With only two weeks left in the regular season, there is a major consensus that Conference USA will fill all seven slots with bowl eligible teams. Marshall, Old Dominion, MTSU, Western Kentucky, Southern Miss, Louisiana Tech, and Rice are all projected to make bowls for CUSA.
Well, the mothership here at SB Nation projects six CUSA teams getting to bowl eligibility. With the way that Rice has been playing, it is no surprise that they are the odd team out in the SB Nation projections. I am on the fence about Rice with one side of me wanting a seven spot filled, but the other knowing that Rice will be destroyed in any bowl game.
With all that said, let's take a look at which bowl matchups could be big for the conference and exciting games to watch.
Western Kentucky versus anyone in the Heart of Dallas Bowl.
A majority of the projections for the Hilltoppers have them landing in either the Miami Beach Bowl or the Heart of Dallas Bowl. The fun aspect of the Heart of Dallas bowl is the high likelihood that the Big 12 will not fulfill their quota to send a program, so we could end up seeing WKU versus any number or teams.
Therefore, many options have come into play from the crazy (WKU vs CMU) to the interesting (WKU vs Washington) to the wildly offensive loaded (WKU vs California). I should state that the CMU scenario is crazy for the simple fact that WKU has played CMU in both of the previous two bowl berths and would love to play someone new in bowl three.
I would personally love to see a Hilltoppers versus Golden Bears matchup and a good holiday scoring avalanche. WKU averages 41 points and Cal averages 36. We could see a game that is even wilder than the WKU versus Central Michigan Bahamas Bowl in 2014.
Southern Miss versus Temple in the St. Petersburg Bowl.
In this scenario, Golden Eagles high-flying offense would take on one of the best defenses in the nation. This would also be a matchup of two of the most improved teams in the nation. Neither team played in the postseason, but both were among the best in their conference in 2015.
Getting to see Nick Mullens attempt to pick apart defense that is one of the top 40 in the nation would be fun for all. Even in Florida, the Golden Eagles faithful would be more than willing to make that trip to see the program in their first bowl since 2011. Southern Miss versus Temple has the capability to bring the excitement of the BYU-Memphis game that everyone remembers from 2014.
Marshall versus Toledo in the Bahamas Bowl.
Though they haven't played since the 2003 season, a matchup of Marshall and Toledo would bring back some great old MAC memories. The two programs played in four MAC title games from 1997 to 2002. Marshall has a fairly short but impressive history in the MAC, so seeing the Thundering Herd match up with anyone from the MAC in a bowl game is a delight.
I am sure that Northern Illinois would not mind enacting revenge for a 52-23 loss to Marshall in the 2014 Boca Raton Bowl, but Toledo versus Marshall would be hard to beat.
Louisiana Tech versus Georgia Southern in the New Orleans Bowl.
Getting to see the Louisiana Tech's #6 ranked rush defense face off versus the #1 rushing attack in the nation would be a treat in New Orleans. The Bulldogs give up only 97.9 yards on the ground per game and only 3.03 yards per carry. Georgia Southern rushes for 378.9 yards per game and 6.73 yards per carry, also an FBS best.
Add in the fact that Louisiana Tech is no slouch on offense with one of CUSA's top passers and top rushers. We could be in for a wild night in the Big Easy. Also, this game would get a Louisiana program in the mix while allowing the Ragin' Cajuns to go somewhere else for once (if they are bowl eligible).
Old Dominion versus anyone in the Arizona Bowl.
Currently, the Monarchs are predicted to either end up in the Arizona Bowl or the Bahamas Bowl. I would vote for them to play in the Arizona Bowl so that we can have a first year bowl select a first year bowl team. If the Arizona Bowl does not work out, a trip to the Bahamas for a bowl berth would not be a bad consolation prize.
Yes, the trip would be tough for fans of the Monarchs, but getting to play the Mountain West in a brand new bowl would be a historic moment for Old Dominion. The Monarchs would play Nevada, Colorado State, or Utah State in this game.
While they would be heavy underdogs to any of those programs, getting to experience a bowl this early into their FBS lifetime would be huge for Old Dominion.