North Texas Awaits Its Bowl Fate

Nov. 30, 2016

DENTON - In one of the biggest turnarounds in college football, North Texas is in the running for a bowl game this year and will learn its fate this Sunday.

In his first season as head coach, Seth Littrell piloted a Mean Green team that went 1-11 last year to a 5-7 record. This year, that appears good enough to give North Texas a chance to play December football - and benefit from the extra practice time a bowl game makes possible.

While last Saturday's regular-season-ending loss at UTEP left the Mean Green one win short of the six-win threshold for bowl eligibility, between two and six teams with fewer than six victories will play in bowls this year due to the lack of bowl-eligible teams across the nation. The NCAA has rules in place that, under these circumstances, allow non-eligible teams to play in a bowl based on their Academic Progress Rate score. North Texas has an excellent APR, the 26th best in the country, and is among the top three schools in APR that are not already bowl eligible, so North Texas has an excellent chance of receiving an invitation.

The question is, where?

The shortage of bowl-eligible teams has set off negotiations between conferences and bowls to fill the holes, which translates into North Texas being a candidate for several bowls. Conference USA has ties to six bowls but has six teams bowl-eligible this year, so C-USA's bowls are unlikely but not impossible as the horse-trading kicks into gear this week.

Bowl projections, if they have any value, from various media outlets have North Texas going to three different games, but NT has been mentioned for other destinations as well:

  • Las Vegas Bowl - made available by the Pac 12 being unable to fill its bowl tie-ins. Played on Dec. 17, North Texas has been projected here by the Dallas Morning News and SBNation. Geographically, it's in reasonably close proximity, and Las Vegas is serviced by plenty of Southwest Airlines flights. A Mountain West opponent is a strong possibility.

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  • AutoNation Cure Bowl - played in Orlando, Florida, on Dec. 17. The opponent could come from the American Conference or the Sun Belt. The Sporting News projects NT here.
  • Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl - the Big 12's lack of bowl-eligible teams could have this game, played Dec. 23 in Fort Worth, looking at the Mean Green. ESPN, CBS Sports, Fox Sports, Sports Illustrated, and College Football News have all projected North Texas here.
  • Nova Home Loans Arizona Bowl - played in Tucson, Arizona, on Dec. 30, possibly against a Mountain West or Sun Belt foe.
  • Camping World Independence Bowl - located in Shreveport, Louisiana, and played on Dec. 26, this bowl had a scout watching the Mean Green during the regular season. It also has a secondary agreement with C-USA.
  • Motel 6 Cactus Bowl - played on Dec. 27 in Phoenix, this game has tie-ins to the Big 12 and Pac 12, both of which are coming up short of bowl-eligible teams, and North Texas has been mentioned as a possibility.
  • Zaxby's Heart of Dallas Bowl - played at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas's Fair Park on Dec. 27, this is the site of North Texas' triumph on New Year's day following the 2013 season. It's less likely but not impossible.
  • St. Petersburg Bowl - played Dec. 26 in St. Petersburg, Florida, this bowl was a former partner of Conference USA.
  • Raycom Media Camellia Bowl - played on Dec. 17 in Montgomery, Alabama, the foe would likely come from the MAC or Sun Belt.

North Texas' bowl destiny will be announced on Sunday, Dec. 4, on MeanGreenSports.com and via Twitter @MeanGreenSports and @MeanGreenFB.

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