What games this weekend matter for bowl eligibility?
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The world might be concentrating on Rivalry Week and all the big games for the College Football Playoff hunt. But who needs to win to get in a bowl game?
There won’t be any APR teams this year with – most likely – more eligible teams than bowl slots, so just getting to six wins doesn’t guarantee anything. But these ten games will have a little extra juice.
Who wants to play more football and get a free trip?
10. Tulane at SMU
SMU is already bowl eligible, but it could use one more win just to get one of the American Athletic’s better matchups. Tulane hasn’t been bowling since losing the 2013 New Orleans Bowl, and before that? The 2002 Hawaii Bowl.
After winning two straight against East Carolina and shocking Houston, the Green Wave can get bowling with a win.
9. Duke at Wake Forest
At 4-0, Duke appeared to be a rock-solid lock to get bowling. Losing six straight made that a problem, especially with losses to Virginia, Pitt and Army along the way.
All appeared to be lost, and then … boom. The Blue Devils came up with a 43-20 shocker against Georgia Tech last week. Now, beat the 7-4 Demon Deacons, and it’s off to one of the ACC’s minor bowls – but it’s a bowl.
8. UTSA at Louisiana Tech
This is a big, big moment for Conference USA. UTSA already booked bowl eligibility last week with a 9-7 win over Marshall, but now it’s up to Louisiana Tech to give the league another eligible bowl team.
This was supposed to be one of the C-USA title favorites, but it lost four of its last five games before making the UTEP layup. The Bulldogs aren’t good, but beat the Roadrunners, and they’re bowling.
7. Wisconsin at Minnesota
You’ll have to forgive the Big Ten if it isn’t all that excited about the idea of Minnesota getting a sixth win to go bowling.
Wisconsin has won 13 straight in the Paul Bunyan Axe series – last losing in 2003 – but lose, and that’s probably it for the B1G and the College Football Playoff.
Minnesota doesn’t care – it wants to close out P.J. Fleck’s first season with a 13th game.
6. UNLV at Nevada
The battle for the Fremont Cannon is a big rivalry moment for both teams – the schools really, really want this every year. It’ll be a make-or-break game for a 2-9 Nevada team whose season is over after this.
But for UNLV, in a rocky up-and-down season with absolutely no consistency, going to just the sixth bowl game in the school’s history – and second since 2000 – would be a huge deal.
5. Florida State at Florida
When was the last time Florida State didn’t go to a bowl game? 1981, and it went 6-5.
Florida is done at 4-6 – that cancellation of the Northern Colorado game is a killer now – but FSU got over the same issue by forcing a 12th game against ULM. Beat the Gators, and it shouldn’t be a problem getting past the Warhawks to keep the bowl streak alive.
Lose, and that’s it. The ULM game will have to count as a bowl.
4. Texas Tech at Texas
The Longhorns got their sixth win with a terrific performance against West Virginia last week. Now it’s time to solidify a spot and take one of the Big 12’s better post-season games – please be Texas Bowl vs. Texas A&M.
Texas Tech has lost five of its last six games including home dates against Iowa State and Kansas State. And now, after a 4-1 start, this could be a total disaster if the Red Raiders can’t take care of business in Austin.
3. Old Dominion at Middle Tennessee
And here we go. Win and get in, lose and go home.
Ole Dominion went to the Bahamas Bowl last season, and they’ve fought back hard to get back to a post-season game winning three straight after losing six in a row. Beating Charlotte and Rice in close games is no big deal, but taking down FIU on the road? That’s fantastic.
Middle Tennessee has had a rocky road with a midseason run of three losses in four games, but it came back with a few easy wins to get back in the mix. Now, after losing at Western Kentucky, they have to win, or that’s it.
2. Colorado at Utah
Utah was really, really close to getting its sixth win last week at Washington, but a late Husky rally/Ute choke meant there’s more work to do. After winning four straight to start the season, reality kicked in with losses in six of their last seven games. Now the Utes have to win at home to avoid a total collapse.
Colorado looked like the 2016 run to the Pac-12 Championship might not have been a fluke after starting out 3-0. But losing six of the last eight games changed all of that. Now, with a loss to Utah, it’ll be a losing season and a big step back.
1. Indiana at Purdue
The 2013 Heart of Dallas was the last time Purdue went bowling – and it got hammered by Oklahoma State 58-14. But after so many years of being a punching bag, the program can get the call by not just coming up with a win, it can do it by beating the arch-rival.
And knocking that rival out of a bowl spot.
Indiana overcame a four-game losing streak with wins over Illinois and Rutgers to set this up. Win the Old Oaken Bucket, go to a bowl game. Lose, and watch Purdue celebrate on its home field.