Western Michigan got a well-deserved opportunity to shine in the national spotlight this weekend by hosting ESPN College GameDay. They lived up to the hype by going out and picking up a solid 38-0 victory at home against lowly Buffalo. Western Michigan is now 11-0 on the year with one final regular season test against Toledo coming this week. Western Michigan may be one of two undefeated teams in the country right now (Alabama being the other) but can the Broncos stay ahead of other candidates from the Mountain West Conference or the American Athletic Conference? It is beginning to feel as though it could, although the AAC has a strong case to be made for a two-loss champ to be in the running.
The Mountain West Conference may be just about out of the mix thanks to Wyoming’s thrilling victory over San Diego State Saturday night. The Cowboys held off San Diego State by defending a two-point conversion attempt on the final play following a fantastic effort on a Hail Mary on the final play of the game. Wyoming, with three losses, has now defeated San Diego State and Boise State. The Aztecs should fall farther behind the pack, while Boise State will continue to be blocked from playing for the MWC title if Wyoming wins its final game of the season, next week at New Mexico. The MWC title will likely come down to Wyoming and San Diego State, who has already clinched their division and may have to make a return trip to Wyoming for the conference championship game.
San Diego State’s loss and Boise State continuing to be blocked looks like great news for the American Athletic Conference. In a week that saw Houston take down its second top five opponent of the year on Thursday night, it turns out the sexiest two-loss Group of Five candidate was also shut out from contention. That is because Navy blew away East Carolina to clinch the AAC West Division title, thus eliminating Houston from the running. Navy will now likely get a chance to host the AAC championship game against either Temple or USF. The AAC East will be decided next week (Temple clinches with a win or a USF loss; USF clinches with a win and a Temple loss). Navy is 8-2, including a win over mighty Houston. If Navy goes on to take the AAC crown and finishes the season at 11-2, would the Midshipmen have a shot at taking over Western Michigan for the New Years Six bowl?
You better believe it, if the selection committee recognized the overall strength of the AAC is superior to the MAC this season. Plus, Navy is pretty darn good too.
We’ll let one more week go by before really seeing how the final candidates stack up, but the case for Navy will be a strong one to consider with a better strength of schedule, better wins overall and, honestly, a better brand to market. How can you go wrong with Navy? It’s time to throw the records aside and give Navy some strong consideration.
With just one final week left in the regular season in most of the Group of Five conferences, here are the top five contenders for the New Years Six bowl spot, keeping in mind a candidate must own a conference championship to qualify.
1. Navy (8-2)
It’s simple to me, really. If Navy and Western Michigan meet on a neutral field, I think the Midshipmen come away with the win. I also think it is time to recognize the AAC as the best Group of Five conference out there, which I have been saying for weeks. It is the best from top-to-bottom compared to the other conferences, and way ahead of the MAC.
2. Boise State (10-1)
Yes, the door appears to be closing, but there is still a crack that Boise State can wiggle through. Boise State needs to win their final game of the season at Air Force this week and then pull for Wyoming to lose to New Mexico. It’s not that far out of reach. If it happens, Boise State will play for the MWC championship and would host the title game on the blue turf. 12-1 Boise State will have a great chance and would likely stay ahead of any AAC champion and Western Michigan.
3. Western Michigan (11-0)
The Broncos may still have the advantage in the race to the New Years Six based on their undefeated record the committee will struggle to shy away from. If the Broncos stay ahead of the AAC candidates this week, as I suspect they might, then they should feel good about being in the NY6 driver’s seat the next two weeks. It will be their’s to lose, despite how I feel about Navy and the AAC.
4. Temple (8-3)
The Temple Owls have a very good chance to wrap up the division this week to reserve a spot to play Navy in the AAC Championship Game. All the Owls have to do is beat 3-8 East Carolina at home on Saturday night. It’s possible the division could already be clinched by then if UCF can score an upset over rival USF earlier in the day. Either way, the odds are in Temple’s favor here, but three losses sets them behind the pack a little, although it is worth mentioning all three of those losses have come against teams with winning records (Army, Penn State, Memphis) and two of those road losses were by seven points each.
5. USF (9-2)
The Bulls are on the run but a head-to-head loss to Temple puts them in a tricky spot entering the final week of the season. They are the only AAC team to hand Navy a loss this season, and would feel good about a potential rematch if things work out. USF at 11-2 would look strong against any of the G5 contenders.