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Tuesday, November 16, 2010
Non-AQ bowl look

By Andrea Adelson

We are running out of weekends for teams to become bowl eligible. Here is a look at where teams stand in the nonautomatic-qualifying conferences.

Conference USA

Already eligible: UCF, Tulsa, Southern Miss, UTEP, East Carolina.

Vying for a spot: SMU and Houston are each 5-5. After a bye, the Mustangs return to host Marshall before closing the season at East Carolina. If they win out, they win the West. Meanwhile, Houston is in danger of missing a bowl game for the first time since 2004 after dropping its second straight game. The Cougars have two toughies left -- at Southern Miss and at Texas Tech. Freshman quarterback David Piland threw five interceptions last week in a loss to Tulsa, but coach Kevin Sumlin is sticking with him.

On the other end of the spectrum: Tulane (4-6) and Marshall (4-6) have to win out. UAB, Rice and Memphis have been eliminated.

Guaranteed bowl spots: Six.

MAC

Already eligible: Temple, Toledo, Ohio, Northern Illinois, Miami (Ohio).

Vying for a spot: Kent State and Western Michigan are both 4-6 and play this weekend in Kalamazoo with bowl hopes on the line. Whoever loses is eliminated from contention. Kent State closes with Ohio, while Western Michigan closes at Bowling Green.

On the other end of the spectrum: Buffalo, Central Michigan, Bowling Green, Akron, Eastern Michigan and Ball State are out.

Guaranteed bowl spots: Three.

Mountain West

Already eligible: TCU, San Diego State, Air Force, Utah.

Vying for a spot: BYU (5-5) hosts New Mexico with a chance to become bowl eligible. The turnaround has been remarkably gratifying for coach Bronco Mendenhall, whose team was 2-5 after a loss at TCU on Oct. 16. Since then, his team has found its confidence and an offense. It has outscored opponents 104-17 in the last two games.

On the other end of the spectrum: Colorado State, Wyoming, UNLV and New Mexico have been eliminated.

Guaranteed bowl spots: Five.

Sun Belt

Already eligible: No one.

Vying for a spot: Troy (5-4) is stuck on five wins after losing to FIU last week for the first time ever. A win over South Carolina, Western Kentucky or FAU would get the Trojans bowl eligible for the third straight season.

FIU and FAU are each 4-5, but the Owls have a difficult stretch of games at Texas, Middle Tennessee and home to Troy. FIU has some tough ones, too: at Louisiana, then home to Arkansas State and Middle Tennessee. If the Panthers win out, they win the Sun Belt. ULM (4-6), Arkansas State (4-6) and Middle Tennessee (3-6) have to win out. The Red Wolves are at Navy and FIU; Middle Tennessee is at Western Kentucky, home to FAU and at FIU; ULM has North Texas and Louisiana.

On the other end of the spectrum: North Texas, Louisiana and Western Kentucky have been eliminated.

Guaranteed bowl spots: Two.

WAC

Already eligible: Boise State, Hawaii, Nevada, Fresno State. Hawaii has accepted an invite to the Hawaii Bowl.

Vying for a spot: Louisiana Tech, Idaho and Utah State are each 4-6 and face a difficult road to become bowl eligible. Utah State has to win out over Idaho and Boise State; Louisiana Tech has to win out over San Jose State and Nevada; while Idaho needs to win out over Utah State, Fresno State and San Jose State. The Vandals need seven wins because they have a 13-game schedule this season.

On the other end of the spectrum: New Mexico State and San Jose State have been eliminated.

Guaranteed bowl spots: Four.

Independents

Navy (7-3) and Army (6-4) are bowl eligible. Navy will head to the Poinsettia Bowl. Army is eligible for the first time since 1996. Though the Black Knights don’t have an automatic bowl tie-in this year, they have backup agreements with the Armed Forces Bowl and Military Bowl. Notre Dame (5-5) needs one more win with games remaining against Army and USC.