The race begins for Sun Belt teams to make bowl bids

Murfreesboro, TN ( - With a little more than a month remaining in the season, Sun Belt Conference football teams are racing toward guaranteed multiple bowl bids for the first time in league history.

Many games are still to be played, but the field for postseason spots will soon shrink dramatically. Five of the Sun Belt's nine teams will be eliminated from bowl contention with either one or two more losses. Six total wins equals bowl eligibility.

MTSU plays one of those teams on the edge, Arkansas State (3-5), on Tuesday, Nov. 2, in Jonesboro on ESPN2. The game will also have bowl implications for MTSU, which sits at 3-4 but has a favorable schedule for the stretch run.

The Blue Raiders play five more Sun Belt games versus ASU (3-5), North Texas (1-6), Western Kentucky (1-6), Florida Atlantic (1-5) and Florida International (2-4).

While still chasing Troy and FIU (both unbeaten in Sun Belt play), MTSU is also amid a secondary league race for at least two guaranteed bowl bids.

The Sun Belt has two guaranteed bowl spots for the first time in history, including the New Orleans Bowl and Bowl (formerly the GMAC Bowl) in Mobile, Ala. The Little Caesars Pizza Bowl (formerly the Motor City Bowl) in Detroit will also take a Sun Belt team if the Big Ten cannot fill its contracted spot.

ASU needs to win at least three of its final four games to reach six wins and bowl eligibility. It plays MTSU, WKU, Navy and FIU to finish the season.

"We're just focused on Middle Tennessee and the next game coming up on our schedule," ASU coach Steve Roberts said. "I'm not naive to think our players and coaches don't think about (bowl hopes). But as a team, our only communication is about the next game."

FIU must win at least four its final six games to have bowl hopes. It still has FAU, ULM, Troy, ULL, ASU and MTSU on its schedule.

ULL damaged its bowl chances with Saturday's upset loss to WKU, which snapped a 26-game losing streak. The Ragin' Cajuns now must win at least three of their final five games for bowl eligibility. They play Ohio, Ole Miss, FAU, FIU and ULM to cap the season.

ULM needs three more wins to reach 6-6, but it plays a tough slate that includes Troy, FIU, LSU, UNT and ULL.

UNT, WKU and FAU each have only one overall win and will likely be eliminated from bowl contention soon. Judging from the upcoming schedule, other Sun Belt teams could soon join them.

The Sun Belt has never had three teams play in a bowl in the same season. MTSU and Troy played in the New Orleans Bowl and GMAC Bowl, respectively, last season.