If the proposed bowl games in Tucson, Little Rock, and Austin are rumoredly applying for come to be, we'll be up to 43 bowl games total. Say it's 44 if you include the Great Barrier Beef in Australia we mentioned yesterday. As has been asked every time a new postseason contest has been announced since the Alamo Bowl was first played, we have to wonder: how many bowls is too many?
Eligibility wise, the answer is 43 under the current rules. 84 teams won at least six games last year. "But wait," you say, "that's only enough for 42 bowl games!" Ah, you're forgetting that Oregon and Ohio State account for an extra bowl game each in the playoff system. (We know, Art Briles. You'd have Baylor play 18 bowl games in ten days if only we'd give you the chance.)
But let's say we lower the threshold to five wins. That gives us 93 eligible teams last year, which means we can get 47 bowl games, though we'll have to leave one team out. Sorry, Northwestern. What if we go down to four wins? You're looking at 104 bowl-eligible teams and a whopping 53 bowls crammed into the calendar. And if we offer a special waiver to teams that only won three games but really and truly wanted to win more than that? 116 eligible teams and 59 bowls.
In fact, let's take this to the most logical conclusion. With the limited exception of the playoff, every team that makes the postseason plays only one game there. Therefore, the only meaningful question for bowl eligibility should be "can you win one game?" The six win requirement is akin to making a medical degree a prerequisite to make a pot of macaroni and cheese. With this more reasonable and equitable one win entry requirement? All 128 FBS teams make a bowl game, of which we now have 65.
That answers how many bowl games we should have, but not how many we could have without getting absurd. For starters, we could have every team play itself in the postseason, and that gets us up to 129 total bowls, though it will make the playoff structure a little trickier. The better route might be to include the FCS teams instead, which gives us 252 potentially-eligible programs to choose from and 127 bowl games.
Is that too many bowls? No. The National Center for Education Statistics estimated that 21 million students would attend a college or university in the United States last year. In the interest of depth, let's say we divide all of those students up into squads of 40. That gives us 525,000 college football teams that could make a bowl, and 262,501 bowl games total.
It's very clear: if we hit 262,502 bowl games, we've gone too far.