Morris: Bowls little more than a formality

November 3, 2013 

COLLEGE FOOTBALL has moved into the bowl-eligible segment of its regular season as the 126 Football Bowl Subdivision teams vie for the bloated 70 slots in postseason play.

Despite what one coach said recently when his team clinched bowl eligibility with a sixth victory, it no longer is a great accomplishment to play in the college football postseason.

You do the math: 56 percent of eligible teams play in bowl games. That is not an accomplishment. That is rewarding mediocrity. Ten weeks into the season and 48 teams have become bowl eligible by winning at least six games, while 21 teams have been eliminated by losing at least seven games.

Really, any team that competes in a BCS conference should gain bowl eligibility almost every season. Most teams from those conferences schedule three or four non-conference wins each season, then need only win two or three conference games to make the postseason.

Missouri, for example, scheduled itself into a bowl game this season. The Tigers played — and defeated — Murray State, Toledo, Indiana and Arkansas State outside the SEC. Thus, Missouri needed two league wins, which it got by opening conference play with victories against Vanderbilt and Georgia, to qualify for a bowl.

Duke bears closer scrutiny, although any examination should not take away from the outstanding job coach David Cutcliffe has done in reviving what has been a dormant program for decades.

But what Cutcliffe really has done in sending Duke to back-to-back bowl games is defeat the non-conference teams the Blue Devils have struggled to defeat in recent years and take advantage of the bowl-eligible rules that allow 6-6 teams into the postseason.

A year ago, Duke defeated Florida International, N.C. Central and Memphis outside the league, to go with ACC wins against Wake Forest, Virginia and North Carolina. This season, Duke has non-conference wins against N.C. Central, Troy, Memphis and Navy and league wins against Virginia and Virginia Tech.

Among Duke’s 12 wins the past two seasons, those over North Carolina in 2012 and Virginia Tech a week ago were of note. UNC finished 8-4 a year ago, and Virginia Tech is 6-3 this season.

So, for Duke to do any boasting about going to bowl games in back-to-back seasons for the first time in school history is shallow, to say the least. That boasting also shows a lack of knowledge about Duke’s football history and the history of bowl eligibility.

Duke has played in nine bowl games in its history, including two Rose Bowl appearances, two Orange Bowls, one Sugar Bowl and one Cotton Bowl. Those appearances from 1939 to 1961 occurred when teams actually were rewarded for outstanding seasons by being extended bowl invitations.

In addition to those nine bowl appearances, 26 other Duke teams won at least six games in a season but did not play in a bowl game because there were so few bowls at the time. Duke won seven or more games — during 10-game regular-seasons — each season from 1932-41 yet did not play in a bowl.

That was when playing in a bowl game was an accomplishment, unlike today.

Down to seven

Only one team was eliminated in Week 10 of the NCAA tournament with Miami falling from the ranks of the undefeated after a loss to Florida State.

The seven remaining teams in the hunt for the BCS National Championship game are Alabama, Auburn, Baylor, Florida State, Missouri, Ohio State and Oregon.

Streaking

Ohio State extended the nation’s best winning streak to 21 games with a victory against Purdue. Other remaining unbeaten teams at the FBS and FCS levels include Alabama, Baylor, Coastal Carolina, Florida State, Fordham, Fresno State, North Dakota State, Northern Illinois and Oregon.

Southern Mississippi maintained the nation’s longest losing streak at 20 following a loss to Marshall. Other remaining winless teams include Austin Peay, Columbia, Connecticut, Davidson, Georgia State, Hawaii and Miami of Ohio.

Coastal cruising

There is a good chance Coastal Carolina will roll into Columbia to play South Carolina on Nov. 23 with an 11-0 record. To do that, Coastal Carolina must first defeat one-loss Charleston Southern on Saturday, then woeful Presbyterian.

Do not get too carried away with believing that Coastal Carolina, an FCS program, could defeat a national top-20 FBS team, though.

According to the latest Sagarin Ratings, Coastal Carolina is ranked No. 113 of the 251 football programs, behind the likes of Bethune-Cookman and Texas-San Antonio.

Coastal Carolina’s nine wins this season have come against Eastern Kentucky (No. 124 by Sagarin), Liberty (150), S.C. State (157), Furman (164), Elon (196), Gardner-Webb (197), Hampton (220), Charlotte (231) and VMI (237).

Charleston Southern is ranked No. 170, and Presbyterian is at 233.

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