We're coming down to the silly season of determining who gets to go to what bowl game, and which G5 teams get shafted along the way. Here's a look at who is walking the fine line between a bowl bid and sitting dejectedly at home this offseason.
American Athletic Conference
The AAC has six tie-ins and five eligible teams, so they're waiting on one team to step up: Temple.
1. Temple Owls (5-5, 3-3 AAC). Remaining schedule: vs. Cincinnati, at Tulane
If they win, they're in. Beating Cincy could be a tall order, but winning at Tulane shouldn't be as difficult. C-USA and Sun Belt teams on the margin will be rooting heavily for the Owls to lose out.
C-USA gets five guaranteed spots, but already has six eligible teams with another on the doorstep. Marshall, Louisiana Tech, and Rice are good to go. If Marshall ends up representing the G5 schools in an access bowl, that'll open up a tie-in for another C-USA team.
1. Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders (6-5, 5-2 C-USA). Remaining schedule: at UTEP
The Blue Raiders have the best C-USA record out of the bunch and faced a couple of tough out of conference games at Minnesota and Memphis. Win at UTEP and they're likely a shoe-in. If they lose, they'll need to root hard for Marshall to avoid getting jumped by the Hilltoppers.
2. Texas-El Paso Miners (6-5, 4-3 C-USA). Remaining schedule: MTSU
The Miners have a fanbase that's turned out in respectable numbers this season and is hungry for their first bowl invite since 2010. Beat MTSU and they're a lock. Lose, and they'll also be rooting for Marshall.
3. Western Kentucky Hilltoppers (6-5, 3-4 C-USA). Remaining schedule: at Marshall
Upset the G5 standard bearer and they're a lock. Lose, and they'll have to hope for a UAB loss in Hattiesburg to avoid getting bumped by a team and fanbase desperately hungry for a bowl.
4. UAB Blazers (5-6, 3-4 C-USA). Remaining schedule: at Southern Miss
If they beat USM and Marshall wins, they have a legitimate chance of jumping WKU and getting their second ever bowl invite (and perhaps slapping the Alabama Board of Trustees in the process). Lose and they're obviously out.
Sun Belt Conference
The #FunBelt is stuck with only three bowl bids until next season. Louisiana-Lafayette has hit seven wins and seems like a probable lock for the New Orleans Bowl. All three bowls are located in the southeast (New Orleans, Mobile, Montgomery), so there's certainly a bit of a geographic bias that could work against a certain team and fanbase located further west.
1. South Alabama Jaguars (6-5, 5-3 SBC). Remaining schedule: Navy
If they can manage to pull an upset over Navy's triple option grinder, they're almost a lock for the GoDaddy or Camellia Bowls since they're an in-state fanbase that will show up for the novelty of their first bowl game. Even if they finish 6-6, there's still a good chance the Alabama bowls might select them anyway just for the hometown fan factor to sell tickets. Nothing's guaranteed at this point, however.
2. Texas State Bobcats (6-5, 4-3 SBC). Remaining schedule: at Georgia State
The Sun Belt bowls aren't obligated to take teams with head-to-head tiebreakers, so 7-5 Arkansas State could still get an invite over 7-5 Texas State despite the Bobcats winning the head-to-head and Texas State could still get an invite over South Alabama despite the Jags' win in Mobile.
If the Camellia and GoDaddy Bowls left the 'Cats out in the cold, they'd be left hoping for an open spot in the Armed Forces Bowl. If Baylor or TCU makes the playoff, this will help their chances of playing in Fort Worth quite a bit. There's also the faint hope for the Heart of Dallas bowl, but Ohio State would need to make the playoff.
3. Arkansas State Red Wolves (6-5, 4-3 SBC). Remaining schedule: New Mexico State
Taking care of NMSU in Jonesboro shouldn't be a problem, but if Texas State also takes care of business in Atlanta, who would the GoDaddy or Camellia Bowls pick?
A-State has the benefit of a bowl track record with traveling fans, but they've had a muddled end to their season. Texas State, by comparison, will likely be finishing strong on a two game win streak. A-State is a half a day's drive closer to the Alabama bowls, but would they get the nod over a Texas State fanbase hungry for their first ever bowl bid?
It should also go without saying that if A-State or Texas State loses their final game to the dregs of the Sun Belt, they're out. If they both lose, well, ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
1. Navy Midshipmen (5-5). Remaining schedule: at South Alabama, vs. Army
Even if USA pulls the unlikely upset in Mobile, the Midshipmen should be able to take down a weak Army team and book a trip to the Poinsettia Bowl.
Who the Underdogs should root for
A total of 71 teams are eligible for 76 spots, and the winners of the Illinois-Northwestern and Virginia-Virginia Tech rivalry matchups will take spots 72 and 73 since all the teams involved are 5-6.
For any teams left out in the cold without a guaranteed conference bowl tie-in, or an FBS transitional team that's fallen victim to the NCAA's tradition of making terrible arbitrary rules (we'll pour one out for you Georgia Southern, Appalachian State, and perhaps Old Dominion), you're going to need to hope for a whole lot of P5 teams to lose. Here are your rooting interests for the upcoming weekend(s), as denoted in bold font:
BYU at California, Kentucky at Louisville, Michigan at Ohio State, Oklahoma State at Oklahoma, Oregon at Oregon State, Pittsburgh at Miami, Tennessee at Vanderbilt.
With apologies to our friends at Mountain West Connection and the Hustle Belt, it would also help any prospective at-large AAC/C-USA/SBC teams if Kent State upset Akron or Hawaii beats Fresno State.