Recent reports have leaked that the University of Wyoming likely won’t play in a bowl game this year. Mountain West Conference Commissioner Craig Thompson recently stated that only six of the seven bowl eligible teams from the conference will receive bowl invites and that the Pokes are likely out.
The MWC only has five bowl tie-ins and seven bowl-eligible teams — Boise State, Fresno State, Utah State, Nevada, Hawaii, San Diego State and Wyoming. If a spot opens up in one the conference’s secondary bowls, a seven-win team will likely fill that void — either Nevada or San Diego State — meaning 6-6 UW will likely remain at home during bowl season.
There’s not many, if any, 6-6 teams that deserve a bowl game more than Wyoming — plain and simple, no biases included. The Pokes played one of the most difficult schedules in the nation and were trending upward at the end of the season. If this were the NCAA Tournament, and Wyoming was on the bubble, there’d be little discussion; the Pokes would dance.
UW’s six losses were suffered at the hands of teams with a combined record of 56-17. The Cowboys didn’t lose to a team with fewer than eight wins.
The Pokes’ nonconference schedule featured two power-five teams, both of which boasted a ranking in the latest edition of the College Football Playoff top 25, and one, Washington State, that vied for a playoff spot heading into the final week of the regular season. A pair of conference foes that Wyoming played this season — Boise State and Fresno State — were also ranked in the most recent CFP top 25 and another, Utah State, held a spot in the rankings a week ago.
If Wyoming’s strength of schedule wasn’t enough, the upward trajectory in the final month should have assured them a bowl bid. The Pokes sat at 2-6 heading into the Border War at the end of October. Wyoming toppled the Rams, and that kick-started a four-game win streak that included a come-from-behind, snow-filled victory over Air Force. The Pokes punctuated their regular season with a suffocation of New Mexico, holding the Lobos to less than 100 yards of total offense.
Instead of rewarding a team that didn’t lose in November, the committee is going to gift bowl games to teams like South Florida, which limped into the finish line losing five in a row. Or better yet, the Aztecs — losers of three in a row, who own an identical 4-4 MWC record — will go bowling instead of Wyoming.
It’s a shame; it really is. Wyoming — with the start to the season it had — could have very easily mailed it in back in mid-October and many teams would have. But the Pokes scrapped, battled and treated the final month and a half like a playoff. And they won that playoff, stringing together four straight victories.
Players like Andrew Wingard, Marcus Epps, Carl Granderson and Nico Evans won’t don the brown and gold ever again, and that’s downright wrong. I know there are other seniors on many other teams that have already played their final game, but this Wyoming group earned one more.
In past years — when a few more bowl games were present — 5-7 teams qualified for bowl games and this caused uproar. This season, a 6-6 team that played a rigorous schedule and won its final four games will be left at home, and that’s reason for uproar.
• University of Wyoming’s wrestling team fell to No. 2 Oklahoma State 27-6 Sunday. No. 9 Branson Ashworth (165 pounds) scored a 4-1 upset over No. 5 Chandler Rogers.
• UW’s men’s basketball team fell at Evansville 86-78 Wednesday, dropping to 2-5 on the season. Justin James poured in a career-high 34 points.
• UW volleyball players Reed Copeland and Jackie McBride were named to the All-Mountain West Conference team. The Cowgirls lost their opening-round game in the National Invitational Volleyball Championships Tournament Thursday, falling to Utah Valley 3-2.