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Examine Michigan State’s bowl odds, even if they fall to 5-7

There’s a clear path to becoming Michigan State Bowl eligible.

That requires the Spartans to get six wins, and there’s only one shot left for that.

After a 17-point lead in the second half of last week’s 39-31 doubles loss at home to Indiana, Michigan State (5-6, 3-5 Big Ten), Michigan State (5-6, 3-5 Big Ten) at No. 11 Penn State (9-). 2, 6-2) in Saturday’s regular-season finals.

The Spartans, who remain shorthanded from injuries and suspensions, are 19.5-point underdogs down the road against the Nittany Lions, who only lost to top-five undefeated Michigan and Ohio State. Even if they’re unable to pull off the upset, there’s still a chance of making a bowl game while finishing with a 5-7 record.

It takes 41 bowl games and 82 teams to fill those spots. Heading into Saturday, 74 teams have already qualified for the bowl, leaving eight spots open.

If there are not enough teams to fill the 82 spots, they will be determined by the Academic Progress Rate results.

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After Miami, Ohio, closed a bowl bid by beating Ball State on Tuesday, 15 teams head into Saturday just one win away from qualifying for the bowl. That list includes Appalachian State, which is 6-5 but has two wins against FCS programs and only one can be counted for bowl eligibility. Georgia Southern, also one win away from qualifying for the Bowl, hosts Appalachian State on Saturday.

Among teams one win away from qualifying for the Bowl, only five are preferred Saturday in Appalachian State, UAB, Southern Miss, Louisiana and Buffalo.

Of the 15 teams playing for bowl eligibility Saturday, Rice has the highest APR score with 994, while Auburn, Missouri and Michigan State are in second place with 983. The APR tiebreaker for bowl selection is the previous year’s score and Auburn and Missouri would be ahead of Michigan State in this scenario.

Among the four-win teams that can go 5-7 this week, two have higher APR scores than Michigan State at Iowa State (986) and UNLV (984).

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Michigan State coach Mel Tucker and players have spent the past few weeks saying they don’t need to talk further about the possibility of bowl eligibility to salvage the remnants of a disappointing season.

“I think we all know what’s at stake and the players know that too,” Tucker said Monday. “I don’t think there’s any reason to keep harping on that because it’s really about the bottom line. What we really need to focus on as a program with players and coaches is what we need to do every day to prepare for this opportunity.”

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