Bowling for Losers

Were you not happy that three teams with losing records made it to bowl games last season? (And by the way, they all won and still finished with losing records.)

Well, get ready, as there will be teams with losing records getting into bowl games again this year. Perhaps as many as five or six. Maybe even more.

That’s right, with 40 bowl games and 80 slots available, there simply won’t be enough 6-6 or better teams to fill them all up. Then teams with 5-7 records will have to be considered, the pecking order to be decided by the NCAA’s Academic Progress Report from the 2014-15 academic year.

Yep, whether your team goes bowling or not will all boil down to how many of the players from those schools graduated two years ago. Just as how things worked out for Nebraska, Minnesota and San Jose State last season when they clinched bowl berths despite finishing the regular season with 5-7 records.

The math for the 2016 bowl season is thus: Currently there are 65 bowl eligible teams, 15 short of the 80 bowl slots. There are 18 teams still alive to gain bowl eligibility, but there’s little chance that all 18 teams will win their remaining games to finish 6-6.

Here’s the breakdown:

Likely already eligible (1): Army. The Black Knights are 6-5, but they have two wins over FCS teams and the NCAA only counts one toward the six wins for bowl eligibility. In the event there are fewer than 80 bowl eligible teams, Army will be the first one in.

Likely to gain eligibility (2): TCU and South Alabama. Both teams just need to win one of their remaining two games to reach the six-win threshold. South Alabama was granted a waiver as it can count two FCS wins toward the total because its game last week against LSU was canceled so the Tigers could play Florida. The Jaguars ended up scheduling FCS Presbyterian as its game against the Gators was called off for the same reason thanks to Hurricane Matthew.

Likely to win (8): Indiana, Maryland, Northwestern, North Texas, UTSA, Hawaii, Arizona State and Ole Miss.

Likely to lose (7): SMU, Boston College, NC State, Texas, Southern Miss, Vanderbilt and Louisiana-Lafayette (the latter has to win both of its remaining games).

As things stand, several teams currently 5-6 are in good shape win or lose this weekend. Northwestern, Vanderbilt, North Texas, Boston College, Indiana and Maryland are all high on the APR list. If they do go bowling with 5-7 records, they can thank their former teammates for putting in the time in the classroom.

Game of the Week

Michigan at Ohio State (-6.5), noon ET, ABC

This is shaping up to be the the most important “The Game” since the classic 10 years ago when No. 1 Ohio State edged No. 2 Michigan, 42-39. That game essentially decided the BCS title game participant, though there was nearly a rematch as Michigan finished just percentage points behind Florida for No. 2 in the final BCS standings. There’s a distinct possibility that the Buckeyes may earn a playoff spot this year despite not advancing to the Big Ten title game, as their path is blocked by Penn State even if they defeat Michigan.

Also keep an eye on

Washington (-6) at Washington State, 3:30 p.m. ET Friday, FOX

The Apple Cup will decide the Pac-12 North winner and also the conference’s fate in the playoff. A Huskies victory keeps the Pac-12’s hopes alive to appear in the playoff as they advance to the conference title game. A Cougars win most likely means the Pac-12 will miss the playoff for a second year in a row. Washington has won six of the last seven Apple Cups, including the last three.

Upset special

Wyoming (-3) at New Mexico, 10:15 p.m. ET, ESPN2

Boise State is the highest ranked Group of Five team in the most recent committee rankings, but it cannot claim a New Year’s Six Bowl spot unless it wins the Mountain West title game. The Broncos can’t get there unless Wyoming loses the season finale to New Mexico, which at 7-4 is shooting for its best record since 2007, when it finished 9-4.

Player to watch

Florida at Florida State (-7.5), 8 p.m. ET, ABC

A New Year’s Six bowl berth may be on the line for both teams as they’re just outside of the top 12 in the current rankings. Florida State senior defensive end DeMarcus Walker might have to make the difference to keep the Seminoles’ hopes alive. Walker could’ve turned pro after last season but decided to return to school. He has racked up 13 sacks (second in the nation), 13.5 tackles for losses this season and remains a likely first-round draft pick.

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