20 for 2020 key offseason topics: No. 10 The top Group of Five teams that should be in the New Year’s Six bowl chase.
Okay, so we whiffed in last year’s preseason 5 Teams In the New Year’s Six bowl chase piece – didn’t get Memphis, and didn’t have Appalachian State on the list – but that’s a good thing. It’s more fun when it’s not an automatic call.
Houston, Boise State, Western Michigan, UCF twice, and then Memphis. Those are your Group of Five champions who got the automatic bids to the available New Year’s Six game in the College Football Playoff era.
It’s not the CFP, but it’s still a high honor.
All five teams represented themselves well, with the Group of Fivers going 3-3 since the bowl slot was created.
This year, the highest-ranked conference champion from the American Athletic, Conference USA, MAC, Mountain West and Sun Belt will automatically get one spot in either the College Football Playoff, GoodYear Cotton Bowl, Fiesta Bowl or Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl.
To be the team that gets the job done, unless things go totally wacky, 1) it has to go unbeaten or finish with one loss, 2) it will need at least one signature win, and 3) as part of the requirement, it has to win its Group of Five championship.
Which six teams this season have the best shot at getting into the spotlight game?
6. San Diego State Aztecs
Brady Hoke is inheriting a nice team to play around with.
The Aztecs might not have the defense of the last several seasons, but the offense should be stronger, Georgia Tech’s Lucas Johnson is transferring in to battle for the quarterback job, and the offensive front should be among the best in the Mountain West.
Last year’s team had a few whiffs along the way when the offense didn’t work, but all three losses came by six points or fewer.
Going to Toledo won’t be easy, and a run of four road games in six will be tough, but the one Power Five game is at home against UCLA, and there’s no Boise State to deal with in the regular season.
The road games at Nevada, Utah State, Wyoming, BYU and Fresno State might be too much to go unbeaten, but the team should be in the hunt throughout the year.