Mid-American Conference Bowl Outlook: Week 12 Edition

USA TODAY Sports

Just four weeks remain in college football's regular season, but Week 12 in particular could be huge for the MAC's bowl picture. The mid-week games will be huge for determining the ultimate pecking order, and this week could also see big movement toward final determination of what bowls will be available.

For the 13 teams in the Mid-American Conference, not much question remains about bowl eligibility.  Bowling Green's win in Oxford last Tuesday night meant that the Falcons were the sixth MAC team to get to six wins and, as a result, become bowl eligible.  Six others have reached seven losses and will not be going to a bowl game.  Only one team -- Central Michigan -- remains on the fence, and they must win their last three games.

Can CMU join BGSU, Toledo, Ohio, Buffalo, Ball State and Northern Illinois?  It's possible.  They play at Western Michigan, who just lost to Eastern Michigan, then finish the season with home games against Massachusetts and Eastern Michigan.  Each is very winnable, so a second consecutive 6-6 season is very much in play.

Unfortunately for the Chippewas (and a couple of the others who have already clinched eligibility), the bowl picture in 2013 is not nearly as friendly to the MAC as it was in 2012.

Several weekend results did not help matters.  In the SEC, Vanderbilt defeated Florida, which means that the Commodores need only one win to become eligible.  Kansas State also pulled a road upset in the Big 12, defeating Texas Tech to move within one win of eligibility themselves.  Syracuse did the same at Maryland in the ACC, which means that an extra ACC team may be available.  Another ACC upset came in Pittsburgh, where the Panthers unexpectedly beat Notre Dame.

However, perhaps the most jarring result of the night (for the MAC, anyway) came in the last game of the evening.  San Diego State defeated David Fales and San Jose State iin San Jose, 34-30.  The win gives the Aztecs a fifth win.  Now, even if Fresno State makes it to the BCS, the Mountain West is likely to fill all of its bowl slots, which is bad for the MAC.

Here are the numbers as they now stand:

Bowl-eligible teams: 58 (for 70 spots)

Eliminated teams: 28

Teams within 1 win of eligibility: 11

Teams within 1 loss of elimination:  8

Teams within 2 losses of elimination:  2

Teams on the bubble (teams that are 5-5, 4-5 or 4-6):  18

Based on remaining schedules, I project that all 11 teams that need just one win will ultimately become eligible.  I also believe that two of the teams that need to win out (Florida Atlantic, Central Michigan) will do so.  Finally, six of the 18 "bubble" teams will also become eligible.  In all, that means that there will be 77 eligible bowl teams.  This is an increase of two over what I projected last week.

Given how the BCS is likely to play out at this point, it appears that only three bowl spots will not be filled by their contracted conferences/teams.  Those are the Little Caesars Bowl (Big Ten), Independence Bowl (SEC) and Poinsettia Bowl (Army).

There will be surpluses of teams from the ACC (1), Conference USA (1), MAC (4) and Sun Belt (3), plus Notre Dame.  Only three of those 10 teams will make a bowl game.

History suggests that the surplus ACC team and Notre Dame will get two of those spots.  That would leave the third and final one for the eight teams from the MAC, Sun Belt and Conference USA.  Fortunately for the MAC, that spot is likely to be the Poinsettia Bowl.  Because the MAC has a secondary agreement there for this bowl season, a MAC team should fill that spot.

This would give the MAC four bowl games, but it would also mean that three teams will have to stay home.  This fact is why this week's games are so important.  The six teams most likely to get a bowl spot face each other -- NIU vs. Ball State, Buffalo vs. Toledo and BGSU vs. Ohio.  The Falcons-Bobcats game would appear to be a virtual elimination game.  The loser will be eliminated from the division title chase and have very little chance to get selected for a bowl game.  The Huskies-Cardinals tilt is more jockeying for the West title and jockeying for bowl position than anything else.  A Ball State win would all but give the Cardinals the West title and mean that they'd likely be first choice among MAC schools.  The winner of the Buffalo-Toledo game is going to be in very good position, but the loser will be in a tenuous spot.  Both teams must face another big game later in the month (Buffalo vs. BGSU, Toledo vs. NIU), and if one of these teams loses both games, they could end up staying home in December.

Bottom line: this is a big week, and these projections could be much different in seven days.

Week 12 MAC Bowl Projections:
Little Caesars Bowl:  N. Illinois (vs. Boston College*)
GoDaddy.com Bowl:  Ball State (vs. Western Kentucky)
Famous Idaho Potato Bowl:  Buffalo (vs. Colorado State)
Poinsettia Bowl:  Toledo (vs. Boise State)
* -- replacement for Big Ten team
Eligible teams with no bowl:
Bowling Green, Ohio, Central Michigan
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