The Gophers finished the season with five victories, one short of automatically qualifying for a bowl game after playing in a bowl the last three seasons.
The NCAA will announce bowl games on Sunday, but not enough teams have qualified to fill all the bowl game spots.
There are 40 bowl games, not counting the national championship, meaning there are 80 slots available. Only 75 teams have six or more victories this season, and only three teams are able to get to six victories this weekend.
With spots available, the Gophers still have a chance to make a bowl.
“With how many young kids we have coming back and how many young kids we redshirted in the offensive line and in secondary and all that, I think it would be a big help,” head coach Tracy Claeys said. “We are prepared for that. I visited with the kids [Sunday] night, and our kids coming back are excited about if we would get that opportunity.”
The NCAA announced Monday that any remaining bowl slots would be filled by teams with five victories that have the best Academic Progress Rate from 2013-14.
At least two teams and as many as five will be selected for bowl games through their APR.
How many are selected is dependent on whether three teams — Kansas State, Georgia State and South Alabama — reach six victories over the weekend. All play teams with better records on Saturday.
Nebraska has the best APR of the five-victory teams, so it is likely it will become bowl eligible.
Kansas State is tied for the second-best APR, so it will likely become bowl eligible regardless of whether it wins or loses on Saturday. Missouri has the same APR as Kansas
State, but the team’s athletics director Mack Rhoades released a statement on Monday that said the team would not accept a bowl bid if offered to focus on hiring a new head coach.
Minnesota is tied with San Jose State after that, and behind the two teams are Illinois and Rice.
The NCAA announced on Monday that tiebreakers for APR scores would be market driven, allowing bowl games to pick which team they want.
The Gophers could possibly be selected regardless of Saturday’s outcomes, but defeats by either Georgia State or South Alabama will move them near the top of the pecking order.
“That’d be a great opportunity for us,” redshirt junior quarterback Mitch Leidner said Saturday. “I think we’d probably be a good candidate based off the schedule we’ve had this season and how well we played against some really good teams.”
Claeys said until the Gophers find out if they’ve made a bowl game or not, the team will continue to lift weights and condition.
The NCAA allows teams to have extra practices to prepare for a bowl game if they make one.
The potential bowl game would be team’s first since Claeys announced he would not be renewing the contracts of former offensive coordinator and offensive line coach Matt Limegrover and former passing game coordinator and quarterbacks coach Jim Zebrowski on Sunday night.
Claeys said the other members of the coaching staff would be prepared to handle offensive play-calling duties if the team makes a bowl game.
“We will be fine,” Claeys said. “I feel good with the guys here on the staff.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.