The perfect setup would be somewhere warm and before the holidays.

Western Kentucky’s options for a bowl game will likely fit those desires expressed by coach Tyson Helton and select Hilltoppers after their win over Middle Tennessee on Saturday to close the regular season.

But WKU (8-4) won’t find out where or when that game takes place for another week.

“I would love to go to a warm weather bowl and I would like to play it before Christmas,” Helton said. “That’s not up to us though. We’ll be happy wherever we go. Our kids will be very, very happy to have an opportunity to play one more game, one more time.”

The Hilltoppers won’t know until next weekend which one of the five Conference USA bowl tie-ins they’ll earn. WKU finished as one of five teams in the conference to earn eight or more wins after capping the season on a three-game winning streak. The Hilltoppers went 6-2 in C-USA games and finished third in the East Division.

Florida Atlantic (9-3 overall, 7-1 C-USA) and UAB (9-3, 6-2) will play for the C-USA championship on Saturday in Boca Raton, Fla., then the bowl committees will make their selection from that day until Sunday afternoon.

The league’s athletic directors voted to allow the conference to have the full control of where teams will be placed so no school can lobby for a certain destination.

Although some players said they’d like to play in the Bahamas Bowl, that game already went to Charlotte, which finished the year 7-5 and will play the Dec. 20 bowl game against Buffalo in Nassau, Bahamas.

That leaves five more guaranteed spots available with the addition of two secondary bowl tie-ins to select from among the Hilltoppers, UAB, Louisiana Tech, Southern Miss and Marshall.

“Anywhere where the sun is,” WKU senior receiver Lucky Jackson said. “I’m just glad we got that extra game. Anywhere there’s heat, I wouldn’t mind.”

The New Orleans Bowl on Dec. 21 against a team from the Sun Belt seems to be the most desirable location for players and fans based on proximity to Bowling Green and as a destination spot in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. New Orleans is almost a nine-hour drive and the closest destination to WKU of the C-USA connections.

The Gasparilla Bowl in Tampa Bay, Fla., would hit a major recruiting area for the Hilltoppers. That game on Dec. 23 at Raymond James Stadium would be against a team from the American Athletic Conference.

Other potential landing spots are the Frisco Bowl (Frisco, Texas) on Dec. 20, or the New Mexico Bowl on Dec. 21 against the Mountain West. The Hawaii Bowl on Christmas Eve will pit a C-USA team against BYU and the First Responders Bowl is the latest of those options on Dec. 30 against a team from the Big 12 Conference played at SMU’s Gerald J. Ford Stadium in Dallas.

C-USA has secondary tie-ins this season with the Boca Raton Bowl and the Independence Bowl in Shreveport, La.

WKU is 3-2 all-time in bowl games having played in Detroit, the Bahamas, Miami, Boca Raton and Orlando, Fla.

“We’re down for wherever, honestly,” WKU quarterback Ty Storey said.

Helton said coaches will hit the road recruiting this week while players continue workouts and player-run practices leading up to the weekend’s final shuffling of bowl potentials.

It’s a critical time for us these next two to three weeks,” Helton said. “Early signing period is coming up, so our staff will be out recruiting and we have official visits coming in this weekend and the following weekend. We’ll get off the road this week and start practice.”{&end}

– Follow WKU athletics beat writer Elliott Pratt on Twitter @EPrattBGDN or visit


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