Nov. 21, 2004
SportsLine.com wire reports

BOISE, Idaho -- Boise State is in line to take Utah's spot in the Liberty Bowl, now that the Utes have all but locked up a spot in the Bowl Championship Series.

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The Liberty Bowl has a contract with the Mountain West Conference that requires the league's champ to play the winner of Conference USA in Memphis, Tenn., on New Year's Eve.

Officials with the Liberty Bowl have started discussions with the Western Athletic Conference and Boise State to have the Broncos (10-0, 7-0 WAC) fill the vacancy left by MWC champ Utah.

The matchup Liberty Bowl officials are hoping for is No. 10 Boise State taking on No. 7 Louisville (8-1). The Cardinals' only loss was against Miami.

Broncos-Cardinals would match the two highest scoring teams in the country and it might be the only game with two teams in the top 10 of the BCS standings, outside of the national championship game in the Orange Bowl.

"If it happens, we think that we would have the most compelling, exciting bowl game outside of the national championship game. There is no doubt about that," Liberty Bowl associate executive director Harold Graeter said before Boise State's 55-14 win over Louisiana Tech on Saturday.

"Both of these teams play an entertaining style of football and that's what we're looking for."

Contractually, the Liberty Bowl could have forced Utah to play in Memphis. But Liberty Bowl executive director Steve Ehrhart, who was in Salt Lake City for Utah's 52-21 victory over BYU on Saturday, said he will continue to work with MWC commissioner Craig Thompson on a deal to free the Utes.

"We understand the landscape and wish Utah well," Ehrhart said

By beating Louisiana Tech, the Broncos extended the nation's longest win streak to 21 and tied BYU for the most consecutive conference wins at 25.

They also clinched at least a share of their third consecutive WAC title.

The Broncos still need to finish out their regular season Saturday at Nevada. Louisville has two games remaining, versus Cincinnati Saturday and at Tulane on Dec. 4. A win next week will wrap up the Conference USA title for Louisville and a spot in the Liberty Bowl.

Then, there's still the matter of Boise State sneaking into the BCS.

With losses Saturday by Michigan and Florida State, the Broncos -- No. 9 in last week's BCS standings -- still have the slimmest of hopes of joining Utah in the big-money games. They would need loses by California and Texas to even have a shot.

Still, that was enough for Fiesta Bowl representative Steve Horrell to spend Saturday in Boise.

"That football can bounce some funny ways sometimes," Horrell said. "These fans, this staff and these players deserve that place that they have now. Now will that be in the Fiesta Bowl or the BCS, we don't know."

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