As you no doubt know by now, the highest-ranked conference champion from the American Athletic Conference, Conference USA, MAC, Mountain West Conference or Sun Belt Conference will receive an automatic spot in the New Years Six bowl line-up. The ranking used is not the AP or coaches polls, but the ranking cooked up by the College Football Playoff selection committee. Last season the big bowl spot went to Boise State. The Broncos are once again a favorite to land that bowl invitation, but one slip along the way could open a door for others.
Boise State travels to Provo, Utah this week for a big match-up with BYU. BYU does not figure into the Group of Five conversation as a football independent, but the Cougars play a key role in the outlook anyway. BYU, coming off a wild win at Nebraska and losing quarterback Taysom Hill, could be in positions for a letdown game, but the Broncos and Cougars have put together some tough contests in recent years. This week should be no different. Boise State could potentially lose this weekend and still end the year on top of the Group of Five in the eyes of the selection committee, but one loss is a slim margin for error in this race.
Perhaps Boise State’s top threat in the Group of Five race is Cincinnati, the preseason American Athletic Conference favorites. The BearCats, with Gunner Kiel, should be a program ready to make a run for a New Years Six bowl game on a fairly regular basis given the resources available to them and the overall strength of the conference. If Boise State slips, Cincinnati is next in line. But what if Cincinnati loses this weekend?
Cincinnati hosts Temple this week, with the Owls fresh off their first victory over Penn State since 1941. If Temple manages to pick up a win at Cincinnati — something last accomplished in 1985 — then the Owls may become a trendy team to follow in this season-long discussion. The schedule certainly works in Temple’s favor at least. If Temple escapes Cincinnati with a win, the Owls then have a chance to bring a 3-0 record into the bye week with a road game at UMass. In conference play, Temple does not play Houston or Navy, two potential contenders in the AAC West Division. Temple also gets Memphis and UCF at home. If Temple’s defensive performance against Penn State was a preview of things to come, each of those games could be possible wins. Temple also hosts Notre Dame on October 31, which could make for a nice little spotlight opportunity for the selection committee.
If I had to rank the top five Group of Five teams after one week of play, here is how I think the selection committee might rank them based on performance to date;
- Boise State
- Temple Owls
- Cincinnati Bearcats
- Louisiana Tech
And then there were two.
Seeing the Justin Fields writing on the wall, Tate Martell transferred from Ohio State in mid-January and ultimately landed at Miami. Three months later, another OSU signal-caller, Matthew Baldwin, confirmed on Twitter Thursday night that he too has decided to take his leave of the Buckeyes and place his name into the NCAA transfer database.
“[S]pring was a tough time for me personally. My family and I have prayed and talked a lot about where I belong and what is best for me,” Baldwin wrote as part of a very classy Twitter post revealing his decision. “In the end, we feel like it’d be better for me to step away from Ohio State.”
A four-star member of OSU’s 2018 recruiting class, Baldwin was rated as the No. 12 pro-style quarterback in the country coming out of high school in Austin, Texas. Baldwin didn’t play a down for the Buckeyes as he continued his rehab from an ACL injury he suffered late in his high school career at Lake Travis.
With the twin departures of Baldwin and Martell, OSU is now down to two scholarship quarterbacks — the Georgia transfer Fields (HERE) and West Virginia transfer Chris Chugunov (HERE). Fields was widely expected to be the Buckeyes’ starter under center in the 2019 opener; Baldwin’s decision ensures that, barring injury, that will indeed be the case.
A week and a half after word broke Luke Jones was intending to leave Notre Dame comes the announcement Jones is going to be playing closer to home. The Arkansas native announced with a message on Twitter he is coming home to play for the Arkansas Razorbacks.
“I would like to thank the University of Note Dame for giving me the opportunity to pursue my dream of playing college football,” Jones said in a brief message on his Twitter account. “However, I have decided to transfer and play football for the University of Arkansas. I will be enrolling in the summer and am excited for this new chapter in my life!”
Jones spent a brief moment with the Notre Dame program as he was a member of the Class of 2018 in South Bend. Prior to committing to the Fighting Irish, Jones had been committed to the Arkansas football program in his recruiting process, but Notre Dame emerged victorious in the recruiting game during a coaching change with the Razorbacks.
Jones will be required to sit out the 2019 season under standard NCAA transfer rules, although those seem to be more like guidelines these days, so we’ll wait to see if there is a chance Jones gets to jump into the mix in the offensive line for the Razorbacks this fall.
Tight end Tyler Sear is hopping on the Pennsylvania Turnpike and heading from one metropolitan corner of the state to the next. Sear announced on his Twitter account on Thursday he is transferring from Pitt to Temple.
The Class of 2017 recruit of the Panthers left the program last October for what was simply described as personal reasons. It was unknown if the leave of absence was a short-term or long-term plan as the decisions about the status were being kept close to the vest within the Pitt program.
Sear did battle some injury concerns during his time at Pitt that prevented him from potentially reaching his full potential for the Panthers. He caught two passes for nine yards last season prior to his stepping away from the team.
Perhaps a clean slate with a new program will do Sear good as he steps in to try contributing with the Owls in the AAC. Sear will have to sit out the 2019 season due to standard NCAA transfer rules, unless an exception is granted by the NCAA. It is unknown if a waiver will be filed by Sear and Temple for immediate eligibility.
Sear has not used a redshirt year yet so he could burn that in 2019 while waiting to get back on the field if he is forced to sit out the 2019 season. That ould leave Sear with two years of eligibility remaining beginning with the 2020 season.
Ass another name to the growing list of players entering the transfer portal. This time it is Michigan cornerback Myles Sims. According to a report from 247 Sports, the former four-star prospect in Michigan’s Class of 2018 is evaluating his options.
Any player who adds his name to the transfer portal is allowed to make contact with potential programs of interest, but it does not automatically mean that player is gone for god. Sims will have the option of pulling his name out of the portal in the event he decides to stay in Ann Arbor. How quickly Sims will make any decision one way or the other remains to be seen.
Sims did not see the field last season for Michigan so he can use the 2018 season as his redshirt year. That gives the former four-star recruit four years of eligibility remaining, although he will likely have to burn one year of eligibility by sitting out the upcoming 2019 season.
Standard NCAA transfer rules require a player to sit out a full season before being ruled eligible to play again, although exceptions have been made a bit more frequently over the past year. Whether or not Sims will have the chance to play right away this fall will have to wait to be determined when he decides what his plans will be moving forward.