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November 26, 2008

Rivals.com bowl bubble watch

More: Rivals.com updated 2008 bowl projections

Clemson earned its sixth victory of the season last week by beating Virginia 13-3, but the Tigers can't make postseason plans just yet.

Because two of Clemson's victories came against Football Championship Subdivision (i.e., Division I-AA) programs, the Tigers must win seven games to become bowl eligible. That means Clemson will have to stay home for the holidays unless the Tigers beat South Carolina this week.

Clemson isn't the only team that can't reach a bowl unless it wins at least seven games. Hawaii (6-5) plays a 13-game schedule and therefore must have at least seven wins to earn a postseason bid. Hawaii can become bowl eligible by beating Washington State on Saturday or Cincinnati on Dec. 6.

Clemson and Hawaii are the exceptions to the rule, as most teams need only six wins to become eligible for bowl bids. Here's an alphabetical list of teams with five wins. We also have listed all the bowl-eligible teams at the bottom of the story.

Here's an alphabetical list of teams with five wins this season. We'll update the list each week.

Rivals.com Bowl Bubble Watch
AKRON (5-6)
Remaining schedule: Friday at Temple
Why they will make it: Akron has a red-hot running back in Dennis Kennedy, who has rushed for 877 yards and 13 touchdowns over his past five games. The Zips have scored at least 40 points in four consecutive games.
Why they won't: Akron needs Kennedy to control the clock because the Zips can't stop anyone. Akron is 98th in the nation in total defense and has given up at least 30 points in five consecutive games. The Zips have lost two in a row despite scoring at least 40 points in each of those games.
Remaining schedule: Saturday at North Texas, Dec. 6 at Troy
Why they will make it: Arkansas State's next game is against North Texas, arguably the nation's worst Football Bowl Subdivision (i.e., Division I-A) team. North Texas has won just once all season and has given up at least 35 points in each of its games. Louisiana-Monroe is the only team that failed to crack the 40-point mark against North Texas.
Why they won't: Arkansas State must go on the road for its final two games. If North Texas pulls the upset this week, Arkansas State faces a tough task the following week against Sun Belt leader Troy.
AUBURN (5-6)
Remaining schedule: Saturday at Alabama
Why they will make it: Auburn seemed like a team ready to mail in the rest of its season a few weeks ago, but the Tigers have shown much more toughness in their past six quarters of play. Auburn scored the last 17 points in a 37-20 victory over Tennessee-Martin and gave Georgia all it could handle before falling 17-13. Auburn has beaten Alabama six times in a row and could have a psychological edge if the Iron Bowl remains close in the fourth quarter.
Why they won't: Auburn hasn't beaten a quality opponent this season, and it's hard to imagine the Tigers pulling an upset against an Alabama team that will be motivated to keep its national title hopes alive and end its recent history of frustration in this rivalry.
Remaining schedule: Friday at Toledo
Why they will make it: The versatility of Bowling Green quarterback Tyler Sheehan has helped the Falcons average 35.7 points per game in their past three contests. Toledo has lost seven of its past nine games.
Why they won't: Toledo's 42-14 victory over Miami University last week snapped a four-game losing streak and indicated the Rockets have broken out of their slump. Plus, it's the final game for Toledo coach Tom Amstutz. Even if Bowling Green finishes 6-6, the MAC may have a surplus of bowl-eligible teams that could have the Falcons home for the holidays.
Clemson (5-6)
Remaining schedule: Saturday vs. South Carolina
Why they will make it: Clemson has won three of its past four games and has allowed a total of 10 points in its past two games. The Tigers seem motivated to win for interim coach Dabo Swinney, who could boost his chances of winning the job permanently by beating Clemson's biggest rival. Star running back C.J. Spiller has indicated he would return for his senior season if the Tigers hired Swinney.
Why they won't: Clemson's offense hasn't lived up to its preseason billing, though the Tigers have moved the ball a little better late in the season. The Tigers will have their hands full trying to score on South Carolina, which ranks 11th in the nation in total defense.
Remaining schedule: Friday at Nebraska
Why they will make it: Colorado quarterback Cody Hawkins regained his starting job and has broken out of his season-long slump. Hawkins has thrown five touchdown passes with no interceptions in his past two games, and he came off the bench three weeks ago and rallied the Buffaloes to a come-from-behind victory over Iowa State.
Why they won't: Colorado seems unlikely to win at Nebraska, which has won four of its past five games; the only loss came to national title contender Oklahoma. Nebraska's defense will be particularly eager for revenge after getting embarrassed in a 65-51 loss to Colorado last season.
Remaining schedule: Saturday vs. Florida International
Why they will make it: Florida Atlantic's offense has rebounded from its early season struggles to average 30.6 points per game in the Owls' past five contests. FAU had won four in a row before falling 28-14 at Arkansas State last week.
Why they won't: That loss to Arkansas State may have disrupted Florida Atlantic's late-season momentum. The Owls now must play a Florida International team that has bowl hopes of its own. FIU should be particularly motivated after losing to the Owls by at least 31 points each of the past two seasons.
HAWAII (6-5)
Remaining schedule: Saturday vs. Washington State, Dec. 6 vs. Cincinnati
Why they will make it: Hawaii benefits from having its last two games at home, where it is 19-2 in the past three seasons. Washington State has a 2-10 record and might be emotionally spent after its double-overtime victory over archrival Washington last week. Cincinnati also might not have much incentive next week, particularly if it has already clinched the Big East title.
