Top 10 Group of Five Teams: New Year’s Six Bowl Race Week 5
Who are the top ten teams in the race for the Group of Five’s automatic bowl bid in the New Year’s Six?
It’s the cookie thrown to the Group of Five conferences – American Athletic, Conference USA, MAC, Mountain West and Sun Belt – that includes them in the big-money, big-profile bowl games at least a little bit.
Since it’s almost impossible for a Group of Five team to get into the College Football Playoff, by rule, the top-ranked GOF champion gets an automatic bid into one of the New Year’s Six bowl games.
If it doesn’t get into the College Football Playoff, that means the Cotton, Fiesta, Orange and Peach bowls are in play, with the most likely landing spot the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl in Atlantic.
With that in mind, here are the top ten Group of Five teams right now based on resumes, and a wee bit on the eye-test.
And yes, Troy just came up with the win at LSU, however, the rest of the schedule – and the past resume, including a 24-13 loss at Boise State – will likely be too light to get into the chase when the CFP gets into the discussion.
10. SMU Mustangs (4-1)
With a high-powered offense that’s scored 44 points or more in four of the five games, the Mustangs are coming off a blowout win over UConn. The only loss was at unbeaten TCU, but all four wins were by double digits, including victories over a solid North Texas team, and an Arkansas State squad that almost beat Nebraska.
9. Navy Midshipmen (4-0)
The one really, really big win still isn’t there. However, the Florida Atlantic win is looking better, and beating Tulane and Cincinnati isn’t bad. The tests are coming for QB Zach Abey and the Midshipmen with Air Force, at Memphis and UCF up next.
8. Colorado State Rams (3-2)
Yes, having two losses might be a problem – except one of those defeats is at Alabama. The Rams put up 23 on the Crimson Tide – far more than Vandy, Florida State and Ole Miss did combined. The other loss was to Colorado.
Blowing out Oregon State and Hawaii was okay, but the meat of the Mountain West slate is coming up. Roll through it, beat San Diego State in the MW title game, and the case will be made.
7. Toledo (3-1)
The lone loss was to Miami, which won’t be a big deal as long as the Hurricanes keep on rolling. On resume, though, this might be high for now considering the best win is over Tulsa, but the Rockets get a solid Eastern Michigan team up next. NIU, at Ohio and Western Michigan are coming in November.
6. Houston Cougars (3-1)
Slightly underwhelming so far, the Cougars beat Arizona and Temple and barely lost to Texas Tech 27-24. The offensive explosion isn’t there yet, but with SMU next week and with Memphis at USF coming up, the chances will be there to rise up in the race.
5. Louisiana Tech Bulldogs (3-2)
Vastly underappreciated so far, the Bulldogs have wins at WKU and home to South Alabama. Fine, so that second one is no big deal, and there’s a blowout loss to Mississippi State, but the 17-16 loss at South Carolina is a highlight. Watch out, though – the Bulldogs should rip through the rest of the schedule and get to 10-2 before the Conference USA title game.
4. Memphis (3-1)
Getting blown away at UCF really, really hurts, but the win over USC is the resume-maker. With Navy, at Houston, and SMU still to play, the Tigers can get over the loss to the Knights with a good run. Do that, beat USF or in a rematch vs. UCF in the Conference USA title game, and they’ll be close to getting in.
3. USF Bulls (5-0)
The darlings of the AP and Coaches polls, USF has found another gear with all five wins by double-digits. Here’s the problem – Illinois is bad. So is Temple, and so is East Carolina, and so are San Jose State and Stony Brook. Houston is coming up at the end of the month, and the big one will be the regular season-ender at …
2. UCF Knights (3-0)
UCF has the resume USF only wishes it could own.
Even with all the hurricane problems and the schedule changes, UCF has been a rock, blowing away FIU to start the season, and then going 22 days without playing. And then came the 38-10 win over Maryland on the road, and last week a 40-13 blasting of Memphis.
The showdown at Navy is coming up in a few weeks, but the big one is that USF battle over Thanksgiving weekend.
1. San Diego State Aztecs (5-0)
The Aztecs have met every challenge, beating Arizona State on the road by ten points, handling a nasty Stanford team at home, and then slipping by Air Force on the road. Last week, they battled hard in a 34-28 win over the Northern Illinois team that had two weeks off after beating Nebraska.