Bowl Eligibility Watch: A Dozen Teams on the Brink
It's almost closing time here at Bowl Eligibility Watch and 10 teams have their last calls this weekend (Baylor and West Virginia end their seasons on Dec. 1). Now more than ever, it's put up or shut up time for the group below.
Baylor: vs. Texas Tech (2:30 p.m. ET, FOX). Last non-bowl season: 2009. Outlook: All it took was a 28-point hammering of the BCS No. 1 team, but Art Briles' team now has a date with a sputtering Texas Tech to reach win number six. Baylor has played in 18 bowls, but a win over the Red Raiders would give the Bears their first streak of three consecutive bowl seasons in school history.
Central Michigan: at Massachusetts (3 p.m. ET on Friday). Last bowl appearance: 2009. Outlook: Defense has been the problem for CMU this season, allowing an average of 43 points in their six losses. Luckily for Dan Enos' team, next up is a Massachusetts team that has scored 41 points in the entire month of November.
Marshall: at East Carolina (2 p.m. ET, CBS Sports Network). Last non-bowl season: 2010. Outlook: Outside of a two-game losing skid to Purdue and Tulsa, the Thundering Herd have alternated wins and losses every week this year. Marshall beat Houston last week, 44-41. Time for Doc Holliday's team to reverse the trend.
Michigan State: at Minnesota (3:30 p.m. ET, BTN). Last non-bowl season: 2006. Outlook: Mark Dantonio's team has statistically the best defense in the Big Ten and, though they're just 2-5 in conference play, all five losses have come by four points or less. With that in mind, it just wouldn't feel right if Michigan State didn't qualify for postseason play.
Missouri: at Texas A&M (7 p.m. ET, ESPN2). Last non-bowl season: 2004. Outlook: Gary Pinkel's team blew its best chance for an eighth straight bowl game with its 31-27 loss to Syracuse last week. Next up is a Texas A&M team looking to give Johnny Manziel every chance to lock up the Heisman Trophy.
Ole Miss: vs. Mississippi State (7 p.m. ET, ESPNU). Last bowl appearance: 2009. Outlook: Hugh Freeze's team couldn't close the deal in Death Valley, and now goes into the Egg Bowl looking to extend its season. I don't make predictions often on this site, but I will here: this will be the most competitive SEC game this weekend.
Purdue: vs. Indiana (12 p.m. ET, BTN). Last non-bowl season: 2010. Outlook: Purdue started the Big Ten season with five straight losses, three of them blowouts. But wins over Iowa and Illinois (combined Big Ten record: 2-12) have righted the ship, and now Danny Hope's team can lock up a second straight bowl trip by beating 4-7 Indiana for the Old Oaken Bucket.
Rice: at UTEP (7 p.m. ET, Fox College Sports). Last bowl appearance: 2008. Outlook: David Bailiff's team had just a come-from-behind win over Kansas to its credit with a 1-5 start to the season. John Reagan's offense has kicked things into high gear in the second half of the year, averaging 37 points per game in a 4-1 streak where the only loss was to Conference USA leader Tulsa. Now the Owls must win at the Sun Bowl in Mike Price's swan song to end their three-year bowl drought.
Troy: at Middle Tennessee (3 p.m. ET, ESPN3). Last bowl appearance: 2010. Outlook: Larry Blakeney's team came up short against the Sun Belt's first place team Saturday versus Arkansas State, and next up is the league's second place team. Ten of Troy's 11 games has been played within 13 points one way or the other, so expect the Trojans' postseason eligibility to be in question right until the very end.
Virginia Tech: vs. Virginia (12 p.m. ET, ESPNU). Last non-bowl season: 1992. Outlook: Half of Virginia Tech's roster wasn't even in school yet the last time the Hokies stayed home during bowl season. Virginia Tech also holds an eight-game winning streak over in-state rival Virginia. Other than that, there's not much on the line on Saturday.
West Virginia: at Iowa State (3:30 p.m. ET, ABC on Friday). Last non-bowl season: 2001. Outlook: If Bowl Eligibility Watch was televised in the same format as the NFL Draft, Holgo's team would be the top 5 pick that's somehow the last guy left in the green room. The Mountaineers came on fourth down stop from upsetting Oklahoma, but nevertheless, 5-0 has turned into 5-5. Luckily for Holgo and co., if the slide somehow reaches six games, Kansas comes to town next week.
Wake Forest: vs. Wake Forest (3:30 p.m. ET, ESPNU). Last non-bowl season: 2010. Outlook: No one expected Wake Forest to beat Notre Dame, and it didn't happen. But up next for Jim Grobe's team is a red-hot Vanderbilt squad on a five-game winning streak.