Bowl Eligibility - A Conference by Conference Analysis

Submitted by Tauro on November 7th, 2012 at 5:17 PM

I’ve always been a fan of the bowl games, and over the past few years, have spent too much time wondering which school would slot into which bowl.  With several schools ineligible to play in the postseason due to a variety of sanctions, I have been curious to see if would be enough teams this year to fill up every game.

This is my first Diary Entry, so please let me know of any formatting issues or other comments.  Hopefully you will find this at least mildly interesting.

First, let me start with conference bowl affiliation numbers:

Big Ten – 8 affiliations

Rose, Heart of Dallas, Outback, Gator, Capital One, Buffalo Wild Wings, Meineke Car Care and  Little Ceasars

ACC – 8 affiliations

Orange, Sun, Music City, Chik Fil A, Russell Athletic, Independence, Military and Belk

B12 – 7 affiliations

Fiesta, Cotton, Pinstripe, Buffalo Wild Wings, Alamo, Meineke Car Care and Holiday

Big East – 6 affiliations

BBVA Compass, Liberty*, Pin Stripe, Russell Athletic, Belk and Beef O’Brady’s

Conference USA – 6 affiliations

Heart of Dallas, Liberty*, Armed Forces, Hawaii, New Orleans and Beef O’Brady’s

MAC – 3 affiliations

Go Daddy, Little Caesars and Famous Idaho Potato

Mountain West – 5 affiliations

Armed Forces, Hawaii*, Las Vegas, Poinsettia and New Mexico

PAC 12 – 7 affiliations

Rose, Sun, Kraft Fight Hunger, Alamo, Holiday, Las Vegas and New Mexico

SEC – 10 affiliations

Sugar, BBVA Compass, Cotton, Outback, Gator, Capital One, Music City, Liberty*, Chik Fil A and Independence

Sun Belt – 2 affiliations

Go Daddy and New Orleans

WAC – 2 affiliations

Hawaii* and Famous Idaho Potato

At Large Bids – 5

BCS Championship, Fiesta, Sugar and Orange

Other Bids (Independent) – 3

Poinsettia (takes BYU eligible), Kraft Fight Hunger (takes Navy if eligible) and Military (takes Army if eligible)

* Liberty takes either CUSA or SEC team and Hawaii takes Mountain West or WAC team

In total, 35 bowl games meaning 70 slots that have to be filled by eligible teams.  Let us see how each conference fairs in terms of eligible teams.  The information below is broken down as follows: Eligible Teams (have 6 wins already), On the Cusp (5 wins) and Still Have a Shot (4 wins).  I did not account for any 3 win teams since it seems unlikely they will win out to become bowl eligible.  I have also provided the remaining schedule beside each team listed under On the Cusp or Still Have a Shot.

Big Ten

Eligible Teams:

Michigan, Nebraska, Northwestern, Wisconsin

On the Cusp:

Michigan State (Northwestern and Minnesota)

Minnesota (Illinois, Nebraska and Michigan State)

Still a Shot:

Iowa (Purdue, Michigan and Nebraska)

Indiana (Wisconsin, Penn State and Purdue)


With 8 slots to fill, the Big Ten will be hard pressed to have enough teams eligible.  The sanctions against Ohio State and Penn State are really hurting the Big Ten’s chances to fill up their complement.  Minnesota’s best chance is this weekend against Illinois while MSU should become eligible against the aforementioned Gophers.  Iowa needs two wins and most of us would cheer if they became eligible with a victory over Nebraska.  Indiana has a tough road and needs one against Wisconsin or PSU before taking down in-state rival Purdue in their last game.  Schools from non-power conferences are likely watching the Big Ten with interest since the trickle down effect of not having enough teams will only permit more of those teams to get an invitation.


Eligible Teams:

Clemson, Florida State, Duke

On the Cusp:

Wake Forest (NC State, Notre Dame and Vanderbilt)

NC State (Wake Forest, Clemson and Boston College)

Miami (Fla.) (Virginia, South Florida and Duke)

Still a Shot:

Maryland (Clemson, Florida State and North Carolina)

Georgia Tech (North Carolina, Duke and Georgia)

Virginia Tech (Florida State, Boston College and Virginia)


If not for sanctions against North Carolina, the ACC had the potential to have ten teams bowl eligible.  As it is, there should be a strong complement.  Personally, I see eight with either Georgia Tech or Virginia Tech winning two of their final three games.  GT has to win the next two games as I do not believe they will be competitive against Georgia.  VT should win the final two games, but as they have been inconsistent this year, neither game is guaranteed.

