How MSU can still reach a bowl game regardless of Saturday’s outcome vs. Penn State

There’s still a chance Michigan State can find themselves bowling this year if they come up short against Penn State in next week’s season finale. That possibility is thanks to a solid Academic Progress Report (APR) ranking the Spartans hold.

The Spartans blew their easiest chance of reaching bowl eligibility this past weekend when they let a 17-point lead slip away against a lousy Indiana Hoosiers squad that hadn’t won a game in two months. That win would have put Michigan State at 6-5 and bowl eligible, but instead, the Spartans are now 5-6 and in need of a win over Penn State this week to automatically lock up a bowl bid.

Michigan State enters Saturday’s matchup in Happy Valley as a three-possession underdog so odds are they won’t be leaving with a victory over the Nittany Lions. So if the likely outcome of a Spartans’ loss against Penn State occurs, do they still have a chance to reach a bowl game? Actually, yes they do.

At the moment, there are only 73 bowl eligible teams with 82 slots needed for the 41 bowl games. That means there are nine spots still open with only two guaranteed spots to be secured (winner take all matchups for bowl eligibility) this upcoming week. If there are weren’t enough bowl eligible teams, then Michigan State would be potentially second in line as a 5-7 squad to sneak into an at a large bowl bid. Other potential 5-7 squads with higher or tied APR rankings than Michigan State (No. 27) are Rice (No. 5), Iowa State (No. 17), UNLV (No. 21), Auburn (No. 27) and Missouri (No. 27). Both Iowa State and UNLV are 4-7 currently and would need wins this weekend to even be part of the APR-bowl discussion. Auburn and Missouri are 5-6 and can clinch bowl eligiblity with a win but are also in play since they are tied with the Spartans at No. 27 in the APR rankings.

So, with all of this being said, who does Michigan State need to win this week to help them secure a bowl bid at 5-7? I have you covered with a list of all the games that will impact the Spartans’ chances of backdooring their way into a bowl bid, and who you should be rooting for should you want to see that happen:

Arkansas at Missouri

When: Friday (Nov. 25) at 3:30 p.m. ET

How to watch: CBS

Rooting interest: Arkansas win

Missouri is 5-6 on the season so a win in this rivalry game will automatically lock in a bowl bid for the Tigers. They may still get the nod over the Spartans at 5-7 since they are tied in APR ranking but it’s unclear how tiebreakers play out in that instance.

Georgia Tech at Georgia

When: Saturday (Nov. 26) at 12 p.m. ET

How to watch: ESPN

Rooting interest: Georgia win

Georgia Tech would reach bowl eligibility with a massive upset victory over rival Georgia. A Yellow Jackets win over the Bulldogs is the only way they can move past Michigan State as they are behind the Spartans in APR rankings.

Western Kentucky at Florida Atlantic

When: Saturday (Nov. 26) at 12 p.m. ET

How to watch: CBS Sports Network

Rooting interest: Western Kentucky

At 5-6 on the year, Florida Atlantic will need a win over Western Kentucky to reach bowl eligibility. An Owls win over the Hilltoppers is the only way they can move past Michigan State as they are behind the Spartans in APR rankings.

Kent State at Buffalo

When: Saturday (Nov. 26) at 1 p.m. ET

How to watch: ESPN+

Rooting interest: Kent State

Buffalo is 5-5 on the year with their matchup against Akron being postponed this past weekend. If that game is made up, Buffalo should easily beat the Zips but before we get to that, a win over Kent State would also move the Bulls to bowl eligibility.

Auburn at Alabama

When: Saturday (Nov. 26) at 3:30 p.m. ET

How to watch: CBS

Rooting interest: Alabama

Auburn is 5-6 on the season so a win in this rivalry game will automatically lock in a bowl bid for the Tigers. They may still get the nod over the Spartans at 5-7 since they are tied in APR ranking but it’s unclear how tiebreakers play out in that instance.

