There are 16 FBS programs who haven’t been to a bowl game since the 2015 season or earlier. Of those, 12 are Group of Five programs.
The Power Five will remain at the top of the heap, at least until Les Miles gets things turned around at Kansas (10 seasons and counting, Viva la Mangino!).
But which G5 programs are suffering the longest without a bowl game appearance, and which are likely to break that streak this season?
Four schools have gone without a bowl for six seasons.
Kent State hasn’t seen a bowl appearance since the Golden Flashes’ heyday under Darrel Hazell. Kent rode Dri Archer’s crazy junior season (2,580 all-purpose yards and 23 touchdowns) to a barn-burner loss to NIU in the MAC title game.
In 2012, the Flashes went 11-3 under Hazell. Since then, Hazell went 9-33 in 3 1/2 years at Purdue before getting fired, while Kent State has gone 16-55. Sean Lewis has reinvigorated the program, but a .500 record in conference play would be a huge victory, let alone a bowl bid.
For the Louisiana-Monroe Warhawks, last year was going to be the year. They wound up the season at 6-6, which was about what I expected, but were on the outside looking in during the bowl games following a two-game losing streak to end the year.
This year will be similar, and will likely hinge on winning toss-up road games like Texas State and Lousiana or – god forbid – a road upset against Georgia Southern
UMass gets their own category since they’ve only been at the FBS level for seven seasons, and they’ve never really flirted with bowl eligibility at any point in that span. The last two seasons saw them finally reach four wins each time, but they were also out of bowl contention by Halloween.
Whatever improvements Walt Bell makes, he’ll be a hero just to have UMass playing meaningful football in November. For that to happen, they’ll need to win every winnable game and go undefeated at home before the season finale against BYU.
That’s certainly possible, but it will take a young team maturing relatively quickly. Don’t count on it.
Well hello there, Texas State Bobcats. Yes, I said that UMass got their own category. That’s because Texas State has been at the FBS level just as long as the Minutemen without a bowl berth, but they reached bowl eligibility in their first two seasons, they just didn’t get selected.
Another school with a new coach will take a crack at hitting the reset button, and it’s another instance where progress is pretty much a certainty, but where massive strides would need to take place to reach a bowl game.
Much like ULM, they have enough winnable games on paper – and enough returning talent – to make it happen, but we’ll believe it when we see it for a program that’s already been bowl-snubbed twice.
Two schools have a drought of five seasons.
The UNLV Rebels haven’t been *good* since John Robinson left 15 years ago, but Las Vegas High School Coaching Legend Tony Sanchez at least returned the Rebs to “consistently mediocre.” That said, UNLV would have ended this streak already if they could have just managed a record above .500 in one-possession games.
The 2017 season, in particular, was rough as the Rebels were a hot mess against FCS Howard and blew a three-touchdown lead against Air Force, plus another one-score loss in the Fremont Cannon rivalry to seal a losing season.
Now they’ve got depth and experience – and a schedule that will probably keep them from a bowl game. There’s always a chance, but it’s going to be a real struggle in the deep Mountain West.
The Ball State Cardinals haven’t been to a bowl game since 2013 when Pete Lembo got the program to 10 wins for the third time in program history and the first time since Brady Hoke did it five years prior.
Last year broke the trend of being good every five years, but it turned out there was more than just bad injury luck holding the team back. Now the team is healthy, but their likely starters at quarterback and running back, both fifth-year seniors, transferred to Vanderbilt and Kansas State, respectively.
Can they succeed without those guys? Absolutely. Can they get bowl eligible? That’s a reach.
Three schools have been without a bowl game for four seasons. Three more have gone three seasons without an appearance.
None of that is likely to change this season.
Rice and UTEP both continue to be in similar boats, as they have shown very incremental progress under their respective new head coaches, but will need to take a marked step forward just to get out of the CUSA basement, let alone flirt with a bowl berth.
Charlotte has much greater potential than those two but has a similar problem in that their ceiling right now would likely be an improvement to the middle of the Conference USA pack, which at least for the moment means they’re much more likely to go bowling next year.
East Carolina is in a similar boat to Texas State. They have an exciting new coach and enough returning talent to make things interesting. Scottie Montgomery was a mess of a coach but as good as advertised as a recruiter. Mike Houston has always won, even with others’ recruits.
The downside with the Pirates is that while they have five winnable games on their schedule, they also have two FCS opponents. So unless there aren’t enough bowl-eligible teams this season, ECU will need to close their season with an upset at SMU and another at home against Tulsa to end the streak.
Not impossible, but not extremely likely either.
The UConn Huskies are at the bottom of this list for a reason. Just…no. The Huskies won’t win their second game until at least the end of October and will need a miracle to hit three wins.
San Jose State isn’t in as dire a straits as the Huskies, but the Spartans are in a much deeper conference and as such will likely need a late-season road upset just to avoid ending the season on a seven-game losing streak.