Mid-American Conference Bowl Outlook: Week 11 Edition

USA TODAY Sports

The clock is ticking and just 32 days remain until the 2013 MAC Championship Game. One week has gone by since our first look at the bowl picture, and now it's time to see if that picture has been altered at all.

It was certainly an interesting Week 10 in college football, but when all was finished, there was scant movement at the very top echelon of bowl teams.  However, further down the ladder, there were a few results that could ultimately determine how many Mid-American Conference teams play in the postseason.

In particular, I'm thinking of x different results.  The first two directly impact the MAC's possible inclusion in the final edition of the Bowl Championship Series, while the others have impact on whether or not certain conferences will be able to meet their bowl obligations and if others will have surplus teams.

Northern Illinois remained undefeated when they shellacked Massachusetts on Saturday.  Unfortunately, on Sunday night, the Huskies found out that they had dropped one position in the BCS standings, from 17th to 18th.  Why?  They were leapfrogged by Michigan State, who beat Michigan 29-6 on Saturday.  This win helped MSU in the computers through a boost in their strength-of-schedule numbers, while it also helped with voters who saw that the game was much more lopsided than the score indicated.  I'd make the argument that Michigan was overrated (and shouldn't have been ranked) going into that game -- but that's the thing MAC schools have to work against.  Teams like MSU and Michigan get the benefit of the doubt.  Teams like NIU don't.

Also hurting Northern Illinois was Fresno State's continued insistence on winning.  After barely escaping San Diego State last week, the Bulldogs were in a dogfight for much of their game with Nevada before they pulled away for a 41-23 win.  Fresno must lose for NIU to have any chance at a BCS berth.

In other areas, several upsets pulled teams closer to clinching bowl eligibility and changed the overall picture somewhat.

In the ACC, Boston College took down Virginia Tech, while North Carolina beat N.C. State.  I now believe that both teams will become eligible and that the ACC will have one extra team available to fill any open bowl spots.  If the ACC doesn't ultimately get a second BCS bid, they could have two extra teams.

In Conference USA, Florida Atlantic pulled an inexplicable upset over 6-2 Tulane just days after Carl Pelini resigned amid allegations of drug use.  The Owls' last three games are very winnable, and they ought to become eligible, too.  If they do, C-USA will have an extra team available to fill open bowl spots.

On the other hand, the Big Ten, Mountain West and SEC are all in position to fall short of filling their bowl obligations.  Indiana lost at home to Minnesota, and the Hoosiers must now win 3 of their final 4.  I just don't see that happening with their awful defense.  Northwestern's horrible last-second loss at Nebraska also may cost them a bowl berth.  The Big Ten right now will likely be one team short.

There were no real upsets over the weekend in the Mountain West and perhaps I'm being too conservative, but the way the remaining schedules shape up are not favorable for the teams that still need wins.  In particular, San Diego State, Wyoming and Colorado State all need two wins to become eligible, and I don't believe that any of them will.  This would leave the conference two teams short -- IF Fresno State ends up in the BCS.  In the SEC, Florida's loss to Georgia may have sealed its fate.  My guess is that the winner of the Florida/Vanderbilt game goes to a bowl, while the loser goes home.

So what does this all mean for the MAC?

At this time, I believe there will be 75 eligible teams for 70 available spots.  However, because of how the individual conferences work out, there will be five "open" bowl slots.  Those will be in the Poinsettia, Idaho Potato, Armed Forces, Independence, and Little Caesars.

The MAC will have an opportunity to fill three of those spots.  The other two (Little Caesars, Idaho Potato) will be spots going up against MAC opponents.  In the end, the MAC will get two of those available bowl bids, which will give the league five bowls for seven eligible teams.  Two teams will have to stay home.

Here are my projections for the MAC bowls this week:

Little Caesars Bowl -- Northern Illinois vs Notre Dame*

GoDaddy.com -- Ball State vs Western Kentucky

Famous Idaho Potato -- Buffalo vs Louisiana-Monroe*

Independence -- Bowling Green vs Syracuse

Poinsettia -- Toledo vs Boise State

Notes:

The Notre Dame inclusion may be a pipe dream, but I don't think the Irish will end up in a BCS bowl.  They'll have a difficult time finding another spot.  Perhaps they could get the open bid to the Poinsettia Bowl against Boise State, but something tells me that Detroit would be a closer and more attractive option.  They would be a replacement for a Big Ten team.

Louisiana-Monroe would be a replacement for a Mountain West team.

Ohio and Central Michigan are the teams left out in this scenario.  CMU will have the worst record among all MAC eligible teams, while I believe Ohio will lose each of their next two games (Buffalo, BGSU), which would put them behind both teams in the pecking order.

Until next week...

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