Big East Bowl Breakdown

With the end of the season approaching, keeping track of all the various bowl scenarios involving Big East teams are enough to confuse even the most avid Panther fan. But after surveying the college football landscape in detail, here's a helpful primer on all the different ways this college football post-season could play out.

1) The Big East:  Currently, the Big East has four guaranteed bowl slots, except in the unlikely event that Walt Harris' Stanford Cardinal pull off a huge upset over Notre Dame this weekend, which would drop the Irish down to the Big East spot in the Gator Bowl.  At present, the Big East also has four bowl eligible teams: West Virginia (8-1), Louisville (7-2), USF (6-3), and Rutgers (6-4).  If Pittsburgh manages to upset the Mountaineers on Thanksgiving, the Panthers would be eligible at 6-5 as well.  Finally, UConn is still clinging to hopes of a bowl bid at 4-5, but wins over both South Florida and Louisville are a tall order.  Huskies do have both games at home though, and with USF playing in cold New England weather and Louisville's inconsistent road play, they have a remote shot.

 

2) The Available Bowl slots:  In the event that Pitt and/or UConn become bowl eligible, or if Notre Dame stumbles, the Big East will need to rely on at-large bowl slots to place all of its eligible teams.  There are only two bowl slots that are free of any conference affiliation: one Liberty Bowl and one Poinsettia Bowl slot.  At present, both have been handed out; Fresno State will play in the Liberty Bowl, and Navy will play in the inaugural Poinsettia Bowl in San Diego, win or lose against Army.  But there are also several bowl slots that are committed to conferences that will/may not produce enough bowl eligible teams to fill all of them.  The following is a listing of conferences and potential bowl slot vacancies:

 

Big Ten: seven slots, currently filled by seven bowl eligible teams = no vacancies

 

SEC: eight slots, but only six teams can be bowl eligible this year, leaving a vacancy in the following two bowls: Music City (vs. the Big Ten #6 selection) or the

Houston Bowl (vs. a Big XII representative).

 

Pac-10:  six slots, currently filled by only four teams; Stanford could qualify with a win  over ND and Arizona State could qualify with a win over rival Arizona.  If the

Pac-10 qualifies five teams; expect the lone vacancy to come from the Las Vegas

Bowl vs. BYU (already accepted other bid).  If neither Stanford nor ASU win

their final games, the additional opening would come in the Emerald Bowl in San

Francisco, likely vs. Utah (the Mountain West #2 slot).

 

Big XII: eight slots currently filled by 7 teams; Texas A&M could qualify for the final

slot by beating archrival Texas.  It is likely that the Aggies will lose to the  Longhorns, opening up the BXII slot for the Fort Worth Bowl vs. the Conference USA #4 selection.

 

ACC: six slots currently have 7 eligible teams, making them the only BCS conference to

exceed their committed bowl slots.  The winner of the Maryland vs. NC State  game will become eligible as well, since both teams are 5-5.  Therefore, two

ACC teams will be in search of an at-large bid.

 

3) How many at-large slots will there be?  One of the vacancies listed above has already been committed to an at-large team; TCU has secured the SEC's vacant spot in the Houston Bowl vs. a Big XII representative.  In the very unlikely scenario that Stanford, Arizona State, and Texas A&M all win their final games, there will actually be too FEW at-large slots to accommodate the two ACC and any Big East eligible teams.  But assuming the most likely scenario, whereby Texas A&M and Stanford both lose to top 10 opponents and Arizona State beats Arizona, that leaves a total of three bowl slots left vacant (one each from the Pac-10, SEC and Big XII) for the two ACC eligible teams and one more team.  An Arizona upset of the Sun Devils and there will be four bowl slots left for the ACC and Big East eligible(s) teams to compete for.

 

4) Who will compete for the at-large spots?:  Assuming Pitt upsets West Virginia, or UConn ends the season by upending USF and Louisville, the Big East will be fighting against the following teams for these one or two bowl slots: Virginia (6-4 with a game left at Miami), the winner of NC State vs. Maryland (would be 6-5), Toledo (7-3 with a game against Bowling Green left, and an outside shot at the MAC title game), and New Mexico (6-5).  If Pitt were to finish 6-5, winners of five of their last six games (only loss being a road trip to Louisville), one would have to like their chances against mid-majors Toledo and New Mexico.  But the chances will likely vary depending on the bowl involved:

 

Music City: Very difficult to imagine them passing on an ACC team for a Big East  representative, regardless of the team.

 

Fort Worth: Not much reason to believe ACC teams would travel any better Texas

than a Big East representative. Pitt stands a decent chance here.

 

Emerald: Given the decision to drop the Big East from this bowl slot in previous years,

Its unlikely Pitt could get the nod over either UVA, Maryland or NC State here.

 

Las Vegas:  Mid-major New Mexico likely a better draw here geographically, but an

invite to a Big East or ACC team is likely a wash here. 

 

5) Bottom line:  I predict that at-least three at-large slots will be open, and that two will be taken by the ACC teams, leaving either an Emerald or Las Vegas Bowl bid on the table for Pitt or UConn.


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