Contrary to popular belief, college football has a bubble too.
A lot of sports fans equate that term with March. And I love that time of year as much as anyone else. But the postseason of college football is far from set in stone until teams reach the magic 6-win mark. So let’s take a look at the teams that have yet to reach Bowl Eligibility in the AAC and MAC and see what their path to the Boca Raton Bowl or whatever looks like. (Next week I’ll look at the other Group of 5 conferences and project some postseason participants in C-USA, Mountain West and the Sun Belt.)
Bowl Eligible: Tulane, UCF, Cincinnati, East Carolina
Ineligible for a bowl: South Florida
Remaining Schedule: at South Florida, at Tulane, Memphis
I was a little on the fence about SMU. They beat up on the softer teams on their schedule, but didn’t have any marquee wins.
Then 77-63 happened.
That was the score of a real-life football game they played against Houston Saturday. If you didn’t watch any of the game, which was televised on the NFL Network, drink in the drive chart…
“TD” shows up a lot, because SMU scored 11 of them!! (And looked amazing in their black uniforms doing so.) And now they play a USF team that just fired their head coach. Six wins will come sooner rather than later. Bowl.
Remaining Schedule: Temple, at East Carolina, Tulsa
Don’t shed too many tears for the Cougars. Being on the losing side of a historically awesome shootout isn’t a reflection of being a bad team. Houston will likely reach bowl eligibility in a get right game against Temple. The home game against Tulsa to close out the season is essentially a gimmie as well. While that’s probably not sufficient for a team with expectations as high as Houston’s at the beginning of the season, it’ll have to do for now. Bowl.
Remaining Schedule: North Alabama, at SMU
After Thursday night’s 26-10 win over Tulsa, the Tigers are sitting pretty for a bowl. Their next game is next Saturday at home against North Alabama. Take care of business there and they are playing with house money going to SMU in the season finale, a game that might not mean much to either team but could lend itself to quite a bit of fun if you are a fan of offense. Bowl.
Remaining Schedule: Notre Dame, at UCF, Army
Navy is treading on some very thin ice in terms of bowl eligibility. Their remaining schedule is very difficult. A Notre Dame team that they have beat before (and ND is not as good as previous years) but is still Notre Dame. A road game at the Bounce House against a UCF team that still has a lot to play for in the conference, and the season finale against Army, where anything can happen. Asking the Midshipmen to win out is asking far, far too much. No Bowl.
Remaining Schedule: at Houston, Cincinnati, East Carolina
If you are reading this on Nov. 11 and a Temple fan (or *ahem* alum), good news. The Temple Owls are still technically bowl eligible!!
If you are reading this on Nov. 13, bad news. You probably are not.
Temple has been showing glimpses of improvement. E.J. Warner has been good enough at quarterback to hold off more highly touted options Quincy Patterson and D’Wan Mathis. But they are a long way away from being on the same overall talent scale as team in the upper echelon of the conference. Bottom line: With the remaining schedule, the Owls are a lot more likely to finish 3-9 than they are 6-6. No Bowl.
Bowl Eligible: Toledo, Ohio, Eastern Michigan
Ineligible for a bowl: Northern Illinois, Western Michigan, Akron
Remaining Schedule: Akron, Kent St.
A team trending downward at the wrong time is the Buffalo Bulls. When MACtion began, they were the lone undefeated team in the conference. But after back-to-back losses to Ohio and Central Michigan, they are staring at a .500 record. Life moves at you fast. Luckily, their last two games are at home, and this week they get 1-9 Akron at home. They should – and probably better – win that game to get to six wins, because the season finale against Kent St. can absolutely go either way. Bowl.
Bowling Green (5-5)
Remaining Schedule: at Toledo, at Ohio
So, bad news first. Bowling Green’s remaining schedule is about as brutal as one could ask for. Road tilts at the two teams that might be the best in the conference when you need a win to make a bowl is a less than ideal situation.
Now, the good news. Bowling Green has already exceeded expectations.
A 5-7 record may end up being a disappointment, and last week’s 40-6 drubbing at the hands of Kent St. conjured up images of the Bowling Green teams of the past couple of years. But if things break right, BG is still in the East Division race so that game at Ohio could mean a lot. And they face a Toledo team who has already wrapped up the West Division. Stranger things have happened, and they just need to get 1 of 2 to make a bowl. As someone who wrote nice things about Bowling Green in the preseason and got coach Scot Loeffler to like one of my posts, I’m going to roll with the Falcons until the wheels fall off. Bowl.
Ball St. (5-5)
Remaining Schedule: Ohio, at Miami (OH)
Ball St. is one of the easier teams for me to figure out in the conference. I really like their defense, and I think Carson Steele is the best running back in the conference. But they have a lot of work to do with that quarterback position.
If they could build the entire offense out of Steele (See what I did there?), they would be a very real threat in the conference. But a stout defense that can force John Paddock to beat them may be able to lock the Cardinals down. One of their two remaining opponents can probably do that, but Steele is too good to allow both. Bowl.
Kent St. (4-6)
Remaining Schedule: Eastern Michigan, at Buffalo
The Golden Flashes, meanwhile, have been one of the more difficult teams to figure out in the conference.
A Murderer’s Row on non-conference games at Washington, Oklahoma and Georgia were supposed to harden them for a conference slate that is much more manageable. But if the team isn’t that good, it just beats them into submission. Last week’s game against BGSU was the first time Kent St. looked like the conference threat that I thought they would be (and put a Future on to win the conference).
As far as winning out to make a bowl, the way they are playing now it is certainly not out of the question. Eastern Michigan is a home game and Buffalo is trending in the wrong direction. I’ll ride with Collin Schlee and Marquez Cooper. Bowl.
Miami (OH) (4-6)
Remaining Schedule: at Northern Illinois, Ball St.
This is the classic case of “What If.”
If quarterback Brett Gabbert doesn’t get hurt midseason, we probably aren’t having this debate. Gabbert missed five games and the RedHawks went 2-3 in those games. They lost three conference games by less than a touchdown. I mean, they are right there.
Yet here they are, sitting at 4-6, needing to beat NIU on the road and a home finale against Ball St. Both games are toss-ups, as both the Huskies and Cardinals are playing pretty well currently. (Well the Huskies are as long as Jordan Lynch is at quarterback, but I’m not trying to tell anyone how to coach their team.) I think Miami splits the difference, but that’s not good enough in this scenario. No Bowl.
Central Michigan (4-6)
Remaining Schedule: Western Michigan, at Eastern Michigan
Central Michigan unlocked their cheat code last week against Buffalo. And the results were very, very positive.
Freshman quarterback Bert Emanuel Jr. rushed for 293 yards and three touchdowns Wednesday night in a 31-27 win over Buffalo. Emanuel, who saw his first game action the week before as part of a three-quarterback rotation, ran for a 75-yard touchdown on the Chippewas’ first play from scrimmage in the the second half and tied the game at 24 late in third quarter on an 87-yard run. Just when MACtion was feeling a bit disappointing, THAT happened.
Now, CMU has to win their final two games against their directional Michigan rivals to make a bowl. And those teams are good enough to gameplan against Emanuel. So my gut tells me that CMU loses at least one of those games, but have an eye toward next year. My gut also tells me that either him or Daniel Richardson are transferring at the end of the year, but that’s a column for a different time. No Bowl.