Can Vanderbilt make a bowl game with five wins? The math isn’t promising

The Commodores play the WKU Hilltoppers on Saturday, November 4, 2017. Vanderbilt won 31-17. Photo by Claire Barnett//The Vanderbilt Hustler.

With three games left in the season and a 4-5 record, the Vanderbilt Commodores need two wins to clinch bowl eligibility.

On top of that, the assumption has been that that the Commodores would be able to sneak into a bowl game with just five wins based on their Academic Progress Rate (APR). After all, they would have made a bowl game last year with five wins had they not knocked off Tennessee in the final game of the season.

However, if you crunch the numbers, that assumption might have to be put to rest.

Entering Week 11 of the season, there are 50 teams that have already clinched bowl eligibility. There are 21 teams with five wins and 24 teams (excluding Ole Miss, who cannot make a bowl due to a self-imposed bowl ban) with four wins, including Vanderbilt.

There are 78 bowl slots to be filled. It’s safe to assume that all of the teams with five wins now will get a sixth win in the next month. That makes 71 bowl teams, and with that many teams at four wins, it’s safe to say at least seven of them will find their way to two more wins.

For the first time in a few years, the NCAA could be looking at a surplus of six-win teams, rather than a shortage. That doesn’t bode well for a hypothetical five-win Vanderbilt team. Even if our assumptions about the current five-win teams are wrong, there are enough current four-win teams to fill the void.

In addition, even if there were open slots for teams with five wins, Vanderbilt might not even be first on that list. Right now there are three teams with better APR numbers (Duke, Minnesota and Air Force) that also have four wins. So, unless there are four slots open to five-win teams at the end of the season, Vanderbilt has no guarantees there either.

This is not to say that Vanderbilt can’t get to a bowl with five wins. It just means that it’s so unlikely that it shouldn’t be considered a reliable fallback. In essence, Vanderbilt must win two of its last three games to get to a bowl game.

This weekend’s matchup against Kentucky, and Vanderbilt’s two games after that, monumentally important. A win this weekend would make the road much easier, and keep the “do-or-die” pressure off of the last two games of the season.

Students can claim their tickets now through the Vanderbilt Athletics portal. Kickoff is at 3 pm on Saturday at Vanderbilt Stadium.

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