In a four-team college football playoff, the Mountain West will still be fighting an uphill battle to get a team in every year. But the conference is also working to ensure that its teams have bowl homes for the next few seasons.
The Mountain West announced Thursday afternoon that it is hammering out eight bowl deals that will give the conference at least six bowl berths every year with more possible.
Some of them should be familiar:
• Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl, Las Vegas (Pac-12 opponent)• Gildan New Mexico Bowl, Albuquerque, N.M. (Pac-12 opponent)• San Diego County Credit Union Poinsetta Bowl, San Diego, Calif. (Currently an Army tie-in)• R+L Carrier New Orleans Bowl, New Orleans, La. (Tie-ins with Conference USA, Sun Belt)• Sheraton Hawai'i Bowl, Honolulu, Ha. • Famous Idaho Potato Bowl, Boise, Idaho (MAC opponent)• Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl, (twice in the next six years)• Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl (as a back-up for the Big 12 or Pac-12)
The somewhat confusing part is that these are not the only bowl games Mountain West teams could go to in the next six years.
Deputy commissioner Brett Gilliland told the Tribune that the non-autobid conferences are working together with their regional TV partners to open up other bowls to the Mountain West in the interest of warding off bowl fatigue for Mountain West schools - i.e. not sending them to the same places year after year - while also introducing them to new markets and getting the best match-ups.
Some of the tie-ins are more fluid than they appear. The New Orleans Bowl, for instance, has a six-year deal with both Conference USA and the Sun Belt, but the Mountain West might get a berth there if it has more eligible teams, or if the slotting would otherwise send the same Sun Belt/CUSA match-up back to that location (as an example).
Since several of the Mountain West's bowl games are controlled by ESPN and ESPN's regional arm, which controls a lot of bowls, it puts some of the rotation under one umbrella - a lot easier to move different teams around to different bowls. Although the previous eight will be mostly the Mountain West's primary sites, the conference could put a team in as many as eight other bowls.
"It seems kind of nebulous, but it's that way by design," Gilliland said. "It's going to be hard to explain to people in the next few years what bowl they're going to because all of the smaller conferences are working together to develop a rotation."
If Utah State can remain in the upper half of the league, the Aggies should find themselves a postseason home in the next six years. And it doesn't have to be Boise every year, either.
Kyle Goonkgoon@sltrib.comTwitter: @kylegoon