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So you're saying there's a chance? Texas could yet still have shot at bowl berth with win

Kevin Lyttle
American-Statesman Correspondent

So Texas' loss at West Virginia eliminated the Longhorns from bowl consideration, right?

Not so fast.

Actually, Texas (4-7, 2-6 Big 12) has a realistic shot if it beats Kansas State on Friday to finish 5-7. The kicker? The Longhorns' good friends in College Station could help make it happen.

Eighty-two bowl slots are available, but it's doubtful there will be enough bowl-eligible (six-win) teams to fill them. Heading into the regular-season finales, 72 teams have locked up bids, leaving 10 still open. Most teams still in the running are underdogs this week or playing other 5-6 teams in elimination games. Four of these teams already have fired their head coach.

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If there are not enough six-win teams, any remaining bowl openings could be filled with 5-7 teams based on the NCAA Academic Progress Rate for football programs. Texas has moved up the APR standings in recent years and is set up well to pick off a bid, if it comes to that.

Texas coach Steve Sarkisian could guide the Longhorns to a bowl berth with a win over Kansas State on Friday. A 5-7 Texas team could receive one of a potential handful of invitations not filled by six-win teams.

Texas A&M can do Texas a favor and eliminate 5-6 LSU on Saturday night in Baton Rouge. The Longhorns are miles ahead of the Tigers in APR.

West Virginia and TCU are Big 12 teams on the 5-6 bubble, the Mountaineers favored at Kansas and the Horned Frogs huge underdogs at Iowa State. Texas is far ahead of WVU and TCU in APR.

OK, let's really dig into the weeds.

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Of the 10 spots still available, four will be grabbed by winners of 5-6 vs. 5-6 games. That will make 76 bowl-eligible teams, leaving six slots. But only three other 5-6 teams are favored this week, so if form holds, three bids will go to 5-7 teams based on APR.

Just four potential 5-7 teams are ahead of Texas in the APR pecking order, and two — Middle Tennessee and Rutgers — can get bowl-eligible with wins over fellow 5-6 teams. A third, Washington, needs to upset Washington State in the Apple Cup to reach 5-7. The fourth team, California, is 4-6 and an underdog to UCLA before closing Dec. 4 against USC, which also is 4-6.

Texas' 974 APR is tied with Florida, which will host Florida State in one of the 5-6 vs. 5-6 showdowns. If the Longhorns and Gators each finish 5-7 and one bowl bid is left, maybe they'll do a Final Jeopardy question to decide it.

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Longhorns fans should be happy new postseason gigs such as the Fenway Bowl and the LA Bowl are coming on line this year. They also could pull for everybody from Coastal Carolina to Tulane to Wyoming. Not to mention needing help from friends — University of Texas System school UTSA can knock out North Texas — and, of course, the Aggies. They all can eliminate potential Longhorns competitors for the final few bids.

It might come down to the USC at Cal makeup game Dec. 4, since that winner could gain bowl-eligibility.

And where would Texas land? Well, 5-7 teams are shuffled to the back of the bus, so it could be any far-flung destination. The best-case scenario: TCU and WVU both lose, and Texas is allowed to fill a Big 12 tie-in at the Dec. 28 First Responder Bowl on SMU's campus in Dallas.

First up: Beat K-State.

APR rankings

Academic Progress Report standings for teams that could finish 5-7, with their overall ranking and score: 

1. Washington 999

18. Middle Tennessee 985

31. Rutgers 979

38. California 977

43t. Texas 974

43t. Florida 974

Bowl bubble

The schedule for teams that can still get bowl-eligible or might qualify because of high APR scores. Ten spots are available. Favorites are preceded by asterisks:

Tuesday

Buffalo (4-7) at *Ball State (5-6)

Thanksgiving

*Fresno State (8-3) at San Jose State (5-6)

Friday

Kansas State (7-4) at *Texas (4-7)

*Coastal Carolina (9-2) at South Alabama (5-6)

TCU (5-6) at *Iowa State (6-5)

 *Washington State (6-5) at Washington (4-7)

Saturday

*Texas A&M (8-3) at LSU (5-6)

*UTSA (11-0) at North Texas (5-6)

*West Virginia (5-6) at Kansas (2-9)

Florida State (5-6) at *Florida (5-6)

*Maryland (5-6) at Rutgers (5-6)

Charlotte (5-6) at *Old Dominion (5-6)

Troy (5-6) at *Georgia State (6-5)

Hawaii (5-7) at *Wyoming (6-5)

Virginia Tech (5-6) at *Virginia (6-5)

Tulsa (5-6) at *SMU (8-3)

Middle Tennessee (5-6) at *Florida Atlantic (5-6)

*Pitt (9-2) at Syracuse (5-6)

Tulane (2-9) at *Memphis (5-6)

*BYU (9-2) at USC (4-6)

Cal (4-6) at *UCLA (7-4)