USF Bulls

DALLAS, TX - OCTOBER 22:  Greg Ward Jr. #1 of the Houston Cougars is sacked by Demerick Gary #10 of the Southern Methodist Mustangs and Mason Gentry #93 of the Southern Methodist Mustangs in the first half at Gerald J. Ford Stadium on October 22, 2016 in Dallas, Texas.  (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
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Group of Five Power Ranking: So long, Houston


Ladies and gentlemen, we are gathered here today to pay our respects to the New Years Six hopes of the Houston Cougars. A year after representing the American Athletic Conference in the Peach Bowl by defeating Florida State, the 2016 Cougars have gone from playoff hopeful to New Years Six hopeful to fourth place in their own division. Houston is now out of the running for a big bowl game at the end of the season.

SMU dealt the knockout blow to their rivals Saturday night with a 38-16 victory that took many by surprise. SMU jumped al over Houston early on and never allowed the defending AAC champs to get too close. As a result, Houston falls out of contention for a New Years Six bid in all likelihood unless pure chaos unfolds.

What was bad news for Houston was extra good news for programs like Boise State and Western Michigan, but the AAC still has some valid contenders in the running as well. So does the MAC and Mountain West Conference.

The highest-ranked conference champion from the American Atletic Conference, Conference USA MAC, Mountian West Conference or Sun Belt Conference as determined by the College Football Playoff selection committee will be given an automatic spot in the New Years Six line-up. Here’s how the contenders rank according to me.

1. Boise State (7-0)

The Broncos scored a solid win against BYU on Thursday night to remain undefeated and atop the New Years Six power ranking. Boise State still probably needs to run the table to stay ahead of the curve. One loss could leave Boise State behind some other worthy contenders.

2. Navy (5-1)

Navy scored a big win against Memphis to remain the AAC’s most likely New YearsSix representative heading into the final weekend of October. The Midshipmen have a big conference game this weekend at USF, followed by a game against Notre Dame the following weekend in Jacksonville. The state of Florida could make or break Navy’s chances.

3. Western Michigan (8-0)

Keep rowing those boats! Western Michigan got a good fight from in-state rival Eastern Michigan but he Broncos managed to stay ahead on the scoreboard to keep their perfect record in play. Western Michigan has some very favorable games coming up, and it is starting to get hard to not look ahead to the regular season finale with Toledo.

4. San Diego State (6-1)

Not t be forgotten in the Mountain West Conference, San Diego State continues to win games. The Aztecs should still be a solid threat to win the MWC behind Boise State, and appear as able as Boise State to make a run in the conference. The only thing holding San Diego State back right now is a road loss at South Alabama.

5. Toledo (6-1)

It’s been a weird year for the MAC with Northern Illinois and Bowling GReen struggling, but Toledo is letting everyone know this conference has more to offer than just Western Michigan. The Rockets continue to impress and are also undefeated in MAC play.

On the Radar: Temple, Wyoming, Toledo, Memphis, Tulsa, USF

Boise State, Western Michigan rejoice as Houston stumbles again

DALLAS, TX - OCTOBER 22:  Greg Ward Jr. #1 of the Houston Cougars is sacked by Demerick Gary #10 of the Southern Methodist Mustangs and Mason Gentry #93 of the Southern Methodist Mustangs in the first half at Gerald J. Ford Stadium on October 22, 2016 in Dallas, Texas.  (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
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Houston’s rather significant loss could prove to be a sizable gain for a couple of fellow Group of Five programs.

Entering Saturday’s game against SMU ranked 13th in the country, the Cougars inexplicably fell behind 21-0 to a Mustangs team that came in at 2-4. Instead of mounting a comeback and righting what’s suddenly become a listing season, the Cougars could get no closer than 14 points (twice) the rest of the way in falling 38-16.

The loss is UH’s second in its last three games, a stumble that came after winning its first five games of the season and moving to as high as sixth in the Associated Press rankings. While Houston hasn’t seen its New Year’s Six bid completely go up in smoke, it’s seen it severely damaged.

Ready to pick up the G5 pieces are Boise State and Western Michigan.

Both of those Broncos exited Week 8 undefeated, the MAC version at 8-0 and the MWC’s 7-0. Boise, which was No. 14 following Week 7, will most certainly leapfrog Houston, while WMU, ranked 20th, should do so as well.

