So do you listen to the As For Football College Football Podcast? If you did, you would already know that Army has a realistic shot at a New Year’s Six Bowl this year. Yes, you heard me correctly, New Year’s Six and Army. If you didn’t know, the highest ranked Group of Five Champion earns an automatic berth in a New Year’s Six Game. This includes Independents (excluding Notre Dame) and is the highest water mark achieved for any Group of Five team. Now before I get into the specifics of what exactly needs to happen, let’s go over which conferences are in contention.
Conferences in Contention:
There are realistically only two Group of Five Conferences that are competing for the New Year’s bid: the American and Mountain West. With Buffalo’s embarrassing loss last night the MAC is out. Even though they will likely beat Bowling Green and claim their spot in the title game against Northern Illinois, a two loss MAC Champion with no Power Five Opponents will not be ranked. The Sun Belt is out for the same reason, their most likely Champion (Troy) will have two losses at best. Conference USA’s only hope is UAB, but the Blazers have to beat Texas A&M this week or they will sit at 9-2. I don’t think Jimbo is going to let this restarted second year program beat him. A 9-2 Conference USA Champion that got blown out by Texas A&M and took a 4-5 Southern Miss team to overtime the week before will not be considered by the committee.
With that being said the teams in contention for the AAC are UCF, Cincinnati, and Houston. Both the Knights and the Bearcats are already ranked. The two will meet in Florida this Saturday at of ESPN’s featured College Gameday Campus. The winner will claim the East (Cincinnati would own the three way tiebreaker between UCF and Temple) and likely face Houston from the West. Obviously, if UCF wins out they will be the Group of Five representative. If Cincinnati won out they would also likely get the nod. If Houston won, the Cougars would need chaos in the Mountain West and Army to drop a game.
When the @CollegeGameDay ? arrives on a campus, there's usually no guests on board…
— UCF Football (@UCF_Football) November 16, 2018
In the Mountain West the candidates are Utah State, Boise State, and Fresno State. San Diego State has an outside shot if they beat Fresno State next week. They would own the tiebreak with the head to head victory and represent the West in the Championship, but their problem is that they already have three loses…Utah and Boise play this week and the winner will represent the Mountain Division in the Championship.
Losses that Need to Happen:
- UCF to Cincinnati
- Cincinnati in AAC Championship
- Mountain Division to West Division in Mountain West Championship
Now if the first two losses don’t happen, there is still a path, but it is far less likely. If UCF wins, then we definitely need them to lose in the championship. The issue here is that if Houston defeated UCF (who at that point may be ranked in the Top 10), they would have a legitimate case to be ranked higher than the both the Mountain West Champion and Army. Beating Cincinnati would do far less for their resume. Another scenario that would do the trick for Army is if the winner of UCF vs. Cincinnati tripped up in their last regular season game. UCF plays 7-3 USF while Cincinnati plays 2-7 ECU.
As for the third loss…we basically need that to happen. Utah State and Boise State are scheduled meet next week in the regular season finale. This week both teams play cellar dweller conference opponents. Technically, we could still get by with Utah State or Boise State winning the Conference, but the winner would need to lose this week and that is just not very likely.
Other Things that Would Help:
- Army Blows out Colgate – We don’t want to leave the committee thinking “hmmm, they seemingly struggled with two FCS teams late, maybe we should rank that three loss team with a top 25 win higher.”
- San Diego State is the Mountain West Champion – Although Fresno State probably has the best shot at beating the Utah State or Boise, it would be much easier for Army to rank ahead of a three loss San Diego State team.
- UAB Loses to Texas A&M – If they win out and some of the chaos listed above happens, they could go ahead of the Black Knights. This wasn’t listed in the need to happen section since it is extremely likely to happen. The Blazers also have a ridiculously easy schedule.
- Army Defeats Navy without Doubt – If the things do in fact get crazy, then the Playoff Committee would enact the Army vs. Navy policy and delay Bowl pairings. The rule states that “If the committee believes the result of the Army-Navy game could affect Army’s or Navy’s ranking and therefore its place in the playoff or its selection as the group of five representative, only the pairings that affect Army or Navy would be delayed until after the Army-Navy game. In such case, the committee would convene by teleconference as soon as practicable after conclusion of the game, and would announce its revised rankings that Saturday night.” They understand it’s a rivalry game, but the more convincing the win, the better our odds.
The takeaway from all this is that the Army Team has a legitimate opportunity to make a New Year’s Six Bowl. There are dozens of scenarios that could bring this dream to fruition. Although it may not have seemed like it, I did not even come close to listing all the one-off instances that could place Army as the top ranked Group of Five team if the 3 main losses stated above do not occur. Those losses however create the clearest path towards the top required to earn the bid. It was only in 2016 that Navy and Western Michigan were fighting for top spot until the Midshipman fell to Temple in the AAC Championship.
Beat Colgate. Rest.