These five non-bowl teams are looking to play an extra game in 2014
With so many bowl games, it seems the allure of reaching one, if it’s not a BCS bowl, has faded over the last few years. After all, a whopping 70 teams made bowl games last year and more are slated to make it in 2014.
So yes, more than half of FBS teams have something to celebrate after the regular season concludes. Sure, you can argue that the field is watered down and the casual football fan doesn’t care about the (insert random sponsor here) bowl.
But don’t try telling that to the five Texas teams that stayed home last year. You can bet they’re hungry to get to one of those very bowls.
Here is a look at the teams that missed a bowl in 2013 and how likely they are to reach one this season:
2013 record: 4-8
Last bowl appearance: 2012 Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl (17-16 loss to Michigan State)
Chances of making a bowl in 2014: 85%
Look, we know TCU has struggled to cope with its move to the Big 12. In two years, the Horned Frogs, who were considered one of the top non-BCS programs for most of the early 2000s, are a mere 11-14 since switching to a power conference and 6-12 in the Big 12. But there is plenty to be optimistic about heading into 2014. TCU gets back the 2012 Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year in Devonte Fields, and that unit should be one of the best not only in the conference but in the nation. This offseason, the Horned Frogs brought in Sonny Cumbie and Doug Meachum to open up the offense, which will include Texas A&M transfer Matt Joeckel under center.
2013 record: 7-5
Last bowl appearance: None
Chances of making a bowl in 2014: 75%
The Roadrunners must have felt pretty bad after last season. UTSA posted a good enough mark to make a bowl and probably would have if NCAA rules weren’t a factor. Since UTSA is a new program, it had to wait a few years to become bowl eligible. And in its first year with no restrictions, expect UTSA to go bowling for the first time in program history. Larry Coker has built up plenty of momentum in the Alamo City, and the defense, led by ball hawking safety Triston Wade, will be stingy. The Roadrunners do, however, lose the only quarterback they’ve ever known in Eric Soza, but Allen product Tucker Carter is a formidable replacement.
3. Texas State
2013 record: 6-6
Last bowl appearance: None
Chances of making a bowl in 2014: 60%
Like UTSA, Texas State had a good enough record to make it to a bowl game, but the Bobcats were left without an invitation. It wasn’t restrictions that held Texas State back but an injury to starting quarterback Tyler Jones, who missed the season finale against Troy — a 42-28 loss. If the Bobcats had won that game, a bowl invitation would have been a forgone conclusion. But “ifs” don’t batter, and Texas State is ready to put 2013 behind it and make it to its first bowl game in program history. With Jones healthy and a year of experience under his belt and Robert Lowe back to tote the rock, the Bobcats offense should be firing on all cylinders. There are some question marks on defense, but Texas State loaded up on impact JUCOs in the 2014 class.
2013 record: 5-7
Last bowl appearance: 2012 Sheraton Hawaii Bowl (43-10 win over Fresno State)
Chances of making a bowl in 2014: 35%
SMU fell one game short of becoming bowl eligible for the fifth consecutive year in 2013. The program has plateaued under June Jones, and it’s going to be hard pressed for the Mustangs to go bowling in 2014. Why? Well, first of all, the non-conference schedule is rigorous to say the least. SMU will be lucky to start the year off 1-3 with games against Baylor, North Texas, TCU and Texas A&M. The Mustangs also lose two big offensive weapons in sixth round NFL draft pick Garrett Gilbert and passing game coordinator Hal Mumme, who brought life back to the offense last season. Expect another 5-7 season for the Ponies.
2013 record: 2-10
Last bowl appearance: 2010 New Mexico Bowl (52-24 loss to BYU)
Chances of making a bowl in 2014: 10%
Sean Kugler and the Miners still have some progress to make in their rebuilding project, so a bowl is pretty unlikely. Making strides, however, is not. UTEP is bringing back some nice pieces on offense including quarterback Jameill Showers, who had the offense rolling when healthy. But the name of the game for UTEP is pounding the football. Running backs Aaron Jones and Nathan Jeffery are talented and will get loads of carriers. If a defense that gave up 39.3 points per game a year ago can step up, who knows, UTEP could surprise.
EJ Holland is the associate editor of Dave Campbell's Texas Football and TexasFootball.com.
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