Tis the season?

By By Tony Pizza

By Tony Pizza

After the Utes squeaked past the Air Force Academy 17-14 off the last-second kick of Louie Sakoda, the Utes (7-4, 5-2 MWC) are a virtual lock to play in one of the four games set aside for the Mountain West Conference.

But before you grab the pots and pans, ring the bells, scream at the top of your lungs and start making pre-Christmas travel plans, take a look at where the Utes and the rest of the MWC will likely be bowling this holiday season.

San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia BowlDec. 19: San Diego, Calif.TCU vs. Oklahoma State?The name of this bowl is proof-positive that bowl game names are getting out of hand.

If you’re a Utah fan and you liked the thought of Sea World and Southern California weather the week before Christmas, it’s time to start thinking about different plans.

Although it might seem crazy for TCU not to play in its own Amon G. Carter Stadium in the Fort Worth Bowl, it seems that TCU is the Mountain West team headed to the Poinsettia Bowl. Word ’round the campfire is that folks down at the Poinsettia Bowl are highly interested in 8-2 TCU, especially because the Horned Frogs have the opportunity of being a 10-win team once December rolls around.

Even if TCU loses its remaining two games and Utah beats BYU to improve to 8-4, the Poinsettia Bowl would still want TCU.

Rumor also has it that TCU can only participate in its backyard bowl once every four years, and it already played there last year against Boise State. With that said, TCU will likely be the MWC representative in the Poinsettia Bowl.

The Horned Frogs’ opponent, however, still remains up for debate. Although virtually any team with at least six wins will have a shot at this bowl, it will likely be one of the bottom qualifiers in the Pac-10 or Big-12. In that case, a team like Oklahoma State or Arizona State seems to be a likely opponent for TCU in San Diego.

Pioneer Pure Vision Las Vegas BowlDec. 21: Las Vegas, Nev.BYU vs. Oregon State

Though the Beehive State’s biggest grudge match is yet to be played, the outcome won’t affect where the Cougars will be playing in December.

After BYU rolled over New Mexico and claimed its first outright MWC title since 2001, the Cougars graciously accepted an invitation to return to Las Vegas this bowl season. It’s not that Vegas is trying to revamp its image by getting 50,000 Mormons to visit America’s biggest playground on the same weekend every year–just don’t be surprised if this bowl becomes the LDS Church Las Vegas Bowl in the near future. Can’t you just see the billboards?

Even Mormons can have a little fun in Sin City every once in a while. For the time being, this bowl is still called the Pioneer Pure Vision Las Vegas Bowl, and if BYU gets past Utah unscathed, the nationally ranked Cougars will likely face the loser of the Beaver State’s rivalry game between Oregon and Oregon State this weekend.

New Mexico BowlDec. 23: Albuquerque, N.M.Wyoming vs. Nevada?This bowl seems to be the last bowl in the Mountain West up for grabs, and either Wyoming or New Mexico will be facing the WAC’s Nevada Wolfpack on the day before Christmas Eve.

Wyoming holds the cards in this race with a 6-6 record and no more games to play. If New Mexico beats San Diego State at home on Saturday, it would be hard to imagine New Mexico getting snubbed from the New Mexico Bowl, if committee members had the choice between the Lobos and the Cowboys.

Bell Helicopter Armed Forces BowlDec. 23: Fort Worth, Tex.Utah vs. Tulsa?If you can’t fathom why the Utes would be playing in a bowl that sounds like a little boy’s Christmas present when it seems much more logical for TCU to play in the bowl hosted at its own stadium, here are two facts that might change your mind.

On Monday, the Utah athletic department sent out a little memo, without confirming that the Utes were actually going to be playing in Fort Worth, that explained the hotel accommodations available in Fort Worth in case anyone happened to be going down to the Dallas area this holiday season.

Also, the only bowl representative that came in person to see the Utes reach the seven-win mark and virtually clinch a bowl berth was a member of the Armed Forces Bowl committee.

This isn’t the only lump of coal the Utes will be receiving before Christmas. The Utes will be lining up against a significantly more depleted Conference U.S.A. than was present when this bowl arrangement first came about.

The Utes’ opponent has basically watered down to Tulsa, Rice and Eastern Carolina, with the Golden Hurricane being the front-runner in that race.

The good news is Utah can see how it stacks up against Tulsa when it plays BYU, which is the only common opponent between Tulsa and Utah this Saturday in its regular season finale.