If you’ve ever dreamed of spending late December in Chicago watching two 6-6 football teams battle for glory, your wish may soon be granted.
There has been a lot of concern in recent years about whether or not there are enough eligible college football teams any given season to fill all of the available bowl game spots. That’s pushed the conferences to allow for 5-7 teams with high APR scores to be allowed to go bowling just to make sure (something the Pac-12 is now stopping). Apparently, however, that concern hasn’t dissuaded those in charge of the bowl system from expanding to include even more bowl games full of mediocre football teams.
Per Brett McMurphy, we could have as many as 43 bowl games, including the College Football Playoff title game, by the time 2020 rolls around. That would mean 84 out of the 130 schools currently in the FBS would be able to play in the postseason, 65 percent if you’re keeping track.
According to McMurphy, the Competition Committee is going to recommend the addition of three new bowl games into the mix. Two of those three bowl locations seem set in stone, while the third remains up for grabs.
Wrigley Field will host a Chicago bowl game that reportedly pits a Big Ten team against an ACC team. Basically, this will be Northwestern’s fallback option anytime they go 7-5 or 6-6. In order to make room for this game in their affiliations, the Big Ten will be ending their relationship with the San Francisco (Foster Farms) Bowl.
Myrtle Beach is said to be the next new bowl location, with a likely match-up between a Conference USA team and either a Sun Belt or MAC squad.
As for the third new bowl game, that remains to be seen. Tempe, Charleston, S.C., and Greenville, N.C. have all expressed interest in hosting a game. As McMurphy notes, a bowl game must have a contract between two conferences or one conference and BYU or Army before receiving approval.
The Competition Committee is also looking to cap the maximum number of bowl tie-ins per conference. Not including Orange, Sugar, and Rose Bowl tie-ins, the ACC and SEC are limited to ten, the Big Ten is limited to eight, the Pac-12 is limited to seven, and the Big 12 is limited to six. Meanwhile, the American and C-USA both get up to seven bids, while the MAC and Mountain West can go as high as six. The Sun Belt is limited to five bids. Also, while Army & BYU can continue to secure their own bowl tie-ins, New Mexico State, UMass, and Liberty must still hope for an available at-large spot if and when a conference can’t fill all their bids. Notre Dame, of course, is Notre Dame, and they get to ride the ACC’s affiliations.
The big winners in terms of adding bowl affiliations are the SEC, Pac-12, Conference USA, Mid-American, and Mountain West, all of whom are getting one more bowl affiliation than they previously had. What’s interesting is what it means for the Pac-12, given that they just removed the option for a 5-7 team to go bowling. Will they be able to fill all their available slots regularly?
Ultimately, the point remains that college football at the FBS level is gamed to make sure as many major programs go bowling as possible. Enough people are watching these games to offset any “who cares” concerns about three more games featuring 6-6 football teams. And if your program isn’t going bowling routinely, you seriously need to sit down and wonder why.