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FBS newcomers James Madison and Jacksonville State along with 5-7 Minnesota get last 3 bowl slots

The Gophers won less than half of their games this season.
Image by Amaya Battle
A lineup during Minnesota’s game against Wisconsin on Nov. 25, 2023.

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Football Bowl Subdivision newcomers James Madison and Jacksonville State along with five-win Minnesota are bound for bowls because of a shortage of eligible teams.

Those three teams round out the 82 available spots because only 79 teams achieved the six wins necessary for bowl eligibility.

James Madison (11-1) and Jacksonville State (8-4) are still transitioning to full FBS status and would not be eligible if there were enough six-win teams.

James Madison, after having two appeals of bowl eligibility rules rejected by the NCAA, had threatened legal action to be allowed to play in a bowl. The school backed off last week with the hope a bid would come if not enough teams reached the six-win threshold.

The inclusion of James Madison and Jacksonville State still left one opening for Minnesota, which had a 992 Academic Progress Rate score in 2021-22 for the best of the five-win teams. Mississippi State (985) would have been the next 5-7 team in line.

The Gophers finished the regular season 5-7 after losing to rival Wisconsin on Saturday, their third consecutive defeat. NCAA rules allow five-win teams to fill spots, with the order determined by Academic Progress Rate (APR) score from the most recent reporting period.

The only FBS teams with better scores than Minnesota either had six wins or more (Northwestern, Wisconsin, Clemson, Alabama, Mississippi and Ohio State) or fewer than five wins (Cincinnati).

“We’ll always accept a bowl bid — always,” Gophers coach P.J. Fleck said after the game on Saturday. “There’s so many beneficial things to a bowl game, with practices, with development. To be honest, we might be our best football team in a month if we get everybody back.”

Minnesota also qualified for a bowl in 2015 with a 5-7 record on the strength of its APR score. The Gophers had to wait this year until the wee hours Sunday to learn their fate, because Colorado State took a 5-6 record into the final game of the day at Hawaii, four time zones behind.

The Rams tied the game on a 70-yard touchdown pass on fourth-and-8 and a 2-point conversion with 54 seconds left. But the Rainbow Warriors won 27-24 on a 51-yard field goal as time expired.

Bowl matchups will be announced Dec. 3. Minnesota’s most likely destinations, based on Big Ten tie-ins, are the Quick Lane Bowl in Detroit on Dec. 26 or the Las Vegas Bowl on Dec. 23.

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