The five Group of Five teams in the race for the New Year’s Six bowl slot.
It’s the bone thrown to the Group of Five conferences – the American Athletic, Conference USA, MAC, Mountain West and Sun Belt.
The College Football Playoff world isn’t going to put a GO5er into the final four unless something insane happens – sorry, the schedules just are never going to be strong enough – but there’s one high-profile bowl slot every year carved out for the CFP top-ranked Group of Five champion to get a shot at one of the big-name schools.
Of course, it would be better if the playoff was expanded to include a Group of Five champ in it, but for now, that’s not happening. Getting to a New Year’s Six bowl is still a nice goal, though.
In the four years of the College Football Playoff, the Group of Five champ is 3-1, with UCF most famously beating Auburn last year, Boise State beating Arizona in the first year, Houston rocking Florida State three seasons ago, and with the only loss a Wisconsin win over PJ Fleck’s unbeaten Western Michigan squad.
Again, it’s the top-ranked Group of Five champ in the final College Football Playoff rankings. So these are the five teams that 1) should be in the mix for a conference title and 2) have the potential to be ranked higher than the other Group of Five champions.
With that in mind, here are the teams that just missed the cut here …
Boise State. The Broncos could absolutely win a New Year’s Six game, but they play Fresno State this week, Utah State in a few weeks, and already have two losses.
Houston. The loss at SMU this week gives the Cougars a second loss. Even if it wins out, it’ll almost certainly not be the top-ranked Group of Five champion.
San Diego State. Just like Boise State, it’s good enough to make a lot of noise, but it has two losses and won’t be ranked high enough even if it does take the Mountain West title.
South Florida. With two straight losses to Houston and Tulane, that all but ends any New Year’s Six dream, even if it wins out and takes the American Athletic title.
Utah State. The Aggies are dominant, but QB Jordan Love is banged up, and there isn’t a win over a good team. They’re good enough to beat Boise State at Boise State and take the Mountain, but they’d still have to get by Fresno State or San Diego State in the title game.
The Sun Belt East stars. Appalachian State, Troy and Georgia Southern all have two losses. Anyone who emerges from the East will likely win the conference, but it won’t be ranked high enough.
5. UAB Blazers (8-1)
It still can’t be blown off.
UAB wasn’t playing college football two years ago.
After an amazing comeback season, the Blazers have been even better, ripping through everything in their path over the last six weeks by allowing seven points or fewer in five of their last six games.
The ugly 47-24 loss at Coastal Carolina stings, but that doesn’t matter if the Blazers can come up with a shocker.
They’ve been rolling through the weak and the sad, but they do have a win over Tulane and a solid victory over North Texas. It all comes down to November 17th.
At Texas A&M.
This defense is just good enough on the right day to at least make it a fight. The Aggies will be coming off a date against Ole Miss, and it has LSU to finish things up, so UAB has to rise up in the sandwich game moment.
Win that, and the Blazers will have something on the resume that none of the other options for the New Year’s Six game can boast.
UAB would still have to get the win at Middle Tennessee, and come up with the Conference USA title, but the committee would swoon if it can pull this off.