The folks in Las Vegas are once again praying BYU fans will swoop down en masse and keep their light bills paid for a few days.
That's the situation the Pioneer Las Vegas Bowl found itself in on Sunday when, despite all its maneuvering to avoid a rematch of BYU-UCLA, it couldn't make a deal, thus, hurdling the crestfallen Bruins against the upstart Cougars in a matchup that will turn out to be a three-peat come next September.
Word on the street is Las Vegas tried to get UCLA to release itself so it could get 6-6 Cal or another opponent, but the 6-6 Bruins earned the right to Las Vegas by finishing 1-4 and they refused to budge. Take that, MWC.
Now we're going to see a world-class spin effort. Marketeers are going to push the "BYU Revenge" button through the console to get BYU fans excited.
A year ago, 44,615 watched BYU beat Oregon 38-8 in Sam Boyd Stadium, the largest crowd to ever watch a team event in the state of Nevada. Most were BYU fans.
But will they react? Will they return? Probably, because despite anger over not getting more BCS respect, outrage over the likely cause, and a failed TV contract, Cougar fans love Bronco Mendenhall and his team and the novelty over bowl fever forgotten in 2002, 2003 and 2004 still burns.
The risk in such a matchup is there's no joy in Bruinville. It's the opposite of the euphoria in Provo. Sunday's Los Angeles Times sports section ran a headline after UCLA's loss to rival USC that read: "UCLA Searching for Dorrell's Successor."
In other words, the Bruin head coach, Karl Dorrell, is expected to be fired immediately. A search committee is already looking at Boise State's Chris Peterson or Texas Tech's Mike Leach. UCLA's defensive coordinator, former Cougar secondary coach DeWayne Walker, has been contacted about the Washington State vacancy.
In Los Angeles, Bruin football is a downer. Fans are pushing away the plate like it was grandma's leftovers.
Vegas will be lucky to get a thousand UCLA fans to make the trip to Sam Boyd Stadium.
By the time the Bruins play in Provo next fall, BYU and UCLA players will know the names of one another's parents, girlfriends, babies and wives, tattoos and possibly classes in which everyone is enrolled.
That's why you don't want these kinds of matchups with teams that have already spilled blood in one season and will do so for a third time next September.
But it is what it is, thanks to a horrendous MWC agreement with the Las Vegas Bowl that could only manage a pact for the fifth-place Pac-10 team.
No disrespect intended for the Bruins. They proved in wins over Oregon State, Cal, Oregon, Washington, BYU and Stanford that they've got plenty of talent to do the job.
And no disrespect to the Las Vegas Bowl, which is growing by leaps and bounds and does a fine job.
But it's this league bowl situation that's ugly.
An MWC champion, whether it be BYU, Utah or TCU, is landlocked and harnessed right now.
Unless the BCS comes knocking.
And they aren't going to knock unless, like Boise State or Hawaii, a non-BCS school is undefeated.
On Sunday, Mendenhall needed no further evidence for his theory that the MWC might need to consider dumbing down its schedules, if wins matter the most, to get to the BCS bowls. Hawaii earned a Sugar Bowl berth, playing the worst schedule in Division I football after getting a last-minute touchdown on their home turf to defeat 4-7 Washington, a Pac-10 team with a 2-7 record, the worst in the otherwise storied Left Coast league.
Now for the good parts of this situation.
The Las Vegas Bowl has been sold out for more than a month. BYU will get 6,000 tickets, and if the Bruin fans don't come, and most experts are predicting they will bail, there will only be more tickets for Cougar fans.
Second, the Cougars will be favored in this game. BYU needs every chance to defeat a Pac-10 team that it can muster because it hasn't fared well over the years with that company. Should BYU win, the Cougars will chip away at its very average bowl record of 8-16-1 in 25 bowls. Since other MWC brothers have made use of taking on disappointed programs at the end of the year, and jacked up bowl victories, so should the Cougars.
Also, the five bowl games MWC teams will play in this month are the most ever.
But again, it's a sad fact that the MWC will have 7-5 TCU play Houston (8-4) in the Texas Bowl and 8-4 Utah play Navy (8-4) in the Poinsettia Bowl all opponents with better records than its champion will face in Las Vegas.
How does that happen? Same way we all got into this fix with TV.
A lack of clout, respect and hammer.Impotence at the bargaining table.
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