Updated 2018 Walk-On’s Independence Bowl Projections
This year's Walk-On's Independence Bowl will be on Thursday, December 27th at 12:30pm, and tickets are available now.
Back in early October, I put our my first projections for the 2018 Walk-On's Independence Bowl, at the time I called them "way too early", and that was true. But, even being that early, a lot of what we were looking at wasn't wrong. Here's the part I'm talking about:
"The Indy Bowl is 10th in the order of SEC Bowl games. Which means that more than 10 SEC teams (including Ole Miss) would have to get 6 wins, AND the teams at the top will have to miss the College Football Playoff, to get an SEC team into the Indy Bowl this year. With Alabama, Georgia, and LSU floating around the College Football Playoff projection, and Ole Miss having issues, this will just be a tough year for that SEC spot to get filled for Shreveport."
That was October 3rd...so how about today's records (before today's kickoffs)? The SEC has 7 teams that are bowl eligible right now, and only 1 of them in the College Football Playoff. There are 3 SEC teams (South Carolina, Missouri, and Texas A&M) one win away from being bowl eligible, and there are 2 other teams (Tennessee and Vanderbilt) who could make it. However, of those 2 teams who need 2 wins, they each play one another in the final week of the season, meaning only one of them has a chance.
So the SEC can have a max of 11 teams that will be bowl eligible. One of those teams will probably be in the College Football Playoffs, and one needs to win out to make it 11 teams. The odds are that two teams will be removed from the mix, so we can probably count on 9 SEC teams making it. With 10 being needed to get an SEC team in the Indy Bowl.
Just like in October, it looks like we won't have an SEC team in Shreveport this year.
Now how about the ACC? That looks a little better for Shreveport. Just a LITTLE.
In the ACC pecking order, the Indy Bowl lands at #8 on the list. Meaning a better chance to fill the spot than the SEC has. So it's more likely that the ACC will be able to hold up their end of the bargain compared to the SEC.
As far as which ACC team, the conference has 6 bowl eligible teams already, with 4 teams (Wake Forest, Pitt, Georgia Tech, and Miami) only one win away. There are 2 others (Florida State and Virginia Tech) in striking distance of being bowl eligible with 4 wins (6 are needed).
Clemson will likely be in the College Football Playoff, and teams like Syracuse, Boston College, NC State, and Virginia will be included in the ACC's "Tier 1" bowl bids, with the Indy Bowl being a "Tier 2" for them.
So the ACC teams in the mix for Shreveport include Wake Forest, Georgia Tech, Miami, and Florida State. BUT...BUT...all of those teams only have 4-5 wins, and are not bowl eligible. So a couple of them would need to get some extra wins...and they all have tough schedules to close out the year. (Florida State would need to beat Notre Dame to become bowl eligible).
So what happens if the ACC also can't fill their spot?
The two other conference agreements with the Indy Bowl belong to Conference USA and the American Athletic Conference.
Last year, the SEC spot was filled by Conference USA, with Southern Miss. So the first spot this year would go to the American Athletic Conference. The American has 7 bowl tie-ins before they get to their secondary agreements. So they need 8 teams to help out the Indy Bowl. Right now they have 4 bowl eligible teams, and 2 teams who need 1 win to make it. There are 2 other teams who need 2 more wins. So they would need ALL teams within striking distance of being bowl eligible to make it in order for them to help out the Indy Bowl.
If that happens, the American doesn't seed out their bowl tie-ins like other conferences, they do it through negotiations about travel, draw, ticket sales potential...a lot of talk. So if ALL of those teams make it, the likely offers for the Indy Bowl would include Tulane, SMU, and Memphis. Houston would be an interesting team, but with games in Texas like the Armed Forces Bowl and Frisco Bowl, Houston would probably do better staying in their state lines.
To me, Tulane would be a slam dunk if they are available.
OK, now onto Conference USA. Which, honestly, I'm not sure if the Indy Bowl can use both back-up conferences, or if they can only do one a year before having to take "at large" bids. But there's still a chance that Conference USA could appear two years in a row.
Conference USA has 6 bowl tie-ins before they can help the Indy Bowl. So they will need at least 7 teams to get bowl eligible for them to have an available team for Shreveport. Conference USA does their bowl bids the same as the American, so it's not based on final standings, they will negotiate which team they send where.
As of this morning, Conference USA has 5 teams that are bowl eligible right now, and 4 other teams with 4 or 5 wins. So they have a max of 9 teams that can get bowl eligible.
Of the max teams that could be available are UAB, Louisiana Tech, North Texas, Middle Tennessee, FIU, Marshall, Southern Miss, Charlotte, and Florida Atlantic. However, teams like Charlotte need 2 wins, and they have to beat teams who also need to win 2 more games, or are at the top of the conference standings.
I do believe that Conference USA will get 7 teams bowl eligible though, just based on remaining schedules. If that happens, I think Louisiana Tech would be a SLAM DUNK for Shreveport. They haven't played in the Indy Bowl since 2008 (10 year anniversary would be cool) and they won that game.
Could you imagine Tulane vs. Louisiana Tech in Shreveport? The two haven't locked up since 2013 in Ruson, and the all-time record is 9-0 in favor of Tulane. Which would create an interesting story-line for Tech trying to get their first ever win over the Green Wave in a bowl game.
OK, so what is the scenario if one of the backup conferences can't fill their spot after the SEC and ACC couldn't fill theirs? It goes to an "at large" bid. There are 78 total bowl berths this season, and right now, there are only 52 bowl eligible teams. There are 31 teams one win away from being bowl eligible, so there will be enough teams to go around.
An "at large" team will come from a conference who has more teams than bowl agreements.
Right now, it would appear that the best candidate for "at large" teams is the Pac 12.
As of this morning, the Pac 12 has 5 bowl eligible teams, with 6 teams that are each 1 win away. The Pac 12 also has only 7 bowl tie-ins. So as soon as they get one more team bowl eligible, they've fulfilled all of their agreements.
That will put teams like Stanford, Cal, USC, Arizona, Colorado, and Arizona State in play for Shreveport.
Of course, USC would be an incredible draw for the Indy Bowl, but they have to get one more win, and have some tough games ahead of them.
Sports Illustrated is the only major publication, who's doing bowl projections, that puts an "at large" team in the Indy Bowl, and they pick a team from the Pac 12. Their pick for the game is Cal.
So with ALL of that out there, who do I think will play in the 2018 Walk-On's Independence Bowl? I don't know.
What I do know is that we'll know more after tonight. But if I had to make a projection now? I will go with:
Memphis vs. Georgia Tech
But I don't feel good about that at all.