Las Vegas Bowl has chance to land Fresno State

He wouldn’t confirm it, but Dan Hanneke probably was somewhere doing backflips when the Bowl Championship Series standings were released Sunday.

Northern Illinois jumped over Fresno State into 14th place, increasing the chances of the Las Vegas Bowl landing the Bulldogs, who are 16th in the BCS and The Associated Press poll.

As the bowl’s executive director, Hanneke must temper any enthusiasm about possibly getting Fresno State, but his game sits in a much better situation today than it did last week.

“We’d certainly like to have Fresno State because they’re having such a great year,” Hanneke said Tuesday. “Fresno and some of the other teams in the Mountain West are attractive.”

The bowl pairings throughout the country will be announced Dec. 8, and a lot still can happen with one week left in the regular season.

But should Fresno State win at San Jose State on Friday and then take the Mountain West championship game Dec. 7, the Bulldogs are all but assured of playing in Las Vegas if they get passed over for a BCS game. That is the likely scenario if the Bulldogs remain behind Northern Illinois in the BCS standings, and the Las Vegas Bowl owns the first selection of the Mountain West.

Hanneke is trying to keep his options open, but it’s difficult to imagine Las Vegas not taking a ranked and undefeated Fresno State team if it is available.

If the Bulldogs play in a BCS game or lose one of the next two weeks, Las Vegas also will take a look at Utah State, San Diego State and even Boise State, which has participated in the past three bowls at Sam Boyd Stadium, winning all of them.

Las Vegas has the fifth choice of the Pac-12 Conference, and that side has a lot of sorting out, with an argument to be made for any of six teams to play on Dec. 21 at Sam Boyd on ABC.

“I think one of our big, big, big factors of teams wanting to come here this year is the ABC thing,” Hanneke said. “That’s a huge deal being on network television, and one of only three bowl games that are going to be televised nationally (on network TV). You’ll have a lot of eyeballs on that game on the 21st. I think we’re in great shape to have two quality teams and programs.”

AROUND THE LEAGUE

Air Force needs to beat Colorado State to avoid its first winless conference record. The Falcons first joined a league, the Western Athletic Conference, in 1980. … Colorado State’s Kapri Bibbs, who has rushed for 1,493 yards, is expected to miss the game against Air Force because of an undisclosed injury. … Fresno State hopes to take advantage of uncertainty in the Heisman Trophy race and is pushing quarterback Derek Carr through a media campaign. … Hawaii coach Norm Chow has received athletics director Ben Jay’s support even though the Rainbow Warriors are 0-11. … San Jose State’s David Fales became the school’s career leader in passing yards with 7,835 and in touchdown passes with 60.

POWER RANKINGS

1. No. 16 Fresno State (10-0, 7-0 MW). Last game: Defeated New Mexico 69-28. Next game: at San Jose State, Friday. Last meeting: Lost 27-24 in 2011.

2. Utah State (7-4, 6-1). Last game: Defeated Colorado State 13-0. Next game: vs. Wyoming, Saturday. Last meeting: Won 63-19 in 2011.

3. San Diego State (7-4, 6-1). Last game: Defeated Boise State 34-31 (OT). Next game: at UNLV, Saturday. Last meeting: Won 24-13 in 2012.

4. Boise State (7-4, 5-2). Last game: Lost to San Diego State 34-31 (OT). Next game: vs. New Mexico, Saturday. Won 32-29 in 2012.

5. Colorado State (6-6, 4-3). Last game: Lost to Utah State 13-0. Next game: vs. Air Force, Saturday. Last meeting: Lost 42-21 in 2012.

6. San Jose State (5-6, 4-3). Last game: Lost to Navy 58-52 (3 OT). Next game: vs. Fresno State, Friday. Last meeting: Won 27-24 in 2011.

7. UNLV (6-5, 4-3). Last game: Defeated Air Force 41-21. Next game: vs. San Diego State, Saturday. Last meeting: Lost 24-13 in 2012.

8. UNR (4-7, 3-5). Last game: Defeated San Jose State 38-16. Next game: vs. Brigham Young, Saturday. Last meeting: Won 27-13 in 2010.

9. Wyoming (5-6, 3-4). Last game: Defeated Hawaii 59-56 (OT). Next game: at Utah State, Saturday. Last meeting: Lost 63-19 in 2011.

10. New Mexico (3-8, 1-6). Last game: Lost to Fresno State 69-28. Next game: at Boise State, Saturday. Last meeting: Lost 32-29 in 2012.

11. Air Force (2-9, 0-7). Last game: Lost to UNLV 41-21. Next game: at Colorado State, Saturday. Last meeting: Won 42-21 in 2012.

12. Hawaii (0-11, 0-8). Last game: Lost to Wyoming 59-56 (OT). Next game: vs. Army, Saturday. Last meeting: Won 31-28 in 2010.

GAME OF THE WEEK

No. 16 Fresno State (10-0, 7-0 MW) at San Jose State (5-6, 4-3). San Jose State has lost three in a row after appearing a sure bet for the postseason. The Spartans must upset a Fresno State team burning over being passed by Northern Illinois in the BCS standings.

MARK ANDERSON/LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL

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