Friday Five: Power Five teams most likely to reach a bowl game after missing out in 2017
Only 19 Power Five teams missed a bowl game last year, these five are the most likely to get back
There are a lot of bowl games. Some will tell you that there are too many, while others like myself will scoff at the notion of there being too many college football games to watch. Some of us cherish the Cheribundi Tart Boca Raton Bowl, thank you very much. Whatever the case, I'm not here to debate whether there are too many bowls or not.
The fact of the matter is that with so many bowl games being played every season it's becoming harder to miss out on a bowl game. There are 64 teams in the Power Five conferences, and last season 44 of them qualified for a bowl game. A 45th team, Ole Miss, won enough games to be eligible for bowl eligibility but couldn't go because of its NCAA problems. Had Ole Miss been eligible, over 70 percent of Power Five teams would have been in a bowl game.
That leaves just under 30 percent of Power Five teams that missed out on a bowl game, and in this week's Friday Five, I'm ranking the five of those 19 teams that missed a bowl game last year that are most likely to reach one in 2018.
Who are those five teams? We'll start in the Big Ten.
5. Maryland: The Terps went just 4-8 last season, but if you look hard enough, there's reason to believe this team can improve by two wins in 2018. The first thing Maryland will have to do is keep its quarterbacks healthy. There haven't been many teams in the history of football that dealt with the injury luck the Terps had a QB last season, and just average luck should lead to better results. Furthermore, while their 2018 team talent rankings aren't out yet, 247Sports had Maryland's roster ranked as the 28th-most talented roster in the country last season, and fourth in the Big Ten. Health and talent alone should lead to Maryland improving, but I'm not putting them higher on this list because they reside in the Big Ten East.
4. North Carolina: This is another team that was destroyed by injuries during the 2017 season. Now, I'm not sure that injuries alone should excuse North Carolina finishing 3-9 last year, and going 1-7 in conference play while being outscored by an average of 15 points per game, but this is a team that was better than it appeared. Improved health and a schedule that includes plenty of winnable games could see this team get to the 6-6 mark it needs to reach a bowl.
3. Nebraska: There's a lot of optimism in Lincoln due to the arrival of Scott Frost. After all, Frost took over a 0-12 team at UCF and improved it to 6-7 his first season. Now, a six-win improvement in the American Athletic Conference is easier to achieve than it will be in the Big Ten, but the Huskers don't have to improve that much. Nebraska went 4-8 last season, and it resides in the Big Ten West, which includes Wisconsin and a lot of question marks. A more efficient offense alone should help Nebraska win two more games in 2018.
2. Georgia Tech: Had Georgia Tech's game against UCF last September not been canceled, it's possible the Yellow Jackets could have won six games (though considering how good UCF was, that would have been a tall order). If you look closer at Tech's six losses last season, you see that, aside from the loss to Georgia to end the season, this is a team that was in nearly every game it played. So I don't think there's that much improvement needed for this team to get to six wins, particularly in the ACC Coastal that has plenty of room for improvement available.
1. Florida: The Gators went 4-7 last season, but I pin a lot of the blame for that on coaching. While the talent level in Gainesville isn't quite what it was during Urban Meyer's heyday, there's still plenty in the cupboards for Dan Mullen in his first season back with the Gators. Also, I can't help but believe Mullen is a much better offensive mind than Jim McElwain, and his presence alone should lead to a much-improved offense (it only scored 22.1 points per game last season, so it'll be hard to get worse). The Gators also have a very manageable schedule in the SEC East this season, as well as a nonconference slate that should provide at least three wins by itself. Florida's bowl drought won't last long.
Honorable Mention: Arkansas, Baylor, Indiana, Minnesota, Pitt
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