At 5-7, the Gophers know they might not deserve a bowl berth. But it’s looking very likely that they will get picked, and coach Tracy Claeys said Monday that they would welcome the opportunity.
With 40 bowls, the NCAA has 80 spots to fill, and only 75 teams have qualified with six victories. Three more 5-6 teams — Kansas State, Georgia State and South Alabama — can qualify with a victory Saturday, though all three are underdogs. This means at least two 5-7 teams, and possibly up to five, will be needed to fill bowl spots.
On Monday, the NCAA announced that the replacement teams will be picked based on highest academic progress rate (APR) scores. Of the potential pool of 5-7 teams, the Gophers are tied for fourth in APR. The top of the list goes Nebraska (985), Missouri (976), Kansas State (976), Minnesota (975), San Jose State (975), Illinois (973) and Rice (973).
Missouri announced Monday that it would forgo a bowl if invited, which moved the Gophers up a peg. So if Georgia State or South Alabama lose Saturday — and both are at least 16-point underdogs to Georgia Southern and Appalachian State, respectively — the Gophers will get a bowl bid.
Possible destinations include lower-profile Big Ten-affiliated bowls such as the Foster Farms Bowl (Dec. 26, Santa Clara, Calif.), the Pinstripe Bowl (Dec. 26, New York) and the Quick Lane Bowl (Dec. 28, Detroit).
While an invite to a lower-tier bowl might not seem like a big positive, one advantage to earning a trip to any bowl game is that teams are given 15 additional practices.
“I visited with the kids [Monday] night, and our kids coming back are excited about if we would get that opportunity,” Claeys said.
“We are going to continue to lift weights and condition,” he added. “I think it would be great news, if we would have an opportunity to go to a bowl for our younger players.”
All-Big Ten honors
Gophers cornerback Eric Murray and punter Peter Mortell were named third-team All-Big Ten by both the media and coaches Monday. Kicker Ryan Santoso was named third-team All-Big Ten by the coaches, and cornerback Briean Boddy-Calhoun was named third-team All-Big Ten by the media.
Honorable mention selections included De’Vondre Campbell, Theiren Cockran, Jalen Myrick, Steven Richardson, Jack Lynn and Cody Poock. The All-Big Ten offensive players will be named Tuesday.