For the second consecutive season, it’s unclear whether there will be enough bowl bids to go around in Conference USA.
It appears that C-USA will end the regular season with eight bowl-eligible teams, but the conference only features six tie-ins. There are also conditional tie-ins with the Independence Bowl and Frisco Bowl, but there’s plenty to be determined before those games become open to C-USA teams.
With only so many spots available, there’s a decent chance someone will be left out of the postseason. FAU (5-6) and Southern Miss (5-5) are the two C-USA teams who have yet to reach bowl eligibility, but they are heavy favorites to reach six wins this weekend. FAU hosts Charlotte (4-7) and USM travels to UTEP (1-10).
There are 78 bowl spots to fill overall and 74 bowl-eligible teams available if you count this week’s games that feature two teams with five wins, guaranteeing one team in each contest will reach bowl eligibility. One example is Vanderbilt (5-5) and Tennessee (5-5).
There are 22 five-win teams that have a chance to reach bowl eligibility this weekend. That means there may be seven or more bowl-eligible teams that could be sitting home for the postseason this year.
FIU (8-3), Middle Tennessee (7-4), Marshall (7-3), UAB (9-2), Louisiana Tech (7-4) and North Texas (8-3) are all guaranteed bowls after reaching the seven-win mark.
FAU and USM will have to hope the ball bounces their way after the Dec. 1 Conference USA title game. With Lane Kiffin serving as the head coach at FAU, the Owls may be the more appealing team from the TV point-of-view. However, USM has beaten two teams (Marshall and La. Tech) that FAU has lost to.
The Frisco Bowl, Cure Bowl and Birmingham Bowl are games that may have spots to fill and ask Conference USA if they have a team free to fill a vacancy.
At the moment, I’d give USM a 50 percent chance of earning a bowl bid and FAU’s odds aren’t that much better.
Conference USA has tie-ins with the Gasparilla Bowl in Tampa and the First Responder Bowl in Dallas, but it’s an agreement where the conference is expected to send one team to one of those bowl games and not both. If things fall in place, there’s still a chance C-USA could send teams to both games.
Here are my projections with one week left in the regular season:
▪ New Mexico Bowl — Nevada (7-4) vs. Middle Tennessee — 1 p.m., Dec. 15
▪ AutoNation Cure Bowl — Georgia Southern (8-3) vs. Southern Miss — 1:30 p.m., Dec. 15
▪ New Orleans Bowl — Appalachian State (8-2) vs. UAB — 8 p.m., Dec. 15
▪ Boca Raton Bowl — Cincinnati (9-2) vs. FIU — 6 p.m., Dec. 18
▪ Frisco Bowl (Frisco, Texas) — Toledo (6-5) vs. Marshall — 7 p.m., Dec. 19
▪ Bahamas Bowl — Northern Illinois (7-4) vs. Louisiana Tech — 11:30 a.m., Dec. 21
▪ Hawaii Bowl — Hawaii (7-5) vs. FAU — 9:30 p.m., Dec. 22
▪ First Responder Bowl Bowl (Dallas) — BYU (6-5) vs. North Texas — 12:30 p.m., Dec. 26