It has been reported many times that Cal (4-6) would get a bowl berth if – and only if – it beats UCLA and USC in its final two games.
Well, that’s a pretty good guideline that covers most scenarios, but it does not consider all the possibilities.
It is possible, though unlikely, that Cal could get to a bowl game with a 5-7 record, which would require only one win in the final two games. However, it is also possible, though unlikely, that Cal could be left out of the postseason even if it wins its final two games to finish 6-6.
OK, so what gives? Let’s break it down.
There are 41 bowl games for FBS teams this season, not including the national championship, which means there are 82 available slots.
So far 72 FBS teams have at least six wins, making them bowl-eligible. That leaves 10 vacancies.
Twenty FBS teams have five wins with one game left this weekend, so each of them needs one win to become bowl-eligible. Two other teams – Cal and USC – are 4-6 with two games remaining. So a total of 22 more teams still have a chance to get to six wins and become bowl-eligible.
Eight of those 5-6 teams play each other this week: Florida vs. Florida State, Rutgers vs. Maryland, Old Dominion vs. Charlotte and Florida Atlantic vs. Middle Tennessee State. So four of those teams will get to six wins and take up four more bowl slots, leaving six bowl spots to fill. However, four teams will also be eliminated from the bowl-eligible pool this weekend, leaving 12 five-win teams plus Cal and USC eligible to fill six spots. If at least six of the 14 teams still capable of winning six games (the 12 five-win teams playing their final game this weekend as well as USC and Cal) get to six wins, all of the postseason slots will be filled. But if fewer than six of them get to six wins, there will not be enough teams to fill the 82 bowl vacancies.
If there are not enough bowl-eligible teams to fill the 82 FBS bowl vacancies, teams with 5-7 records can go to a bowl. In that situation, the deciding factor on which 5-7 teams get bowl berths is the team’s Academic Progress Rate (APR). The 5-7 teams with the best APR grades get the remaining bowl bids in order of their APR grade. Of the remaining five-win teams plus Cal and USC, Cal has the fourth-highest APR, behind only Middle Tennessee, Memphis and Rutgers, and ahead of the next three five-win teams in the APR rankings – Texas, Florida and Illinois.
Therefore, if there are at least four vacancies left after all the bowl-eligible teams are accounted for, a 5-7 Cal team would get a bowl bid. The Bears would move up the APR ladder if Middle Tennessee, Memphis or Rutgers gets to six wins and becomes bowl-eligible before all 82 spots are taken. If all three become bowl-eligible, a 5-7 Golden Bears team would get the first shot at any remaining bowl openings.
However . . .
A 6-6 Cal team also could conceivably get left home.
The Pac-12 has only six bowl berths guaranteed now that it has been taken out of the College Football Playoff mix, and six Pac-12 teams already are bowl-eligible. It's possible that the Golden Bears’ conference record of 5-4 with wins in their final two games would match the conference record of some other bowl-eligible Pac-12 teams. But the Bears then would be one of seven bowl-eligible Pac-12 teams, and one team, possibly Cal, would be left out of the six Pac-12 bowls.
In that case, Cal could get a berth in one of the other bowls that looks at Pac-12 teams, such as the First Responder Bowl, the Gasparilla Bowl and the Armed Forces Bowl. But if more than six of the remaining 13 five-win teams plus Cal (Cal would have to eliminate USC to become bowl-eligible) get to the six-win mark, there will be more than 82 bowl-eligible teams to fill the 82 available bowl openings.
That means some 6-6 team(s) would be left out. Cal conceivably could be one of the teams left out.
And you thought Cal’s bowl situation was so simple.
Suffice it to say, things will become much clearer after
Cover photo by Stan Szeto, USA TODAY Sports
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