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Michigan State football awaits bowl fate, with only a sliver of hope

The Spartans need a few dominoes to fall in order for a bowl opportunity to come...

Michigan State football finished the 2022 season with a disappointing two-game losing streak, which dropped the Spartans to 5-7 on the year. As a result, MSU is not likely to go to a bowl game.

While one can certainly argue the Spartans did not deserve a bowl berth (and they’d be right), earning one would have been important for this team. It would have allowed for extra practices, which would benefit the youngest, arguably most-talented players the most.

The stars haven’t aligned for Michigan State this season, but there’s still something of an outside shot that the Spartans could backdoor their way into a bowl bid. With 41 total bowl games, there are 82 slots to fill. However, there aren’t 82 teams in the country with a 6-6 record or better yet.

There are current 79 FBS teams that are bowl eligible. Both Army and Buffalo are sitting at 5-6 with one game remaining. Additionally, New Mexico State is at 5-6 and will play Valparaiso in their final game. The Aggies have two FCS opponents on their schedule, which would deem them ineligible even if they get to 6-6, but New Mexico State has submitted a waiver request.

If there are not enough 6-6 teams to fill all of the bowl bids, the selection process turns to Academic Progress Rate (APR) to determine with 5-7 teams to invite to bowl games. Currently, UNLV and Tulsa have a higher APR than Michigan State, so they would receive invitations before the Spartans.

However, both UNLV and Tulsa fired their coaches this season, so it’s currently unclear if they would accept a bowl invitation, which could open the door for MSU.

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While Michigan State head coach Mel Tucker would not commit to accepting a bowl invite if offered following the loss to Penn State, it would be a surprise if MSU was offered and declined. Tucker is still in Year 3 of his tenure, and needs more of the players he recruited getting playing time. Even getting practice reps would be a huge difference-maker, and a bowl berth would provide recruiting opportunities as well.

So, if Michigan State was offered a bowl, where would they play? There are nine bowl games that Big Ten teams have affiliations with, and there are nine Big Ten teams who are 6-6 or better. The catch here is Michigan, who will likely make the playoff, which would bring the conference’s number down to eight.

In the event that USC loses in the Pac-12 championship, Ohio State could potentially make the playoff too. That would bump every already bowl eligible Big Ten team up another slot. There’s no guarantee MSU would earn a bid even if that happened, but it could better the Spartans chances.

The most likely landing spot for MSU would be the Quick Lane Bowl in Detroit. A bowl with Big Ten affiliation, with a large portion of the MSU fanbase in Detroit and the metro area could be ideal for branching out not only to the fanbase, but local recruits.

We can talk about potential scenarios leading up to next week, but the bottom line is Michigan State doesn’t control their own destiny.

It was the Spartans' own shortcomings that put them in this spot, and they are paying the price. Not closing out the game against Indiana, the offensive struggles against Maryland and Minnesota and the defensive debacle against Washington have put Michigan State in this position.

As the bowl bids start to unfold after the conference championships next week, there will be a better understanding where MSU stands. All they can do now is sit and wait.