Several different outcomes can ensure a bowl bid for the Owls. All of them start with beating Charlotte on Saturday.
“All we’ve talked about is getting that sixth win,” Diaz said.
A victory over the 49ers would make the Owls bowl eligible, but that might not be enough to ensure a bowl bid – something that’s eluded Diaz, who spent four years at Tulane before transferring to FAU as a grad student for this season, his entire career.
Like FAU, Tulane is one victory away from bowl eligibility.
“I’ve been following them, too,” Diaz said. “I hope they get that win, too.”
Except a Tulane victory could be detrimental to FAU’s bowl chances because one of the scenarios for the Owls involves the AAC, of which Tulane is a member, not having enough bowl eligible teams, thereby creating an opening for an extra C-USA team.
“Oh, then I hope they don’t get it,” Diaz said with a laugh after that scenario was pointed out. “I’ve got to think about that one.”
Former Florida guard Antonio Riles isn’t nearly as conflicted. If his former team goes into Doak Campbell Stadium and defeats Florida State, as the Gators are favored to do, that will aid FAU’s chances of receiving a bowl bid by potentially rendering the ACC short of enough teams to fulfill its bowl ties.
“I already know they’re going to do that,” Riles said of the Gators. “I’m excited about that. They’re going to the Doak. I know they want it. I’m confident in those guys.”
The issue once again facing the NCAA this year is the possibility of having more bowl eligible teams – teams with a .500 record and at least six wins – than there are spots in the 39 bowls.
Conference USA currently has seven bowl tie-ins. If both FAU and Southern Miss, which plays UTEP (1-10) win this weekend, then the conference will have more bowl eligible teams than it has slots. As the only two conference teams with six wins, either FAU or Southern Miss will be left home if the C-USA doesn’t find another open bowl slot.
C-USA does have a couple of secondary tie-ins, filling spots if the AAC or ACC can’t field enough bowl eligible teams – hence the rooting interest for Florida and against Tulane.
On Sunday FAU coach Lane Kiffin said he’s been assured that if FAU gets to six wins the Owls will go bowling.
Players, however, understand it might not be that simple.
“We know that it’s not guaranteed but (bowl eligibility) will be big, period, just to have it,” running back Kerrith Whyte said. “We just give ourselves a chance. That’s all we can do is give ourselves a chance.”
And to have that chance, there is no ambiguity about the first step in the process.
“We’ve got to win to be able to clinch a spot to go to a bowl game,” tight end Harrison Bryant said. “That’s the only team goal we have left is to go to a bowl game.”