Early bowl projections not looking favorable for Central Michigan



The Central Michigan football team remains one game away from bowl eligibility for a second straight season, but will they get to one?

That remains up in the air, first with the Chippewas (5-6, 4-3 Mid-American Conference) needing a win Friday over Eastern Michigan to even enter the conversation, but it doesn't look good.

Jerry Palm, CBSSports.com's resident bowl projection expert, has 11-0 Northern Illinois getting shut out of the BCS this year and playing Western Kentucky on Jan. 5 in the GoDaddy Bowl in Mobile, Ala.

Palm also projects Buffalo (Poinsettia, San Diego), Ball State (Little Caesars Pizza, Detroit), Toledo (Beef 'O' Brady's, St. Petersburg, Fla.) and Bowling Green (Famous Idaho Potato, Boise, Idaho) to all make bowls, leaving out bowl-eligible Ohio and a possible six-win CMU.

It all really is dependent on MAC darling Northern Illinois, who enters the final week an unblemished 11-0 with the West Division crown and a spot in the league title already clinched.

The Huskies, it appears, will need to win out and get some help in the form of a Fresno State loss, the Bulldogs are ranked ahead of NIU in the BCS standings, in its regular-season finale against San Jose State or in the Mountain West title game.

Not only would another BCS bowl game appearance for NIU mean a larger windfall for the MAC, it would also guarantee at least four conference teams playing in bowl games, with five and six very possible given Palm's projections. The league had a record seven teams play in bowl games last season, with NIU making history as the first MAC school to play in a BCS bowl since the system started in 1998.

Current bowl-eligible MAC teams:

--Northern Illinois, 11-0

--Ball State, 9-2

--Bowling Green, 8-3

--Buffalo, 8-3

--Toledo, 7-4

--Ohio, 6-5

Other outside factors last year benefited a 6-6 CMU team that rallied to become bowl eligible by winning its final three games. The Big Ten had two fewer teams qualify for bowl games after Ohio State and Penn State were declared ineligible for postseason play following NCAA sanctions, and a 9-3 Louisiana Tech turned down an invitation to play in the AdvoCare V100 Independence Bowl in Shreveport, La., opening up a spot for an 8-4 Ohio team.

The Chippewas, by careful maneuvering and a proven track record of selling tickets and attracting a crowd to Ford Field, found itself playing in the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl for a fourth time. While playing in Detroit might seem like the most obvious choice should CMU sneak itself into another bowl game

All of this, of course, is dependent on a CMU win Friday over rival Eastern Michigan (2 p.m., ESPN3).

Stay tuned. We'll know more next week.

Contact Aaron McMann: aaron.mcmann@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @AaronMcMann.


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