Pure confusion: NCAA, schools, bowls not sure how to deal with 5-7 teams

In most years, the bowl chances for Nebraska (5-6) and Texas (4-6) would appear fairly simple: Both teams need to win out to reach the postseason. However, this year’s bowl situation is anything but simple.

With a record 80 FBS teams needed to fill the record 41 bowl games, including the College Football Playoff title game, there is a very real possibility that not enough teams will reach the required six wins to become bowl eligible.

The NCAA established a contingency plan on how to fill all of the bowls if there are not enough bowl-eligible teams. The problem is none of those five tiebreakers (counting wins vs. two FCS opponents, including a 6-7 team, etc.) will impact any of the 5-7 teams.

So with the bowl invitations to be extended in less than three weeks on Dec. 6, there remains one small issue with determining how to select the 5-7 teams: No one has any idea how the teams will be selected.

Keith Martin, the NCAA’s managing director, said the final tiebreaker (Bylaw indicates that if 5-7 teams are needed, the top five teams in the FBS with the best APR would be selected. Those five teams -- Wisconsin, Northwestern, Duke, Michigan and Stanford -- have already reached six wins.

Bowl and conference sources told ESPN that their understanding of the APR rule is that it’s supposed to rank the available 5-7 teams by APR. The NCAA disagrees.

There are currently 62 bowl-eligible teams with 32 teams still able to reach six wins. But since a number of those 32 teams play each other down the stretch or need to pull off huge upsets to reach six wins, multiple 5-7 teams could be needed to fill all the bowls.

“The whole situation is very frustrating,” a source said.

The most frustrating aspect, sources said, are all the unknowns concerning how the 5-7 teams are selected.

If two bowls need 5-7 teams, do the No. 1 and No. 2 best APR teams automatically get the bids or does the bowl have the option of selecting any team among the top five APR teams?

If more than one bowl needs a 5-7 team, how do you decide which bowl picks first? The Big Ten, Big 12 and American are among the conferences that may not have enough six win teams to fill their bowl commitments, so does a 5-7 team from their league with the best APR automatically fill one of their slots -- even if they’re not among the top five available APR teams?

“You tell me,” a source said when asked how the teams would be selected. “No one knows.”

Of the teams that are not currently bowl eligible that can reach five-wins, here’s how they rank based on the 2013-14 APR data, the most recent available, which will be used by the NCAA:

985 -- Utah State (5-5), Nebraska (5-6)

983 -- Vanderbilt (4-6)

980 -- Boston College (3-7), Rutgers (3-7)

978 -- Georgia Tech (3-7)

977 -- Virginia Tech (5-5), Indiana (4-6), Washington (4-6)

976 -- Missouri (5-5), Kansas State (3-6)

975 -- San Jose State (4-6), South Carolina (3-7)

One source said with so many unknowns about the process, he believes bowl agreements could be made on the side. “Whichever school can promise the most tickets and those sort of things. It will be like the old days of giving out bowl bids (to fill the bowls): like the wild, wild West,” the source said.

Besides the argument that there are too many bowl games -- 63 percent of the 128 FBS teams will go bowling -- there is a growing faction not thrilled about sending 5-7 teams to a bowl: athletic directors. “I’ve heard from a number of ADs and they don’t like paying out bowl bonuses to a 5-7 coach,” an industry source said.

As Dec. 6 draws near, Martin said the NCAA will eventually get with the conferences to figure out how the 5-7 teams will be selected. The question is when?