College football: Bowling for mediocrity

Ford Field
Ford Field, site of the Quick Lane Bowl

By John Ruberry

One has to wonder if college football is headed to an every-participant-gets-a-ribbon level of competition. Not including the NCAA championship face-off, there will be a record 40 college bowl games this season, which means 63 percent of FBS programs will play in a bowl contest. And despite some of these teams fattening up against next-level-down teams in non-conference games, for instance Illinois clobbered Western Illinois 44-0, there aren’t enough teams with 6-6 records or better to fill all of these bowl slots.

Which means some 5-7 FBS teams–Illinois could be one of those squads–may still be graced with a bowl entry. At least two losers–and as many as five–will be bowl invitation winners. But another 5-7 Big 10 team, Nebraska, may have a leg up. The NCAA has a loser contingency plan–I’m sure they call it something more palatable–which rewards schools with the highest Academic Progress Rate. The Cornkuskers have the highest APR among the 5-7s.

Hey, studying finally counts for something in college sports! That’s an improvement. On the other hand, Nebraska’s fans are intensely loyal and even a Cornhusker team with a losing record makes them an attraction for a low-level bowl. Follow the money.

And what about the games themselves? Let’s take a look at Detroit’s Quick Lane Bowl, which will be played at Ford Field on December 28. It has tie-ins with the Big 10 and the Atlantic Coast Conference. But because there are not enough B1G or ACC bowl-eligible teams, Campus Insiders projects that another Big 10 loser, Minnesota. will face off against Central Michigan of the Mid American Conference. The Chippewas are 7-5–good for them.

NCAA football: Where you can be a winner and a loser at the same time.

John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.