What to make of what should be a unique and uncertain college football bowl schedule

This was going to be largest bowl season in history with 43 games. But like everything  affected by COVID-19, plans are being rewritten. How things play out with the three College Football Playoff games and the remaining 36 scheduled bowls remains uncertain.

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What we do know is that the experience for teams, players, fans and communities is going to be vastly different. That’s understandable given health conditions have pushed the season to a later finish, limited or eliminated attendance at games and altered travel plans.



a group of baseball players standing on top of each other: Michigan State celebrates a win over Wake Forest Demon Deacons in the New Era Pinstripe Bowl at Yankee Stadium last December.


© Adam Hunger, Getty Images
Michigan State celebrates a win over Wake Forest Demon Deacons in the New Era Pinstripe Bowl at Yankee Stadium last December.

Those  who build holiday plans around bowl season and those  who can’t imagine ringing in the new year without watching the biggest postseason games should still be able to enjoy the season’s conclusion — albeit with a different feel.

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An assessment of how things stand after talking with multiple officials involved in the bowl process. They requested anonymity because the situation is in flux.

Expect lots of losing records

A waiver by the NCAA eliminating the win requirement for bowl eligibility will make team selections more straightforward. The annual calculation about whether conferences have enough teams with six wins goes away.

Bowls are still expected to follow league affiliations and tie-ins, regardless of the records of the teams.

With three of the Power Five leagues — the Big Ten, Pac-12 and  Southeastern Conference — playing a league-only schedule and the other two having only one non-conference game, math tells you it’s going to be impossible to avoid having a swath of teams with losing records.

In the case of the Big Ten, it will fill all of its seven spots outside the New Year’s Six games. That could open the door for selection of the 10th-best team among its 14 members. The same will be true for the other conferences that have spots for more than half their membership.

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The SEC has 14 teams and nine possible bowl affiliations outside the College Football Playoff and Sugar Bowl, but only five schools have winning records through five weekends. Six have losing records.

The 10-team Big 12 has the potential for six bowl spots outside its guaranteed berth in the Sugar Bowl. The league has just six teams with winning records.

Eight of the 15  Atlantic Coast Conference schools have winning records, but the conference has 10 possible bowl spots.

The NCAA waiver does create fewer opportunities for Group of Five teams. Five served as replacements for Power Five schools unable to fulfill their allotments last