Brace yourselves: more bowl games are coming.
Once the current NCAA bowl cycle ends after the 2019 season, you can expect a myriad of changes to the slate of bowl games, especially with respect to conference tie-ins. And on a more macro level, it looks like there will be more bowl games in general.
Brett McMurphy reported Monday that three new bowl games are expected to be added to the docket, with games in Chicago and Myrtle Beach as “near locks” to become hosts.
Wrigley Field will host Chicago’s bowl game
Back in January 2017, Cubs president Crane Kenney came right out and said that the organization wanted to host a bowl game at Wrigley Field with 2020 as the target year. According to McMurphy, that will likely come to fruition with a Big Ten vs. ACC matchup. To coincide with that new tie-in, the Big Ten would end its affiliation with the San Francisco-based bowl game formerly known as the Foster Farms Bowl.
From a geographic standpoint, Chicago is a much more logical fit for the Big Ten than California. The Pinstripe Bowl in New York City has not deterred the league from having a bowl in a cold weather climate, either.
The bowl game will be the second college football game played at Wrigley in 2020. Last week, a Northwestern vs. Wisconsin game was finalized for Nov. 7 of that year. Northwestern played Illinois at Wrigley back in 2010 in a game where only one end zone was used because of the way the football field fit into the stadium’s configuration.
Since then, renovations at Wrigley that include removable seats down the third-base line will allow for a better fit for a football field. That was necessary to appease the NCAA.
That brings the total to 43 bowl games
With the Chicago bowl, the Myrtle Beach bowl (which, per McMurphy, would like include two Group of Five conference tie-ins) and a third bowl with a to-be-determined location joining the fray, the grand total is up to a whopping 43 bowl games, including the College Football Playoff national title game.
That means 84 of the 129 FBS teams — 65 percent — would play in a bowl game in 2020 provided none of the previously established bowls fold before we get there.
The “there are too many bowl games” crowd is going to be even more mad.
More 5-7 teams will likely reach the postseason
More bowl games increases the likelihood of teams with losing records participating in the postseason. In 2015, when there were 80 bowl slots, we saw three 5-7 teams play in bowl games. In 2016, there were two. In 2017, three 6-6 teams — Buffalo, UTSA and Western Michigan — were not invited to a bowl. Every year things are different.
One wrinkle here is a recent rule passed by the Pac-12. The conference’s presidents voted to require its members to win at least six regular season games in order to play in a bowl game.
“The Pac-12 is committed to supporting the highest quality of competition at post-season bowl games,” Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott told The Associated Press of the decision. “In requiring a minimum of six regular season wins our goal is to support the significance of the bowl season and provide our fans around the country with the most exciting games featuring our leading Pac-12 teams.”
To add to the potential bowl selection intrigue, the Pac-12 is set to add an additional bowl bid in the new cycle, per McMurphy.
In the past, teams with 5-7 records — those who elected to accept and not decline bowl bids — were chosen by their by Academic Progress Rate. In 2016, after a year where two Mountain West teams ended up facing one another in the Arizona Bowl, the NCAA Division I Council adjusted the bowl selection process to ensure that all 6-6 teams were placed in a bowl before any 5-7 teams.
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