Which Group of Five teams have the best chance of getting the automatic New Year’s Six bowl slot?
Let’s cut through the hoo-ha – SMU and Appalachian State could each go 13-0 and be dipped in caramel and still have no chance whatsoever of getting into the College Football Playoff without a ticket.
For all of the top Group of Five programs, the best chance to get recognized is the automatic bid to the New Year’s Six game.
The highest-ranked GO5 champion according to the CFP gets one of the big bowl spots, which this year will be your 2019 GoodYear Cotton Bowl Classic against the top-ranked team left standing after the other bowl tie-ins are done.
This top ten ranking is done on projections and NOT what they would be at the immediate moment.
10. UAB Blazers 6-1 (Conference USA)
Remaining Schedule: at Tennessee, at Southern Miss, UTEP, Louisiana Tech, North Texas
The defending Conference USA champs aren’t higher because they haven’t played anyone. It’s going to take another title and all the other top options to stumble, however, winning at Tennessee would boost this up.
9. Louisiana Tech Bulldogs 6-1 (Conference USA)
Remaining Schedule: at UTEP, North Texas, at Marshall, at UAB, UTSA
Like UAB, Louisiana Tech’s schedule is a wee bit lacking. Unlike UAB, there’s no date at Tennessee – for good and bad. Win out, and at 12-1 the Bulldogs will be knocking on the door. However, any other 12-1 GO5 champ gets the nod.
8. Navy Midshipmen 5-1 (American Athletic Conference)
Remaining Schedule: Tulane, at UConn, at Notre Dame, SMU, at Houston, Army
If the Midshipmen can run the table, they’re in. However, that date at Notre Dame is a killer, and having to go on the road for three games in four November dates is too much.
7. San Diego State Aztecs 6-1 (Mountain West)
Remaining Schedule: at UNLV, Nevada, Fresno State, Hawaii, BYU
Beating UCLA in LA is a decent win, but there’s not going to be much else without taking down Boise State, Utah State or Air Force in the Mountain West title game.
6. UCF Knights 5-2 (American Athletic Conference)
Remaining Schedule: at Temple, Houston, at Tulsa, at Tulane, USF
It’ll take a whole lot of help – the Knights need Cincinnati to lose twice and there can’t be any better one-loss options, but running the table to go along with a win over Stanford would be enough to get a two-loss team in if it’s this one that wins a conference title.
5. Appalachian State Mountaineers 6-0 (Sun Belt)
Remaining Schedule: at South Alabama, Georgia Southern, at South Carolina, at Georgia State, Texas State, at Troy
Can the Mountaineers beat South Carolina in Columbia? If they do, and they go 13-0 with a win over North Carolina also on the slate, they’re almost a mortal lock to be the first Sun Belt team to get the NY6 game.
4. Memphis Tigers 6-1 (American Athletic Conference)
Remaining Schedule: at Tulsa, SMU, at Houston, at USF, Cincinnati
The earlier win over Navy is the big key, and getting SMU at home helps. The lone loss to Temple doesn’t matter – it’s in the East – and the win over Ole Miss gives the program its Power Five win to hang the hat on.
3. SMU Mustangs 7-0 (American Athletic Conference)
Remaining Schedule: at Houston, at Memphis, East Carolina, at Navy, Tulane
The problem isn’t the team that’s hitting 40+ points per game now like it’s popping M&M’s, and it’s not a schedule that has wins over Temple and TCU on it. It’s the three road games in the next four, Tulane at home, and then a killer from the East to deal with in the championship IF there’s a win at Memphis first.
2. Boise State Broncos 6-1 (Mountain West)
Remaining Schedule: at San Jose State, Wyoming, New Mexico, at Utah State, at Colorado State
The committee will give the Broncos a break in the rankings for that loss to BYU – starting QB Hank Bachmeier was out. Granted, the Cougars were playing around with their quarterbacks, too, but it won’t matter. Boise State will almost certainly get the spot if it goes 12-1, unless …
1. Cincinnati Bearcats 6-1 (American Athletic Conference)
Remaining Schedule: at East Carolina, UConn, at USF, Temple, at Memphis
Even over an unbeaten Appalachian State – if that happens – Cincinnati will get the New Year’s Six game if it wins out. The loss? At Ohio State – that’s more than forgivable. The win over UCF will get the most love, there’s a win over UCLA, and if it happens, beating Temple, winning at Memphis, and taking out – likely – SMU in the American Athletic Conference title game will put the Bearcats in AT&T Stadium on December 28th.