If you thought it was hard for Air Force to figure out a way to run the ball against Notre Dame last weekend, go try to decipher the list of possible bowl destinations and opponents awaiting the Falcons. There's some good news and bad news if you have a preliminary look at where the Falcons might be heading and against whom they'll be playing in a bowl game.
THE LIBERTY BOWL. The champion of the MWC earns a bid to play in Memphis on December 31, 2002, against the champion of Conference USA. For the moment, assume AFA is the MWC representative in this bowl. At present Southern Mississippi, Texas Christian University (TCU) and East Carolina University (ECU) are in the running for the CUSA top spot.
ECU is currently 2-4 on the season, but 2-0 in conference play and still has games remaining against both TCU (6-1/3-1) and Southern Mississippi (5-2/3-0). ECU appears nowhere in the latest polls. Southern Mississippi received no points in this week's AP poll. TCU registered a total of 2 points in this week's AP poll. In the USA Today/ESPN poll TCU received five points while Southern Mississippi received 4 points. Either TCU or Southern Mississippi needs to get hot and win a few games if it is going to make any noise in the polls come bowl season.
AFA fans aren't likely to be excited by a game with ECU or Southern Mississippi. TCU may be another story. In AFA's spectacular 12-1, 1998 season, its only loss came on the road in Fort Worth by a single point, 35-34, to a LaDainian Tomlinson led TCU team. Perhaps some AFA fans would welcome the chance for the this year's team to exact a measure of belated revenge in meeting the Horned Frogs. If AFA plays in this bowl the good news will be that it does so as a conference champion. The bad news may be that the Falcons won't have the chance to do themselves much good in the polls even with a victory because of the low profile of the opposing team.
THE LAS VEGAS BOWL. If the Falcons play in this Christmas Day game it means they will not have won the MWC title and that would be a disappointment. The good news is that the opponent for this game will be the fourth or fifth place finisher in the high profile PAC 10, and as of this writing those teams are Oregon and California. The Ducks decimated AFA in this game in 1997 by a 41-13 score in a game which effectively was over well before halftime. The Cal Golden Bears and AFA Falcons played a memorable game earlier this year in Berkeley. It's an open question as to whether there would be any interest in pairing the teams again this season.
As for AFA drawing any attention to itself in the post season you can assess for yourself whether a game against, say TCU, would garner more notice than a game versus a PAC 10 team. For extra credit you can ponder if Elvis still spends Christmas in Vegas.
THE SAN FRANCISCO BOWL. Rice-a-Roni may be the San Francisco treat, but playing in this bowl for the Falcons would be anything but that. The MWC representative playing in this game will be the third pick of bowl qualified teams from the conference. MWC teams need to start winning some games if as many as four of its constituent members hope to become bowl qualified. Unless the wheels completely fall off for Fisher DeBerry and his team over the next five weeks, the Falcons simply will not be in a position of having to settle for a spot in this contest's inaugural edition. The opponent will be the fifth place finisher in the Big East. That team right now is Temple. Not even Bill Cosby will waste his time watching Temple play in this disaster on the last day of the year.
THE SEATTLE BOWL. If you're thinking that the weather in San Francisco would be too darn hot and sunny for you on December 31st, never fear. There's the Seattle Bowl. There'll be no pesky ultraviolet indexes through which to read if you're trying to avoid sun induced melanoma. Wait, there's even more good news. The competition here will be provided by the sixth place finisher from the Atlantic Coast Conference. This morning Clemson, Wake Forest and Georgia Tech are heatedly battling it out for the right to wind up here in two months. After getting the snot kicked out of it all season by Florida State, North Carolina State and Virginia a bunch of punch drunk mesomorphs, whose fans are waiting for basketball season to kick into high gear, will show up to play before a sitting room only crowd of 17,412 wondering why one of the teams isn't the Seahawks. If the Falcons wind up playing in this game it will be due to a fiasco having erupted in the aftermath of its loss to Notre Dame.
If you're an Air Force fan be advised to keep your holiday plans written in pencil, not ink, have your travel agent's phone number on speed dial and be sure to consult your morning journal for further updates as they become available.