In any individual college football season, the idea that the Georgia Bulldogs would not even make a bowl game would raise eyebrows.
Within the context of the past decade, the notion that the TCU Horned Frogs — led by one of the best coaches in the business, Gary Patterson — would not even make a bowl game would create a jolt of surprise.
Yet, that’s where we could be headed after a Week 9 in which Georgia and TCU suffered stinging defeats.
Georgia wasn’t expected to beat Florida, but it didn’t put up much of a fight, an alarming reality heading into a November with Auburn and Georgia Tech on the schedule. The bigger surprise was TCU’s loss — not so much the loss itself, but that the Horned Frogs couldn’t manage more than 24 points in an overtime-length contest. In 2015, TCU survived Texas Tech, 55-52. Losing 27-24 is an outcome few — if any — were intellectually prepared to accept.
The TCU defeat introduces the possibility that the Frogs might not even make a bowl. One could list TCU’s remaining opponents, but TCU struggles with Kansas, so it’s not as though any other Big 12 opponents will be easier. The Frogs will have to fight like the dickens just to get to 6-6.
It gives one pause to absorb the steep decline suffered by TCU this season. Georgia — in the weak SEC East — not even making a bowl game could happen. It probably will if UGA loses to Kentucky. In any modern-day college football season, the possibility of TCU and Georgia missing out on bowls would be — should be — headline developments.
And yet, this is just a fraction of the carnage strewn across the landscape of the sport in 2016.
The TCU-Texas loser probably won’t make a bowl. Georgia sits on the precipice of being Home for the Holidays.
That’s just the beginning.
Ole Miss — after losing to Auburn — is 3-5 and must play at Texas A&M.
The first four programs on this list made a New Year’s Six bowl in one of the past two seasons. The other has Los Angeles as its recruiting base. Four are genuinely unlikely to make a bowl this season. Ole Miss actually has a manageable schedule but will still have to survive the rivalry-fueled Egg Bowl battle against Mississippi State.
In one season, Georgia, TCU or Texas, Sparta, the Irish, the Ducks, UCLA, and possibly Ole Miss could all miss bowls?
Remember: Kentucky, Indiana, Army, and New Mexico — plus teams in the middle tiers of the MAC, Sun Belt, and Conference USA — will go bowling. It is so easy to get to six wins for Power Five teams. Scheduling three or four cupcakes out of conference and going 3-5 or even 3-6 within a conference (for leagues which play nine games) is the path to 6-6.
The list of Power Five teams (plus Notre Dame) about to miss bowls is not endlessly long, but when considering the relative ease of winning six games through schedule manipulation, it becomes truly shocking.
College football 2016 hasn’t shaken down the thunder in South Bend. This season has shaken the foundations of programs whose primary thoughts in early September focus on division or conference championships and New Year’s Six bowl appearances.
Yes, several Old Money teams — Alabama, Ohio State, Michigan, and a revived Washington — are riding high. However, Old Money just isn’t as reliable in a new age.
It’s a sign of the times.