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CUSA Sexy Seven, Bowl Possibilities, Big XY Soccer Weekend

UPCOMING HOME GAMES/MATCHES

Swimming & Diving -- Friday vs. Rice, 4 p.m.

Swimming & Diving -- Saturday vs. FAU, 10 a.m.

Swimming & Diving -- Saturday vs. University of Miami, 4 p.m.

Men's Soccer -- Saturday vs. Old Dominion, 7 p.m.

Actually, let me open with women's soccer, which can clinch a spot in the Conference USA tournament this weekend. Wins at Western Kentucky and Marshall -- or a win at Western, a tie at Marshall, FAU ties or beats Western Sunday, Louisiana Tech doesn't win both weekend games (got that?) -- put the Panthers into the tournament they'll host Nov. 4-8.

Think that's not a big deal? Ask the nearest FIU softball player, forced to sit in the timeout of offseason while the 2015 Conference USA tournament teams played in her sandbox. Or the remaining women's soccer players from last year's very talented, very underachieving team that somehow didn't make the conference tournament. Or volleyball. Or men's soccer. Or women's basketball.

(Boy, it really was Big Enchilada In or Big Enchilada Out for FIU last year as far as last year's Conference USA tournaments/meets, huh?)

FOOTBALL

Conference USA's Sexy Seven. Not much movement at the top, but this weekend could make things interesting.

1. Western Kentucky (5-1, 3-0 in conference play): Is North Texas adding a third digit to the visitor's side of the scoreboard for Thursday's game? This weekend: If I have to tell you, you're not paying attention and I'm not coddling that.

2. Marshall (5-1, 2-0): Responded to the challenge by a good Southern Mississippi team by giving them what for, 31-10. This weekend: at FAU.

3. Louisiana Tech (4-2, 2-1): That three-point win over UTSA looked much harder than it should have been. This weekend: at Mississippi State.

4. Middle Tennessee State (2-4, 1-1): The Blue Raiders defense Floundered against Western. (Capitalization intentional. It reminded me of Flounder throwing up on Dean Wormer.). By the way, check out this story on Middle's No. 2 rusher Jeremiah Bryson. This weekend: vs. FIU.

5. FIU (3-3, 1-1): The only team that's kept La Tech under 30 leads the conference in red zone offense, red zone defense and rarely turns the ball over. This weekend: at Middle.

6. Rice (3-3, 2-1): See Louisiana Tech, sub "one-point" for "three-point" and "FAU" for "UTSA." This weekend: Bye.

7. Southern Miss (3-3, 1-1): Todd Monken said it's time for this team to make a move. This weekend: hosting UTSA.

Let's talk bowls and bowl possibilities for FIU.

Nobody's saying FIU can't go to Marshall and win. And, maybe FIU's got the big play defense to fence with the swashbucklers at Western just as Western's offense made it the Metallo to Marshall's Superman last year.

The most likely results, however, land FIU at six or seven wins, the swing game being Middle on Saturday. Breaking down the schedule, it looks like it'll be a perfect fit -- seven bowl-eligible brides for seven bowl brothers. So, which bowl's bed gets FIU? Going chronologically...

Gildan New Mexico Bowl, Dec. 19: This is where UTEP went last year. Rice is the closest. FIU going here makes no sense.

R&L Carriers New Orleans Bowl, Dec. 19: Savvy sportswriters covering games at Southern Miss fly into New Orleans the night before and drive to Hattiesburg on game day. This is Southern Miss all the way.

Miami Beach Bowl, Dec. 21: I wish. But, no.

Last year's Miami Beach Bowl broadcast came back from commercial break to another establishing shot showing a December-chilled nation our sunny Miami home. A bowl suit and I pointed at the screen and laughed, "That's why this game exists!"

To an even greater degree than most bowls, the Miami Beach Bowl's about promoting tourism in our tourism-and-real estate-based ponzi scheme economy. Which means, if at all possible, the bowl wants two teams from out of town to bring their fans to Miami in December. They want two teams from out of town to bring their fan eyeballs to the broadcast, so those eyeballs' owners can see those establishing shots (mini-commercials) and say, "I'm tired of change of seasons."

Also, after last year's shootout-and-brawl between Memphis and BYU, they'll want a team that can help with at least the shootout part. Hello, Western Kentucky.

Popeyes Bahamas Bowl, Dec. 24: Got your passports? Might want to get them ready just in case. This tourism-based bowl would welcome a school a short plane hop away. I'm not sure FIU would welcome the expense compared to the other leading option... 

St. Petersburg Bowl, Dec. 26: The game called the Beef O'Brady's Bowl when FIU met Marshall in 2011 could invite FIU back. Of the seven previous incarnations of this bowl, five have featured a Florida school. Cheap for FIU, an easy gameday drive for fans the day after Christmas.

Zaxby's Heart of Dallas Bowl, Dec. 26: You fly into Shreveport when you go to La Tech and get on Interstate 20 East. The sign for I-20 West says "Dallas." Which is why La Tech went there last year and probably will again this year.

Arizona Bowl, Dec. 29: The first year of anything means all kinds of problems. There were problems in the Bahamas Bowl last year. The Miami Beach Bowl brawl doesn't happen if Memphis' doesn't have to run through the BYU bench to get to its fan section. Bet that'll be changed this year. Rice has more juice in the conference than Middle, so the Blue Raiders could wind up the guinea pig team.

 

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