Greetings everyone! Sorry I missed last week’s article, but I had to take care of some business at home. At any rate, I wanted to change up this segment for this week and look at some surprise teams that may or may not make the post-season. The regular season ends in a scant three weeks and soon it will be time for conference titles and bowl games. But what about those bowl games. It seems like the titles get wackier every year. And just how many bowl games are there, 50, 75, 100? It seems like I could watch a different bowl game every half hour on many of the ESPN family of networks!
It turns out that there are 35 bowl games to be played in the months of December and January. That means 70 of the 124 FBS schools will be playing in a post-season contest. However, of the 124 we must exclude teams like Penn State, Ohio State, and North Carolina as they have been disqualified from bowl game participation due to NCAA sanctions. Now we are down to 121 eligible FBS schools (57.8% will play in bowl games this year).
In order to be eligible for a bowl game, a team must win at least 50% of their games which turns out to be 6 wins (there are some NCAA loopholes that will allow an under .500 team to make a bowl game, but it is a rarity). To date, 27 schools, not including the ineligible teams, have already played themselves OUT of post-season play by having an under-.500 record, and 48 have already stamped their passes for a bowl game. So, we have 46 remaining eligible teams playing for 22 open spots.
If you are still dizzy over the math, that’s fine. Simply put, most teams do go to the post-season. Nearly all the bowl games are played in mid-December or later so the extra practice time for teams, especially for younger players, is an invaluable springboard for the next year. Besides, the extra practice time and a chance to go to warmer climates (at least in most cases), the schools reap a whirlwind of extra cash for their athletic budgets. Many schools rely on their football team to provide the necessary funding for the other intercollegiate sports to excel. All but a few schools are capable to work in the counter. Football really is the life-blood of an FBS school’s athletic budget.
So, while 70 teams will be enjoying extra practice time, a trip to a more tropical paradise, and a monetary windfall, there will be 24 teams left out in the cold to wonder “what if” and dwell on that going into the 2013 season.
As I mentioned earlier, I want to use this segment to examine a few surprise teams. Teams that may not make a bowl that we would typically associate as playing in the post-season, and those teams that may go bowling that usually do not.
So without further ado, let’s see who we’ve got!
Virginia Tech Hokies
Current Record: 4-5
Remaining Schedule: H – Florida State, @ Boston College, H – Virginia
Likelihood of making a bowl: 90%
The Hokies are such an odd team this year. I recall there opening game against Georgia Tech that came down to the final play in OT before Va Tech came away with the win. They were on such a roll until they were stopped by a marginal Pitt team and then by an unranked Cincinnati Bearcat team. Perhaps most puzzling is how a Frank Beamer-coached team could be out-worked, out-hustled, and out-coached on defense and special teams, two areas that Virginia Tech usually excels.
Florida State comes to Blacksburg to pay a visit this Thursday night. Typically the Seminoles and the Hokies are playing for the ACC crown and a berth in a BCS bowl, but not this year for the Hokies. Va Tech needs to win 2 of their remaining 3 games to qualify for the post-season. A loss to Florida State on Thursday means that the Hokies can not win the ACC’s Coastal Division, and it puts their bowl aspirations on the brink, but Va Tech does end the year with very winnable games. They have to travel to Boston College and play Virginia in their end-of-the-year rivalry game.
Even though chances are decent that Virginia Tech will lose Thursday night, they still should have a very good shot at making a bowl game this year.
Predicted Finish: 6-6
Key Question & Answer: Does Virginia Tech make a bowl game? Yes
Current Record: 4-5
Remaining Schedule: H – Purdue, @ Michigan, H – Nebraska
Likelihood of making a bowl: 20-30%
It’s very likely that Iowa lost their shot at getting to a bowl game with their defeat at Indiana last week. The Hawkeyes must win 2 of their last 3 games in order to qualify, and that will be no easy task considering they have yet to play the likes of Michigan and Nebraska. Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz has struggled to piece together enough offense to keep his Hawkeye team in most games. Luckily for him, the defense has been above average. The Hawkeyes best wins have come against the MAC’s Northern Illinois (their only loss so far) and against Michigan State.
After the win against the Spartans, the Hawkeyes were sitting at 2-0 in the Legend’s Division and were poised to make a run at the division crown. Penn State soundly beat them the following week and things have not been the same in Iowa City since. Iowa has lost two more games and 3 straight to put a bowl opportunity in serious jeopardy.
To be fair, Iowa has dealt with more than their fair share of injuries, especially at the running back position. I have no idea what number they are on, but its safe to say whatever number it is, they probably weren’t on coach Ferentz’s original depth chart.
The Hawkeye’s defense has been a bright spot for the team. They are ranked 29th nationally in points allowed, giving up an average of 21.4 points per game. Secondary players like Micah Hyde and Greg Castillo have made it difficult for opposing wide receivers to get open.
At this point, the way Iowa has been playing of late, I would expect that they have a legitimate chance of beating Purdue, but asking them to then beat either Michigan or Nebraska who are both playing for a shot to get the Big Ten’s title game, might be asking a bit much from this Iowa Hawkeyes squad.
Predicted Finish: 5-7
Key Question & Answer: Does Iowa make a bowl game? No
California Golden Bears
Current Record: 3-7
Remaining Schedule: H – Oregon, @ Oregon State
Likelihood of making a bowl: 0%
What was once a promising outlook for the Cal Bears and head coach Jeff Tedford has turned into a nightmare as the Bears can’t seem to get out of their own way. The Bears have lost 3 in a row and 6 of their last 8 games. They were eliminated from post-season play before the calendar have turned to November. While Tedford is one of the nation’s best recruiters (i.e. recruited Aaron Rodgers and Jahvid Best), he has been unable to turn that talent into a winning football program with any consistency.
The Bears had such high hopes for the season as they were moving back in to their newly refurbished Memorial Stadium. So, how did they kick off the new stadium – that’s right, with a loss to Nevada. Now Nevada is actually a decent football team this year, but Cal is supposed to win games like that. Cal followed up that loss by losing 3 of their next 4 games including a heart-breaker at Ohio State and at USC.
The Bears looked like they may have righted the ship with a modest 2-game winning streak including a win over 25th ranked UCLA, but their misfortunes returned and are currently stuck in 3-game losing streak. The streak is likely to extend as the #2 Oregon Ducks come calling to Berkeley this weekend. The Bears mercifully end their campaign next weekend when they travel to Corvallis to take on the Oregon State Beavers.
Could this be coach Tedford’s last season at the helm of the Bears? Many think it may be time for a change, but he can still draw in nationally ranked recruits, and as long as top-notch players are still willing to come to your school, then you always have a chance to make things better quickly. We’ll see if he is afforded the opportunity to make things better next year.
Predicted Finish: 3-9
Key Question & Answer: Does head coach Jeff Tedford get fired? Yes
Honorable Mentions: Georgia Tech, Michigan State, West Virginia, Baylor, Tennessee, Missouri, Arkansas, Auburn, Virginia