NOVA Home Loans Arizona Bowl could be a real Gem

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Boise State and Idaho could turn ASN’s bowl game into a battle of the Gem State.

That’s one possible matchup for the NOVA Home Loans Arizona Bowl on Dec. 30 at Arizona Stadium in Tucson.

DEC. 30 ON ASN: Nova Home Loans Arizona Bowl, 5:30 p.m. ET (click logo for local listings)

Idaho is virtually set as the Sun Belt’s representative based on geography — the Vandals are the conference’s western-most team — and the latest projections (see below).

Also, Idaho Athletic Director Rob Spear has said the Vandals prefer the Arizona Bowl.

But who would they play from the Mountain West?

That’s where the fun starts.

Projections include an Idaho-Boise State matchup, which would be great for the state of Idaho. Boise State leads the series 22-17-1 and has won 12 consecutive games, including 52-14 in their last meeting in 2010.

Alas, it probably will not happen. The Broncos have the Mountain West’s best record at 10-2 and seem more likely headed to the Las Vegas Bowl for a matchup against a Pac-12 team.

They’ll find out Sunday when the bowl pairings are announced.

Wyoming, which plays San Diego State on Saturday in the MWC championship game, and New Mexico (both 8-4) also have been mentioned for the Arizona Bowl. Both are also probably headed for other bowl games.

Air Force remains the most popular choice. The Falcons made their ASN G-5 T-5 debut this week after knocking off Boise State 27-20 on Friday.

They are going to their ninth bowl in 10 years under head coach Troy Calhoun. But it probably will not be the Arizona Bowl because of their 9-3 record.

That leaves Colorado State, which finished sixth among the MWC’s bowl-eligible teams, as the likely choice. The Rams (7-5) played in last year’s inaugural Arizona Bowl, losing 28-23 to Nevada in a matchup of MWC teams.

Colorado State last played Idaho in 2010, winning 36-34, and leads the series 4-3.

The Vandals, meanwhile, have won five of their last six games after a 2-3 start. Their seven wins are the most since 2009. 

“We’ve all been through some tough times together,” said Vandals head coach Paul Petrino, younger brother of Louisville’s Bobby Petrino. “Tough times make you tougher. Iron sharpens iron. We’re a pretty darn tough team right now.”

The lingering question about Idaho’s destination is how many teams from the Sun Belt will be bowl eligible. Louisiana and South Alabama could make it six if they win Saturday as expected.

If they do, consider Petrino’s team an iron-clad lock for Tucson.

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Mike Bambach

Mike Bambach is senior web producer for ASN.