Houston may have been upset on the road by UConn on Saturday, but the Cougars remain in a solid position to reach the goal of any Group of Five program. The only thing Houston realistically lost Saturday was an undefeated season. Houston will get a chance to redeem themselves and play for a conference championship if it can score a win against a rising Navy this week. Better yet, the winner of the Houston-Navy game will get to host the first American Athletic Conference championship game, and the AAC is still in the bets possible position to send its champion to the New Years Six bowl line-up regardless if it is Navy, Houston or Temple.
South Florida remains in the AAC mix going into the final week of the season. If USF beats UCF and Temple loses to UConn, the Bulls will play for the AAC title against either Houston or Navy. If you are a Toledo fan, then you are buying a ticket to ride Coach T’s bus in Tampa. USF winning the AAC swings the door wide open for a MAC champion to fill the vacancy in the New Years Six reserved for the highest-ranked Group of Five conference champion. The odds are probably stacked against the MAC champion, be it Toledo, Northern Illinois or Bowling Green, but USF could throw a wrench in the plans for the AAC.
With the final week of the regular season coming up for the majority of the Group of Five conferences, here is a rundown of the division scenarios at play in each. The final week of the season will see five division champions determined, with three being settled on the field between division contenders. Home field advantage is also up for grabs in a handful of contests.
AMERICAN ATHLETIC CONFERENCE DIVISON BREAKDOWN
- Temple wins with a win vs. UConn OR USF loss to UCF.
- USF wins with win vs. UCF AND Temple loss to UConn.
- Winner of Houston vs. Navy wins division
AAC CHAMPIONSHIP GAME HOMEFIELD ADVANTAGE
- Navy hosts Temple/USF with win vs. Houston (best conference record)
- Houston hosts Temple/USF with win vs. Navy (best overall regular-season record vs. Temple; best conference record vs. USF)
- AAC East winner cannot host conference championship game according to AAC procedures.
MAC DIVISION BREAKDOWN
- Bowling Green has clinched the MAC East division and will play in the MAC Championship Game
- Northern Illinois wins with win vs. Ohio OR Toledo loss to Western Michigan
- Toledo wins with win vs. Western Michigan AND Northern Illinois loss to Ohio
CONFERENCE USA BREAKDOWN
- Western Kentucky vs. Marshall winner wins division
- Louisiana Tech vs. Southern Miss winner wins division
CONFERENCE USA CHAMPIONSHIP GAME HOMEFIELD ADVANTAGE
- Western Kentucky hosts with win vs. Marshall
- Marshall hosts Southern Miss (head-to-head tiebreaker)
- Louisiana Tech would host Marshall if it can get a higher computer ranking or has a higher CFB Playoff ranking
MOUNTAIN WEST CONFERENCE BREAKDOWN
- Air Force clinched the division when New Mexico lost to Colorado State
- San Diego State clinched the West Division
MOUNTAIN WEST CONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIP GAME HOMEFIELD ADVANTAGE
Homefield advantage in the Mountain West Conference will be determined at the conclusion of the regular season. The highest-ranked division champion will receive the homefield advantage for the championship game.
SUN BELT CONFERENCE BREAKDOWN
- Arkansas State wins with win vs. New Mexico State or Texas State.
- Appalachian State wins with wins vs. UL-Lafayette and South Alabama AND Arkansas State losses to New Mexico State and Texas State
- Georgia Southern wins with wins vs. South Alabama and Georgia State AND Appalachian State losses to UL-Lafayette or South Alabama AND Arkansas State losses to New Mexico State and Texas State
GROUP OF FIVE TOP FIVE (FINAL FOUR?)
If the College Football Playoff selection committee had to rank the top teams in the Group of Five, here is how I think the remaining contenders would be ranked (Memphis and Boise State, for example, are out of contendion).
- Navy: Clearly the team to beat as Keenan Reynolds makes Heisman case.
- Houston: Sure, they lost, but are still a top candidate for the big prize
- Temple: Owls scored big win against Memphis to put them one step closer to AAC championship game
- Toledo: Rockets need some help from Ohio, but if they sneak by Northern Illinois, they remain in the hunt
- N/A: The New Year Six spot will only go to one of the above four teams mentioned, so there is no longer a need to rank a fifth team in this spot. Sorry USF, Bowling Green, Northern Illinois and Conference USA. It’s nothing personal.