The Independence Bowl looked like the strangest bowl matchup at the start of the season. The PAC-12, a conference with no teams within 1000 miles of Shreveport, would play the Big 12 in Northern Louisiana.
It looked like a recipe for disaster for the nearly 50-year-old bowl if they could not get one of the Big 12’s Texas schools to bolster attendance. Through the first 11 weeks of the season, the Independence Bowl seemed destined to have a geographically unfavorable matchup. However, some shocking upsets provided hope for the Northern Louisiana bowl.
Texas Tech came into week 11 needing wins against #16 Kansas and 4-5 UCF or #7 Texas. The Red Raiders’ bowl hopes looked slim, but an upset win over the Jayhawks improved their chances immensely. Now, Texas Tech can reach Bowl eligibility with a win over UCF this week.
Texas Tech is about 7.5 hours away from Shreveport. While they are not the closest school to Shreveport, they are a better alternative to the bowl’s Big 12 options before week 11.
The Independence Bowl has the seventh choice of Big 12 teams after the New Year’s Six. Houston is only four hours away from Shreveport, but the Cougars played in the bowl last year. Iowa State and West Virginia were realistic options to fall to the Independence Bowl. However, Iowa State is 12 hours away, while West Virginia’s campus is over 15 hours from Shreveport.
Additionally, Washington State’s loss to California helped the Independence Bowl immensely. The PAC-12 currently has seven bowl-eligible teams and three more teams with 4-6 records. California, Washington State, and Colorado all are 4-6.
They all have a chance at bowl eligibility, yet each has a game where they are heavy underdogs. If the PAC-12 sends two teams to the New Year’s Six as many prognosticators foresee, the league will vacate its Independence Bowl slot.
The Sun Belt holds the backup tie-in and has multiple teams within a driveable distance of Shreveport. Even though Louisiana appeared in the bowl last year, Troy, South Alabama, and Texas State are all in Shreveport’s vicinity.
Additionally, the bowl will be a special occasion for whichever Sun Belt school plays. It will be the first time the conference has played a power conference team in a bowl game. Texas State's first bowl appearance ever creates the potential for a diaspora of celebrating Bobcat fans to Shreveport.
While local fans may have delighted in the first all-Power Five Independence Bowl since 2016, asking fans of a PAC-12 school to fly to Shreveport on a two-week notice is a tall task. Combine it with the fact the opponent would likely be a 6-6 Big 12 team, and the tourism boost bowl cities thrive off is gone.
No bowl saw its fortunes grow more last week than the Independence Bowl. The door opened to invite two nearby schools and host a historic event.
While multiple things must happen for the Independence Bowl to get the Big 12 school they may desire, the looming possibility of depending on a school over 2000 miles away to bring a strong travel contingent became more unlikely.