One other G5 team is currently ranked: No. 24 Navy, whose 4-1 record includes a win over Houston that doesn’t look quite as good as it did a couple of weeks ago.  Another of that group received more than one vote in the most recent poll, although those votes will likely evaporate Sunday as USF lost to Temple Friday night.

The first set of rankings that actually matter, the College Football Playoffs, will be released Tuesday, Nov. 1.

It’s official: Big 12 unanimously decides not to expand

FILE - In this July 18, 2016, file photo, Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby addresses attendees during Big 12 media day in Dallas. The Big 12 board of directors meets Monday, Oct. 17, 2016, in Dallas and the topic of expansion will be addressed.  Not necessarily decided, but definitely addressed. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez, File)
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It’s official.

In a “unanimous” decision, the Big 12 Board of Directors announced on Monday that the conference would not be expanding and adding any new schools to the league.

“We decided after a very thorough discussion to remain at 10 members,” Oklahoma president and board chair David Boren said. “We came to the decision that this is not the right time for expansion.”

Among the other highlights from the league’s press conference in Dallas:

  • There was no discussion of any individual schools getting into the conference
  • There was no vote on any schools or any polls of support for any university
  • The process to expand or not is no longer an agenda item being considered by the Big 12. Both Boren and Bowlsby said “never say never” however.
  • There will be no Big 12 Network at the current moment as the result of “market place forces” but it is not being ruled out completely in the future
  • Extending the conference’s grant of rights did not come up in the board’s discussions
  • The process of holding a conference title game moved forward and further details will be handled by the 10 athletic directors
  • There was no talk about the ESPN/Fox television contracts being renegotiated at this time

“I made one recommendation. We should bring this process to closure,” commissioner Bob Bowlsby added. “We shouldn’t kick the can down the road.”

The news no doubt comes as a blow to schools like Houston, BYU and Cincinnati among others who were hoping the Big 12 would expand by two or four schools and they would be able to join the Power Five as a result.

Group of Five Power Ranking: Is it time to take Western Michigan seriously?

STATESBORO, GA - SEPTEMBER 12:  Running back Jarvion Franklin of the Western Michigan Broncos #31 tries to break through the defensive line of the Georgia Southern Eagles during the first quarter on September 12, 2015 at Paulson Stadium in Statesboro, Georgia.  (Photo by Todd Bennett/GettyImages)
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Western Michigan head coach PJ Fleck has his Broncos seriously thinking about rowing their boats right into a New Years Six bowl game. It may very well be time to start figuring out how they can get there, because they are forcing the conversation after yet another blowout victory. Western Michigan isn’t just winning games: they are kicking butt and chewing bubble gum, and they’re all out of gum.

Western Michigan obliterated Akron on Saturday, 41-0. It is the fourth straight game that has seen Western Michigan put at least 40 points on the scoreboard and the sixth straight double-digit victory. Western Michigan ahs won six straight games by an average of 31 points per game since edging Northwestern in the season opener in Evanston by one.

So what is holding Western Michigan back from being discussed in the New Years Six race? A lack of a true signature win? An overall weak strength of schedule? Not a shred of past success to provide a benefit of the doubt? It may be a combination of the three, through no fault of Western Michigan’s own.

The Broncos are still likely chasing teams like Boise State (a success of crashing the big bowl party), Houston (preseason favorite) and Navy (who beat Houston and carries much more history and tradition). That is unfortunate for Western Michigan, because this is a wildly fun team to watch and they are not winning games by such wide margin by accident. Western Michigan is the team to beat in the MAC, and it’s not even close. The biggest challenge likely ahead for the Broncos will be a regular season finale against Toledo, which could decide the MAC West championship. At this point, it should be expected Western Michigan will be 11-0 by the time that game comes around, but how will the selection committee evaluate Western Michigan at that time, considering some of the other options laying around?

Reminder: One spot in the New Years Six lineup is guaranteed to the highest-ranked conference champion from the American Athletic Conference, Conference USA, MAC, Mountain West Conference or Sun Belt Conference. A team must have the conference championship in order to qualify. Army, BYU and UMass are not eligible for this consideration.

