There are two ways to look at the situation the bowl system is about to find itself in: You can hope that enough teams will win half of their games and get into a bowl in support of fundamental fairness, or you can hope that some 5-7 teams getting into the postseason will convince the NCAA that they have too many bowl games. I have no confidence in the latter happening any time soon, so maybe the former is the better course to take. But I still find myself torn between the two options.
In any case, there are currently 35 bowl games, meaning we need 70 of the 120 FBS teams to have .500 records or better. There are currently 54 teams that have reached the six-win plateau and will be going to the postseason barring some unlikely runs by teams not already having a berth in hand.
|Air Force||Baylor||Hawaii||Miami (FL)||Navy||Northwestern||Penn State||Syracuse||UCF|
|Alabama||Boise State||Iowa||Miami (OH)||Nebraska||Ohio||San Diego St||Temple||UTEP|
|Arizona||East Carolina||Kansas State||Missouri||Nevada||Ohio State||South Carolina||TCU||Utah|
|Arkansas||Florida||Kentucky||Michigan||North Carolina||Oklahoma||South Florida||Texas A&M||Virginia Tech|
|Army||Florida State||LSU||Michigan State||N.C. State||Oklahoma State||Southern Miss||Toledo||West Virginia|
|Auburn||Fresno State||Maryland||Mississippi State||N. Illinois||Oregon||Stanford||Tulsa||Wisconsin|
That leaves us needing 16 more teams, if we're going on the theory that no one wants to see a 5-7 team make a bowl game -- maybe not even fans of 5-7 teams. Of course, there will be other teams that will join the ranks of those teams with a sixth win. So if two teams with five wins play each other over the next couple of weeks, that will increase the number of bowl-eligible teams -- and a few will.
|Scheduled Games Between Five-Win Teams|
|Houston (5-5) vs. Texas Tech (5-5)||Georgia Tech (5-5) vs. Georgia (5-6)|
Because three of those teams have games against someone else on the schedule, it's possible for all of them to make the postseason. Texas Tech plays Weber State this weekend and should win that game. Houston faces a tough Southern Miss team and might still need a win against the Red Raiders to clear the bar. Georgia Tech hosts Duke in another game the potentially bowl-eligible team should win.
Of course, these are not the only five-win teams in the country, most of whom would need only to split their remaining games to get to a bowl game. Some will have an easier time of doing that, like a Boston College team that has Virginia as one of its remaining contests. If we look at Illinois, on the other hand ...
|Other Five-Win Teams and Schedules|
|Boston College||vs. Virginia, at Syracuse|
|Clemson||at Wake Forest, vs. South Carolina|
|Iowa State||vs. Missouri|
|Louisville||vs. West Virginia, at Rutgers|
|Illinois||at Northwestern, at Fresno State|
|Southern Methodist||vs. Marshall, at East Carolina|
|Notre Dame||vs. Army, at Southern California|
|BYU||vs. New Mexico, at Utah|
|California||vs. Stanford, vs. Washington|
|Troy||at South Carolina, vs. Western Kentucky|
Still, none of the are lost causes. So we'll go with Texas Tech defeating Weber State and losing to Houston -- or Houston defeating Southern Miss as well -- and Georgia Tech defeating Duke and losing to Georgia. Then, let's say all the other five-win teams manage to make eligibility. That's 68 teams. We need two more to get to the 70 teams we need to avoid a 5-7 team.
Here's the problem: We're knocking off some teams we need to get there. California has to defeat either Stanford or Washington, with Washington being the most likely of those two to lose, giving Washington one loss too many. This is a balancing act, after all.
Counting Southern Cal, there are already 27 teams with seven losses, six losses and two FCS wins or some other factor that makes them ineligible for a bowl.
But they won't be alone for the entire season. There are at least four games between teams that currently have six losses, meaning that each team that looses those games is immediately eliminated. That brings us to 31, with the number we want to avoid being 51.
|Scheduled Games Between Six-Loss Teams|
|Indiana (4-6) vs. Purdue (4-6)|
|Marshall (4-6) vs. Tulane (4-6)|
|Kent State (4-6) vs. Western Michigan (4-6)|
|Idaho (4-6) vs. Utah State (4-6)|
In short, we have 56 guaranteed bowl-eligible teams and 31 guaranteed ineligible teams under the current system. We have 10 teams that have a pretty good chance of making it. What happens to them and the 23 other teams will determine whether a 5-7 team gets into the postseason; which could mean quite a bit to SEC bubble teams like Ole Miss.
So let's rearrange the argument for a minute and say that five of the five-win teams get in. That's 61. We'll now need nine more, which is about 39 percent of the remaining teams. Troy is the only four-loss team not eligible for a bowl, so all the other teams have a very narrow margin for error on this. And that's if they have a margin for error at all.
Which, of course, is the very situation that the bowl system finds itself in. Without a margin for error. If the existence of a glut of bowls can't make the NCAA get rid of some of the games, maybe the inability to find enough teams that can win just half their games to fill the bowls can.