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Idaho Vandals not a lock for Arizona Bowl

Idaho’s Callen Hightower makes a touchdown reception in front of South Alabama's Jalen Thompson in the second quarter of last Saturday’s game in the Kibbie Dome. (Kyle Mills / AP)
Idaho’s Callen Hightower makes a touchdown reception in front of South Alabama's Jalen Thompson in the second quarter of last Saturday’s game in the Kibbie Dome. (Kyle Mills / AP)

MOSCOW, Idaho – For weeks, the University of Idaho football team’s most likely postseason landing spot appeared to be the Arizona Bowl on Dec. 30 in Tucson. But that’s not so certain now.

Idaho athletic director Rob Spear told The Spokesman-Review that he’s no longer confident forecasting where the Vandals will land based on the latest bowl developments.

“I wish I could say for certain what bowl we will play in,” Spear said Friday morning in an email. “At one time the Arizona Bowl seemed like the likely destination, but things changed Thursday.”

So what happened?

“What changed was the domino impact from teams being placed in bowls that created conferences to vacate or consider vacating bowls,” Spear said.

He declined to comment further until after Idaho’s bowl selection is unveiled. An announcement could come Saturday night or Sunday, Spear said.

The 7-4 Vandals finish the regular season on Saturday at 2 p.m. against Georgia State at the Kibbie Dome. This will be their first bowl appearance since 2009.

Idaho’s only two other bowl showings in its 20-year FBS history came in the Humanitarian Bowl, now called the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl. Spear said the Potato Bowl, slated for Dec. 22 at Boise State’s Albertsons Stadium, is still in play this year after looking like a long shot a few weeks ago.

“Sure it is,” Spear said. “I will not rule anything out.”

Idaho’s other options include the Cure Bowl in Orlando, Florida; the Camellia Bowl in Montgomery, Alabama; or the Dollar General Bowl in Mobile, Alabama – all bowls tied to the Sun Belt.

Two additional Sun Belt Conference teams, Louisiana-Lafayette and South Alabama, can become bowl-eligible on Saturday. If ULL wins at Louisiana-Monroe and South Alabama beats New Mexico State, the Sun Belt will have six bowl-eligible teams for five affiliated bowl games.

Spear said the result of both games will influence the bowl in which bowl Idaho participates.

“I know about as much as Rob,” Arizona Bowl executive director Mike Feder said Friday. “If anything, Rob would be more in the know than I would.”

The Arizona Bowl, which started in 2015, has tie-ins with the Sun Belt and Mountain West. Feder said his bowl will for sure feature a Mountain West team – whether it’s Air Force, Colorado State, New Mexico or another school.

But the Sun Belt’s participation in the Arizona Bowl hinges on this weekend’s action. If either ULL or South Alabama win, the Sun Belt will meet its five bowl commitments and one of the conference’s teams will play in Tucson.

“If there are less (than five teams that qualify),” Feder said, “that changes the picture.”

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