While UCF may get the majority of the national spotlight when discussing the American Athletic Conference, the Houston Cougars (6-1, 3-0 AAC) made certain the path to the AAC Championship Game out of the West Division will continue to go through them. A 49-36 victory on the road at Navy moved AAC to being the only undefeated team in conference play in the West Division.
Houston quarterback D’Eriq King passed for 413 yards and three touchdowns without an interception, and he led the Cougars in the running game with 56 rushing yards and a touchdown in the road win against the Midshipmen. Navy rushed for 344 yards as a team, typical for their offense against most opponents, but Houston was able to avoid being worn down on defense.
The loss sinks Navy to 2-5 this season and the chance to go to a seventh straight bowl game is beginning to fade. Ken Niumatalolo has only had one losing season in his time at Navy, going 5-7 in 2011, but it is beginning to look as though he will have his second losing season this fall. Navy will play Notre Dame in San Diego next week, and that is followed by road games in conference play against Cincinnati and UCF.
Of course, Navy also ends the season in the Army-Navy Game in Philadelphia against an Army program well on their way to a winning season and a bowl berth regardless of what happens in the rivalry game.
Meanwhile, Houston is hoping to be able to play their way into the New Years Six conversation, one this program should be capable of doing on a regular basis. At 6-1, Houston is every bit as worthy of being in the New Years Six discussion among Group of Five programs. Even if Houston loses a second game, it may not be impossible to pull off given the rest of the Group of Five landscape either. Houston will host South Florida next week, and the Cougars will also host Temple and Tulane and visit SMU and Memphis in the second half of the season.