Get­ting UCF and Mil­ton to Hawaii Bowl will take a Hail Mary

West Hawaii Today - - Sports - BY FERD LEWIS

Let’s get this straight right up front: The chances of see­ing Mililani’s McKen­zie Mil­ton quar­ter­back so-far un­de­feated Cen­tral Florida in the Hawaii Bowl on Christ­mas Eve this year are a dis­tant long­shot the way things have gone.

But, then, wasn’t it not long ago when it seemed the chances of a 5-foot, 11-inch high school quar­ter­back from Hawaii go­ing 4,753 miles

away to a Florida school and find­ing quick na­tional suc­cess were, well, a con­sid­er­able long­shot, too?

So raise an eye­brow but don’t be flab­ber­gasted that ESPN Events, which owns and op­er­ates the Hawaii Bowl, says it hasn’t ruled out the pos­si­bil­ity, how­ever dis­tant, of 14th-ranked UCF some­how, some­way, find­ing its way to Aloha Sta­dium.

Again, it isn’t count­ing on it or promis­ing it, but it isn’t ig­nor­ing it, ei­ther.

His­tory tells us strange things have hap­pened in the weeks lead­ing up to se­lec­tion days in the 34 years that this state has hosted the Aloha, Oahu and Hawaii bowls.

“How it (all) plays out, I don’t know, I’m not rul­ing any­thing out, but I don’t want any­body to mis­un­der­stand that a (Golden Knights) loss puts them on the flight to Hawaii,” said Pete Derzis, se­nior vice pres­i­dent, col­lege sports pro­gram­ming and events, for ESPN.

Derzis said, “Their (UCF’s) goals are so high, to com­pete in the Col­lege Foot­ball Play­offs, that we’re sort of let­ting them play out, to be can­did. If that were to change, I think ev­ery­thing is on the ta­ble.”

At this point, with two reg­u­lar-sea­son games and the like­li­hood of a con­fer­ence cham­pi­onship game ap­pear­ance ahead of them, odds are the Golden Knights will be play­ing in a bowl some­where — Peach, Cot­ton, Fi­esta … — on New Year’s Day.

UCF (9-0), the leader of the Amer­i­can Ath­letic Con­fer­ence’s East Di­vi­sion, is at Tem­ple (5-5) on Satur­day and then con­cludes the reg­u­lar sea­son next week against sec­ond-place and 23rd-ranked South Florida (8-1).

The di­vi­sional win­ner plays West cham­pion Mem­phis (8-1) in the Dec. 2 AAC cham­pi­onship game.

UCF beat Mem­phis 40-13 in Septem­ber.

If the Hawaii Bowl was dream­ing out loud early on, it would have been for a UH vs. UCF matchup. But, we’ve known for some time that wasn’t go­ing to hap­pen.

“Ob­vi­ously with­out UH in the game, we know the chal­lenges in terms of hav­ing an at­trac­tive match for the fan base, but our hopes are that we will be able to do that,” Derzis said.

So, an ap­pear­ance by Mil­ton, the na­tional leader in pass­ing ef­fi­ciency, guiding the na­tion’s high­est scor­ing of­fense (48.6 points per game), is the best Christ­mas present the game and its own­ers could hope for.

Hawaii fans never got to see Mar­cus Mar­i­ota in his record-set­ting years at Ore­gon, or Manti Te’o in his Notre Dame ca­reer, play a col­lege game in Aloha Sta­dium, so a Mil­ton ap­pear­ance would be a wel­come at­trac­tion.

It would def­i­nitely lure more fans away from the tree and din­ner ta­ble on Dec. 24 than any­thing else ESPN’s con­tracts with the Moun­tain West and AAC could of­fer up. Colorado State-SMU or Fresno State-SMU are two pos­si­bil­i­ties be­ing sug­gested in me­dia pro­jec­tions this week.

Derzis said, “If UCF wins out they are go­ing to the CFP and we’d be happy. Mark Mil­ton is on our (Hawaii Bowl) ex­ec­u­tive com­mit­tee and we’ve been fol­low­ing his son’s suc­cess with a lot of pride for Mark and the fam­ily. The (son) has had a great year and it is a great story.”

How­ever the fi­nal chap­ter of this year turns out.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.