Bowl projections: Will there be enough eligible 6-win teams to fill all the bowl spots?

It’s very likely we’re going to see at least one team below .500 in a bowl game.

With three weeks to go in the 2023 college football regular season, the odds of all 81 bowl spots being filled by teams with six wins seem small. Just 50 postseason-eligible teams already have six or more wins and 17 teams need a win to be bowl eligible. If each of those teams gets at least one win, that’s still just 67 teams with six or more wins.

To have a full bowl field of eligible teams, a lot of sub-.500 teams need to do some serious work over their final three games. There are 41 teams who need to win either two of their final three games or go undefeated over the final three weeks of the season. Can 14 of those teams get to six wins?

CHARLOTTESVILLE, VIRGINIA - SEPTEMBER 9: Ty Son Lawton #7 of the James Madison Dukes celebrates a touchdown in the second half during a game against the Virginia Cavaliers at Scott Stadium on September 9, 2023 in Charlottesville, Virginia. (Photo by Ryan M. Kelly/Getty Images)

James Madison is 9-0 and ineligible for the postseason. But the Dukes should get to a bowl game. (Photo by Ryan M. Kelly/Getty Images) (Ryan M. Kelly via Getty Images)

We have our doubts. And that’s good news for James Madison (9-0), and Jacksonville State (7-3). They’re officially ineligible for the postseason as part of their respective transitions to the top level of college football. But they will get to play in a bowl if there aren’t enough six-win teams for all the bowl spots. We have them in our bowl projections and feel they’re safely in the bowl field.

If more than JMU and JSU are needed to fill out the bowl field, the NCAA will look to the Academic Progress Rate of the teams that finished the season at 5-7. That’s good news for Northwestern. The Wildcats had the best APR of any team a season ago and are currently 4-6. A win over Purdue (or someone else), gets Northwestern to five wins and the likely option of going to a bowl game.

At the moment, we have Northwestern as our only 5-7 team in the postseason.

Here’s our latest look at the bowl field with the final quarter of the season to go, along with an overview of how each conference’s bowl-eligibility picture stacks up.


  • Bowl eligible (4): Tulane, SMU, Memphis, UTSA

  • Needs two wins (3): Florida Atlantic, South Florida, Rice

  • Needs three wins (6): Navy, UAB, Charlotte, North Texas, Tulsa, Temple


  • Bowl eligible (7): Florida State, Louisville, North Carolina, Duke, Boston College, NC State, Miami

  • Needs one win (2): Georgia Tech, Clemson

  • Needs two wins (3): Virginia Tech, Wake Forest, Syracuse

Big 12

  • Bowl eligible (6): Texas, Oklahoma State, Kansas, Oklahoma, Kansas State, West Virginia

  • Needs one win (2): Iowa State, BYU

  • Needs two wins (4): Texas Tech, TCU, Houston, UCF

  • Needs three wins (1): Baylor

Big Ten

  • Bowl eligible (5): Ohio State, Michigan, Penn State, Iowa, Rutgers

  • Needs one win (4): Maryland, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Nebraska

  • Needs two wins (2): Illinois, Northwestern

  • Needs three wins (2): Indiana, Michigan State

Conference USA

  • Bowl eligible (3): Liberty, Jacksonville State*, New Mexico State

  • Needs one win (1): Western Kentucky

  • Needs two wins (1): Florida International


  • Bowl eligible (3): Toledo, Miami (Ohio), Ohio

  • Needs one win (2): Central Michigan (5-5), Bowling Green

  • Needs two wins (3): Eastern Michigan, Northern Illinois (4-6), Western Michigan (4-6)

Mountain West

  • Bowl eligible (4): Air Force, Fresno State, UNLV, Wyoming

  • Needs two wins (3): Boise State, San Jose State, Utah State

  • Needs three wins (3): New Mexico, San Diego State, Colorado State


  • Bowl eligible (7): Washington, Oregon, Oregon State, Utah, USC, Arizona, UCLA

  • Needs two wins (2): Colorado, Washington State

  • Needs three wins (2): Stanford, Cal


  • Bowl eligible (7): Georgia, Alabama, Ole Miss, Tennessee, Missouri, LSU, Kentucky

