There is drama to be had in Austin this weekend. And no I’m not talking about Texas coach Steve Sarkisian’s job.
No, by late Saturday night Sarkisian and his staff may know if, even at 5-7, the Longhorns could snag a bowl invite.
Yes, I’m being serious.
The Austin American-Statesman’s Kevin Lyttle did a deep dive into those chances earlier this week, and the math is worth reading. But if you need the Cliff’s Notes version, keep reading.
Next, you need fewer than 82 6-6 bowl-eligible teams. There are 82 bowl slots, hence the 82. But you need a certain number below 82. Why?
Because 5-7 teams offered a bowl invite are based on their academic progress rate. In other words, the better your academics, then you’re rewarded.
As Lyttle pointed out, of the teams that could be 5-7 (or have five wins) by Sunday, the Longhorns are tied for fifth in APR, behind Washington, Middle Tennessee, Rutgers, Cal, and tied with Florida.
The drama will play out around the country. Washington faces Washington State in the Apple Cup. If the Huskies lose, they’re out.
Middle and Rutgers are trickier because both already have five wins. Cal only has four, but the Golden Bears have a make-up game next week and could still get to five wins.
And none of that takes into account the other five-win teams that could just win a sixth game and claim a berth outright.
So, there’s a chance the Longhorns could earn a bowl invite. Texas needs some help, of course, but the math is there.
But maybe there’s a bigger question. If offered, should the Longhorns take the bowl berth? They’re under no obligation to do so as a 5-7 team. It also seems hollow to take a bowl game with a losing record. Bowl games are supposed to be rewards, right?
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I think Sarkisian and his program should take the bowl berth, if offered, and the reason is simple.
Fifteen. Extra. Practices.
Sarkisian alluded to it in the run-up to the K-State game. But then-Northern Illinois head coach Jerry Kill clued me in to the value of those practices a decade ago.
Back then, Kill was entering what would be his final season at NIU in 2010. He was building the Huskies up and they were entering a season in which they would win 10 games and a Mid-American Conference West title.
During a conference call, Kill talked about the value of those bowl practices. You may think all of them happen at the bowl site. But the reality is most of them happen on campus and Kill clued us in on how they used those practices.
Kill gave most of his starters a break. Instead, most of the on-campus practices were reserved to give second- and third-string players — those that would, theoretically, be starting the following season — repetitions and one-on-one coaching. Kill said there wasn’t much time for that during the season, and this was a valuable time to get them that extra work.
Then, at the bowl game, the starters took over for game prep.
If you think about it, it’s like getting spring football twice, and the only thing coaches love more than games is practice.
Given what Sarkisian is trying to build in Austin, he and the decision-makers would be wise to claim that bowl berth if offered. Sure a 5-7 bowl team doesn’t inspire the fan base right now. But, if those 15 extra practices can help Sarkisian and the Longhorns chart a path that will make them better next season, then it’s well worth accepting the berth.
You can find Matthew Postins on Twitter @PostinsPostcard.
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