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Colorado State Rams running back Dalyn ...
Colorado State Rams running back Dalyn Dawkins (1) finds room against Wyoming Cowboys defensive lineman Javaree Jackson (86) and Wyoming Cowboys defensive end Josiah Hall (53) in the second quarter at Jonah Field at War Memorial Stadium Nov. 04, 2017.
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The Colorado State football team is guaranteed a bowl berth, but in which postseason game will the Rams land?

The Mountain West is contracted to play in at least five bowl matchups — the Las Vegas Bowl, the Hawaii Bowl, the Idaho Potato Bowl, the New Mexico Bowl and the Arizona Bowl — while also having six teams eligible for postseason play: San Diego State (10-2), Fresno State (9-3), Boise State (9-3), Wyoming (7-5), CSU (7-5) and Utah State (6-6).

The matchups will be selected based on geography, history and competitiveness through ESPN and the Mountain West. With six league qualifiers for five spots, one team will likely head to the Foster Farms Bowl or Frisco Bowl as a backup option for those games. Note that the Foster Farms Bowl is not included in these projections. If three Big Ten teams play in the New Years Six games, the Mountain West will fill its spot for the Dec. 27 game at Levi’s Stadium.

Denver Post deputy sports editor Matt L. Stephens and college sports beat reporter Kyle Fredrickson take their best guess at where the Mountain West’s bowl-bound teams are headed.

Las Vegas Bowl vs. Pac-12 — 12:30 p.m. Dec. 16 (Sam Boyd Stadium)

Kyle: Had CSU’s Mountain West title hopes not gone up in smoke down the stretch, the Rams would be prime contenders to represent the league in its only bowl affiliate promised to face a Power 5 opponent. Instead, the top selection seems destined for the eventual conference champion. Despite falling to Fresno State last week, Boise State will host the Bulldogs on Saturday for the title. Home-field advantage might be the key. Prediction: Boise State. 

Matt: Technically, the Las Vegas Bowl doesn’t have to take the Mountain West champion, it just gets first pick of which Mountain West team it wants in its bowl (which is why CSU played there in 2014 after Boise State received an invite to the Fiesta Bowl). The Mountain West is highly unlikely to receive a New Years Six bowl invite this year, so expect the winner of this week’s conference championship game between Boise State and Fresno State to end up here. Prediction: Boise State. 

Hawaii Bowl vs. AAC — 12:30 p.m. Dec. 24 (Aloha Stadium)

Matt: It’s not a bowl game teams or fans want to travel to, but it’s not a bad TV spot playing Christmas Eve on ESPN. If it can, the Mountain West likes to avoid sending teams to Hawaii twice in a season, and CSU, San Diego State and Fresno State have already played at Aloha Stadium this year. But if you look at the matchup against the American Athletic Conference, Hawaii makes a lot of sense for the loser of Saturday’s championship and it gives the Mountain West a shot to knock off its rival league. Prediction: Fresno State. 

Kyle: Who wants to open presents on the beach? It’s a shame that Hawaii only tallied three victories this season, because asking another Mountain West team to cross the ocean for its bowl game, especially programs that already traveled to Hawaii once this fall, is a tall order. Then again, a change of scenery from Laramie to Honolulu in late December should be welcomed by the Cowboys. Prediction: Wyoming. 

Idaho Potato Bowl vs. MAC — 2 p.m. Dec. 22 (Albertsons Stadium)

Kyle: It’s difficult to drum up much excitement for a bowl game named after a spud. But CSU and Idaho combined for 111 points last season, and one year earlier, Akron edged Utah State by the slimmest of margins, 23-21. If history continues, the entertainment value should be high. Prediction: Fresno State. 

Matt: This is where CSU went last year and fewer than 800 tickets were purchased by Ram fans to attend a game in freezing temperatures. The field conditions were horrible and there were Rams sliding all over the iced blue turf. Just like it tries to avoid sending a team to Hawaii twice in one season, the Mountain West also doesn’t like to send a school to the same bowl in back-to-back years. Prediction: Utah State.

New Mexico Bowl vs. Conference USA — 2:30 p.m. Dec. 16 (Dreamstyle Stadium)

Kyle: While CSU has star power in wide receiver Michael Gallup and a history of strong fan support at Dreamstyle Stadium, another possible fit is a program with a bit more flash. A team that beat two Pac-12 opponents, Arizona State and Stanford, and features the nation’s only 2,000-yard rusher in Rashaad Penny. Prediction: San Diego State. 

Matt: Granted, both of CSU’s trips to this bowl have been after postseason hiatuses (2008, 2013), but the Rams have traveled well to this game in the past. It’s an easy seven-hour drive from Fort Collins. Facing a C-USA opponent, it’s not as attractive of a matchup as it was when it pitted the Mountain West vs. Pac-12, but it’s on the first day of bowl season, which brings plenty of viewers to watch Gallup, a Biletnikoff finalist, make big plays ahead of the draft. Prediction: Colorado State.

Arizona Bowl vs. Sun Belt — 3:30 p.m. Dec. 29 (Arizona Stadium)

Matt: There’s no exact pecking order for Mountain West bowl placement as it relates to conference standings outside of the Las Vegas Bowl getting first choice. However! The Hawaii, Idaho and New Mexico bowls (the games operated by ESPN Events) get the next choice in teams with the Arizona Bowl picking last. If the Mountain West and ESPN decide they want to put the conference’s Nos. 2-4 teams in those three games, that would relegate the Rams to play in the Arizona Bowl for the second time in three years. (At 7-5, the Rams are technically the conference’s fifth-place team after losing the head-to-head with Wyoming.) But with quarterback Josh Allen’s status uncertain, Tucson becomes a likely landing spot for Wyoming. You saw Saturday with their loss at San Jose State just how unwatchable the Cowboys are without Allen. If he doesn’t play, ESPN won’t want them. Prediction: Wyoming.

Kyle: It’s fair to wonder whether Allen’s injury will prevent him from playing, or even if he voluntarily misses Wyoming’s bowl game to prepare for the NFL draft. But the Cowboys’ entire body of work is valued, I think a trip to Honolulu is warranted. That puts the Rams back in the Arizona Bowl, where they lost to Nevada in 2015. Prediction: CSU.

Frisco Bowl vs. AAC — 6 p.m. Dec. 20 (Toyota Stadium)

Matt: Again, matchups are everything, and this is another game operated by ESPN Events. It pits the AAC vs. a team from C-USA, the MAC or Mountain West, and Penny and a 10-win San Diego State team looks pretty desirable over any other at-large short of a Lane Kiffin-coached Florida Atlantic squad. Prediction: San Diego State.

Kyle: It’s unfortunate, but there is a chance Utah State is snubbed entirely from bowl season despite six victories. There are 79 bowl eligible teams for 78 slots, with three more teams Florida State (5-6), New Mexico State (5-6) and Louisiana-Lafayette (5-6) still in contention with one game left each. It’s hard to say exactly how it will all shake out, but the Aggies still have a good chance of landing in Frisco. Prediction: Utah State. 

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