We independently polled nine SB Nation personalities on 2013's teams that are set to change their bowl game fates. The questions: which team that hasn't been bowling in the longest time will go to a game this year? Plus the sad version of that same question.
Also, since you're reading about bowls anyway, here are SBNation.com's 2013 bowl projections, with Alabama vs. Oregon for the national championship and all 34 other games.
Let's get right to it.
Who's breaking a bowl streak this year ... in the good way?
|Program||Hasn't been bowling since ...||Years without bowl|
|New Mexico State||1960||52|
Steven Muma: I suspect it's Maryland, assuming the Terps can actually keep a quarterback healthy this year, which is perhaps assuming too much.
The Terrapins won four games last year -- one for every quarterback they lost to a major injury -- and dropped three games by three points or fewer. They saw a game-winning chip-shot field goal bounce off an upright in the final minute against NC State. They finished the year 107th in turnover margin. It was one of those years that make curses seem entirely plausible.
Their 2013 schedule is navigable even with Florida State, Clemson, and Virginia Tech looming. I'm betting on the Terps winning five of their home games and finding a victory on the road somewhere. And if 6-6 isn't the most Randy Edsall of sendoffs to the ACC, I don't know what is.
Mark Ennis: Indiana will end its streak of seasons without going to a bowl this year. Bold? Not really. The Hoosiers were 4-8, but were a mere eight total points from notching victories over Purdue, Ball State, Navy, and Michigan State. It's not unthinkable that they're able to turn two of those games around with another year in Kevin Wilson's system under their belts.
It doesn't hurt that they managed to sign some of the better talent in Indiana in the offseason as well. Besides, who doesn't want to see these sweet lids in a mid-December bowl game?
Bill Connelly: In New Mexico's first six games, the Lobos play UTSA, at UTEP, at Pittsburgh, UNLV, New Mexico State, and at Wyoming. They get Air Force and Colorado State at home later on. Beat bad teams at home and steal a road win, and you've got bowl eligibility.
Under Bob Davie, UNM stabilized a bit after a total free fall, and while the defense still won't be very good (okay, good at all) this year, their ongoing bowl drought could end a lot faster than you think.
Chris Fuhrmeister: Tulane hasn't really been a model of success since it last went bowling. Since winning the Hawaii Bowl at the end of the 2002 season, the Green Wave have posted a 33-86 record and won three or fewer games in a year five times. Tulane went 2-10 in 2012, head coach Curtis Johnson's first season, but the team could be poised for a big turnaround this year.
The Green Wave return 16 starters from last year's team, which means they'll be one of the most experienced teams in Conference USA. They play just one game against a BCS opponent, at Syracuse on Sept. 21, which means they don't have two or three guaranteed losses on the schedule. Tulane gets its top five rushers back and just about everyone who caught a pass in 2012, including senior Ryan Grant (76 catches, 1,149 yards, six TDs). If quarterback Nick Montana, son of Joe, can live up to his bloodline, the Green Wave could find their way to a winning record.
Bud Elliott: Indiana seems like the most likely. The Hoosiers are actually favored to do so currently by the boys in Vegas, with the line set at six wins (-125/-115). Also, Miami being on this list is a bit fake, given that the Hurricanes had enough wins to go bowling in each of the last two years.
Rodger Sherman: HAHAAHA, HOW THE TABLES HAVE TURNED. Ever since Northwestern won a bowl game on the afternoon of Jan. 1, 2013 -- the 64-year anniversary of its last bowl win, the 1949 Rose Bowl -- I've sat in a meditative state of bliss. Some would call it nirvana, described by the Wikipedia as "the profound peace of mind that is acquired with liberation," or "the state of mind free of suffering." Personally, I call it "non-stop celebratory drinking." Either way, I no longer find myself affected by the petty foibles of your pathetic college football teams who have not won bowl games in 32,000 years. For at long last, I am free.
(Also, probably Indiana.)
Patrick Vint: North Texas might be the biggest beneficiary of realignment. The Mean Green move from the Sun Belt, a conference with two automatic bowl tie-ins, to Conference USA, which has six. And while North Texas likely won't compete with Tulsa and Louisiana Tech for the C-USA West title, the rest of the division -- Texas-San Antonio, UTEP, Rice, and Tulane -- are eminently beatable. The non-conference slate, with Idaho and Ball State traveling to Denton, presents the opportunity for at least two wins.
Dan McCarney's team returns senior Derek Thompson at quarterback and senior Brandin Byrd at halfback, with three two-year starters on the offensive line. Further, if there's one thing McCarney has proven he can do, it's taking a bag of spare parts and turning it into a competent defense. North Texas gets seven wins and sneaks into a game against its old conference in the New Orleans Bowl.
Peter Berkes: Going to bowl games is hardly the norm for Buffalo, but the Bulls are well-equipped to do just that this year. They return 16 starters from last year, including stars in running back Branden Oliver and linebacker Khalil Mack, and finished the 2012 season with three wins in the last four games. All the pieces are there for Buffalo; it's just a matter of putting them together.
