let’s be real After a 17-point lead and a loss to a team that successfully completed just two passes, there’s no way Michigan State can win at Penn State this weekend to end the regular season.
That means the Spartans are 5-7 and missing a one-bowl-seat win.
But MSU isn’t officially out of the postseason just yet. In fact, the Spartans’ bowl hopes are still very much alive.
There may not be enough 6-win teams
College football’s bowl system requires 82 teams. But after the penultimate week of the regular season, only 73 teams have reached the six-win threshold to qualify for a bowl game.
Heading into the regular season finals weekend, there are 15 teams with a 5-6 record. They are listed below, with their opponents in parentheses.
- Georgia Tech (in Georgia)
- Miami FL (vs. Pittsburgh)
- Michigan State (in Penn State)
- Florida Atlantic (vs. Western Kentucky)
- Rice (in North Texas)
- UAB (at Louisiana Tech)
- UTEP (at UTSA)
- Missouri (vs. Arkansas)
- Vanderbilt (vs. Tennessee)
- Auburn (in Alabama)
- Georgia Southern (vs. Appalachian State)
- Southern Miss (in Louisiana-Monroe)
- Miami OH (vs. Ball State)
- Ball State (in Miami OH)
With Miami OH and Ball State playing each other, that means the nine bowl season vacancies are guaranteed to be reduced to eight.
Other teams are still there
There are also several 4-7 teams that could play their way into the mix with a win next weekend. They are:
- West Virginia (in the state of Oklahoma)
- State of Iowa (at TCU)
- Indiana (vs. Purdue)
- Rutgers (in Maryland)
- Florida International (vs. Middle Tennessee State)
- State of Kent (in Buffalo)
- Western Michigan (vs. Toledo)
- Central Michigan (in eastern Michigan)
- UNLV (vs. Nevada)
- Cal (vs. UCLA)
- Arizona (vs. Arizona State)
- Texas A&M (vs. LSU)
- State of Georgia (near Marshall)
- State of Texas (vs. Louisiana)
- Navy (vs Army on December 10)
Three other teams are still alive for the bowl season:
- Army (4-6): The Black Knights have two games left – this weekend at UMass, then they play Navy on December 10 in college football’s venerable regular-season finals.
- Buffalo (5-5): The Bulls host Kent State this weekend, but they may have one game left. Buffalo’s home game against Akron was postponed last weekend due to a winter storm that dumped more than five feet of snow across the Buffalo area. MAC officials said a possible replacement date would be decided this week, with December 3 being the likely target.
- New Mexico State (4-6): The Lobos-San Jose State game on Oct. 22 was postponed after San Jose State running back Camdan McWright tragically died in a traffic accident the day before the game. If the game is rescheduled, it will likely be played on December 3rd.
So what happens when there aren’t enough six-win teams and there are more 5-7 teams than there are openings?
How Bowls Breaks Ties Between 5-7 Teams
The NCAA tracks a metric called Academic Progress Rate, or APR for short. This is how it is calculated:
• Each student-athlete who receives sport-related financial assistance will receive one point for staying in school and one point for academic merit.
• A team’s total points are divided by the points possible and then multiplied by 1,000 to get the team’s academic progress rate.
• In addition to a team’s APR, the rolling four-year APR is also used to determine accountability.
If multiple 5-7 teams compete for a bowl invite, the team with the higher APR ranking will be selected.
Here are the APR points and placements for each of the teams that could finish 5th through 7th, in order from best to worst:
- Rice: 994, T-5
- State of Iowa: 986, T-17
- UNLV: 948, T-21st
- Maroon, 983, T-27
- State of Michigan: 983, T-27
- Missouri: 983, T-27
- Miami FL: 982, T-32
- Army: 980, T-35
- Georgia Tech, 979, T-37
- Miami OH: 977, T-42
- Rutgers: 977, T-42
- Indiana: 976, T-46
- Cal.: 974, T-49
- State of Georgia: 974, T-53
- West Virginia: 974, T-53
- Ball Status: 973, T-57
- Vanderbilt: 973, T-57
- Navy: 970, T-66
- Buffalo: 968, T-73
- Florida International: 966, 78
- Arizona: 965, 79
- State of Kent: 960 T-89
- Central Michigan: 958, T-94
- Texas A&M: 958, T-94
- State of Texas: 958, 101
- Georgia South: 952, T-112
- Florida Atlantic: 949, T-115
- UAB: 949, 122
- State of New Mexico: 940, 124
- Tulsa: 939, 125
- Western Michigan: 938, 126
- Southern Miss: 934, T-128
- UTEP: 934, T-128
Which 5-Win Teams Are Likely To Win?
We can get an idea of how things might play out by trying to predict the outcome of the remaining games. It’s by no means scientific, but if we look at who prefers Las Vegas, we can get an idea.
Here are the definitive records of all the above teams, assuming what Vegas predicts actually comes to pass.
- Army (6-6)
- Buffalo (6-5)
- Miami OH (6-6)
- Southern Miss (6-6)
- Arizona (5-7)
- UNLV (5-7)
- Rice (5-7)
- State of Michigan (5-7)
- Maroon (5-7)
- Missouri (5-7)
- Miami Fla. (5-7)
- Georgia Tech (5-7)
- Ball condition (5-7)
- Van derbilt (5-7)
- South Georgia (5-7)
- Florida Atlantic (5-7)
- Navy (4-8)
- Tulsa (4-8)
- Western Virginia (4-8)
- State of Iowa (4-8)
- Indiana (4-8)
- Rutgers (4-8)
- Florida International (4-8)
- State of Kent (4-8)
- Western Michigan (4-8)
- Central Michigan (4-8)
- UNLV (4-8)
- Cal (4-8)
- Texas A&M (4-8)
- State of Georgia (4-8)
- State of Texas (4-8)
- State of New Mexico (4-7)
In this scenario, five bowl slots would be available for teams with a 5-7 record. Let’s assume the Army beats the Navy on December 10th as well, which would secure a place in the bowl for the Black Knights.
That would mean four 5-7 teams would be invited to a bowl game.
Who would make the cut?
If this hypothesis is correct, the four teams with a 5-7 record to bowl would be Rice, UNLV, Auburn, and Michigan State. It would be by the narrowest margin, but the Spartans would have a postseason and the invaluable extra practice time that comes with it.
It’s impossible to know what will actually happen, but the point here is that MSU still has a shot at a bowl game.
For you as a fan, that means cheering against every other five-win team as well as every four-win team ahead of the Spartans in the APR ladder this weekend. For a refresher, these teams are:
- georgia tech
- Miami, Fla
- State of Michigan
- Florida Atlantic
- Georgia South
- Southern miss
- State of Iowa
- Miami OH/Ball State
As embarrassing as it may be, MSU has a real shot at diving into a bowl game with a losing record. Well, there are several possibilities as to what bowl game it could be.
Speaking of embarrassing, the Spartans might be spending Christmas in Detroit.
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