Just about every game carries some measure of importance over the next two weeks. There are obvious instances, like teams vying for bowl eligibility, conference championship game implications or the College Football Playoff, but even games between bad teams have some meaning. Seniors are playing their final games or underclassmen are getting a chance to impress. Just because a team doesn’t seem to have any reason to be there isn’t good enough to bet against them in most cases.
There are two weeks left of regular season games, followed by conference championships, Army/Navy and then the bowl season. Here are the teams with five wins looking to get bowl-eligible this week: Memphis, Miami (FL), Texas Tech, Oklahoma, Michigan State, Wisconsin, Florida Atlantic, Rice, Middle Tennessee, BYU, Buffalo, Bowling Green, Ball State, Utah State, Arkansas, Georgia Southern, App State, Southern Miss and Louisiana.
While there are projected to be several five-win teams in bowl games this season, here are the teams with four wins that are trying to win out in order to secure the magic number of six: Georgia Tech, West Virginia, Iowa State, Rutgers, FIU, UTEP, New Mexico State, Kent State, Central Michigan, UNLV, Arizona, Missouri, Vanderbilt, Auburn, Georgia State and UL Monroe.
Sometimes you’ll pay a little bit of a premium on a team looking for its sixth win. You’ll see a lot more of that next week, but it should be a factor in your handicap. Keep in mind, though, teams that are 5-5 or 4-6 right now are fighting for bowl eligibility largely because they aren’t that good, so don’t overreact too much to that motivation angle.
Here are some situational spots to consider for Week 12:
This is a pretty big lookahead spot for Eastern Michigan on Wednesday night. The Eagles have not won the Michigan MAC Trophy since 2012, which is awarded to the Directional Michigan school with the best record in head-to-head games featuring Eastern, Western and Central. Eastern Michigan beat Western Michigan 45-23 earlier in the season and has Central Michigan at home on Senior Day next Friday night. With bowl eligibility in the bag and no chance at winning the MAC West Division, it wouldn’t be a stunner to see EMU looking ahead. Kent State, meanwhile, has no margin for error for bowl eligibility with four wins and two games left to play.
There are a handful of teams in lookahead spots this week because they come from a major conference and are playing a Group of Five team. One that stands out is Florida State. Unlike some others, Florida State has a rivalry game on deck. The Florida Gators come to town and they beat the Seminoles 41-14 in the last meeting in Tallahassee back in 2018. Florida has won three straight, but after blowouts of 27 and 23 in 2018 and 2019, last year’s game ended 24-21. Florida State overlooking Louisiana while possibly giving Jordan Travis an easier workload is a distinct possibility.
Unlike Michigan, who plays a decent opponent in Illinois, Ohio State draws a four-touchdown favorite role in the week prior to “The Game”, which will decide a spot in the College Football Playoff. The Buckeyes lost badly to Michigan last season for their first real loss to the Wolverines since 2003 in the minds of Ohio State fans. The loss back in 2011 came with then interim head coach Luke Fickell after Jim Tressel was forced to resign after the free tattoo scandal. Ohio State’s 15-point margin of defeat last season was the largest against Michigan since 1993. The Buckeyes have had that game circled all year and they’ve had a lot of offensive injuries this season, including the loss of Miyan Williams last week. They’re likely to ease off in the second half with a big lead if they get one.
A letdown spot for UConn?! You betcha. The Huskies beat Liberty last week to become bowl-eligible for the first time since 2015. Students responded by storming the field. The Huskies are not guaranteed a bowl berth because of all the conference tie-ins, but Jim Mora Jr. got covered in Gatorade and various other liquids as players climbed into the stands and helped students down from the grandstands. It was a huge party at “The Rent” for a program that needed a spark. Now, after all of that excitement, Army’s triple-option awaits. UConn has defied the odds all season long, but this is about as bad as a spot can possibly get.
With their College Football Playoff hopes dashed, Oregon hosts Utah in a rather interesting spot. Despite the loss to Washington, Oregon still controls its own destiny for the Pac-12 Championship Game. A win here for Oregon gives them a place in Las Vegas. In fact, the winner of this game essentially gets a spot in that game because Utah plays Colorado as a massive favorite next week. The spot is not good for the Ducks after last week’s heartbreaking loss, but there are still some attainable goals in play, which should keep them focused.
Vanderbilt scored a 24-21 win over Kentucky this past week to end a 26-game losing streak in SEC play that dated back to October 19, 2019. The Commodores scored the game-winning touchdown with just 32 seconds left to play. Florida barely broke a sweat rolling over South Carolina, so the spot is definitely favorable for the Gators, but they do have a rivalry game on deck with Florida State. It’s a big price to lay against an improved Vanderbilt team and maybe the taste of winning just makes the Commodores want more of it.
TCU flashed some defensive prowess in the win over Texas and now has a really tough game against Baylor. Winning without racking up a ton of offense may be a good sign going forward, but the schedule and the emotions have to take a toll at some point, right? The Bears have not played all that well lately, but this is a brutal spot again for TCU after so many close games and so many dramatic moments throughout the season. No spot will be a good one moving forward for TCU, but no spot has been a good one for TCU for several weeks now. Let’s see if they can overcome another one.