Week 12 saw as many as 15 teams fighting for their bowl lives, and by the end of the day, the magic number 78 was reached when Utah defeated Colorado to gain a bowl bid, meaning there will be no 5-7 teams participating in the 2017 postseason.
That’s good news for teams which have already reached seven or more wins on the season. That’s less great news for the teams which only just edged in, especially at the Group of Five level. There’s two MAC programs currently on what we call the Bowl Watch Bubble: Western Michigan and Buffalo.
Both teams sit at 6-6, but got there two different ways. Buffalo exploded to a 6-6 finish, winning three straight games (including one over 8-3 Ohio on the road) to secure eligibility. WMU was not as lucky, losing four of the last six games on the schedule after a hot start which included a near-upset of USC on the road at the LA Coliseum.
As it stands, there are currently four teams sitting on five wins looking to clinch bowl bids next week: UL-Monroe, UL-Lafayette, New Mexico State and Florida State.
This leaves three games of particular interest for MAC fans, especially with three of those teams being members of the Sun Belt, which holds the postseason fate of the MAC in its hands.
UL-Lafayette Ragin’ Cajuns vs. Appalachian State Mountaineers
- Date/Time: Dec. 2, 2:00 p.m. at Kidd Brewer Stadium in Boone, North Carolina. Game to be streamed on ESPN3.
- Weather: Expected kickoff conditions are partly cloudy with a high of 50. Chance of precipitation 10 percent, per Weather.com.
- Records: ULL (5-6, 5-2 Sun Belt), App State (7-4, 6-1 Sun Belt)
- Odds: App State favored by 14.5, O/U at 59, per OddsShark.
Ul-Lafayette ran into a school bus last week in its first home game in over a month, losing to 1-9 Georgia Southern in a game the Ragin’ Cajuns were expected to win convincingly. This places all the pressure on ULL on Dec. 2, as App State has already clinched bowl eligibility and is coming off a convincing road win at fellow bowl team Georgia State.
App State has history on their side, having won all three previous matchups with ULL, so the Cajuns have a hill to climb, especially since the Mountaineers are favored by 14.5 points.
Cheer for App State to win, as it eliminates one more Sun Belt squad from consideration.
New Mexico State Aggies vs. South Alabama Jaguars
- Date/Time: Dec. 2, 4:30 p.m. EST, at Aggie Memorial Stadium in Las Cruces, New Mexico. Game to be streamed on ESPN3.
- Weather: Expected weather for kickoff is mostly sunny skies with a high of 70 degrees. No precipitation expected, per Weather.com.
- Records: NMSU (5-6, 3-4 Sun Belt), USA (4-7, 3-4 Sun Belt)
- Odds: New Mexico State favored by 10, O/U 54, per OddsShark.
Two teams with identical 3-4 conference records will enter the gridiron in Las Cruces, but these two teams are about as different as possible. The Jags have been one of the most unpredictable schools in FBS, with wins against Troy and Arkansas State, but a bad 52-0 loss to a previously winless Georgia Southern.
The Aggies come in as a team which have won the games they were expected to win, lose games they were expected to lose and make a few upset bids along the way. If this option attack manages to win the day, the Aggies will reach their first bowl game in 57 years. It’s kind of a big deal for a team set to become an FBS independent in 2018.
NMSU will be feeling a lot of pressure to perform despite being a two-score favorite and we’ll have to wait and see if they’re ready for the spotlight to be on them.
Cheer for the Jags to keep the streak alive, as it eliminates another Sun Belt team from contention.
Florida State Seminoles vs. UL-Monroe Warhawks
- Date/time: Dec. 2 at 12:00 p.m. at Doak Campbell Stadium in Tallahassee, Florida. Game will be streamed on ACC Network Extra.
- Weather: Expected weather for kickoff is mostly sunny and 70 degrees. There is a 15 percent chance of precipitation, per Weather.com.
- Records: FSU (5-6, 3-5 Atlantic Coast), ULM (4-7, 4-4 Sun Belt)
- Odds: Florida State is a 26.5 point favorite, O/U is 65.5, per OddsShark.
This game might just be the most interesting of all the matchups, even if the opening lines aren’t exactly attractive.
This game was previously cancelled after Hurricane Irma earlier in the season affected the state of Florida, with plans indefinitely postpone the game. That plan changed two weeks ago, with both teams still in the hunt for a bowl game, as Florida State announced the decision to put the game back on the schedule for the end of the season.
This will be a battle for two huge streaks for the Seminoles, as they are trying to keep a 40-year winning season streak and a 35-year bowl streak together with a victory Saturday. ULM comes in playing the role of spoiler, as the Warhawks were unable to overcome a tough Arkansas State offense in a 67-50 shootout.
Cheer for the Warhawks to do the impossible, as it could potentially open up an ACC spot for at-large spots, especially if Clemson and/or Miami find a way to the New Year’s Six access bowls.
Other games of interest:
- UCF vs. Memphis
This game likely decides the team that goes to the New Year’s Six bowl, and if that’s the case, the American likely won’t be able to fill its required bids. They have seven primary bids, so one team moving up bumps up the rest of the eligible teams. With seven teams eligible, one of those bowls won’t be filled. That leaves a gap open, especially if Navy loses to Army and ends up 6-6, which doesn’t guarantee a bowl.
- Clemson vs. Miami (FL) and Ohio State/Wisconsin
You might not think either game affects the MAC at all, but there’s actually reason to believe it does.
The ACC is one of the conferences in the Quick Lane Bowl and if they qualify at least two teams in the New Year’s Six, they’ll be squeezing in tight for the rest of its bids. It’s the same situation for the Big Ten, as depending on results above them, they too could be in the same situation, which could potentially open up more at-large bids.
- Auburn vs. Georgia
This is the game which will constipate all the bowl projections. Both teams are highly ranked and have the full eyes of the committee. Based on how this game goes, the committee could send two SEC teams to the Playoff and one to the New Year’s six, which would really mess up a lot of potential bowl bids.
Say this situation happens. That leaves six SEC teams for nine spots, including the Independence and Liberty Bowls. C-USA and the American have backup bids here, but the American may not be able to fulfill its obligations with one team going to the New Year’s Six. This gives C-USA ample opportunity to place multiple teams, as they have six primary bids and one backup bid for 10 eligible squads. This would surely keep WMU and Buffalo at home.