UAB at Louisiana Tech

When: Saturday (Nov. 26) at 3:30 p.m. ET

How to watch: CBS Sports Network

Rooting interest: Louisiana Tech

UAB will lock up a bowl bid with a victory over Louisiana Tech in the final week of the season. The Blazers are sizable favorites in this matchup and shouldn’t need to worry about their low APR ranking holding them back from reaching the postseason.

UTEP at UTSA

When: Saturday (Nov. 26) at 3:30 p.m. ET

How to watch: Not listed

Rooting interest: UTSA

UTEP can clinch a bowl bid with an upset win over UTSA on Saturday afternoon. This win is unlikely but is the only way they can move past Michigan State due to their lower APR ranking.

Iowa State at TCU

When: Saturday (Nov. 26) at 4 p.m. ET

How to watch: FOX

Rooting interest: TCU

Iowa State is 4-7 on the year but an upset win over highly-ranked TCU would move them ahead of the Spartans as a 5-7 team. The Cyclones have a higher ranking in APR and thus would fall ahead of the Spartans in landing a bowl bid if both teams are 5-7 to end the year.

Southern Miss at UL Monroe

When: Saturday (Nov. 26) at 5 p.m. ET

How to watch: ESPN+

Rooting interest: UL Monroe

Southern Miss is 5-6 on the year and will clinch a bowl bid with a victory over UL Monroe in their finale. The Golden Eagles are slim favorites and will need the victory to move past Michigan State due to their lower APR ranking.

Louisiana at Texas State

When: Saturday (Nov. 26) at 5 p.m. ET

How to watch: ESPN+

Rooting interest: Texas State

Louisiana is 5-6 on the year and will need to pick up a road win in their finale to reach bowl eligibility. The only way they’ll move ahead of the Spartans is with a win due to their lower APR ranking.

Nevada at UNLV

When: Saturday (Nov. 26) at 6 p.m. ET

How to watch: Not listed

Rooting interest: Nevada

Like Iowa State, UNLV is 4-7 on the year and will need a win in order to join this discussion. If they do beat Nevada, then they would move ahead of the Spartans if both teams are 5-7 since they have a higher APR ranking.

Tennessee at Vanderbilt

When: Saturday (Nov. 26) at 7:30 p.m. ET

How to watch: SEC Network

Rooting interest: Tennessee

Vanderbilt will need an improbable upset over their rivals in order to reach bowl eligibility. This game a few weeks ago seemed like an easy Tennessee win but with the loss of star quarterback Hendon Hooker and Vanderbilt’s recent surge, this game could be interesting.

Pitt at Miami (FL)

When: Saturday (Nov. 26) at 8 p.m. ET

How to watch: ACC Network

Rooting interest: Pitt

Will Pat Narduzzi potentially help his old program? Miami (FL) needs a win over Pitt to clinch a bowl bid. The Hurricanes seem to have given up on the year but don’t rule out a potential upset in this matchup.

Final Thoughts

As I already mentioned, the easiest path to a bowl bid for Michigan State is by upsetting Penn State on Saturday. I don’t, however, believe that is going to happen.

So it’ll come down to how many of the teams Michigan State fans should be rooting for win. It’s hard to pinpoint the exact number of wins by rooting interest teams since there are some unknowns on tiebreakers and if any teams will turn down a bowl bid. But we at least know there must be two spots available for 5-7 teams with Rice firmly holding one of those spots already. So realistically the Spartans need at least eight teams in their rooting interest to win to give them a chance at grabbing a bowl bid at 5-7.

The question now becomes, do I think that’s possible? Well, the oddsmakers (based on betting lines) have the rooting interest teams going 8-5 this week meaning there’s a somewhat decent chance of the Spartans bowling at 5-7. To feel really good about the Spartans’ chances of reaching a bowl game at 5-7, you’d probably like to see their rooting interest teams go 10-3 or 11-2 due to potentially 5-7 Auburn, Missouri, Iowa State and UNLV possibly snatching a bowl bid ahead of the Spartan.

Hopefully, Michigan State upsets Penn State and all of this becomes a moot point but either way the Spartans aren’t dead in the water yet when it comes to reaching a bowl game. Just may take a good amount of help from some teams you may have never heard of before this week.

Story originally appeared on Spartans Wire