Dear Friends of the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl,
Selection Sunday is only four days away, which means that people in the bowl business are busy burning up the phone lines and exchanging texts and emails with conference officials, athletic directors, and TV executives throughout the country. For bowls that have a number of teams to consider, some gentle (and not so gentle) lobbying is taking place. Bowl directors are receiving phone calls from head coaches, promotional packages and videos from athletic directors, and a barrage of emails from fans and alumni urging that their school be selected. As Sunday draws closer, the pressure intensifies and the lines of communication heat up even more.
Last weekend's results clarified a few things in the Pac-12 picture. Stanford defeated UCLA to claim the Northern Division title and now will host those same Bruins Friday night in the Pac-12 Championship game in Palo Alto. At stake is a berth in the Rose Bowl against the Big Ten champion (Nebraska or Wisconsin). Oregon beat Oregon State to improve to 11-1 and may have earned a spot in the Fiesta Bowl. Most pundits expect the loser of the conference championship game and OSU (8-3) to be invited to the Alamo and Holiday Bowls, leaving four teams with 7-5 records (USC, Washington, Arizona State and Arizona) to fill the Sun, Las Vegas, Kraft Fight Hunger and New Mexico Bowls.
I attended last Friday's Territorial Cup matchup in Tucson. The game had the usual ebbs and flows of a rivalry game, with both teams looking to be in control at various times. With Arizona ahead 27-20 midway through the fourth quarter and driving for what appeared to be the game-clinching touchdown, a fumble recovery and blocked punt turned the game in Arizona State's favor. The Sun Devils prevailed, 41-34.
So, what does all this mean for the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl? Or, as everyone has been asking me for the last couple of weeks, "who's going to be in your game?" On one side we are proud to have the U.S. Naval Academy, a team that has won six of its last seven games and will take a 7-4 record into the Army-Navy game on Dec. 8. On the other side, we have the Pac-12's No. 6 selection. If, as expected, two Pac-12 teams "move up" to BCS bowls, two teams will be available to us.
At this point, although things could change, it appears those two teams are most likely to be Arizona and Arizona State. If that is the case, we'd be honored to be able to select either team, and the choice will be difficult. Both have 7-5 records, some quality wins, and a number of high-profile players. Arizona has an explosive offense, the nation's leading rusher in Ka'Deem Carey and the All Pac-12 second team quarterback in Matt Scott. ASU has the Pac-12 defensive player of the year in Will Sutton, an under-rated quarterback in Taylor Kelly, and a trio of good running backs.
Some of our selection criteria will include: "Are they interesting or fun to watch? Do they travel well? Will they bring a lot of fans from their home market? Do they have a big alumni base in the Bay Area? Will they attract a large TV audience? Are there any media tie-ins or sponsor tie-ins that may help the bowl? Will they bring their marching band and perform at halftime?" A lot of research--already underway--will be done in a very short time.
Stay tuned. We will announce Navy's opponent on Sunday afternoon.