It appears the Washington State Cougars might get a chance to play the Sun Bowl after all: According to Sports Illustrated’s Ross Dellenger, the Sun Bowl is in negotiations to bring Central Michigan to El Paso.
The Chippewas are currently in Tucson, Arizona, where they were supposed to be playing the Arizona Bowl against Boise State. But the Broncos withdrew today because of a Covid outbreak, leaving the Chippewas in limbo.
The Cougars, meanwhile, wait in El Paso, wondering if they’ll get to play after their scheduled opponent — the Miami Hurricanes — dropped out yesterday because of their own Covid issues.
It was assumed the Sun Bowl would have an extremely difficult time finding a replacement for Miami, given that the game was less than a week away and El Paso is a fairly remote location. But the cancellation of the Arizona Bowl presents a fortuitous opportunity: the Chippewas — and perhaps, most importantly, their gear — already are in Tucson, which is only about a four hour drive from El Paso.
The first step is for the MAC to release Central Michigan from its obligation to play in the Arizona Bowl, which Dellinger says the conference has done. The next step is for the Arizona Bowl to let CMU out of the game, something that I would assume is a bit of a foregone conclusion — it’s hard to imagine that the Arizona Bowl won’t come to an agreement with the Sun Bowl (which probably will involve some money heading Arizona’s way) given that any amount of compensation is more than the zero dollars the Arizona Bowl will get by not letting CMU out and both bowl games getting canceled.
If you’re wondering why these negotiations are only going one direction — why WSU isn’t considering playing in the Arizona Bowl — the payout for the Sun Bowl (which will be broadcast on Big CBS) is $4.55 million, while the Arizona Bowl (to be broadcast on YouTube) pays out just $350,000.
Everyone wins if the Sun Bowl is played.
Central Michigan is 8-4 after going 6-2 in the MAC and tying for first in their division. Notably, the Chippewas are coached by Jim McElwain (who coached Colorado State against WSU in the 2013 New Mexico Bowl) and their defensive coordinator is Robb Akey (who was WSU’s defensive coordinator under Bill Doba from 2003-2006).
The Chippewas played a couple of Power 5 schools early in the season, losing 34-24 at Missouri and 49-21 at LSU. They finished the regular season on a four-game win streak in which their offense really took off, averaging 41 points. They feature a run-heavy attack that went over 200 yards on the ground six different times. Lew Nichols III — just a second-year freshman — picked up more than 1,700 himself (142.5 yards per game), averaging 26 carries and 5.5 yards while scoring 15 touchdowns.
Meanwhile, the defense allowed an average of 21.8, including holding Western Michigan to 30 — the Broncos just dropped 52 on Nevada in their bowl game today.
Regardless of what you think of Central Michigan, playing the game at all would be a fantastic development.