The Pac-12 doesn’t have the best of bowl destinations, but it least it has one more of them.
The league, which was set to begin a partnership to face a Mountain West team in the New Mexico Bowl beginning in 2012, will instead start that affiliation this season.
That gives the Pac-12 seven bowl tie-ins for this season, with the New Mexico Bowl falling last in the pecking order.
In the new deal with the New Mexico Bowl, the WAC — which is down to eight teams this season and will lose Fresno State, Hawaii and Nevada for 2012 — gets booted immediately.
The New Mexico Bowl will be played Dec. 17 in Albuquerque. The noon start makes it the first of the 35 bowl games.
“We are excited to begin our relationship with the Pac-12 this year and to have our game showcased as the first bowl game of the year once again,” Jeff Siembieda, the executive director of the New Mexico Bowl, said in a news release.
“The Saturday afternoon time slot has been very good to us. Kicking off the bowl season in New Mexico with the whole nation watching a Pac-12 team take on a team from the Mountain West is a great opportunity for our state.”
The New Mexico Bowl gives Arizona another potential landing spot as the Wildcats try for a school-record fourth consecutive postseason appearance.
The Pac-10 qualified only four teams for the postseason last year (and USC is still ineligible) but the addition of Utah and Colorado gives the league more bowl possibilities. Still, with seven bowl slots, a 6-6 record likely will be good enough to slide into one of the Pac-12′s affiliations.
The Pac-10 added the Alamo Bowl as the second spot in its rotation for last year, pushing the Holiday Bowl down to the No. 3 spot.
That was a good start, but most of the other BCS conferences have more lucrative arrangements. Part of the problem is geography — with stronger bowls in the South and Southeast — and what has been considered a less-passionate fan base (read: less willing to travel) among Pac-10 schools.
In any case, here are the bowl arrangements for the first season of the Pac-12:
–BCS (Rose Bowl, or national championship game if ranked No. 1 or No. 2)
–Alamo vs. Big 12 No. 3
–Holiday vs. Big 12 No. 5
–Sun vs. ACC No. 4
–Maaco Bowl Las Vegas vs. Mountain West champ
–Kraft Fight Hunger vs. Army (if eligible) or ACC No. 9
–New Mexico vs. MWC No. 4/5