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Could Purdue Earn a Bowl Bid With 5 Wins?

It’s rare, but 5-7 teams have earned bowl bids in recent years.

NCAA Football: Nebraska at Purdue Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Over the last few years, we have seen four FBS teams with 5-7 records earn bowl game bids thanks to the ever expanding Bowl Schedule (whether or not we need that many bowl games is a discussion for another time). Though our sample size is limited, those four teams have gone 3-1 in their respective bowl games.

Typically, when there aren’t enough 6+ win teams for all the bowl games available, the remaining slots are given to 5-7 teams based on their two-year Academic Progress Rate (APR) score. Currently, Purdue’s APR is 971, which *should* put Purdue towards the higher end of the 5-7 teams, but it might not be good enough.

I was inspired to do this post after a post on /r/CFB created at “Bowl Bubble Tracker”, which looks at which teams are below 6 wins, but have 7 or less losses, that could be on the “Bowl Bubble”. The user lists all FBS teams that fall on this bubble, but for this post, I am only going to share the Big Ten teams that are currently on the bubble, ranked by APR score:

  1. Minnesota (4-5): 992
  2. Maryland (4-5): 984
  3. Illinois (2-7): 984
  4. Indiana (3-6): 982
  5. Nebraska (4-5): 977
  6. Rutgers (4-5): 973
  7. Purdue (4-5): 971

While Purdue’s APR score might be good, we see that there are already 6 other Big Ten teams ahead of us on the Bowl Bubble. Of course, this will most likely change, as we can reasonably expect Illinois to earn their 8th loss sometime in the next 3 weeks, knocking them off the bubble.

Additionally, two teams that are on the bubble, Minnesota and Nebraska, play each other this week. Since both of those teams close the season with 2 games where they should be underdogs, we can expect the loser of that match-up to be essentially knocked off the bubble. There are some other bubble match-ups coming up (IU vs Rutgers, Purdue vs IU), but for the time being, let’s theoretically assume that Minnesota/Nebraska, Maryland, IU, Rutgers, and Purdue could all end up with 5-7 records.

If that were to happen, Purdue will most likely not be eligible for a bowl game, as the teams listed do have higher APR ratings than Purdue, and some of the teams listed also have head-to-head advantages over Purdue (like Nebraska and Rutgers). This, of course, is just comparing Purdue to only B1G teams, so we have to consider that if Purdue is towards the bottom of the 5-7 B1G teams, they are definitely towards the bottom among the other 5-7 FBS teams. Purdue would need many of these teams to either earn 6 wins or lose an 8th game.

So let’s say that happens. Let’s say that on November 26th, Purdue is the best 5-7 option from the B1G to earn a bowl bid, and there’s enough of a shake up that they’re towards the top of the 5-7 FBS teams. Does that guarantee that Purdue will get a bid?

Probably not.

Another caveat this year is that many FBS teams have only had 11 games due to Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, which leaves us with the possibility of having multiple 5-6 teams as well. At this point, it’s too early to tell how the chips will fall, but speculation has been that, if there aren’t enough 6-win teams to fill the bowl slots, 5-6 teams could earn these extra bids first.

Ultimately, there are many things stacking up against a 5-7 Purdue team earning a bowl bid, especially since there may only be 1 or 2 spots available for 5-win FBS teams. But let’s say Purdue goes 5-7 AND they are offered a bowl bid. Should they take it despite going 5-7?

In my opinion: absolutely they should.

Purdue has gone four years without a bowl game, and excluding some transfers, no one on this team has participated in a bowl game. After the four Hazell years, if Purdue is given the opportunity to play one more game, they should take it. The players deserve it. Unless this ends up being like the Heart of Dallas Bowl, Purdue will most likely be evenly paired up with a G5 school, or weaker P5 school, giving Purdue a great shot at winning one more game. Sure, Purdue would be 5-7 and it might seem more like a participation trophy, but after years of bad football and being no where close of being bowl eligible, do we really have the right to be prudish regarding a 5-7 Purdue bowl team?

The chances of Purdue earning a bowl bid at 5-7 are extremely slim, to the point where it’s almost laughable to talk about it. If Purdue wants to go bowling this year, they need to forget these crazy 5-7 scenarios and focus on getting to at least 6 wins.