Here is how I would rank the Group of Five contenders through seven weeks of the college football season;

1. Boise State (6-0, 3-0 MWC)

The Broncos had to hold on for dear life late Saturday night against Colorado State, but managed to keep their perfect record going. Boise State’s biggest win of the night, however, may have come in Pullman, Washington. Boise State clipped Washington State earlier in the year with a 31-28 victory on the Smurf turf. At the time, the Cougars didn’t look so hot, but now Washington State is one of two unbeaten teams in Pac-12 play (along with Washington, coached by former Boise State head coach Chris Petersen). That is a win that begins to look stronger and stronger for Boise State each week. In fact, Boise State’s win over 4-2 Washington State may arguably be on par with Houston’s victory over 4-2 Oklahoma.

2. Navy (4-1, 3-0 AAC)

The Midshipmen were off this week after having a Thursday night game against East Carolina postponed to later in the season due to flooding in North Carolina. As a result, Navy gets a little extra time to prepare for a giant home game next week against Memphis (more on them in a moment). First place in the AAC West will be on the line, which gives Navy a decisive edge in the division should they send Memphis home with a loss. Navy still has to play at USF and host Tulsa in conference play, and neither game is going to be an easy win. For now, Navy is sitting on top of the AAC thanks to a big win over Houston.

3. Houston (6-1, 3-1 AAC)

Houston may still need some help just in order to qualify for the AAC Championship Game, but they remain very much in the thick of the hunt. Houston may still be the most talented team in the AAC, bu the past two weeks have shown they are not invincible. Navy took them out and Tulsa gave them a real good scare in Houston on Saturday. The good news for Houston is the rest of the conference schedule is a tad more manageable than what Navy has in front of them, although Houston must still play at Memphis and they also get Louisville at home. A loss to Louisville could hurt Houston’s New Years Six bid even if they do go on to win the AAC, but Houston still needs Navy (or Memphis?) to lose twice in order for that to be a possibility.

4. Western Michigan (7-0, 3-0 MAC)

See above. At some point I am going to have to strongly consider moving Western Michigan up in these rankings. Maybe next week?

5. USF (6-1, 3-0 AAC)

This last spot was up for grabs between a few candidates, but ultimately went to South Florida after pulling away for a decisive victory over UConn in Tampa this weekend. The Bulls have now won all three of their conference games by no fewer than 16 points, and this week Quinton Flowers and the Bulls have a chance to take firm control of the AAC East Division. USF heads to Philadelphia to play Temple. A win against the Owls (which they earned last year) would be huge with games against Navy and Memphis coming up after that. Going 2-1 in this stretch may be enough to put the Bulls on pace for the conference title game, especially if one of those wins comes against Temple.

On the Radar: Toledo, San Diego State, Memphis, Tulsa, Troy

Entering Week 7, 10 teams vying to become bowl-eligible

WINSTON SALEM, NC - OCTOBER 30:  A general view of the outside of the stadium before the game between the Louisville Cardinals and Wake Forest Demon Deacons at BB&T Field on October 30, 2015 in Winston Salem, North Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
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When the games with the late-night start times are finally put to bed early Sunday morning, we’ll officially have reached the halfway point of the 2016 regular season.  And, with that, we can also officially start looking at the postseason and the plethora of bowl games that will ensue.

Entering Week 7, there are already six teams that have reached the six-win threshold for bowl eligibility: Alabama, Clemson, Michigan, Texas A&M, Washington and turnover-free Western Michigan.  A handful of teams — 10 to be exact — have the chance to join those half-dozen teams in becoming eligible to compete in the postseason.

Below are those 10 teams, their opponent this weekend, the last season in which they played in a bowl game and their current bowl streak:

Arizona State at Colorado (4-2), 2015, five straight
Baylor vs. Kansas (1-4), 2015, six
Boise State vs. Colorado State (3-3), 2015, 14
Houston vs. Tulsa (4-1), 2015, three
Nebraska at Indiana (3-2), 2015, eight
Ohio State at Wisconsin (4-1), 2015, three
Tennessee vs. Alabama (6-0), 2015, two
USF vs UConn (3-3), 2015, one
Utah at Oregon State (2-3), 2015, two
Wake Forest at Florida State (4-2), 2011, zero