Nelson Chenault - USA Today Sports

Reviewing Sun Belt bowl prospects

Early analysis of bowl possibilities

The season has five weeks left and four weeks unless you are in a conference title game, the Big XII, SEC or independent so the picture is getting a bit more clear.

Still too early to do the big conference by conference break down looking at their bowl ties.

Remember perfectly balanced this year would be 80 eligible and 48 ineligible.

Things became interesting this week. One of the computer models I like had a big shift going from projecting 80 eligible to 76. Massey projects 74 eligible, I’m a fan of the Massey model but it has s track record of being to be too conservative projecting bowl eligible teams at this point of the season.

Eligible: 41

AAC 4, ACC 5, Big 12 4, Big 10 7, CUSA 4, Indy 2, MAC 2, MWC 2, Pac-12 3, SEC 6, Sun Belt 2

Need one win: 16

Cincinnati, NC State, Miami (FL), Texas Tech, Central Michigan, Northern Illinois, Western Michigan, Utah State, Air Force, Washington State, Oregon, Cal, USC, Arizona, Georgia, AState.

Need two wins: 23

UConn, USF, East Carolina, Tulsa, Louisville, Virginia Tech, Indiana, Minnesota, Illinois, FIU, Rice, Buffalo, New Mexico, SJSU, Nevada, Washington, Arizona State, Colorado, Tennessee, Kentucky, Missouri, Arkansas, Auburn

Out: 12

One loss from elimination: 15

Tulane, Wake Forest, Boston College, Georgia Tech, Maryland, Purdue, Nebraska, FAU, Charlotte, Army, Ball State, UNLV, Fresno, Oregon State, Troy

Two losses from elimination: 20

UConn, East Carolina, Syracuse, Virginia, Virginia Tech, Iowa State, Texas, Rutgers, MTSU, FIU, Old Dominion, UTEP, Kent State, Akron, Colorado, Vanderbilt, South Carolina, Idaho, Texas State, Georgia State

Sun Belt Bowl Situation

There are four locked in spots and selection order is: New Orleans, GoDaddy, Camellia, Cure.

Appalachian State and Georgia Southern are eligible.

AState needs one more win to be eligible and the models give AState a 75% or greater chance of winning each of at ULM, at NMSU, and home against Texas State, but only a 26% chance of beating App.

ULL needs three wins to get eligible. They will be favored at Georgia State and home against NMSU and Troy. They are projected to be a slight underdog at USA and a big underdog at App.

Idaho needs three wins to become eligible. They play at USA and Auburn and host App and Texas State and will not be favored in any of those games.

USA needs three wins. They are favored to win the next three: Idaho and ULL at home and at Georgia State. They will be underdogs at Georgia Southern and home against App. If the Jaguars lose any of the next three, their chances of bowl eligibility are slim.

Texas State needs four wins and will be favored to win the next four. They play three straight at home NMSU, GaSt, ULM and travel to Idaho. They will be an underdog at AState, one stumble and they are playing for their life in the finale at AState.

Georgia State needs four wins with five games left. They will be underdogs in all five.

Troy needs to sweep the final four games. They will be favored this week at home vs ULM and on the road the week the Friday after Thanksgiving at Georgia State but will be underdogs at home against Georgia Southern and on the road at ULL in the finale.

Right now looks very good for the Sun Belt to have four eligible and six is plausible.

The only other Sun Belt tie is a back-up in Tucson where the primaries are MWC and CUSA

MWC has six solid ties. Two teams eligible, Boise State and San Diego State. Utah State and Air Force each need one more. Wyoming and Hawaii are out, UNLV and Fresno are one loss from being out.

Colorado State needs three wins and should be favored in the remaining four. San Jose State needs two wins and will be favored in two of the remaining four. Nevada needs two wins and will be favored in two of the remaining four. New Mexico needs two wins and should be an underdog in the remaining games.   

MWC will almost certainly cover their tie to Tucson.

CUSA has seven ties. Four teams are eligible and two are out.

MTSU needs three wins and will be favored in three of the last four. Rice needs two and will be favored in two. FIU needs two wins they will be favored in only one of the remaining three. FAU has to sweep the final four and will be favored one time. Old Dominion needs three and will be favored only once. UTEP needs three and will not be favored in any of the remaining games.

Right now it appears fairly likely that CUSA will not have a team to cover the Tucson tie-in.

If everything in the Sun Belt falls in line with the computer models, my Sun Belt bowl projection is:

Cajuns to New Orleans, Appalachian State to GoDaddy, AState to Montgomery, Georgia Southern to Orlando.

I am not fully convinced 6-6 gets ULL to New Orleans. That’s a frustrated fan base and harder ticket sale. Also remember the sponsor wants bang for the buck. That means an attractive match-up and a 6-6 vs 6-6 probably isn’t going to cut it. The problem is if Appalachian State takes the title the distance and uncertainty about their ability to travel might make the safe bet of ULL more attractive. If it is AState that is champion, taking the Cajuns is harder to do.