Mean Green Bowl fate is in the hands of Navy

Head Coach Seth Littrell has the Mean Green going bowling in his first season at UNT. Mandatory Credit: Sean Pokorny-USA TODAY Sports
Head Coach Seth Littrell has the Mean Green going bowling in his first season at UNT. Mandatory Credit: Sean Pokorny-USA TODAY Sports /

Despite finishing with a 5-7 record, the North Texas Mean Green will go bowling this season. But depending on how the Navy Midshipmen fare in the AAC Conference Championship and the annual Army-Navy game, it might be another two weeks until they know where they’ll play.

This season, the North Texas Mean Green are beneficiaries of a relatively new rule for bowl consideration. Traditionally, bowl eligibility was contingent upon attaining six wins. However, the growth of postseason bowl games created a need for potential eligibility for five-win teams. They couldn’t do it without a plan. The NCAA came up with a good one.

How a five-win Mean Green team makes a bowl

With 80 bowl slots available for the 2016-17 season, there are currently 74 teams with six qualifying wins. Louisiana-Lafayette (who plays Louisiana-Monroe this weekend), Army (who plays Navy on December 10) and South Alabama (who plays New Mexico State this weekend) all can win games to become bowl eligible.

Hawaii also has a shot with UMass to improve to 6-7. While in their case it doesn’t make them “automatic,” it would still put them ahead of the 5-7 teams. In short, at least two 5-7 teams will qualify this year. Enter the Mean Green.

More from Dallas Sports

New rules state that teams can now earn spots by academics. Of remaining five win teams, the ones that rank at the top in Academic Progress Rate will be chosen first. Imagine that. Student-athletes now have incentives to do well in class.

Among all FBS teams, UNT’s football team finished ninth. Furthermore, they are tops among five-win teams, thus guaranteeing a slot.

How to determine the Mean Green’s bowl game

Athletic Director Wren Baker has already stated via his Twitter account that the Mean Green will accept a bowl bid. But, they still need to know where to play. This is where it gets a bit trickier. There are still several pieces that need to fall into place for other teams ahead of North Texas.

As many as 78 teams could get chosen ahead of the Mean Green. Navy is the team among them that holds it up for everyone right now.

Since their annual rivalry game with Army is the week after Conference Championship weekend, it will be the final regular season game played among all Division I FBS teams. Oddly, Navy plays in the American Athletic Conference Championship Game this week, before finishing their regular season schedule. Navy’s bowl selection is contingent upon winning the AAC title. It could propel them the Cotton Bowl Classic, but only if they beat Army the following week.

But if Temple takes down the Midshipmen, then that frees everything up. All bowl selections should then be made by the time this weekend is over.

How it could play out for the Mean Green

Per NT Daily, Baker has stated there are potentially five potential bowl games that could take North Texas. The AutoNation CureBowl, The St. Petersburg Bowl, The Zaxby’s Heart of Dallas Bowl, The Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl, and The Las Vegas Bowl are the ones most likely to choose North Texas. Of those five, two really make the most sense.

The Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl — Friday, December 23, Amon G. Carter Stadium, Fort Worth, Texas

Previous arrangements already have Navy penciled in to this game. But if they win the AAC title plus the Army-Navy game, and Western Michigan loses to Ohio, then the Midshipmen will play in the Cotton Bowl Classic, leaving a void in this game.

The other tie-in belongs to the #7 team from the Big XII, but they will not have seven bowl eligible teams this season. Therefore, it becomes an at-large bid.

The chances for the Mean Green getting this game depend on the status of Navy. If the Midshipmen are automatic for Fort Worth, then the Armed Forces Bowl committee likely won’t select a 5-7 team as the opponent. They’d prefer a better matchup. But if they end up selecting two at-large teams, then all bets are off.

The Zaxby’s Heart of Dallas Bowl — Tuesday, December 27, Cotton Bowl Stadium, Dallas, Texas

This seems to be the most realistic destination for the Mean Green. They won this game in 2014 (following the 2013 regular season) against UNLV. With the stadium less than an hour away from the campus, 30,000 plus attended the game to provide an excellent atmosphere.

North Texas’s past with this game and the Conference USA tie-in make this a likely choice. However, the Heart of Dallas bowl is a prime C-USA destination. So, the team winning the conference championship could get the slot ahead of UNT.

Six teams sit ahead of the Mean Green within Conference USA, two of which could claim enough proximity to the game. UTSA and Louisiana Tech both might like the possibility of playing in the D/FW market on one of the final days before New Years.

Next: UNT football just might earn a bowl berth

In total, there is really only one certainty. The Mean Green have clinched a bowl berth. Where they end up is still a mystery, but the fans are excited nonetheless. Head Coach Seth Littrell should be proud of what this team, that went 1-11 last season, has been able to accomplish.