Who Will Play In The 2017 Independence Bowl?
The Independence Bowl has already won 2017.
When the team behind the bowl locked in Walk-On's as the official sponsor, they really couldn't get much higher. But at this point, there could actually be a really good game on the way this December. Or at least a match-up with some big names.
Although, let's be fair, two years ago was an incredible game, and last year had some big names. The 2015 offering featured a 55-52 final score between Virginia Tech and Tulsa, then last year was NC State vs Vanderbilt...even though that game was lack-luster.
But this year, the Independence Bowl could have big names, and a good game.
The current conference tie-ins for the Independence Bowl are the SEC and ACC, which suggests a great match-up every year. But unfortunately, due to payouts and other factors, the Indy Bowl always drops down the the lowest option for each of those two conferences. Which could set up a year like this one, where the SEC will likely not have enough teams to fill their bowl agreements, leaving the Indy Bowl without an SEC team. The ACC might be able to fill their commitments, but it might come down to the final weekend of the season to find out.
Looking at the National writers, here's their current predictions:
ESPN: Georgia Tech vs. Middle Tennessee
Sports Illustrated: Florida State vs. UAB
USA Today: Georgia Tech vs. Oregon
Sporting News: Southern Mississippi vs. Arizona State
At this point, Georgia Tech seems to be a favorite among the national publications. The ACC has a ton of bowl tie-ins, and the Indy bowl isn't actually their lowest. But with a large number of commitments, there's still a chance that Georgia Tech will be needed to fill a slot with the Belk Bowl or Pinstripe Bowl.
Right now, the ACC has two schools in the Playoffs, and then 5 others who are bowl eligible. Boston College and Georgia Tech both need one more win to be bowl eligible, and then there's a stack of teams who need to win their last two games to go bowling. Those are Syracuse, Duke, and Pitt. Florida State might be the most interesting option over here, they need to win their final three games to become bowl eligible, and with UL-Monroe and Delaware State on that schedule, it's possible. But there's still a scenario where the ACC ends up out of the Indy Bowl.
The SEC has a similar issue. Alabama is in the Playoffs, and controls their own destiny. There's still a couple of scenarios where Auburn or Georgia could end up joining Alabama in the Playoffs, which would put two SEC teams out of other bowl reach. Then you have Kentucky, South Carolina, LSU, Mississippi State, and Texas A&M who are all eligible. Missouri will have a good shot to get bowl eligible this weekend, in a game Vanderbilt needs to win to keep their bowl hopes alive. Arkansas will need to win their next two for a shot at a bowl, but they have Mississippi State standing in their way.
With 10 total bowl tie-ins, and the Indy Bowl being the tenth, it would take a major shift across the top and bottom of the SEC to guarantee them a slot with the Indy Bowl.
If the ACC and SEC can't fill, it will move to Conference USA and the American Athletic Conference to fill in. Which sets up some awesome possibilities. The American has 7 tie-ins before their backup for the Indy Bowl kicks in, and they currently have 6 teams bowl eligible, with two more in position to head to a bowl. Maybe the most interesting of options here is Tulane.
The Green Wave from New Orleans would need to beat Houston, and SMU to finish their season bowl eligible, which won't be easy, but worth watching.
Conference USA has 6 bowl tie-ins before the Indy Bowl backup kicks in. They currently have 6 teams bowl eligible, and 5 more who could reach 6 wins by the end of the year. Of course, the best option in Conference USA is Louisiana Tech, but they need to win their last two for eligibility. Which means they'll have to win on the road against UTEP, and at home against UTSA. But it's possible.
After going through all of that, I think there are a few great options for the Indy Bowl, that will take some things to fall into place. Watch these three teams:
These teams all have a chance to make it, and all could draw a solid crowd. Plus, pairing a couple of these against each other could make for a great game. Florida State vs. Texas A&M would be nice. Louisiana Tech vs. Tulane could be fun.
Make sure you check out I-Bowl Weekly every Wednesday nights at 6pm on 1130 The Tiger, 1130AM KWKH in Shreveport and Bossier, to hear from the guys behind the Indy Bowl for who THEY think will be in the bowl.