Why they won't: Hawaii probably needs to beat Washington State because the Warriors might not have enough firepower to keep up with Cincinnati.
Remaining schedule: Dec. 3 vs. Middle Tennessee
Why they will make it: The off week should allow star running back Tyrell Fenroy to recover from a shoulder that bothered him in a 48-3 loss to Troy last week, If Fenroy is healthy, he could run wild against a Middle Tennessee defense allowing 4.1 yards per carry. Fenroy has rushed for more than 1,000 yards in each of his four seasons.
Why they won't: Louisiana-Lafayette has lost three in a row and has given up 41.7 points per game during the skid. If Fenroy isn't healthy, the Ragin' Cajuns may not have much of a chance against a Middle Tennessee team that has won three in a row. Louisiana-Lafayette quarterback Michael Desormeaux has thrown six interceptions and only one touchdown pass during ULL's losing streak.
Remaining schedule: Dec. 4 at Rutgers
Why they will make it: There frankly aren't many reasons to feel confident Louisville can end a four-game losing streak by beating Rutgers, one of the hottest teams in the nation. The Cardinals can only hope quarterback Hunter Cantwell ends his slump and Rutgers quarterback Mike Teel reverts to his early season form.
Why they won't: While Louisville has lost four in a row, Rutgers has won five in a row. Rutgers has scored at least 30 points in four consecutive games, while Louisville has given up at least 28 points in each of its past four contests. Cantwell threw three interceptions in a loss to West Virginia last week. Louisville's strength had been its ability to stop the run, but the Cardinals allowed West Virginia to rush for 376 yards on 41 carries.
Remaining schedule: Saturday vs. Tulane
Why they will make it: Tulane has lost seven consecutive games and has given up 40.6 points per game during the skid. Memphis running back Curtis Steele has rushed for five touchdowns in his past four games, so he shouldn't have much trouble finding the end zone against a Tulane defense that ranks 108th in the nation against the run.
Why they won't: The home-field advantage might not matter much to Memphis, which has dropped two of its past three home games. Memphis wasted an opportunity to become bowl eligible last week by falling 28-21 to UCF at home.
Remaining schedule: Dec. 3 at Louisiana-Lafayette
Why they will make it: Middle Tennessee has won three in a row while Louisiana-Lafayette has dropped three consecutive games. Louisiana-Lafayette star running back Tyrell Fenroy's shoulder is bothering him. Middle Tennessee running back Phillip Tanner is coming off a six-touchdown performance against North Texas.
Why they won't: Middle Tennessee has won on the road just once all season and doesn't have the type of run defense that can slow a healthy Fenroy.
N.C. STATE (5-6)
Remaining schedule: Saturday at Miami
Why they will make it: North Carolina State has won three consecutive games and is playing its best football of the season. Quarterback Russell Wilson has thrown only one interception all season and gave Wake Forest and North Carolina fits the past two weeks. Miami is bowl eligible and out of the ACC title picture, so the Hurricanes might not have much incentive.
Why they won't: Recent history suggests NC State doesn't respond particularly well to late-season pressure situations. The Wolfpack also entered their regular-season finale last year with a chance to become bowl eligible; they lost 37-0 to Maryland.
Remaining schedule: Saturday at SMU
Why they will make it: The Golden Eagles are playing their best football of the season and carry a three-game winning streak into the game with SMU, which hasn't beaten an FBS team all season. Running back Damion Fletcher should have a field day against an SMU defense that ranks 118th in the nation against the run.
Why they won't: Rice quarterback Chase Clement threw for 444 yards and six touchdowns against Southern Miss earlier this season, so the Golden Eagles might struggle against SMU coach June Jones' pass-oriented attack. But it's really hard to imagine how Southern Miss fails to earn its sixth win.
UTEP (5-6)
Remaining schedule: Friday at East Carolina
Why they will make it: UTEP has won two of its past three games and has scored at least 35 points in each of its past five contests. Trevor Vittatoe has thrown 26 touchdown passes and only two interceptions over his past seven games.
Why they won't: The Miners might not have much left in the tank after blowing a 19-point lead in a heartbreaking 42-37 loss to Houston last week. Vittatoe will face one of his toughest challenges of the year against East Carolina, which leads Conference USA in total defense and scoring defense.
Remaining schedule: Saturday at Virginia Tech
Why they will make it: Virginia's defense should give Virginia Tech's offense enough problems to keep the game close. If the game's still up for grabs in the fourth quarter, perhaps Virginia Tech starts feeling pressure with its ACC title hopes at stake.
Why they won't: Virginia has endured a roller-coaster season. The Cavaliers lost three of their first four games before winning four in a row. Now that they've lost three consecutive games, the Cavaliers appear back on a down cycle.

Bowl-eligible teams: Air Force, Alabama Arizona, Ball State, Boise State, Boston College, BYU, Buffalo, California, Central Michigan, Cincinnati, Colorado State, Connecticut, East Carolina, Florida, Florida State, Fresno State, Georgia, Georgia Tech, Houston, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, LSU, Louisiana Tech, Maryland, Miami, Michigan State, Minnesota, Missouri, Navy, Nebraska, Nevada, North Carolina, Northwestern, Northern Illinois, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Ole Miss, Oregon, Oregon State, Penn State, Pittsburgh, Rice, Rutgers, San Jose State, South Carolina, Texas, TCU, Texas Tech, Troy, Tulsa, USC, USF, Utah, Vanderbilt, Virginia Tech, Wake Forest, West Virginia, Western Michigan, Wisconsin.

Steve Megargee is a national college football writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at smegargee@rivals.com.

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