A year after helping Ohio State win a national championship, Houston head coach Tom Herman will once again be coaching in one of the College Football Playoff’s New Years Six bowls. The first-year head coach coached No. 19 Houston (12-1, 7-1 AAC) to its first American Athletic Conference championship on Saturday with a home 24-13 victory in the conference championship game against No. 22 Temple (10-3, 7-1 AAC), essentially clinching the spot in the New Years Six reserved for the highest-ranked conference champion from the Group of Five.
Houston took advantage of an early Temple turnover on the game’s opening possession to pick up an early touchdown, and the up-tempo offensive style of the Cougars combined with the athletic skill at key positions proved to take a toll against Temple. Houston had speed combined with an efficient quarterback and steady hands from receivers all working in its favor. That had been the story of the season for Houston, who might have been undefeated if not for seeing starting quarterback Greg Ward Jr. miss playing time in a road game at UConn a couple of weeks ago.
Ward led all players with 148 rushing yards and two touchdowns in the win. Houston was actually out-gained by Temple (385-345), which made Temple’s two turnovers in the first quarter even more important. Houston converted Temple’s game-opening fumble into a quick touchdown, and Temple’s late rally in the fourth quarter was doomed by a fumbled snap on a fourth down play.
Now it just remains to be seen which bowl game Houston will be attending. The Peach Bowl in Atlanta appears to be a possible destination, but a possible matchup against Ohio State in another bowl game would make for a fascinating storyline. That, of course, assumes Ohio State is not picked to play in the Rose Bowl. The Buckeyes could be a possible pick of the game ahead of the Big Ten championship game loser.
Temple will get a chance to end their season with a win. After being bowl-eligible last season but not selected, the 10-win Owls will miss out on a big bowl game but still represent the AAC in one of the conference’s top bowl destinations. That likely results in a trip to Florida with the St. Petersburg Bowl and Miami Beach Bowl possible destinations. The Boca Raton Bowl could also be in play.