Success in Classroom Boosts Duke's Bowl Prospects
Duke has had several opportunities to get bowl eligible, extending its postseason streak to three straight years. Just over a month ago, Duke was 4-2 and needed two wins in the second half of the season.
Instead, Duke lost four straight and now stands at 4-6, needing to win its final two games—at Wake and home against Miami—to reach the six win mark.
And that’s the easy way.
If Duke doesn’t sweep its final two games, there’s still another way to reach a bowl game. If Duke wins one of the two games to reach the five-win barrier, and if there aren’t enough six-win teams to fill all the available bowl slots, then the Blue Devils will be the first choice of all the five-win teams.
The selection process is based on APR (adjusted graduation rate for the team over the last several seasons) and Duke has the highest APR of all the teams that can still reach five wins.
So, assuming Duke can win its fifth, is there a chance that the Blue Devils will get the call?
Currently, there are 65 bowl-eligible teams for 78 spots. So the bowls are still 13 teams shy.
When teams play two FCS opponents, only one of them gets to count toward the six-win mark. So teams that play a pair of lower-level foes need to reach the seven win plateau. However, if the bowls are short of eligible teams, they’ll take a six-win team from this pool before going to the five-win teams.
There are two teams in that pool that can move Duke down the list. Liberty already has six wins, so the Flames will be first choice, assuming they don’t win another game. Army has five wins and will bump Duke with another win.
So, counting Liberty, there are 12 spots left for Duke.
Oregon State and Washington State play each other on Saturday. Both have five wins. One of them will get their sixth. So we’re down to 11.
Are there 11 teams out there that can reach six wins and nose out Duke for a bid? That’s where the scoreboard watching comes into play.
A total of 35 (or 36 … more on that shortly) teams are out there who can still reach six wins. That includes Army.
Thirteen of them (or 14) already have five wins, meaning one more win in the next two weeks will wrap up a bid and take a potential spot from Duke.
Ohio has already played this week and only has one more game to reach six. Everyone else gets two shots to win one.
Missouri, listed at 14, has an asterisk. The Tigers a one-year bowl ban, due to improper work done by a team tutor. Missouri has appealed the ban, however, and the NCAA is being agonizingly slow about ruling on it, perhaps waiting to see if the Tigers become eligible before deciding. So Missouri may or may not be able to take a spot from Duke.
If the Tigers become eligible, then their game against Tennessee guarantees that at least one of those teams reaches six wins, dropping the potential vacancies for Duke down to 10.
Then there are 22 teams with four wins that, like Duke, can become eligible by winning out.
That’s the situation Duke faces. What are the odds?
According to ESPN’s Football Power Index, not good. Using the FPI to predict remaining games, nine of the five-win teams (Ohio, ASU, Cal, Army, Tennessee, Kentucky, TCU, Washington, Charlotte) will win a sixth, as will Missouri. (FPI doesn’t predict whether the Tigers will win their appeal.)
Seven of the four-win teams (MIssissippi State, North Texas, Coastal Carolina, UNC, Ball State, Fresno State and Michigan State) will win out to reach six as well, meaning that there will be too many six-win teams and none of the APR list will be needed.
Plus, FPI predicts that Duke will lose both remaining games and won't be on the list of five-win teams anyway.