N.C. State fans have a new favorite team — Troy — at least for one week.
The Trojans (7-4) could be the key to State finding a bowl home. An NCAA rule (page 9), could keep State out of the ACC bowl lineup. That puts the Wolfpack (6-6) in the at-large pool.
Under NCAA rules, a 6-6 team cannot fill an at-large bowl bid before a 7-5 (or better) team.
Doing the conference bowl-eligible teams/conference tie-ins math (see chart), there are possibly four bowls, and five slots, open for at-large invitations.
Dec. 26 Motor City Bowl, Detroit
Dec. 28 Independence Bowl, Shreveport, La.
Dec. 29 PapaJohns.com Bowl, Birmingham, Ala.
Dec. 30 Texas Bowl, Houston
Here's how the scheduled spots break open for at-large bids:
Motor City: Big Ten 7 vs. MAC
Independence: SEC (8) vs. Big 12 (7)
PapaJohns: SEC (9) vs. Big East
Texas: Big 12 (8) vs. CUSA
The SEC and Big 12 will not fill their bowl quotas (see chart). Plus, when you factor in a second SEC and Big 12 team going to the BCS, that creates two more slots.
Another slot would open if Ohio State is chosen for the BCS, instead of Boise State.
Let's start with just two SEC and two Big 12 BCS teams. That leaves four spots in three bowls.
One MAC team — 9-3 Western Michigan, 8-4 Central Michigan and 7-5 Buffalo — has to get at least one of the at-large bids.
That means there are three potential spots.
If Troy wins, there are still three potential spots. If Troy loses, there are only two.
The explanation: A Troy loss leaves two Sun Belt teams at 7-5. The Sun Belt has a contract with the PapaJohns for its 7-5 team, which in this case would be Troy because Arkansas State wins the Sun Belt (and goes to New Orleans) if it beats Troy.
That takes care of the potential 7-5 (or better) teams.
Which brings us to the 6-6 pool. State and Notre Dame are the only current 6-6 teams from the BCS.
Louisville (vs. Rutgers on Thursday) and Arizona State (at Arizona on Saturday) are the only other BCS teams that can get to 6-6.
Outside of the BCS, Bowling Green, Northern Illinois, San Jose State
and Florida Atlantic are all 6-6. Louisiana-Lafayette and Middle
Tennessee, both 5-6, play each other on Wednesday at
Louisiana-Lafayette. The winner will finish 6-6.
Given Notre Dame's national appeal and tradition, the Irish are almost assured one of the at-large spots.
So, worst-case scenario:
• Boise State gets picked for the BCS
• Troy loses, goes to PapaJohns Bowl
• Notre Dame commits to the Texas Bowl
• Louisville and Arizona State both win
• Louisiana-Lafayette wins
That leaves only one spot for State, Louisville, Arizona State and Louisiana-Lafayette in the Independence Bowl. Which school do you think the bowl in Louisiana is going to take?
Best-case scenario (as long as State's left out of the ACC mix):
• Ohio State gets picked for the BCS
• Troy wins
• Louisville or Arizona State loses
• Louisiana-Lafayette loses
Even if Notre Dame commits to Texas, that leaves State with a shot at the Motor City, Independence and PapaJohns.
The conference breakdown:
|Conference||Eligible teams|| Bowl tie-ins
|y-Big East||6 (1)||6|
Notes: Remaining potential bowl teams (in parenthesis).
x- tie-ins include Gator Bowl, not Sun Bowl
y- tie-ins include Sun Bowl, not Gator Bowl
z- would add a second tie-in with PapaJohns.com with Arkansas State win
There are 34 bowl games, 68 spots with four unaffiliated BCS bowl spots.