One of college football’s biggest criticisms is that not much changes year from year.
At the top end, anyway. But for the teams battling to play bowls, so much can change in a season.
There were 39 bowl games in 2019, and that will increase by three this year, meaning 84 teams can play post-season, up from 78. Last year 79 achieved the six-win criteria, with Toledo missing out (more on that later). Here are last year’s successes who could struggle in 2020.
Yep, the school who knocked over Oklahoma, Iowa State and almost Texas before being edged out in an entertaining bowl game could easily struggle to make the post-season. They kick-off with a handful of winnable games – Buffalo, North Dakota and Vanderbilt shouldn’t trouble the Wildcats – but West Virginia and and a resurgent Texas loom after that.
They’re unlikely to win any of their last three, against Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Baylor, so achieving six wins before that point should be Chris Klieman’s first priority. The first three remain essential wins.
For a team who finished the year ranked 22 before being smashed in the Holiday Bowl, the historic Pac-12 heavyweights are due a bowl win for the first time since early 2017. Will it happen this year? No.
They start their year against Alabama. Then New Mexico will be a cupcake win. A toss-up against the Cardinal follows that. It’s a tough schedule for a Pac-12 side, with Oregon, Utah, Bama and Utah.
The Spartans will win at least five games, and I’m probably selling them short there. But their remaining win will have to be against Washington or California, both teams who have beaten them in the last two years. They should get there, but it’ll be tough, and they may find themselves out of their depth in post-season.
The fairy tale came close to being reality for the 49ers in 2019, achieving bowl eligibility for the first time – and having it play out in the picturesque Bahamas. But that’s when it hit the fan with a 31-9 loss to Buffalo where they scored just a solitary touchdown.
The men in green will be out for redemption this year, but they’ll struggle throughout. With Tennessee and Duke on the cards early, they’re sure to go into the Georgia State Week 4 game at 1-2. I can’t see them beating Old Dominion, Marshall or Western Kentucky, so it’ll be about picking up mid-season victories.
North Texas and Georgia State will prove too strong, and FAU isn’t a pushover either. This won’t be their year.
Another team who ticked the right boxes last year, but these guys fell victim of being an excess school in the 78-team post-season.
There are a pair of winnable games to start the season, but a Michigan State match-up leads into some challenging G5 opposition. Ohio, Bowling Green and Western and Eastern Michigan pose too much of a threat for the Rockets. Central Michigan, NIU and Ball State close it out.
Last year, it was their out-of-conference schedule that got the job done, and they’ll need to achieve outside the MAC again. All in all, not impossible, but you’d be brave to pick the side to compete in a bowl game.
New year, new coach and a new and hard-to-adapt-to playing style – this could be a rebuilding year for the Bulldogs.
On the plus side, they ease into it with some winnable games versus New Mexico, NC State, Arkansas and Tulane.
So far so good. But then Texas A&M, Alabama, LSU and Auburn all within October will severely derail their season. Alabama A&M will provide a much needed win, but they’ll be scraping to get by Missouri, Kentucky and Ole Miss. It’s possible that Mike Leach will see post-season in year one, but it’ll be tough.