresno State is going their 7th straight bowl game. It will be their first east of the Rockies, the first with a payout over 1 million, and their most prestigious bowl ever. While, unranked South Florida still controls their own destiny to a BCS bowl, the Sugar, with a payout over 13 million, and it is arguably the second most prestigious bowl behind the Rose.
Does anyone else see something wrong with this fucking picture?