  • Needs one win (3): Texas A&M, Florida, Auburn

  • Needs two wins (1): Mississippi State

  • Needs three wins (2): South Carolina, Arkansas

Sun Belt

  • Bowl eligible (6): James Madison*, Troy, Coastal Carolina, Georgia Southern, Georgia State, Texas State

  • Needs one win (3): Appalachian State, Arkansas State, Louisiana

  • Needs two wins (3): South Alabama, Old Dominion, Marshall

New Year’s Six Bowls

Cotton Bowl (Dec. 29)
Texas vs. Washington

Peach Bowl (Dec. 30)
Penn State vs. Alabama

Orange Bowl (Dec. 30)
Louisville vs. Ole Miss

Fiesta Bowl (Jan. 1)
Tulane vs. Oregon

Rose Bowl [CFP semifinal] (Jan. 1)
Michigan vs. Florida State

Sugar Bowl [CFP semifinal] (Jan. 1)
Georgia vs. Ohio State

Other Bowls

Bahamas Bowl (Dec. 16)
New Mexico State vs. Eastern Michigan

New Orleans Bowl (Dec. 16)
Jacksonville State vs. Troy

Cure Bowl (Dec. 16)
Colorado State vs. Georgia Southern

New Mexico Bowl (Dec. 16)
Air Force vs. Liberty

LA Bowl (Dec. 16)
Fresno State vs. Arizona

Independence Bowl (Dec. 16)
Iowa State vs. Washington State

Myrtle Beach Bowl (Dec. 18)
Coastal Carolina vs. Western Kentucky

Frisco Bowl (Dec. 19)
Navy vs. Illinois

Boca Raton Bowl (Dec. 21)
Florida Atlantic vs. Georgia State

Gasparilla Bowl (Dec. 22)
South Florida vs. South Alabama

Birmingham Bowl (Dec. 23)
Wake Forest vs. Louisiana

Camellia Bowl (Dec. 23)
Toledo vs. James Madison

Armed Forces Bowl (Dec. 23)
Houston vs. Northwestern

Potato Bowl (Dec. 23)
Northern Illinois vs. Boise State

68 Ventures Bowl (Dec. 23)
Ohio vs. Appalachian State

Las Vegas Bowl (Dec. 23)
Minnesota vs. Oregon State

Hawaii Bowl (Dec. 23)
SMU vs. Wyoming

Quick Lane Bowl (Dec. 26)
Nebraska vs. Central Michigan

First Responder Bowl (Dec. 26)
Utah State vs. Texas State

Guaranteed Rate Bowl (Dec. 26)
West Virginia vs. Rutgers

Military Bowl (Dec. 27)
NC State vs. Memphis

Duke’s Mayo Bowl (Dec. 27)
Duke vs. Kentucky

Holiday Bowl (Dec. 27)
Clemson vs. UCLA

Texas Bowl (Dec. 27)
Kansas vs. Texas A&M

Fenway Bowl (Dec. 28)
Boston College vs. UTSA

Pinstripe Bowl (Dec. 28)
Virginia Tech vs. Maryland

Pop-Tarts Bowl (Dec. 28)
North Carolina vs. Kansas State

Alamo Bowl (Dec. 28)
Oklahoma State vs. USC

Gator Bowl (Dec. 29)
Miami vs. Florida

Sun Bowl (Dec. 29)
Georgia Tech vs. Utah

Liberty Bowl (Dec. 29)
Oklahoma vs. Tennessee

Music City Bowl (Dec. 30)
Wisconsin vs. Auburn

Arizona Bowl (Dec. 30)
Miami (Ohio) vs. UNLV

ReliaQuest Bowl (Jan. 1)
Notre Dame vs. LSU

Citrus Bowl (Jan. 1)
Iowa vs. Missouri

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