Big 12

Eligible Teams:

Kansas State, Oklahoma, Texas, TCU and Texas Tech

On the Cusp:

Oklahoma State (West Virginia, Texas Tech, Oklahoma and Baylor)

West Virginia (Oklahoma State, Oklahoma, Iowa State and Kansas)

Iowa State (Texas, Kansas and West Virginia)

Still a Shot:

Baylor (Oklahoma, Kansas State, Texas Tech and Oklahoma State)


With only seven spots to fill, the Big 12 will have at least that many bowl eligible teams.  Two of the three On the Cusp will become eligible when they play each other.  If Oklahoma State wins at West Virginia, I expect the Big 12 will have eight eligible teams since West Virginia and Iowa State both play Kansas and should win.  Baylor has a tough road needing two victories against tough competition.  I do not expect that happen.

Big East

Eligible Teams:

Louisville, Rutgers

On the Cusp:

Cincinnati (Temple, Rutgers, South Florida and Connecticut)

Still a Shot:

Syracuse (Louisville, Missouri and Temple)

Pittsburgh (Connecticut, Rutgers and South Florida)


It is all but assured that the Big East will not have the six teams it requires to fulfill its bowl obligations.  Cincinnati should already be eligible, but as they played and defeated two FCS teams, they need a seventh win. Beyond that, only Syracuse and Pittsburgh have a realistic chance to reach the six win total, and even for them, that is doubtful.  Temple, South Florida and Connecticut each have three wins and need to win out to become eligible.

Conference USA

Eligible Teams:

UCF, East Carolina, Tulsa

On the Cusp:


Still a Shot:

Houston (Tulsa, Marshall and Tulane)

Marshall (UAB, Houston and East Carolina)

Rice (SMU and UTEP)

SMU (Southern Miss, Rice and Tulsa)


CUSA has six slots to fill, and at this point, I doubt they will get there.  To me, the winner of the SMU/Rice game has the best shot followed by the winner of the Houston/Marshall matchup.  That would only get them to five leaving one bowl game searching.


Eligible Teams:

Notre Dame, Navy

On the Cusp:

BYU (Idaho, San Jose State and New Mexico State)

Still a Shot:



I think we can expect Notre Dame to reach a BCS game.  Navy is already ticketed to the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl.  BYU needs one win, and if achieved, is slotted to fill one spot in the Poinsettia Bowl.  Army, who was to go to the Military Bowl, will not be eligible.  I expect Air Force might take their spot.


Eligible Teams:

Kent State, Ohio, Bowling Green, Northern Illinois, Toledo, Ball State

On the Cusp:


Still a Shot:

Miami (Ohio) (Kent State, Central Michigan and Ball State)

Western Michigan (Central Michigan, Buffalo and Eastern Michigan)


The MAC is clearly going to benefit from other conferences inability to field a full complement of bowl eligible teams.  With only three slots to fill, there are already six teams eligible with Western Michigan having a great shot to make it seven.  That would mean four teams looking for an invite to an at-large bid.

Mountain West

Eligible Teams:

Fresno State, San Diego State, Boise State, Nevada

On the Cusp:

Air Force (San Diego State, Hawaii and Fresno State)

Still a Shot:

New Mexico (Wyoming, Nevada and Colorado State)


With five slots to fill, the Mountain West is in good shape.  Air Force should become eligible against Hawaii, and if New Mexico can take care of Wyoming and Colorado State, that would result in six eligible teams.

PAC 12

Eligible Teams:

Oregon, Oregon State, Stanford, UCLA, USC

On the Cusp:

Washington (Utah, Colorado, Washington State)

Arizona State (USC, Washington State, Arizona)

Arizona (Colorado, Utah and Arizona State)

Still a Shot:

Utah (Washington, Arizona, Colorado)


With seven slots to fill, the PAC 12 should fill its complement.  Both Washington and Arizona play Colorado, which we can assume they both win.  This would give the PAC 12 seven eligible teams.  If Utah can beat either Washington or Arizona, they should become eligible after defeating Colorado.  Arizona State’s best chance is against Washington State.  There is a good chance the PAC 12 could have nine eligible teams.


