Mark Lambie, AP
SALT LAKE CITY — It's been a bad bowl season for western college football teams. Horrible, actually.
Starting with three losses on the first day of the bowl season on Dec. 17, the West has been anything but the best.
The carnage started with Wyoming's resounding loss to Temple in the New Mexico Bowl, followed by Utah State's loss to Ohio on a last-second touchdown at the Famous Idaho Bowl. Later that evening, Louisiana-Lafayette edged San Diego State on a last-second field goal at the New Orleans Bowl. The latter two could have gone the other way, but still counted as 'Ls'.
Those were the first of seven losses in games between western teams and teams in the East, South or Midwest. You could just hear smug Easterners laughing at the ineptitude of the West.
A week later on Christmas Eve, Southern Miss stopped Nevada 24-17 in the Hawaii Bowl and last Wednesday, Texas knocked off Cal 21-10 in the Holiday Bowl and Toledo tripped Air Force 42-41 in the Military Bowl. A day later, Washington blew a 35-24 halftime lead at the Alamo Bowl as Baylor blitzed the Huskies in a 67-56 contest that was at least entertaining, if not disappointing to the left coast.
With an 0-7 record, bowl season had become an absolute a disaster for the West.
But it changed this past weekend when a pair of rival teams located within 45 miles of each other right here in Utah came to the rescue.
And both did it with dramatic comeback victories in Texas behind a couple of quarterbacks who weren't even expected to play this year.
On Friday in Dallas, BYU came from behind to beat Tulsa 24-21 thanks to another round of heroics from quarterback Riley Nelson in the final seconds. Then on Saturday, Utah came back from the dead behind unheralded quarterback Jon Hays with two touchdowns late in the fourth quarter and shocked Georgia Tech in overtime 30-27.
Finally some representation for the West thanks to the Cougars and Utes.
The same day Utah beat the Yellow Jackets, the West went south again as UCLA was beaten by an Illinois team that hadn't won a game in nearly three months, Oct. 8 to be exact. The Bruins became the first and hopefully the last college team to ever finish with eight losses, while getting a bowl invitation.
So heading into the final dozen bowl games, western football teams have a dismal 2-8 record against teams to the east. We're not counting Boise State's easy win over Arizona State (Tempe is slightly east of Boise) in the Las Vegas Bowl.
Just two more western teams have games left against teams to the east.
On Monday afternoon, Oregon meets Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl (3 p.m. MT) and a few hours later, Stanford plays Oklahoma State in the Fiesta Bowl (6:30 p.m. MT).
Both the Ducks and the Cardinal have good chances to win and could join the Utes and Cougars in the winner's circle, making the West a somewhat respectable 4-8 against teams on the other side of the country.
However, they could just as easily lose, which could mean the West ends up the bowl season at 2-10 with BYU and Utah as the West's only winners.
Not good for the West, but regardless of what happens, the Cougars and Utes can be proud they represented their part of the country well.
Not only is Utah helping hold up the honor of the West, the Utes are the only Pac-12 team to win a bowl game so far.
The Pac-12 is just 1-4 in bowl games so far, which the worst of the BCS conferences and worse than any other league except for the WAC, which is 0-3.
The best record belongs to the Big 12, which is 5-1 with two games remaining. The SEC is 2-1 with six games left, although the league is guaranteed at least one loss since Alabama and LSU meet in the national championship game
The MAC is 3-1 with one game remaining, while the Big Ten is 2-2, but like the SEC, also has six games remaining. The Mountain West Conference, which had the best bowl record last year, is 2-2 this year.
BYU will end up as the only winning independent team because Notre Dame lost to Florida State last week and Army and Navy did not qualify for bowls this year.
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