Earning a bowl invite used to mean something. Back when there were only 15 or so bowl games, bowls rarely rewarded teams with fewer than eight wins, even though schedules were much harder in those days.
Not only did few teams play lower division schools, but also they played other top teams with greater frequency, as demonstrated in a recent New York Times article.
Add in a 12th game, and it is easier than ever for teams to win eight games. Basically, many teams schedule four cupcakes out-of-conference (OOC) and just need to go 4-4 in conference, so most schools can win eight games.
Winning seven is even easier, while going .500 in conference is almost impossible to avoid.
Even for schools that schedule difficult OOC schedules, getting to .500 and a bowl game is still possible—well, except for the Pac-10 with its nine-game conference schedule.
Bowl games are intended as rewards for a good season, but I find it very hard to call any season "good" when a team has failed to win a majority of its games—moreover, when schools schedule a free win versus a FCS school.
So, very simply, if a school fails to win seven games against FBS schools, it should not be allowed to go to bowl games.
If not, we might as well as allow 5-7 teams to go bowling (something that the NCAA had to ponder this season with the risk of not having enough teams to fill all the bowls being more than a little bit real).
If we allow 5-7 teams to go bowling, we might as well expand the number of bowls to include every single FBS school so that every team is rewarded for playing a season, even if it ends 0-12.
This season, due to a rule change pushed through by the Big 12, 8-4 Temple, with a win over BCS-bound UConn, is sitting at home, while 12 (and maybe 13 if Army loses) 6-6 teams go bowling.
Arizona State almost got into a bowl game with only four wins over FBS schools (6-6 overall) if the need had occurred.
Here are the 28 teams undeserving of a bowl game, considering not a single one has seven wins over FBS schools.
Army (6-5, with a game remaining)
Boston College (7-5)
East Carolina (6-6)
Florida International (6-6)
Georgia Tech (6-6)
Kansas State (7-5)
Middle Tennessee (6-6)
North Carolina (7-5)
Penn State (7-5)
South Florida (6-6)
Texas Tech (7-5)
Now, a few of these teams played very tough schedules, including Boston College, BYU, Clemson, East Carolina, Florida and Louisville, all of which played tougher schedules than BCS-bowl bound UConn, Ohio State, Oregon, Virginia Tech and Wisconsin.
Even so, every one of these undeserving schools lost games to weak teams and has only itself to blame for being an undeserving bowl-bound team of 2010. I think Urban Meyer, in making his recent retirement decision, fully understood just how bad of a season Florida had completed and just how far the Gators needed to improve to get back to the elite of college football.
While for some just getting to undeserving is a huge improvement over recent years, the proliferation of bowl games, most of which end up costing the schools money and adding to the wallets of bowl organizers and ESPN and school administrators, needs to end.