Landing spots for the TCU Horned Frogs are wide open as college football's regular season winds down to the final two weeks. TCU (9-2), ranked No. 20 in the BCS standings, is idle this week and will do some scoreboard watching as it hopes to move up in its ultimate quest to get to No. 16. That's where TCU must get to keep alive its long-shot bid for a third consecutive BCS berth.
Short of a surprise trip to the Sugar Bowl, three non-BCS bowl options exist. Here's a look at those options in the order that the Mountain West-affiliated bowls select:
1. Las Vegas Bowl, Las Vegas, Nev., Dec. 26: Pac 12 No. 5 vs. MWC No. 1
The misnomer here is that although this game is slotted for the Mountain West champ, the bowl does not have to select the champion. After all, TCU won the conference three other times and has never played in Vegas. In this case, with TCU needing a victory over UNLV on Dec. 3 to win its third-consecutive MWC crown, No. 7 Boise State might be the better choice. The positive side of going to Vegas for TCU is playing a Pac-12 opponent, which at this point could be anybody from former MWC rival Utah to Arizona State to Washington. The negative side is that Vegas presents another costly trip for Frogs fans, who have traveled in huge numbers to the Fiesta Bowl and Rose Bowl the last two years. There's a long history of attendance problems here and the Las Vegas Bowl committee probably would pick Boise if it believes frozen Broncos fans will travel better than Frogs fans during what is typically a slow week in Sin City.
2. Poinsettia Bowl, San Diego, Calif., Dec. 21: WAC champ vs. MWC No. 2
TCU played in this game in 2008, beating Boise 17-16, and not that the Frogs don't enjoy San Diego as much as the rest of us, this would be the bowl TCU would likely least like to play in for two reasons. Again, an expensive travel scenario tops the list and second, the Frogs would face the WAC champion. No offense to the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs, who have the edge in winning the WAC after beating Nevada, but a TCU-Louisiana Tech matchup wouldn't figure to fire up the Frog faithful to make a long trip during Christmas week. And, frankly, it does little to enhance the Frogs' season. A year ago, the San Diego State Aztecs made their return from a long bowl drought by staying home and playing huge regional draw Navy. The Aztecs could stay home again, but if they want to expand their horizons and travel, and the bowl committee sees nationally ranked TCU has a more prominent draw -- even without a large traveling contingent -- it could still select the Frogs.
3. Independence Bowl, Shreveport, La., Dec. 26: ACC No. 7 vs. MWC No. 3
About a four-hour drive from Fort Worth, this just might be the bowl game of choice for the Frogs. It spares fans from a major expense and imagine the purple caravan that would head down I-20 to enjoy a little football, perhaps against North Carolina or North Carolina State, and then a little casino action the day after Christmas. On top of that, the Independence Bowl grants the biggest payday with each team guaranteed $1.1 million. Sure, Las Vegas and San Diego are sexier destinations, and if you ask the players, they certainly might pick either one over this Louisiana border stop. But, the administration might do some lobbying here with the MWC and the individual bowls to allow it to stay close to home and gather up what would easily be its largest traveling party.