University at Buffalo football has to endure another anxious day of scoreboard watching before learning its fate Sunday afternoon.
“I’ve been having butterflies in my stomach all week,” senior defensive end Demone Harris said.
The Bulls clinched bowl eligibility last Friday with a 31-24 upset victory of Ohio, but just because the team is eligible doesn’t mean they’re promised an invite.
Unlike last season, when 5-7 teams were needed to fill bowls, some eligibile teams will not make the cut. There are already more teams eligible than spots available going into the final week. 78 will play in a bowl this season, and 79 teams have already reached the six-win mark. Three more teams have a chance to clinch eligibility with a win this week: Florida State, New Mexico State and Louisiana-Lafayette.
UB claiming one of the MAC’s five bowl tie-ins seems unlikely. Seven MAC teams are bowl eligible, and the Bulls and Western Michigan sit at the bottom of that group with 6-6 records. One of the five MAC spots has already gone to Ohio, which accepted an invite to the Bahamas Bowl.
If the MAC spots are off the table, UB’s path to a bowl would be through a conference not having enough eligible teams to fill its established bowl tie-ins. The Big Ten only has eight eligibile teams for ten spots. The Sun Belt has four eligible teams for its five spots, but two of the three teams sitting at 5-6, New Mexico State and Louisiana-Lafayette, are in the Sun Belt. If UCF defeats Memphis Saturday, there’s a chance the Knights move to a New Year’s Day bowl. That would open up a spot from the American Conference.
In this case, UB would be in a pool of teams from conferences that have more eligible teams than bowl tie-ins. The bowls with open spots can send invites to any of these teams.
Figuring out the Bulls’ chances of making their first bowl since 2013 is a complicated calculus that could drive any coach mad. Luckily, Leipold has recruits on campus to distract him, and he reminds himself being on the bowl bubble isn’t a horrible problem to have.
“It’s great to keep paying attention now,” Leipold said. “We’ve done what we could. We put it out there. Our communications department and everyone has done a good job of telling our story. … We’re going to watch some scoreboards and see what happens and pray for the best.”