An updated look at WKU’s bowl forecast

Brad Stephens

WKU’s regular season finale against Troy will have more than just regular season implications for the Toppers.

WKU (6-5) qualified for bowl eligibility one week ago with a win over North Texas and will be looking for its seventh victory of the season when hosting the Trojans at 11:30 a.m. Saturday.

But the Toppers aren’t guaranteed a bowl berth, even if they beat Troy.

Arkansas State and Louisiana-Lafayette accepted bids to the two bowls with which the Sun Belt Conference has tie-ins, the Bowl and the R + L Carriers New Orleans Bowl.

That means WKU will have to receive an at-large invite from a bowl which doesn’t have enough teams qualified from one or both of its tie-in conferences in order to make a bowl.

Sixty-four teams are currently eligible for the 70 total spots provided by the 35 bowls. (Miami (Fla.), which has a 6-6 overall record, and Southern California.

Several games played on Friday, and more to be played on Saturday, directly affect the pool of bowl-eligible teams.

The Toppers’ chances to receive an at-large bowl bid will be higher if the number of bowl eligible teams is smaller.

Here are the results of games Friday that affected WKU:

Louisville beat South Florida 34-24. USF (5-6) must now win against West Virginia next Thursday in order to qualify for a bowl. Should the Bulls finish bowl ineligible, the Toppers may have a chance to fill vacant Big East Conference slots in the Beef ‘O’ Brady’s Bowl (Dec. 17, St. Petersburg, Fla.), and the BBVA Compass Bowl (Jan. 7, Birmingham).

Northern Illinois beat Eastern Michigan 18-12. EMU, though 6-6, is bowl ineligible because two of its wins came against Football Championship Subdivision teams. The Mid-American Conference still has enough eligible teams to fill its three bowl tie-ins, but the Eagles’ loss keeps the at-large team pool smaller.

Temple beat Kent State 34-16. Kent State finishes the season 5-7, under the 6-6 bowl eligibility minimum, keeping the at-large team pool smaller.

No. 8 Houston beat Tulsa 48-16. Houston moved to 12-0 with the win in its last game before the Conference-USA championship next Saturday. Should the Cougars finish undefeated, they’ll likely receive an invite to one of the five BCS bowls. Since C-USA has non-automatic qualifying status, Houston going to the BCS would bump up the No. 2 team in the conference into the spot normally reserved for the league champion. That could vacate C-USA slots in the BBVA Compass Bowl, TicketCity Bowl (Jan. 2, Dallas), Armed Forces Bowl (Dec. 30, Dallas) or Beef ‘O’ Brady’s Bowl for WKU.

Central Florida beat Texas-El Paso 31-14. UTEP finishes the year at 5-7 with the loss, and is thus bowl ineligible. This keeps open the possibilities of the Toppers claiming an aforementioned C-USA slot in the BBVA Compass, TicketCity, Armed Forces or Beef ‘O’ Brady’s Bowls.

West Virginia beat Pittsburgh 21-20. Pitt now stands at 5-6, needing to beat Cincinnati on Dec. 3 to become bowl eligible. Panther ineligibility could lead to potential Big East openings in the BBVA Compass and Beef ‘O’ Brady’s Bowls.

What WKU should hope for on Saturday:

Maryland to beat North Carolina State. N.C. State (6-5) needs to reach seven wins to become bowl eligible because two of its wins came against FCS competition. Should the Wolfpack fail to qualify, WKU could potentially claim Atlantic Coast Conference openings in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl (Dec. 31, san Francisco) or the Military Bowl.

Rutgers to beat Connecticut. UConn (4-6) is one loss away from bowl ineligibility. Should the Huskies lose, the Toppers’ chances for the BBVA Compass and Beef ‘O’ Brady’s Bowls would increase.

Indiana to beat Purdue. Purdue (5-6) needs one more win to become bowl eligible. The Big Ten Conference already has plenty of bowl eligible teams to fill its eight tie-ins. But a Boilermaker win would crowd WKU a little more in the at-large pool.

Baylor to beat Texas Tech. The Red Raiders (5-6) must win to keep their bowl hopes alive. The Big 12 Conference has enough eligible teams to fill its seven tie -ins. But keeping Texas Tech out of the at-large pool would benefit the Toppers.

Mississippi to beat Mississippi State, Kentucky to beat Tennessee and Wake Forest to beat Vanderbilt. The Bulldogs, Volunteers and Commodores are all 5-6, needing one more win to qualify for a bowl. The outcomes of these three games will affect Southeastern Conference tie-in bowls. The SEC will likely land two, and could theoretically land three schools in BCS bowls. Factor that with potential wins tomorrow by Ole Miss, UK and Wake Forest, and spots in the Liberty Bowl (Dec. 31, Memphis, Tenn.), BBVA Compass Bowl and Music City Bowl (Dec. 30, Nashville) could all be open for a team like WKU.

Colorado State to beat Air Force. The Falcons (6-5) need seven wins to qualify for bowl eligibility because two of their wins came against FCS teams. The Mountain West Conference already has four teams eligible for its four tie-in bowls. But an Air Force loss would keep the at-large pool smaller for the Toppers.

Nevada to beat Utah State. The Aggies (5-5) need only to win on Saturday or next week against New Mexico State to become bowl eligible. Should Utah State lose both, a Western Athletic Conference bowl slot could be open in the New Mexico Bowl (Dec. 17, Albuquerque, N.M) the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl (Dec. 17, Boise, Idaho) or the Hawaii Bowl (Dec. 24, Honolulu).

Tulane to beat Hawaii. The Rainbow Warriors have to beat both Tulane on Saturday and Brigham Young next week to become bowl eligible. With a Hawaii loss in either game, a berth in the Hawaii Bowl may open for an at-large team.