Jason Kirk: Sure, Indiana's roster is already crumbling, and it wasn't exactly a cathedral to begin with. But to overlook the Hoosiers would be to overlook a horde of returning starters, a navigable schedule, and a points-happy head coach who both dresses like this (and this) and once commanded what Bill Connelly calls in Study Hall "the greatest 'screw you' offense of all time." Screw you, Indiana's bowl drought.
... and in the bad way?
|San Diego State||3|
Mark Ennis: It feels almost sacrilegious to write this, but, Virginia Tech's bowl streak is going to end at an impressive 20 seasons this year.
The bottom fell out of the offense last season, and Logan Thomas, who looked so good as a sophomore, horribly regressed in 2012. Frank Beamer brought in Scot Loeffler to fix quarterback Logan Thomas and the offense, and, I don't want to alarm anyone, but, Loeffler's last two attempts at fixing quarterbacks and offenses were John Brantley at Florida and Auburn's Kiehl Frazier, who is now a safety. Yikes.
Chris Fuhrmeister: Dana Holgorsen's team may be facing a recipe for a step backward in 2013. In West Virginia's first season as a member of the Big 12, the Mountaineers entered the season ranked No. 11 and climbed as high as No. 5 after a 48-45 win at Texas on Oct. 6. But after that, it all fell apart. WVU lost five of its last seven regular-season games and then fell to Syracuse in the Pinstripe Bowl. In its final eight games, the Mountaineers were outscored by an average of 40-32, and it would have been worse if not for a 59-10 win over 1-11 Kansas.
If West Virginia could only manage seven wins last season, the prospects this year don't look good. The terrible defense likely won't be much improved, if at all, and the offense loses eight starters, including Geno Smith, Stedman Bailey and Tavon Austin. That's 981 rushing yards, 2,911 receiving yards, 4,205 passing yards and 42 total touchdowns. It's going to be awfully difficult for the 'Eers to make up for all that lost production.
Peter Berkes: SMU is moving to the AAC, and while the new competition is debatably better than Conference USA, it's tough to stay afloat while only returning nine starters, and even tougher when none of those returning starters are in the front seven on defense. SMU was only 6-6 last season, and with all the changes taking place, it's tough to see them keeping their head above water and going back to a bowl for the fifth straight year.
Rodger Sherman: After looking like a potential outside contender for the national championship with crazy shootout wins over Texas and Baylor, West Virginia bellied up and lost five games in a row, plus the bowl game against Syracuse, to finish at 7-6.
Now take that team, subtract an awesome quarterback in Geno Smith, one of the best playmakers in the country in Tavon Austin, and a damn solid wide receiver in Stedman Bailey. Now we have an anemic defense without the freakish talents that let this team hang 50 on people, rain or shine. True, the 'Eers are kinda copping out by playing 1.5 FCS teams with William & Mary and a FBS-transitioning Georgia State as two of their three non-conference games, and for some reason the NCAA still counts wins against Kansas as wins against FBS competition. But that's still three games, and it'll be hard for these guys to muster three other wins in Big 12 play.
Bill Connelly: I actually like BYU quite a bit, but the Cougars are taking on a mighty impressive slate this fall and are a couple of injuries away from scraping for bowl eligibility. A pretty decent team could go about 1-5 or 2-4 with a road schedule of Virginia, Utah State, Houston, Wisconsin, Notre Dame, and Nevada, and the only slam-dunk home games are against Middle Tennessee and Idaho State. The Cougars SHOULD be good enough to not only reach six wins but creep up toward eight or nine; but they are only a couple of bad breaks from falling a long way.
Patrick Vint: It's hard to bet against Dana Holgorsen, a man who likes betting on things as much as anyone. But the Mountaineers are rebuilding their offense from scratch in a conference that, despite a lack of its usual top-end teams, is as deep as any league in the country. Trips to Baylor, TCU, Kansas State, and Oklahoma look formidable, and the two teams projected to be worse than WVU -- Kansas and Iowa State -- are young programs that could be dangerous at the end of a brutal schedule. I can't find six wins.
Bud Elliott: West Virginia's odds of making a bowl are almost exactly those of Indiana (-130/-110). But I'll take Nevada, a team going into a pretty serious rebuilding year after losing its NFL running back and its NFL cornerback to the draft.
Steven Muma: I think SMU's streak of four straight postseason appearances comes to an end this year for a couple of reasons. First, the Mustangs are replacing a ton of starters, including eight guys on the defensive side of the ball. That includes their leading rusher, leading receiver, and two of their top three tacklers in 2012.
They are also transitioning into the AAC, which means the degree of difficulty is increasing. Rutgers, Cincinnati, Temple, and UConn all are better than SMU, and then there is the matter of the non-conference slate, which includes games against Texas Tech, Texas A&M, and TCU. The last two are road trips. I don't think the Mustangs are going to be able to scrounge up six wins given what they're up against.
Jason Kirk: The certain wins on West Virginia's schedule: William & Mary and Georgia State. Still need four more, and other than a trip to Maryland, I don't see a bankable one until most of the Kansas/Iowa State combo to close the year. And the Terps could be sneaky-dangerous. Yep, the power-conference team with perhaps the most gentle out-of-conference schedule of all could miss a bowl.