For some college football programs, receiving a call from a bowl committee is a bigger deal than for others.
Where schools like Oklahoma and Ohio State expect a golden envelope containing a bowl bid to magically show up in their mailboxes, the folks at places like Central Michigan are still in the practice of standing down at the end road on the edge of campus, waiting for the mailman.
As is this case in life, all things are relative in college football. So where an invitation to the Royal Purple Bowl in Las Vegas is one team’s ticket to tribulation, it’s another school’s cause for jubilation.
Here’s a look at five teams that are just one little win away from pay dirt. Each has suffered from at least a three-year postseason drought, meaning that they haven’t played in a bowl game since 2010 or earlier.
Last Bowl Appearance: 2005 Motor City Bowl
Last Bowl Win: Never
Akron’s game at Kent State next Friday night, Nov. 28, is all that stands between it and its first postseason game since losing to Memphis in the 2005 Motor City Bowl.
Despite the bowl loss, the Zips went 7-6 that year, capturing a MAC title by edging Northern Illinois 31-30 in the conference championship game.
This season, Akron managed a 21-10 win at Pitt in Week 5, its first victory over a power-five team since 2006 when it won 20-17 at N.C. State.
Last Bowl Appearance: 2010 Compass Bowl
Last Bowl Win: 2008 Liberty Bowl
Kentucky’s got its work cut out for it to break its three-season bowl drought: The Wildcats must travel to Louisville the Saturday after Thanksgiving and beat their in-state rivals for the first time since 2010.
If the No. 24 Cardinals are still ranked, it will also mean winning its first game over a ranked opponent since upsetting No. 10 South Carolina back in 2010.
Kentucky’s last bowl appearance, the 2010 Compass, ended with a 27-10 loss to Pitt. Its most recent triumph was a 25-19 victory over East Carolina in the 2008 Liberty Bowl.
The Wildcats last win over a power-five team in the postseason came just one year earlier, in 2007, when they whacked Florida State 35-28 in the Music City Bowl.
Last Bowl Appearance: 2010 Music City Bowl
Last Bowl Win: 2007 Outback Bowl
Another SEC squad on the verge of a postseason bid, Tennessee has got two shots to make its first bowl game since 2010: Beat No. 20 Missouri at home this Saturday, or win at Vanderbilt next week.
The Volunteers last went bowling in 2010, losing 30-27 in double overtime to North Carolina. Their last taste of victory came in 2007, when the then No. 16 Vols edged No. 18 Wisconsin 21-17 in the Outback Bowl.
Though Tennessee ought to be able to handle 3-7 Vandy in the finale, it has lost its last seven straight to ranked opponents, last beating No. 11 South Carolina 23-21 in 2013. This makes a win over Mizzou seem like less than a foregone conclusion.
Texas State (5-5)
Last Bowl Appearance: Never
Last Bowl Win: Never
Texas State (formerly Southwest Texas State) moved up from the FCS in 2012, posting a 4-8 record in its first season and a 6-6 mark last year. Despite hitting .500 in 2013, the Bobcats didn’t go bowling.
This year, Texas State has games with 6-4 Arkansas State (Thursday, Nov. 20) and 1-9 Georgia State (Saturday, Nov. 29) remaining. Securing even one win would make a postseason destination like the Camellia Bowl in Montgomery, Ala. realistic.
This would be a huge win for a program that was playing in the FCS Southland conference just a few seasons ago and progressed to being seven-points shy of knocking off Illinois on the road this year.
Note: Texas State beat Arkansas State 45-27 Thursday night and is now 6-5 and bowl eligible.
Last Bowl Appearance: 2004 Hawaii Bowl
Last Bowl Win: Never
Though the other four programs on this list are fighting for bowl-eligibility, UAB is also fighting to keep its football program.
Though a bowl appearance might not save the Blazers, it certainly wouldn’t hurt.
UAB’s got two whacks left at what would amount to only its second bowl game in program history: First, it’s got undefeated Marshall at home this Saturday and next week it’s a visit to Hattiesburg to face three-win Southern Miss.
The Blazers’ only previous postseason action came a decade ago, when they raced to a 7-4 regular-season finish and then lost 59-40 to Hawaii in the Hawaii Bowl. Impressively, UAB counted wins over Baylor (56-14), Cincinnati (30-27), Mississippi State (27-13), TCU (41-25) and Houston (20-7) that season.