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Pac-12 strengthens its bowl affiliations starting in 2014

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The Pac-12 has upgraded its bowl affiliations, starting with the 2014 season.

The league’s bowl positioning has long been a sore spot, with the overall lineup of games lacking the prestige, matchups and Jan. 1 dates of other major conferences. Geography has played a big role in that, with the majority of bigger bowls located in other time zones.

But an announcement Monday has the Pac-12 adding more Big Ten opponents to its postseason, with the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl becoming a bigger player in the lineup.

The Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl moves from sixth to fourth in the Pac-12 pecking order for a six-season cycle starting in 2014, when the game moves from the San Francisco Giants’ AT&T Park to the San Francisco 49ers’ new home, Levi’s Stadium, in Santa Clara.

Ditching a baseball venue for a state-of-the-art football stadium will create some needed buzz for the bowl. And instead of a matchup against BYU or a service academy or an ACC team, the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl will pair a Big Ten team against the Pac-12.

San Diego’s Holiday Bowl, usually a popular destination for Pac-12 schools, remains third in the conference order, although the bowl is dropping its affiliation with the Big 12 to also add a Big Ten school.

The Big Ten, which will be expanding to 14 teams with the addition of Maryland and Rutgers in 2014, won’t have a strict postseason pecking order based on standings but will work to find the best possible matchups. The Big Ten, for example, will send at least five different teams to each of its two new bowls — the Holiday and Kraft Fight Hunger — during this six-year agreement.

Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany said on a teleconference that the early years of the cycle likely will closely resemble a selection process, with an eye toward “diversity and freshness” in later matchups.

The 2013 season is the last season for college football’s Bowl Championship Series. The four-team College Football Playoff starts in 2014. If a Pac-12 team isn’t part of the playoff, then the champion follows tradition to go to the Rose Bowl.

El Paso’s Sun Bowl, which used to be the No. 3 bowl in the Pac-12, dropped to fourth in recent years with the welcome addition of the Alamo Bowl and is expected to be fifth in the new structure.

Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott said the league is not ready to announce its other bowl arrangements beyond the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl, although there has been plenty of speculation, including the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl in Tempe replacing the New Mexico Bowl in Albuquerque.

Here is a look at the Pac-12′s arrangements in 2013 and how it is likely to look from 2014 to 2019:

Pac-12 2013 lineup 2014-2019 lineup
Champion BCS (title game and/or Rose/at-large) College Football Playoff/Rose
No. 2 Alamo vs. Big 12 Alamo vs. Big 12
No. 3 Holiday vs. Big 12 Holiday vs. Big Ten
No. 4 Sun vs. ACC Kraft Fight Hunger vs. Big Ten
No. 5 Maaco Bowl Las Vegas vs. MWC Sun vs. ACC
No. 6 Kraft Fight Hunger vs. BYU (if eligible) Maaco Bowl Las Vegas vs. MWC
No. 7 New Mexico Bowl vs. MWC Buffalo Wild Wings vs. Big 12

Here’s the last Arizona appearance in each of the Pac-12 bowls:

– Rose (never)
– Alamo (2010)
– Holiday (2009)
– Kraft Fight Hunger (never)
– Sun (1992)
– Las Vegas (2008)
– New Mexico (2012)
– Buffalo Wild Wings (never, at least not the Tempe version of the former Copper/Insight Bowl)

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