Central Michigan still out of the bowl picture, projections say

The Central Michigan football team did what it was supposed to do, winning three in a row to close the regular season bowl eligible. Now it waits.

Like last year, the 6-6 Chippewas appear to be on the outside looking in when it comes to playing in the postseason. Updated bowl projections Sunday from CBS Sports and ESPN both have CMU out. The Chippewas would be the only one of the seven bowl-eligible Mid-American Conference teams not to play in a game.

Bowl announcements are made Sunday, but the team will likely return to the practice field this week. Should they make it in, and that remains a big if, it would be the Chippewas' eighth bowl appearance.

The MAC has five bowl tie-ins, three primary that are the first to be filled and two secondary that will depend on whether or not other leagues can fill their contracted slots. That leaves an interesting predicament for CMU.

To even think about getting into a bowl, it's going to need Northern Illinois to get an at-large bid from the Bowl Championship Series. Most bowl prognosticators had NIU playing in the Fiesta Bowl, but that is reliant on the Huskies (12-0, 8-0 MAC) winning the MAC championship game Friday over Bowling Green (8 p.m., ESPN2).

Head coach Dan Enos declined to speculate on his team's bowl chances last week prior to CMU's 42-10 win over EMU, only saying the Huskies deserve to be in a BCS game "if they win out."

The players, however, were watching NIU. After beating Toledo, the Huskies leapfrogged Fresno State in the BCS standings and became the frontrunner for an at-large bid. NIU is now in the driver's seat for that bid after Fresno State (10-1) lost to San Jose State on Friday.

"We've really been paying close attention to that," said junior receiver Titus Davis. "We're hoping that happens because it'd open up a spot and give us a better chance of getting into a bowl game. We're pulling for them."

Said senior linebacker Shamari Benton: "Guys are watching ESPN, watching projections, hoping the best for our situation. If NIU going to a (BCS) bowl game is better for us, hey, more for them."

NIU, however, is just for the first piece of the cluttered puzzle. The Little Caesars Pizza Bowl in Detroit which historically has had the first pick of the bowl-eligible MAC teams, will likely go with MAC championship runner-up BGSU or 10-2 Ball State, with the other going to the GoDaddy.com Bowl in Mobile, Ala. The MAC's third bowl tie-in, the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl in Boise, Idaho, will then get the third selection, likely 8-4 Buffalo.

That leaves Toledo and Ohio, both with 7-5 records, and 6-6 CMU looking elsewhere. ESPN and CBS both, although in different combinations, have Toledo and Ohio filling in the MAC's secondary bowl tie-ins Beef 'O' Brady's St. Petersburg (Fla.) Bowl and Poinsettia (San Diego) Bowl. The American Athletic Conference (Beef 'O' Brady's) only has four bowl-eligible teams while Army (Poinsettia) is 3-8 and will not finish bowl eligible.

That leaves bowls with leagues unable to fill their obligations, like the BBVA Compass Bowl (Birmingham, Ala.), Heart of Dallas, Independence (Shreveport, La.) and Pinstripe (New York) bowls.

One possible avenue could be the Compass Bowl. Most projections have 5-6 Rutgers playing in the Birmingham, Ala., bowl game, assuming the Scarlet Knights pull off a win over South Florida on Saturday. A loss and it would open up a spot, one the Chippewas could vie for.

All of this, of course, goes out the window should NIU lose the MAC title game on Friday.

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


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