Fresno State’s fight song goes, in part, like this:
GO DOGS GO!
FIGHT DOGS FIGHT!
UNLV football fans should memorize those words and sing them loudly the next three weekends.
Because if 15th-ranked Fresno State (9-0) wins out and makes a Bowl Championship Series game, that opens an extra Mountain West bowl slot, an extra opportunity for UNLV to find a spot in the postseason.
The Rebels became bowl eligible with a 41-21 victory at Air Force on Thursday night, but that doesn’t guarantee a postseason appearance for the first time since 2000.
The Mountain West has six bowl tie-ins, with UNLV (6-5) one of five eligible teams thus far. Colorado State (6-5), San Jose State (5-6) and Wyoming (4-6) could up the number to as many as eight.
Colorado State needs to win one of its final two games, but the Rams are 10½-point underdogs at Utah State (6-4) today. Should they lose, that leaves a Nov. 30 home game against Air Force (2-9).
San Jose State’s bowl prospects took a major hit with Friday night’s 58-52 triple-overtime home loss to Navy. Now the Spartans must hope to upset visiting Fresno State on Nov. 29.
Wyoming must beat Hawaii (0-10) at home today and win at Utah State on Nov. 30, a difficult path.
The most likely scenario is Colorado State qualifies for a bowl, but San Jose State and Wyoming fall short. If it plays out that way, the Mountain West will have six eligible teams. But if the conference has more eligible teams than bowls, commissioner Craig Thompson will work the phones to place a displaced team in a game with an at-large opening.
So what the are probable destinations for UNLV among bowls with Mountain West tie-ins?
Only one of the six can be counted out — ironically, the hometown Las Vegas Bowl on Dec. 21. That game has the No. 1 selection of the Mountain West (not counting the BCS games), and the chances of taking a 6-6 or 7-5 Rebels team are virtually nil, especially considering ESPN’s ownership of the bowl.
San Diego’s Poinsettia Bowl owns the second choice of the Mountain West. UNLV could play its way into the Dec. 26 game with a victory Nov. 30 over San Diego State at Sam Boyd Stadium. It would be difficult at that point for that bowl to bypass the Rebels for the Aztecs, but Boise State also could be available. The Poinsettia Bowl appears to be holding out hope of landing the Broncos.
The Dec. 30 Armed Forces Bowl in Fort Worth, Texas, receives the third selection. A 7-5 UNLV could be an attractive option, but maybe not a team that is 6-6 if other conference teams with winning records are available.
ESPN controls the other three Mountain West bowls, and the network and various executive directors will reach agreements on which teams to invite based on a variety of factors. The possibilities are the New Mexico Bowl in Albuquerque and Famous Idaho Potato Bowl in Boise, both on Dec. 21, and the Hawaii Bowl in Honolulu on Dec. 24.
SI.com and USA Today placed the Rebels in Hawaii in projections early in the week, and Phil Steele and ESPN.com’s Mark Schlabach put them in Boise. CBSSports.com’s Jerry Palm didn’t project UNLV to make a bowl, but said Friday he now expects the Rebels to play in Hawaii or New Mexico if they make a Mountain West game.
The hard part for the Rebels? Waiting.
They probably won’t find out until Dec. 8 where they will play, or perhaps even if.
■ NOTES — The victory at Air Force was the coldest game UNLV ever played. The temperature at kickoff was 11 degrees with a wind chill of minus-7 in the windy and snowy conditions. … Tim Cornett’s 220 yards rushing were the most by a Rebels back since Larry Croom gained 222 at Colorado State in 2002. Cornett’s four touchdowns rushing tied the school record held by Mike Thomas with one time each in 1973 and 1974 and Henry Melton in 1974. Cornett’s 36 carries were the most since Robert Gi had the same number at Louisiana Tech in 1993, and just one off the school record set twice by Ickey Woods in 1987.
Contact reporter Mark Anderson at email@example.com or 702-387-2914. Follow him on Twitter: @markanderson65.