SAN JOSE -- San Jose State's best shot at a bowl game appears to be landing a berth at the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl in Boise on Dec. 21.
Kevin McDonald, the executive director of that game, certainly wouldn't mind having the Spartans come to town. He pointed out several factors that are in SJSU's favor, including strong ties to Spartans athletic director Gene Bleymaier and the marketability of quarterback David Fales.
"We like the fact that San Jose State is geographically as close as any other school," McDonald said. "We like the connection of Gene Bleymaier and his 30-plus years in Boise as the athletic director. And we like the fact that their quarterback Fales is an exciting player and they play an exciting brand of football."
Boise is about an hour and half flight from the Bay Area or an 11 or so hour drive, weather permitting, for the more budget conscious. Among the other teams in consideration for the game, UNLV is only slightly closer, Colorado State is about the same distance and San Diego State is further.
But the other two factors are big. Bleymaier knows Boise inside and out and was a major force in getting what was then the Humanitarian Bowl started in 1997. McDonald said they "can't make decisions based just off that stuff," but the story line of Bleymaier bringing SJSU to town for the bowl game would be a good one.
Fales, the nation's third-leading passer, clearly helps as he leads an entertaining style of offense fresh off a dazzling display in an upset of then No. 16 Fresno State.
McDonald said much of the final decision on which team to invite will come from ESPN Regional Television, which owns this and four other Mountain West bowl games. But he's laid out the scenarios that make the most sense for his bowl.
The criteria he follows for choosing a team starts with bringing the best team they can invite, followed by the potential for ticket sales and then marketable stars to create a good story line worth promoting.
The win over Fresno State shows where SJSU's potential lies and it also has wins over Colorado State and UNLV. It did, however, lose to San Diego State. None of the four teams would likely bring a huge crowd to Boise, so it could come down to Fales being the most recognizable name on any of the rosters.
Here's a look at the resumes for all four teams:
Wins: Cal Poly (6-6, FCS school), UTEP (2-10), Wyoming (5-7), Hawaii (1-11), Nevada (4-8), New Mexico (3-9), Air Force (2-10).
Losses: Colorado (4-8), Tulsa (3-9), Alabama (11-1), San Jose State (6-6), Boise State (8-4), Utah State (8-4)
The Rams have the weakest case, based solely on their on-field results. They didn't beat a single bowl-eligible team. CSU's strongest win is a 52-22 win over a Wyoming team that fired coach Dave Christensen at the end of the season. Their best performance may have been against then top-ranked Alabama, when they trailed by just 11 points in the fourth quarter of a 31-6 loss. The Rams could be attractive to the New Mexico Bowl because of previous travel history to Albuquerque, but that game could end up with Boise State and it's uncertain how well their fans would travel anywhere else.
San Diego State
Wins: New Mexico State (2-10), Nevada (4-8), Air Force (2-10), New Mexico (3-9), San Jose State (6-6), Hawaii (1-11), Boise State (8-4).
Losses: Eastern Illinois (11-1, FCS school), Ohio State (12-0), Oregon State (6-6), Fresno State (10-1), UNLV (7-5).
The Aztecs have the most wins over FBS teams in the bunch with seven, but also lost to an FCS team, albeit a good one. Each of their losses were to teams that were at least .500 and they beat two bowl-eligible teams in SJSU and Boise State. But if last impressions mean anything, a 45-19 beatdown at UNLV to close the season could put San Diego State in trouble.
San Jose State
Wins: Sacramento State (5-7, FCS school), Hawaii (1-11), Colorado State (7-6), Wyoming (5-7), UNLV (7-5), Fresno State (10-1).
Losses: Stanford (10-2), Minnesota (8-4), Utah State (8-4), San Diego State (7-5), Nevada (4-8), Navy (7-4).
The Spartans' have the best signature win of the group by beating Fresno State. They also have three wins over bowl-eligible teams, which is the most. And the five FBS wins they have come against teams with a combined record of 30-30, also the best. But SJSU is the only team with just six wins. It also has the worst average home attendance, even if that may be skewed by its reporting style of using the exact turnstile number. Hope for the Spartans lies on Bleymaier's connections and Fales' star power.
Wins: Central Michigan (6-6), Western Illinois (4-8, FCS school), New Mexico (3-9), Hawaii (1-11), Nevada (4-8), Air Force (2-10), San Diego State (7-5).
Losses: Minnesota (8-4), Arizona (7-5), Fresno State (10-1), San Jose State (6-6), Utah State (8-4).
The Rebels stated their case for a bowl by thumping San Diego State in the finale 45-19. Without that win, UNLV would most likely have very little chance of a berth. But that win puts them heavily in the mix, especially since it would be their first bowl since 2000. That drought helps the Rebels because their fan base would likely be heavily enthused about a bowl game. Also in their favor is the fact that they didn't play at Hawaii this year, while CSU, SDSU and SJSU all did. That improves their chances of securing the Hawaii Bowl bid, which often doesn't want a team that's already played in Honolulu. UNLV has two wins over bowl-eligible teams and all of its losses are to bowl-eligible teams.