When I was a kid, the college football season ended on New Year's Day, when the big bowl games were played - Orange, Cotton, Sugar, and the 'granddaddy of them all,' the Rose Bowl. For the most part, if you were still playing football on mid-December or on New Year's Day, you were generally accepted as a good team and you had a pretty good record.
These days, the good record is not quite so necessary. As a sort-of-at-least-a-little-bit-interested SU fan, I grow tired of hearing (starting with the first game) how important it is to win six games to secure 'bowl-eligibility' each year. And every time they say it, I think to myself, "Six games is all it takes to be bowl-eligible?" "Six wins gets you into the money round?"
Well, yes it does. SU didn't make it this year, having battled though a gazillion key injuries, some coaching changes, and what some will argue was a bad offensive plan from the start, but there actually are several teams with only six wins that made it into the post-season, including five with losing records:
- South Alabama (6-7), lost the Raycom Media Camellia Bowl
- Fresno State (6-8), lost the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl
- Illinois (6-7), lost the Zaxby's Heart of Texas Bowl
- North Carolina (6-7) lost the Quick Lane Bowl
- Miami (6-7), lost the Duck Commander Independence Bowl
- Arkansas and Texas (both 6-6) will play tomorrow in the AdvoCare V100 Texas Bowl
- Pitt (6-6) will play on January 2nd in the Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl
- Tennessee (6-6) will play January 2nd in the TaxSlayer Gator Bowl
- Oklahoma State (6-6) will play January 2nd in the TicketCity Cactus Bowl
- Florida (6-5) will play January 3rd in the Birmingham Bowl
There are also fifteen teams with only seven wins playing in bowl games.
Now, I know that 'true fans', the ones that bleed their school colors, will be confident in making the case that their team should be in a bowl game, even with a less than stellar record of six-and-something or seven-and-something. There's that whole strength of schedule/quality win thing, and perhaps more than that, there are those teams that travel well and will send people and money to the different bowl venues, which is an important consideration when it comes to picking teams. A 6-6 team that'll send 10,000 people is better than an 8-4 team that will send 2,000 fans.
And when you have 39 bowl games to fill (including the two semi-final games), I guess you need a whole lot of teams and you can go deep to find them. For context, here's how the bowl picture has expanded over the years:
- 2014: 39 games, plus the national championship
- 2004: 28 games
- 1994: 19 games
- 1984: 18 games
- 1974: 11 games
- 1964: 9 games
This year the season started on August 27, 2014 with a game between Georgia State (who finished 1-11) and Abilene Christian (6-6), and will likely end with the crowning of the national champion sometime on Tuesday January 13, 2015 (given the late start of final game on the 12th).
At least, in the end, we'll have a winner with no more than one loss on the year, which is as it should be. But sending Fresno State to Hawaii for Christmas? Not so much.