Bowl projections have kept us occupied for the past three months. Now the time has come for teams on the edge of postseason eligibility to either punch their ticket or plan flights home for the holidays.
Nine teams will have the opportunity to earn a sixth win in Week 13 and become eligible for a bowl bid. We've listed those eight games below in order of watchability, with predictions for the "bubble team" in question.
(Note: Bubble team in bold)
Utah (4-6) at Washington State (5-5); Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET: With the Apple Cup at Washington next week and a contract extension already announced for Mike Leach, this game has a "must win" feel for the Cougars to reach the postseason for the first time since 2003. Utah has suffered its fair share of hiccups this season, but can still achieve bowl eligibility by riding backup quarterback Adam Schulz to back-to-back wins this week and against Colorado next week. Bowling? Yes.
Pittsburgh (5-5) at Syracuse (5-5); Saturday, 12:30 p.m. ET: The former Big East foes and ACC newcomers face off in a huge game for both programs. Pittsburgh would love to clinch bowl eligibility before hosting Miami next Friday, while Syracuse faces an equally daunting task in slowing down Andre Williams and Boston College in Week 14. Both teams suffered losses last week, but Pitt's late push against UNC gives me more faith than Syracuse's final scoring drive to avoid getting shut out at Florida State in the 59-3 loss. Pitt Bowling? Yes. Syracuse Bowling? Next Frame.
Old Dominion (8-3) at North Carolina (5-5); Saturday, noon ET: The Tar Heels have ripped off four straight wins since falling short of upsetting Miami at home, but win No. 6 could prove to be one of the toughest for Larry Fedora's squad. ODU quarterback Taylor Heincke threw for 312 yards against Pittsburgh and 338 against East Carolina (both UNC opponents this year), and you can bet the Monarchs would love to knock off a BCS opponent in their FBS transition year. Bowling? Yes.
Rutgers (5-4) at Central Florida (8-1); Thursday, 7:30 p.m. ET: Both teams are facing a short week after head-scratching final scores, but there is far more concern for Rutgers than the conference-leading Knights in this matchup. The Scarlet Knights are trying to block out administrative and off-field issues while reversing a slide that includes three losses in four games. Bowl eligibility might not come this week, but it should eventually with UConn and South Florida left on the schedule. Bowling? Next Frame.
Navy (6-4) at San Jose State (5-5); Friday, 9:30 p.m. ET: Friday night's matchup is huge for first-year coach Ron Cragher, as the Spartans will likely need a win against Navy to make a bowl game with undefeated Fresno State on deck for the regular-season finale. While David Fales and Chandler Jones are the headliners for this squad, the Spartans need a much-improved performance from their rush defense on Friday night to get win No. 6. Bowling? Next Frame, maybe.
UTSA (5-5) at North Texas (7-3); Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET: The RoadRunners will find bowl eligibility tough to attain in Week 13, facing a North Texas squad that has won five straight in conference play and needs two wins to clinch a spot in the Conference USA title game. Larry Coker's squad may have to try again next week against Louisiana Tech at home in the regular season finale. Bowling? Next Frame.
Louisiana-Monroe (5-5) at South Alabama (3-6); Saturday, 7:00 p.m. ET: ULM still has a chance to creep up and steal a share of the Sun Belt title with some help, but addressing those chances seems odd as the WarHawks enter Saturday's game as a 3½-point road underdog. Louisiana-Lafayette has not lost in conference play, so best to get that sixth win now. Bowling? Next Frame, maybe.
UNLV (5-5) at Air Force (2-8); Thursday, 9:30 p.m. ET: The Rebels have dropped three of their past four games since starting 4-2, now needing a road win against Air Force or a victory in the regular-season finale against San Diego State to salvage the season with bowl eligibility. UNLV has had a week off to bounce back from its crushing four-point home loss to Utah State, so look for a bounce back to notch the program's best win total since 2003. Bowling? Yes.
For more bowl fun, check out Jerry Palm's Bowl Projections.