14 staffs competing for bowl eligibility
Some move out while others move in. When we started this exercise, 17 staffs were on the brink of bowl eligibility. Last week it was 16. Now, it's 14. An unlucky few (Air Force, Arizona State, Iowa State, Michigan State, Ole Miss and West Virginia) have spent close to a month (or more) on the outside looking in. Is this the week the bouncer finally lets them in the club?
Air Force: vs. Hawaii (9:30 p.m. ET, ESPN2 on Friday). Last non-bowl season: 2006. Outlook: Troy Calhoun's team is part of the unlucky three-timer group. If it doesn't happen tonight at home versus Hawaii, it may not happen at all. Air Force closes at conference-leader Fresno State.
Arizona State: vs. Washington State (3 p.m. ET, Pac-12 Network). Last bowl appearance: 2010. Outlook: Four weeks ago, the Sun Devils were 5-1 and led the Pac-12 South. Now they must beat Washington State to avoid an all-or-nothing game at Arizona to close the year.
Georgia Tech: vs. Duke (3:30 p.m. ET, ESPNU). Last non-bowl season: 1996. Outlook: The Yellow Jackets have the longest bowl streak of any team on this list. The 15-year streak appeared in serious jeopardy a month ago, but three wins in four games have righted the ship for Paul Johnson and co. Saturday is an important game, though, as a loss will require a win at No. 5 Georgia to reach six wins.
Iowa State: at Kansas (7 p.m. ET, FSN). Last non-bowl season: 2010. Outlook: Paul Rhoads' team is thankful for the 9-6 win over Iowa because Big 12 play has not been kind to Iowa State. Saturday brings an important trip to face winless-but-scrappy Kansas.
Louisiana - Lafayette: vs. Western Kentucky (7 p.m. ET, ESPN3). Last non-bowl season: 2010. Outlook: After coming achingly close to a shocker at the Swamp, the Ragin' Cajuns get a Hilltoppers team that's lost three of its last four. If Mark Hudspeth's team does stumble on Saturday, ULL still has Florida Atlantic and South Alabama (combined league record: 3-9) on the schedule.
Miami (Fla.): vs. South Florida (3 p.m. ET, Sun Sports). Last bowl appearance: 2010. Outlook: With a trip outside ACC play on Saturday, the Hurricanes could conceivably battle Duke next week not only for bowl eligibility, but also for a spot in the ACC title game.
Michigan State: vs. Northwestern (12 p.m. ET, ESPN2). Last non-bowl season: 2006. Outlook: Mark Dantonio's hard luck Spartans are just 2-4 in Big Ten play, but their four losses have come by a combined 10 points. Northwestern is also no stranger to close finishes (just see last week's game with Michigan), so tune in around 3:30 ET to see a tight finish.
Missouri: vs. Syracuse (7 p.m. ET, ESPNU). Last non-bowl season: 2004. Outlook: Winning Saturday is imperative for Gary Pinkel's team as the Tigers close the year on the road against Johnny Football and red-hot Texas A&M.
Ole Miss: at LSU (3:30 p.m. ET, CBS). Last bowl appearance: 2009. Outlook: Unless the Rebels shock LSU in Death Valley, Hugh Freeze will need to beat Mississippi State for the first time in Dan Mullen's tenure in Starkville to end Ole Miss' two-year bowl drought.
SMU: at Rice (3:30 p.m. ET, CSS). Last non-bowl season: 2008. Outlook: After a loss to Tulane on Oct. 13, SMU stood at 2-4 and seemingly out of any post-season picture. Now, the Mustangs are not only on the brink of a bowl game for the fourth straight year, but could potentially host Tulsa for a spot in the Conference USA title game next week.
Syracuse: at Missouri (7 p.m. ET, ESPNU). Last bowl appearance: 2010. Outlook: A upset thumping of Louisville puts the Orange on the brink. In a scheduling oddity, Doug Marrone's team closes the year on the road for four of their final five games.
Troy: vs. Arkansas State (3:30 p.m. ET). Last bowl appearance: 2010. Outlook: The Trojans have Arkansas State and Middle Tennessee ahead on the schedule. Unfortunately for the Trojans, those teams are currently on a collision course for the Sun Belt title. Larry Blakeney and co. need an upset.
Wake Forest: at Notre Dame (3:30 p.m. ET, NBC). Last non-bowl season: 2010. Outlook: Jim Grobe's team runs the risk of ending the season on the outside looking in. After losing to N.C. State, the Demon Deacons are heavy underdogs this week and close the year with a hot Vanderbilt team next week.
West Virginia: vs. Oklahoma (7 p.m. ET, FOX). Last non-bowl season: 2001. Outlook: Even in the face of a four-game losing streak, Dana Holgorsen's team is a trendy upset pick this week. Saturday will mark six full weeks since West Virginia's last victory.