UConn football is bowl eligible. What happens now?
The Huskies hit the six win mark for the first time since 2016, but their appearance in a bowl game is not guaranteed.
UConn football has reached the six-win mark for the first time since 2015. It’s a remarkable turnaround under first-year head coach Jim Mora, and with many of the same players featuring in the dismal 2021 team that went 1-11, it’s proof that maybe all the program needed was a coach willing to simply be competent at his job.
But even sitting at six wins heading into the final week of the season, the Huskies aren’t guaranteed to play in a bowl game just yet. With 82 spots available for 41 bowls, there are 63 other teams in FBS who have joined UConn in the bowl eligibility lounge. Since the Huskies don’t have an official bowl tie-in, something that FBS independents Notre Dame, BYU, and even UMass all possess, their future is somewhat in the air.
Out of the 36 teams that can mathematically attain bowl eligibility, no more than 18 of them can reach six wins before theoretically knocking UConn out of a postseason matchup. The good news for UConn is all this math might not even be needed, since according to Brett McMurphy, ESPN can create an additional bowl to house those teams, like last year with the Frisco Football Classic.
But how realistic is this situation? In past years bowls have had to find participants outside of its tie-ins in the event that enough teams in one of those conferences don’t qualify.
Here’s the math on the likelihood of an opening existing:
(Note: All numbers here courtesy of Bill Connelly’s SP+)
The locks and near-locks
These teams all have five wins and are extremely likely to win at least one of their last two games.
BYU and Memphis might have both underperformed as teams this year, but both have FCS teams on their schedule in week 12 that practically guarantee a win according to SP+. UAB’s week 13 game against Louisiana Tech is a similarly good matchup for them, given the home-field advantage and the Bulldogs’ dismal record under Sonny Cumbie.
If I were to pick a few teams that could fail to gain bowl eligibility in this category, it would be Buffalo (due to MAC parity, although I certainly wouldn’t pick Akron in any heads-up matchup) or Wisconsin, who could run out of steam under their interim head coach in the Big Ten West.
This tier is mostly five-win teams with a decent chance at winning one of their remaining games, the one four-win team that has the highest chance to win out.
Arkansas has had a decent season with one of the toughest schedules in America, and a lot of their bowl hopes lie in the availability of star quarterback KJ Jefferson. Ball State has played well this season with the emergence of running back Carson Steele, who UConn fans (unfortunately) know well. UNLV has easily the softest remaining schedule of the four-win teams and is thus favored to win out.
Georgia Southern has benefitted from a few good bounces of the ball this year under Clay Helton, so they could easily slip up against two very strong Sun Belt opponents/ Miami momentarily paused their apparent tailspin with a win over Georgia Tech, but their impending strangulation at the hands of Clemson could easily send them straight into another one.
It could happen for them
These teams either have an uphill road to winning out on the season, or are five-win teas with extremely tough ends to their seasons. With the teams above this section more likely to make a bowl than not, UConn fans should keep a close eye on them in the coming weeks.
Central Michigan has the MAC sack leader Thomas Incoom at the head of a fearsome defense and has a good shot at winning out to make a bowl, finding itself at four wins along with MAC conference-mates Miami (Ohio) and Kent State.
It probably won’t
All holding four wins, these teams most likely will need a miracle to win out, but nothing’s impossible. Out of these teams, Arizona seems likely to at least make it a nail-biter with games remaining against two other chaotic Pac-12 teams. Auburn seems to have a dogfight on its hands thanks to a very decent Western Kentucky team before running into an Alabama sledgehammer in the iron bowl, and Iowa State would need to ride one of the top defenses in the FBS to wins over Texas Tech and TCU (but they probably won’t).
All in all, the likelihood that UConn football won’t make a bowl game is extremely small, and even smaller given ESPN’s reported willingness to provide extra spots if there are a few too many teams that end the season .500, but worth entertaining. If UConn is to stay the course as an independent football program, gaining a bowl affiliation is the final puzzle piece in terms of sustainability at the FBS level.
Keep in mind App St. needs to win 7 games as they've got 2 wins vs FCS opponents (Citadel and Robert Morris).