As we head in to the final week of the regular season for some conferences this Thanksgiving week the bowl hopes for a number of schools will be on the line. At the moment there are 64 teams eligible for postseason play in the FBS ranks, which leaves six bowl spots still available (70 total for 35 bowl games, including BCS championship).
Bowl officials will be watching closely these next couple of weeks as they figure out which teams are bowl eligible and worthy of receiving an invitation to their game. But what would happen if there were not enough eligible teams? In this unlikely, but possible, scenario then a petition to the NCAA from the affected bowl game and school would have to be filed in order to have a chance to play in a postseason game. That petition would be likely to be accepted by the NCAA, as they would not want to risk embarrassment to the bowl system.
Big East bowl tie-ins in trouble?
The Big East has been a target of mockery all season and not without merit. The conference has gone one more week without having a team in the AP or coaches Top 25 polls and is at risk of having a team head to the BCS with eight wins, which would anger the anti-Big East crowd. Entering this week the conference has five schools eligible for postseason play (Pittsburgh, Syracuse, West Virginia, Connecticut, South Florida), which leaves the conference one school away from guaranteeing they will fill their allotment of bowl tie-ins.
The Big East has an automatic bid to the BCS reserved for the Big East champion. The Champs Sports Bowl receives the second pick of conference teams after the BCS team is determined. The Meineke Car Care Bowl and the brand new New Era Pinstripe Bowl are next in line for picking. The fifth pick goes to either the BBVA Compass Bowl or AutoZone Liberty Bowl. Which means the Beef ‘O’ Brady’s Bowl is the bowl paying the most attention to a couple teams this weekend.
Louisville (5-6) is one win away from bowl eligibility and they play their final regular season game this weekend at Rutgers (4-6), a place that has traditionally been unkind to the Cardinals. A Louisville win would set the Big East at ease, as they would be sure to fill their bowl slots with a Louisville win. But Rutgers still has a shot as well. The Scarlet Knights must win their final two games (Louisville, @ West Virginia) to become bowl eligible. West Virginia may be the best team in the conference and have a shot at the BCS on the line themselves. A win by Rutgers against Louisville could put the Big East at risk and look for Cincinnati (4-6) to become eligible.
The defending Big East champs are nowhere close to where they were this time last year. A year after running the table in the regular season and heading to the Sugar Bowl to play the Florida Gators, Cincinnati is in a position where they need to win their final two games of the season (at Connecticut, Pittsburgh) to head anywhere this postseason.
Pac-10 causing headaches too
With USC not eligible for a postseason bowl game due to probation from the NCAA the Pac-10 is at risk of not filling their bowl tie-ins. Oregon (10-1) and Stanford (10-1) both look to be heading to the BCS but only one other school is currently bowl eligible, Arizona (7-3). The conference has six bowl tie-ins.
Oregon State (5-5) is one of the Pac-10 schools needing just one more win to become eligible but they may have the toughest mountain to climb to reach the postseason. Oregon State plays at Stanford this week and hosts Oregon next week. The Cal Bears (5-6) are also one win away from becoming eligible but they only have one last chance to get there. This weekend Cal finishes their regular season with a home game against Washington (4-6). Jake Locker and the Huskies also need to win in order to keep their own postseason hopes alive heading in to the Apple Cup against Washington State.
UCLA (4-6) is in a similar position they were last year at this time with their bowl dreams hanging in the ropes. The Bruins must win their final two games in order to reach a bowl game again. This week UCLA plays at Arizona State (4-6 but ineligible) and rival USC (7-4) the following week. The Trojans, knowing that they cannot play in a bowl game, would love nothing more than to take out their rival if a bowl game is on the line in Los Angeles.
If Oregon (or Stanford) advances to the BCS championship game then it may be very tricky for the Pac-10 to fill all of their bowl spots. The Pac-10 champion traditionally goes to the Rose Bowl but Oregon could be heading to the BCS Championship, which could leave the Rose Bowl in a position where they must invite TCU or Boise State rather than go with the Pac-10 runner up. Of course, the Rose Bowl is guaranteed one Big Ten team. BCS rules state that if the Rose Bowl loses one of their traditional conference tie-ins to the BCS championship this year they must take the highest-ranking non-BCS qualifier. That may actually help the Pac-10 fill more of their bowl slots, but the conference still needs to find three more bowl teams and that is going to be tough to do.
Sun Belt Conference with no bowl eligible teams
The Sun Belt Conference is still looking for their first bowl eligible team but the good news is that they have three schools one win away from eligibility. Florida International (5-5) has two weeks to pick up a win at home, Troy (5-5) gets one chance at home and another on the road, and Louisiana-Monroe (5-6) has one final chance at home this season to become eligible for a bowl game. Middle Tennessee (4-6) and Florida Atlantic (4-6) each have a chance to become bowl eligible but only one will head to the final week with shot. Middle Tennessee hosts Florida Atlantic this week with the loser being eliminated from postseason contention.
The Sun Belt Conference has two guaranteed bowl tie-ins and three contingency tie-ins. The conference champion will go on to play in the New Orleans Bowl and the GoDaddy.com Bowl will take the second selection from the Sun Belt Conference. If a third school is eligible the Beef “O” Brady’s Bowl could fill their final bowl spot usually reserved for the Big East by inviting a Sun Belt school.