Eligible Teams:

Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, Alabama, Texas A&M, LSU, Mississippi State

On the Cusp:

Mississippi (Vanderbilt, LSU and Mississippi State)

Vanderbilt (Mississippi, Tennessee and Wake Forest)

Still a Shot:

Missouri (Tennessee, Syracuse and Texas A&M)

Tennessee (Missouri, Vanderbilt and Kentucky)

Arkansas (South Carolina, Mississippi and LSU)


Though the SEC is affiliated with ten bowls, I think they only need nine teams as there is joint responsibility with the Liberty Bowl.  I would expect them to reach this figure as the winner of the Ole Miss/Vanderbilt game will become eligible and I think the winner of the Missouri/Tennessee matchup has a great chance.  Arkansas has four wins and are listed due to my criteria, but I do not expect them to win any of their remaining games.  As I expect the SEC will get two teams in a BCS bowl, this will mean tougher opponents for the Big Ten in their joint affiliations.

Sun Belt

Eligible Teams:

Arkansas State, Louisiana-Monroe, Middle Tennessee State, Western Kentucky

On the Cusp:

Louisiana-Lafayette (Arkansas State, North Texas and FIU)

Still a Shot:

Troy (Navy, Arkansas State and Middle Tennessee State)


The Sun Belt is only affiliated with two bowl games, and with four teams already eligible, the fact that there are so many schools ineligible this year due to sanctions will only help these schools get into a game.  Louisiana-Lafayette looks primed to get enough wins, but I have a hard time believing Troy will get that sixth win.


Eligible Teams:

Utah State, Louisiana Tech, San Jose State

On the Cusp:


Still a Shot:



The WAC has two slots to fill with three teams currently eligible.  Texas-San Antonio should be On the Cusp, but they have played too many FCS teams to qualify.  This is not a big year for the WAC, which is on life support and may not even exist as a conference for football next year.

Final Analysis

Of the 70 slots available, 53 teams have already qualified.  I have a further 17 teams listed as On the Cusp.  Even if all those teams qualify, bowl games administrators will breath a sigh of relief.  A few of the Still a Shot schools could also come through, which will help to ensure there are enough teams.  Otherwise, we go to the new “bowl eligibility” rules, which were summarized at ESPN:

Now, first consideration will go to 6-6 teams with a win against any FCS teams, regardless of scholarships, then 6-6 teams with two wins against FCS schools.

A team that finishes 6-7 and loses in a conference championship would be next, followed by 6-7 teams that normally play a 13-team schedule, such as Hawaii and its home opponents.

Then bowls could then invite FCS teams making the move to FBS, if they have at least a 6-6 record.

Finally, a team with a top-five APR that finishes 5-7 could be selected.

Let’s hope these scenarios are not necessary.

As for the winners/losers, to me, the MAC and Sun Belt conferences will be rewarded for having more than their required complement.  With the Big Ten, Conference USA and Big East all expected to fall beneath their affiliated allotment, those games will be looking for teams.  Of course, the result will be less desirable matchups, but that has become par for the course.



November 7th, 2012 at 6:05 PM ^

This is a great analysis and very illuminating regarding the bowl situation this year. I know that the alternative tie-in to the Little Caesar's bowl is the Sun Belt if no Big Ten team is available, but if we only send six teams to bowl, which is possible, I don't know what the Plan B would be for the TicketCity (now Heart Of Dallas, I think) bowl. It is supposed to be Big Ten vs. Big 12 this year, I think (this is one with an alternating auto-bid, as I recall). 

Mich Mash

November 7th, 2012 at 11:10 PM ^

...very well researched, very well written.  I will look forward to reading this diary entry as it is updated in the coming weeks.  Overall just an excellent job, especially for a first post in the diary section.  The obvious next step is to rub your crystal ball and make your own projections for each bowl; I personally would love to see that and it would most likely generate a much stronger response in comment volume.  I'm sure you've got your opinions, we'd love to read them and debate them!


November 8th, 2012 at 8:49 AM ^

The scholarship limits have really increased the parity in college football.  Gone are the days from the 70's and 80's when the Oklahoma's, OSU's and UM's had 120+ scholarships which lead to incredible talent depth on the juggernauts.


November 8th, 2012 at 12:58 PM ^

Great stuff.  Love the per-conference breakdown.

I think it says a bit about college football and the priorities of the NCAA that the Big 10 is struggling to fill its obligations with two of its better teams barred from playing, while the entire SEC is apparently sanction-free.  I'm not condoning what OSU and PSU did, but it amazes me that a conference with Tennessee, Ole Miss, Arkansas, Alabama, and LSU is squeaky-clean.