Here are the important facts to remember when considering the bowl situation.
#1. The Sun Belt guarantees that the champion of the conference will receive a bowl berth. While the league will name co-champions in the event of a tie, only the winner of the tie-breaker will be guaranteed a bowl berth. If a tie cannot be broken it goes to a coin flip.
#2. The R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl contract for 2010-2013 requires the game to take a champion two of the four years. However, if there is a tie, they can take any team that ties for the title and count it toward the two out of four requirement. Last year they took Troy. The Trojans were co-champs but lost the tie-breaker. New Orleans satisfied the 2/4 agreement by taking Troy. Otherwise R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl is free to select ANY bowl eligible Sun Belt team.
#3. The GoDaddy.com Bowl has the second selection of the Sun Belt in 2010-13. They are free to accept ANY bowl eligible Sun Belt team provided that they must select the champion/tie-breaker winner if New Orleans does not and no other bowl agrees to take the Sun Belt champ/tie-breaker winner. Last year FIU won the tie-breaker and GoDaddy.com would have been obligated to take FIU but the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl in Detroit accepted FIU making it possible for Mobile to select Middle Tennessee State. In the odd numbered years of the contract they have first selection of the MAC and as we saw in 2009, they like the champion vs. champion format.
#4. Only one place in the standings matters. First. The Sun Belt partner bowls are not obligated to take a co-champ that loses the tie-breaker nor to take a second place team over a third place team.
What this means for Arkansas State.
First, if the Red Wolves wins one of either the game at Middle Tennessee or home game vs. Troy OR Western Kentucky loses one of either their game at North Texas or at home against Troy, Arkansas State clinches the tie-breakers and is the only Sun Belt team guaranteed a bowl.
As soon as one of those four games goes ASU's way, expect the Greater New Orleans Sports Foundation to select Louisiana as their team. That will be followed by Mobile announcing it has selected Arkasnas State so they can create their desired champion vs. champion match-up. All other bowl eligible Sun Belt teams end up at the mercy of seeing what vacancies emerge and seeing what sorts of deals the conference can help them cut. In the past the Sun Belt has agreed to guarantee part of teams required ticket purchases or pick up some travel costs.
If Arkansas State were to lose out and Western Kentucky were to win out, Western Kentucky would now be the league champion and things get murky.
New Orleans likely still wants Louisiana, they have been known to sell 20,000+ tickets to watch the Cajuns play at Tulane so could be expected to easily top that for a bowl game. Mobile though might debate whether to select champion WKU or a better drawing Arkansas State. To make that happen, WKU would have to be accomodated and right now Birmingham would look like the best choice, but Birmingham might hold out if they have options and only agree to take a Sun Belt if it is Arkansas State. The problem is with the right breaks, the entire Big East could end up bowl eligible and snatch up a number of open bowl games shutting out any third or fourth Sun Belt team.
The Red Wolves can simplify the picture by just winning on Saturday at Middle Tennessee State.
Publisher's Note: Mark Ferguson is the owner and publisher of ArkSt.com. We are proud to have a great working relationship between AStateNation and with Ferguson and will be sharing content from time to time. Ferguson is a veteran Arkansas State media member and also runs the Den Message Board Forum.