Bowl Picture Clear as Mud – From the Bird’s Nest
There are three weeks to go in the college football season and teams are still jockeying for position in a quest to play in "the best bowl possible."
But let's remember, last year two teams (Middle Tennessee and Louisiana Tech) stayed home. This year, there will be even more schools left on the outside looking in.
As of today, there are 65 bowl-eligible teams for 70 spots. There are ten other schools just one win away from qualifying. And, there are a few 4-6 teams that realistically get to six wins as well.
That's not a good thing if you play in the Sun Belt.
The 'Belt has just two guaranteed tie ins: The R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl on December 21, and the godaddy.com Bowl in Mobile on Jan. 5. Yet the league could have as many as six bowl-eligible teams. Not everyone is going to get in. In fact, even with four, it's likely someone gets left out.
Here's a breakdown of who is in and who could be:
AMERICAN--Six Bowl Tie-Ins, 4 eligible: Still hopeful: SMU (4-5), Rutgers (5-4)
SMU needs two wins and it'll be difficult with both Houston and UCF on the schedule. Rutgers should have no problem with USF and UConn still to play.
PREDICTION: The American gets five, which will leave one bowl open, probably Beef O'Brady's in Orlando.
ACC--Eight bowl tie-ins (plus secondary with Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl), Eight already eligible STILL HOPEFUL: Pittsburgh (5-5), Syracuse (5-5), North Carolina (5-5).
North Carolina should get in with a win over Old Dominion this week. Syracuse closes with Boston College. Pittsburgh has Miami. Pitt and 'Cuse play each other this week in what could be a defacto elimination game.
PREDICTION: The ACC gets ten. Even with that slot at the Kraft, the ACC will still have one extra team that needs slotting. That gets taken care of if the ACC gets two into BCS games.
BIG 12--Seven Bowl Tie-Ins, Six eligible, none others possible
The Big 12 will vacate one bowl, probably the New Era Pinstripe in New York
BIG TEN--Eight Bowl Tie Ins--Seven Eligible, Northwestern and Indiana still possible,but the Wildcats have Michigan State and the Hoosiers have Ohio State.
PREDICTION: The Big Ten vacates one bowl, probably Little Caesars. They vacate two if Michigan State gets into a BCS bowl.
CONFERENCE USA---Six Eligible, Six tie-ins. Two possibles: FAU (4-6), Louisiana Tech (4-6). FAU has a legitimate shot, with games against New Mexico State and FIU. Tech will be favored over Tulsa at home. Their game at UTSA could get them to six, but they won't be favored. (Note: UTSA (5-5) is still provisional and will not qualify).
PREDICTION: CUSA has an extra one with FAU making seven teams.
MAC--Three tie-ins, six eliglble. Central Michigan (4-6) can still get there. CMU has 2-8 Eastern Michigan and 1-9 UMASS left of their schedule.
PREDICTION: Seven will be eliglble. Four will go into the at-large pool unless NIU makes it into a BCS game.
MOUNTAIN WEST--Six tie-ins. Four eligible. Colorado State (6-5), UNLV (5-5), San Jose St (5-5) and Wyoming (4-6) are still on the board. Colorado State has to have seven wins to qualify, as two of their wins are against FCS schools. At Utah State is tough. Air Force at home is a good bet. San Jose isn't a lock,with games left against Navy and Fresno State. UNLV has Air Force and then San Diego State. Wyoming has winless Hawai'i but closes at Utah State.
PREDICTION: Two of the four possibles come through, giving the Mountain West six. They could wind up vacating a bowl if Fresno State makes it into a BCS game.
PAC-12 --Seven tie-ins. Eight eligible. Utah (4-6) and Washington State (5-5) are still alive. The two teams play each other this week. Washington State closes with Washington while Utah meets Colorado.
PREDICTION--One of those two will get in, making nine PAC-12 teams eligible. If a second team makes the BCS, there will be one at large team. Otherwise, there will be two.
SEC- Bowl tie-ins: 10 Eligible: 9. Still in the mix: Tennessee (4-6), Mississippi State (4-6), Florida (4-6). It's almost assured the SEC will get two teams in the BCS, leaving a total of 11 slots for the SEC. Mississippi State closes with Arkansas and Ole Miss. Tennessee gets Vandy and home and closes at Kentucky. Florida has Southern University, but then must play Florida State.
PREDICTION: Florida is out. One of the other two will get in, making ten eligible. With eleven slots, one of them (probably the Independence Bowl) will be open.
SUN BELT--Bowl Tie ins-2. Eligible teams: 4 Troy (5-6) and ULM (5-5) are still in it. Troy entertains Texas State. ULM has to travel to South Alabama and Louisiana.
PREDICTION: While neither is a lock by any means, I think both will become eligible, making six eligible teams, four of which will go into the at-large pool
INDEPENDENTS--BYU, Navy and Notre Dame are bowl eligible. BYU and Navy have accepted bids.
I predict Auburn, Clemson and Fresno State to the BCS
My projection is 76 Bowl Eligible teams. Twelve at large spots will be open, with six vacated bowls to fill. That means six teams stay home. You have to believe both Pac-12 schools will be slotted. That leaves nine for four spots. The MAC, (4), CUSA (1) and Sun Belt (4) will be fighting for those spots. The MAC has a secondary tie-in with the Poinsettia Bowl and should get a team there. That leaves eight for two spots.
Now, let's see what we can speculate about open bowls.
Advocare, Poinsettia, Kraft, Beef O'Bradys, Little Caesars, Idaho Potato, Pinstripe.
We've already said the ACC gets the Kraft Fight Hunger spot, and the MAC the Poinsettia. That leaves Advocare (formerly Independence), Beef O'Brady's in Orlando, Little Caesars in Detroit, Idaho Potato and Pinstripe. I'm going to predict the Pac 12 schools go to Idaho and New York. The seventh team from CUSA goes to Detroit. And, that leaves the MAC and Sun Belt to fight it out over Shreveport and Orlando.
Which schools stay home? Here's my prediction....Central Michigan, Buffalo, Ohio, ULM, Western Kentucky and either Texas State or Troy. TSU might be a possibility for Shreveport and Troy could wind up in Mobile. If Troy goes to Mobile, my prediction is Arkansas State to Shreveport.
I still think the Cajuns are in New Orleans.