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The mystery of which 80 teams will fill out the college football bowl card is almost solved. Where they are going will have to wait until after the final weekend of the season.
Currently, 74 spots are confirmed for teams guaranteed to finish with at least a 6-6 record. Two 5-6 teams playing Saturday have an opportunity to join them: South Alabama (at home vs. New Mexico State) and Louisiana-Lafayette (at Louisiana-Monroe).
The NCAA has granted South Alabama a waiver to take one of the berths, even though two of its wins are against Football Championship Subdivision teams. The Jaguars added Presbyterian to their schedule for Nov.19 after LSU bought out their game in the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew. The Tigers used that date to reschedule their conference game against Florida.
That leaves between four and six spots that will need filling. One will go to Hawaii. The Rainbow Warriors finished 6-7 and will have priority ahead of other teams with five qualified wins.
Army is 6-5, but two of those victories are against FCS opponents. The Black Knights have one game left against Navy on Dec. 10. But their place in the postseason is secure by virtue of their high multiyear Academic Progress Rate (APR) ranking that is used to select teams with only five qualified wins.
At least two invitations are guaranteed to 5-7 finishers. North Texas and Mississippi State have the two highest APR scores in that group and will have an opportunity to play in a bowl. The Bulldogs have the same APR (971) as Texas; however, they have priority, based on a higher score in the most recent single-year APR.
The Longhorns will be the next team up if South Alabama or Louisiana-Lafayette loses. Northern Illinois would be in the mix if both were to lose.
Texas and Northern Illinois rose in the pecking order when Duke, Notre Dame, Syracuse and UCLA -- teams ahead of them in APR rankings -- lost out on chances to finish 5-7.
The College Football Playoff committee rankings Tuesday offered clarity on the placement of teams in the four major bowls outside the Fiesta and Peach, which will host the semifinals Dec. 31.
Florida State is spot ahead of Louisville at No. 12. That gives the Seminoles an inside track to the Orange Bowl if Clemson wins the Atlantic Coast Conference. Virginia Tech would take the spot if it beats the Tigers.
No. 17 Western Michigan is two spots ahead of Navy for the Group of Five berth that is expected to be a place in the Cotton Bowl. The Broncos and Midshipmen play in their respective conference championship games this weekend. If both win, it's possible the committee will wait until the following Saturday when Army and Navy play to determine which team gets the nod.
And Auburn looks set for the Sugar Bowl. It is the highest-rated Southeastern Conference team after Alabama, which is considered a lock to get in the Playoff even with a loss. If Florida were to beat the Crimson Tide in the conference championship game, then the Gators would go to New Orleans.
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