At best, Kansas University's bowl chances are iffy. At worst, they're on life support.
The Jayhawks' 42-17 football loss to Missouri on Saturday wrapped up a 6-6 regular season that probably won't be enough to earn an invitation to a bowl game.
KU's bowl possibilities are down to three - the Texas Bowl, the Poinsettia Bowl or the Motor City Bowl. The door is cracked just enough to have KU coach Mark Mangino making his case to reporters after Saturday's game.
"I'm hopeful," Mangino said. "I think our players deserve it. I'm hopeful that we get that opportunity."
The Texas Bowl, which picks eighth among Big 12 Conference schools, will choose this week between Oklahoma State and Kansas, the only two 6-6 teams in the league. Every Big 12 team with seven victories, by rule, is picked before the 6-6 teams can be.
The Houston-based bowl is expected to pick Oklahoma State. If that happens, it means KU's only hope is what looks to be just two at-large bids at other bowls. Those would be for the Poinsettia Bowl in San Diego, which has an at-large bid built in, and the Motor City Bowl in Detroit, which has an at-large bid because the Big Ten failed to fill all of its tie-ins.
By rule, any 7-5 team that doesn't get a conference-affiliated bowl berth must get an at-large berth before any 6-6 team can be considered. That said, a Mid-America Conference program will move to the front of the line, since Northern Illinois' victory Friday gave the league four seven-win teams to go with only three bowl tie-ins.
The other possible teams that could cut to the front are Troy and Louisiana-Lafayette, both of which are 6-5 and could be favored next Saturday in their season finales. If one of the two wins, the Sun Belt will have two seven-win teams and only one bowl tie-in.
Even if Troy and ULL both lose, a numbers crunch makes KU's chances slim at best for what looks to be one at-large bid for close to a dozen uninvited 6-6 teams.
Two Pac-10 teams - out of Washington State, Arizona and possibly UCLA - will have 6-6 records and no conference bowl invitation. Also projected to be scrambling for an at-large berth are Alabama, Pittsburgh, Kent State, Arkansas State and SMU. A 6-6 Mountain West team, probably Wyoming, will be hoping for at-large luck, as well.
Kansas shouldn't count on the Texas Bowl picking KU over OSU. Oklahoma State is geographically closer to Houston, has arguably a more appealing fan base and owns a head-to-head victory over Kansas this season.
What's cruel for KU fans is that several 6-6 teams will be playing in bowl games next month, including Iowa, Minnesota, Florida State and Miami. But the Big 12 season was ripe with parity, resulting in nine bowl-eligible teams for only eight bowl tie-ins.
Because of that, one Big 12 team - either Oklahoma State or Kansas - is going to get the magic ticket to Houston. The other one enters its name in a much more gloomy lottery.