The college football world may not have given Conference USA a tremendous amount of respect this season, but the conference handled itself very well in postseason bowl play this year.
On Friday, Conference USA put the finishing touches on a 4-1 bowl season, its third 4-1 postseason record over the last four football seasons. This year’s bowl record included a win against the Big Ten, two against the MAC and a two-game split with the Mountain West Conference. Louisiana Tech pulled away from Illinois, but the big wins of the bowl season for Conference USA were conference champion Marshall topping MAC champion Northern Illinois and Western Kentucky hanging on against Central Michigan.
In the new era of college football and the increased emphasis on conference strength, Conference USA performing well against the other Group of Five conferences will help change the way the conference strength is evaluated. Marshall was passed over by Boise State, champions of the Mountain West Conference, for the New Years Six bowl spot. The Herd were overlooked largely due to the overall body of work this season, which is why Conference USA stepping up to the plate in postseason play can be significant.
The American Athletic Conference (1-1 this bowl season) still has three bowl games to play. The MAC (1-3) still has one more bowl games, but the conference is locked into a losing bowl record for a third consecutive season (3-13 bowl record since 2011 season). The Mountain West Conference (2-4) is also locked to a losing bowl record but will have a chance to score the biggest win of any Group of Five conference with Boise State facing Arizona in the Fiesta Bowl. The Sun Belt Conference split its two bowl games this season and has one more to play.
The only loss handed to Conference USA this year came at the expense of UTEP. The Miners had no offense in the New Mexico Bowl against Utah State, representing the Mountain West Conference.