Bowl season to be eventful with return of Sun Bowl, bowl eligible Miners

College Sports

EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) — College football’s version of Selection Sunday is just a few days, and bowl projections are beginning to create intrigue in El Paso with the return of the Tony the Tiger Sun Bowl, and with the hometown UTEP Miners bowl eligible for the first time since 2014.

Tony the Tiger Sun Bowl becoming more clear with Selection Sunday looming

The 88th edition of the Sun Bowl will be played on Friday, Dec. 31 at Sun Bowl Stadium. Kickoff is slated for 10 a.m. MT with the game to be broadcasted on CBS featuring a school from the Pac-12 Conference and the ACC. The Pac-12 picture seems to be largely set while the ACC half of the equation is wide open going into Sunday.

Washington State and Oregon State, who are both 7-5 this season, are the two most likely schools to represent the Pac-12 in this year’s Sun Bowl. The Cougars beat the Beavers earlier this season and appear to be the most likely choice for Sun Bowl executive director Bernie Olivas, but you can never count out a surprise on Selection Sunday.

“We are in a pool with two other bowls now,” said Olivas. “When the other teams that are above us pick their schools, then it’s amongst three of us to decide who’s left and who is going where. That’s why we never know for sure until that day comes.”

In the ACC, take your pick. Miami (7-5), Boston College (6-6), Louisville (6-6), Georgia Tech (6-6), North Carolina (6-6), Virginia (6-6) and Virginia Tech (6-6) are all possibilities to come to El Paso.

“Some teams have never been here. Boston College has never been here and Louisville has never been here,” said Olivas. “It would be great to have Mack Brown (North Carolina head coach) back in Texas. Miami — ‘The U’ — there’s a national following there. Every one of those teams has something to bring to the table.”

Last year’s Sun Bowl game was canceled for the first time in its history due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Preparations into this year’s game is two years in the making.

“We are excited,” said Olivas. “By the time the teams get here we want to make sure the t’s are crossed and all the i’s are dotted. Hopefully we get a beautiful day on Dec. 31.”

UTEP likely headed to New Mexico Bowl against Mountain West opponent

UTEP is bowl eligible for the first time since 2014, and it’s no secret where the Miners appear to be headed. The New Mexico Bowl has expressed interest in bringing UTEP back to Albuquerque, which is where the Miners played in 2010 and 2014. This year’s New Mexico Bowl is scheduled for Saturday, Dec. 18 at 12 p.m. MT in Albuquerque, and will be broadcasted on ESPN.

After starting the season 6-1, the Miners stumbled down the stretch losing four of their last five games to finish 7-5. Most bowl projections have UTEP playing either Nevada (8-4) or Wyoming (6-6). Air Force (9-3), Utah State (9-3), Boise State (7-5) and Fresno State (9-3) are possibilities for the Miners, who have also been rumored to the Frisco Bowl. What is certain is that UTEP won’t be playing in the Bahamas Bowl, who announced they would be taking Middle Tennessee from Conference USA to play against Toledo.

The Miners will be searching for their first bowl win since 1967 when the team won their fifth Sun Bowl. It is the only bowl game UTEP has won in program history.

Copyright 2022 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.