Yesterday at the College Football Blog, we noted that multiple SEC teams were struggling to become bowl eligible with only a handful of weeks left in the season, and that this was going to be bad business for the league, the teams and maybe most of all, the newly SEC-less bowls involved. One of those teams with an uphill road to 6-6 was Ole Miss , and one of the bowls potentially affected was the Liberty Bowl .
So if you're the Rebels or the Memphis-based Liberty brass, what to do? Hopefully win three games and make the speculation moot. But failing that, as Kyle Veazey of the Clarion-Ledger writes, hope the entirety of FBS falls short in prodcuing bowl-eligible teams and the NCAA opens the door for 5-7 teams to taste the postseason for the first time:
The NCAA's approval in April of 35 bowls and the possibility of a dearth of teams to fill the 70 slots at the end of this season are making some observers wonder if the NCAA will relax its six-win requirement for bowl eligibility.Trying to project the bowl picture for all of FBS is beyond the scope of this post (that's what this is for), but remove bowl-ineligible USC from the picture, reduce the number of SEC teams available from 2009's 10 to 2010's probable nine, keep everything else the same, and you're already at 69 eligible candidates ... and those same 70 slots.
It's early still to see if that number is in jeopardy, but the margin is razor-thin. Thirty-three teams entered this week's games with six wins. Seventy-one teams qualified for 68 bowl spots last year, according to reports
So if it comes to it, would the Liberty Bowl be above taking a 5-7 Rebels team from just down the road in Oxford?
Regardless of record, the Rebels would be an attractive team for the nearby Liberty Bowl, spokesman Harold Graeter said.That's a no. (It's worth questioning whether this would be fair to a potential Conference USA champion whose reward for a championship season would be an SEC squad that couldn't even reach .500, but when there's rear ends to be put in seats, that's well beside the point.)
This is the kind of story that's not making a lot of waves right now, since there's still plenty of time for the FBS to hit the magic number of 70 6-6-or-better teams. (Particularly if the NCAA allows teams like Virginia to count a second victory over FCS competition.) But it will be worth keeping a close eye on the final few weeks of the season as the final tally either wheezes across the line or falls short, and as bowls left with unappealing scraps jockey for whatever halfway-interesting match-up they can find.