There are 10 spots left.

That’s how many bowl slots have been clinched with a week remaining in the college football regular season. What that means, is that should there not be enough six-win teams left to fill them up, the five-win teams will be watching the scoreboards on Saturday.

For Illinois, a win over Northwestern would bring their season record to 5-7, and give a glimmer of hope. To start, five-win Ball State needs to lose to Buffalo tonight.

That’s a start, but what else needs to happen?

Put on your thinking cap, because here it goes.

Should there be any spots unfilled by six-win teams, ranking of the remaining teams is done by the NCAA in order of Academic Progress Rate (APR) — a team-based academic metric. First the Illini need to beat the Wildcats and reach the five-win mark. This would put them sixth in the APR five-win rankings. Texas, with four wins, could pass them should they beat Kansas State on Friday.

Four spots this weekend could be clinched by five-win teams playing each other among the 16 five-win teams that could clinch. Those games are with Florida State-Florida, Maryland-Rutgers, Charlotte-Old Dominion and Florida Atlantic-Middle Tennessee. Illinois will be pulling for Rutgers, Florida and Middle Tennessee in each of those games. If they all win, Illinois rises in the five-win APR order.

Putting it as simply as possible, the Illini need to win, and hope for as many five-win teams to lose as possible. It’s a long shot, but it could happen.