Pursuing a bowl berth will create drama for Georgia for the second straight November.
After Sanders Commings, right, failed to recover this fumble Saturday and Georgia didn’t beat Florida, the Bulldogs need two wins to reach a bowl.
The Bulldogs (4-5) need to win two of their last three games to reach the six victories needed for bowl eligibility, but there’s a chance that Georgia could go even with a 5-7 record.
There are now 35 bowl games – one more than a year ago – for 70 teams, which creates the possibility that there won’t be enough teams with 6-6 records or better who become eligible to fill those slots.
"Whatever our obligations are to the SEC, we will certainly honor those obligations," Georgia athletic director Greg McGarity said Monday when asked if he would accept a bowl bid with a 5-7 record.
"The SEC has certain obligations to fill certain spots to fill all the bowls. Without question, as would any other Southeastern Conference school, if that’s part of our obligation, then absolutely we would adhere to those obligations if the conference asked us to. … We will certainly uphold our end of the deal."
There are currently 76 of 120 Football Bowl Subdivision teams with .500 or better records. One of those is 5-3 Southern California, which is ineligible for postseason play because of NCAA sanctions.
There were 71 bowl-eligible teams last year for 68 slots.
"Currently the numbers are tracking very similar to how they have in recent years," said Nick Carparelli, Jr., senior associate commissioner of the Big East Conference and chairman of the NCAA’s postseason football licensing subcommittee.
Among the teams with 4-5 records are Notre Dame and Kentucky. Cincinnati, Boston College and UCLA are all 3-5.
"The committee has done a lot of work researching alternatives should there not be enough teams that are 6-6 or better to fill the 70 bowl slots," Carparelli said. "At this point in time, we’re not prepared to announce what our plans are, but the committee does remain committed that all the games get played."
Georgia will almost certainly earn its fifth win Saturday against Idaho State (1-7) of the Football Championship Subdivision.
That would leave games at BCS No. 2 Auburn (9-0) and at home against rival Georgia Tech (5-3) to try to get win No. 6.
The Bulldogs became bowl-eligible in their 10th game last season with a win against Auburn on Nov. 14.
Georgia coach Mark Richt last month was asked about teams with losing records going to bowl games.
"All I can say is I’m assuming they’re going to have enough teams," he said. "I don’t think they’re going to cancel bowls."
FBS teams can count one win against FCS teams toward bowl eligibility, but some early season FCS upsets took away wins that would have counted toward the six wins needed.
Carparelli would not specify what options will be considered if there are not enough bowl-eligible teams, but before teams with 5-7 records are allowed to go to bowls, the NCAA may look for .500 teams with two FCS wins to count both wins or teams that are 6-7 after losing in conference title games could become eligible.
If Georgia ends up 5-7, running back Washaun Ealey said he would still want to go to a bowl game if possible.
"I’m pretty sure guys want to play games," Ealey said. "The seniors, this being their last year, we want to do it for them. I think they deserve it for all the hard work they put in over the years. I just want them to feel like they’re going out on top."
The SEC might not be able to fill all nine of its bowl slots. Six teams have already earned the necessary six victories – and Florida (5-3) is a win away from making it seven – but the remaining five teams are scrambling for bowl eligibility.
Georgia and Kentucky are both 4-5, Ole Miss is 3-5 and Tennessee and Vanderbilt are 2-6.
"With the number of bowl-eligible teams tracking similarly to how they have in the past," Carparelli said, "I think every team and every set of fans should strive to get six wins if they expect to go to a bowl game."