If the College Football Playoff selection committee had to choose a team from the Group of Five conferences to play in the New Years Six, it would have to come out of the American Athletic Conference. The American had another good weekend, although UCF took another punch to the gut.
Memphis scored the big win of the weekend for the conference, with a road victory at Bowling Green. Justin Fuente‘s Tigers continue to impress after winning a share of the conference a year ago. Memphis moved t 3-0 by outlasting the Bowling Green Falcons in an offensive showdown, 44-41. The win is notable because it comes against another Group of Five contender. Winning games against other Group of Five conferences is important in this season-long race as the committee looks to see which conferences perform the best overall. Cincinnati also picked up a win against the MAC, defeating Miami Ohio on the road. Temple managed to escape UMass with a win as well, thanks to some special teams heroics to keep their 3-0 record alive. Right now, no Group of Five conference is thriving like the American. The conference even earned some possible point sin losing efforts.
The work Chad Morris has done at SMU is commendable. The Mustangs lost to Big 12 powers Baylor and TCU by a combined score of 101-0 last season. This year may not have resulted in a win against either in-state foe, but SMU has shown much more fight in pushing each program. SMU still gave up 56 points to both the Bears and Horned Frogs, but the offense managed to score 58 points between the two games.
UConn also showed some good fight on the road against the SEC’s Missouri. The Huskies held a 6-2 lead into the second half but were unable to pull the major upset. UConn’s defense may not be a joke though, as UConn only let up nine points in the losing effort. Tulsa also took their first loss of the season after losing step with Oklahoma in the second half. You may not get credit for losing games, but seeing signs of improvement from these programs is encouraging for the American.
What is not encouraging is the fall of UCF. Two years ago UCF won the Fiesta Bowl, defeating Baylor. Now, three weeks into the season the Knights have lost at home to FIU and Furman and are staring at a possible 0-4 start with South Carolina on deck. UCF scored seven points in the first quarter, five in the second, three in the third and zero in the fourth. If it were possible to score one point in college football, UCF surely would have done that to keep the diminishing prime number trend going.
The only team right now that would have a strong case to be picked ahead of a team from the American might be Toledo out of the MAC. Toledo picked up a second straight win against a power conference opponent by edging Iowa State in overtime on Saturday. Iowa State is not exactly a powerhouse contender out of the Big-12, and now Arkansas is sitting at 1-2 before getting to SEC play. How much stock will those wins bring Toledo down the road, and will Toledo manage to win the MAC in order to qualify for the New Years Six selection? Northern Illinois and Bowling Green still look like contenders out of the MAC as well.
If the College Football Playoff committee had to rank its top five Group of Five programs right now, here is how I think they would do it.