New Orleans Bowl photo gallery _lowres

Advocate staff photo by PATRICK DENNIS --UL-Lafayette head coach Mark Hudspeth, right, signals victory to the crowd as UL-Lafayette president E. Joseph Savoie, center, and athletic director Scott Farmer, left, join in the celebration during the trophy presentation after UL-Lafayette's victory over Tulane in the R&L Carriers New Orleans Bowl Saturday in the Mercedes Benz Superdome.

You’ve got to get up pretty early in the morning to be the first bowl game of the season.

Like 10 a.m.

That’s the kickoff time for the 14th R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl, which will be played on Dec. 20 in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome and air on ESPN.

“There are logistical challenges to starting that early,” bowl executive director Billy Ferrante said. “But two years ago, we had an 11 a.m. kickoff, and that worked out pretty well for us as far as TV numbers and our crowd.

“And when we presented the scenarios to our bowl partners, they were fine with it, too.”

The bowl will also break from its usual Sun Belt-Conference USA pairing this year as well. A Mountain West team will replace the C-USA team for this season only as part of an agreement between the two leagues that will see a C-USA team placed in a Mountain West-affiliated bowl to be determined.

The C-USA agreement will resume next year and run through 2019.

“We’ve always been receptive to other conferences being part of our mix,” Ferrante said. “That creates new match-ups for us.

“But we had to leave our conference partners to figure out what they wanted to do. So this is where we ended up for 2014, and we’re very enthusiastic about it.”

This will be the third time a Mountain West team will be in the New Orleans Bowl. Colorado State played in the first one in 2001 and San Diego State was in the 2011 game.

The bowl will continue to have the first choice among Sun Belt teams.

For the last three years that has been Louisiana-Lafayette. The Ragin’ Cajuns have won all three, including a 24-21 victory against Tulane before a record crowd in excess of 54,000 in last season’s game.