We still have no real clue where the Group of Five contenders rank against each other in the eyes of the College Football Playoff selection committee. We do know for sure East Carolina once did enough to impress the committee enough to appear in the first ranking released by the committee just weeks ago. After losing on the road at Temple, is East Carolina cooked or is there a chance for redemption on the field? Whatever the case is, East Carolina must win Thursday night’s game against Cincinnati for the Pirates to even have an argument for consideration to receive the selection committee’s reserved spot in the New Years Six bowl line-up.
“We’re ready to fight back. Like we always say, we have to get our face back,” ECU linebacker Zeek Bigger said, per The Charlotte Observer. “This is a game that we have to play and we have to be ready to play and we will be ready to play.”
There will be one spot in the New Years Six bowl line-up reserved for the highest-ranked conference champion from the American Athletic Conference, Conference USA, MAC, Mountain West Conference or Sun Belt Conference. Right now, Marshall is the only undefeated team in the Group of Five, although it is unknown if they would be the favorite or not for the lucrative bowl spot. Boise State, Colorado State and Utah State in the Mountain West Conference could have decent arguments, and Northern Illinois is still lurking after a Tuesday night victory against Toledo. Georgia Southern is making some noise out of the Sun Belt for now, but would need a waiver approved just to play in a bowl game. Then there is the AAC.
Memphis currently sits alone in first place in the AAC, although a win Thursday night will send East Carolina or Cincinnati into a tie for first-place. Defending conference champion UCF is also in the running with one conference loss so far. The perceived problem is every team in the conference has at least two losses, so it is hard to say the conference champion out of the AAC would be a lock to finish ahead of a 13-0 Marshall with a Conference USA championship.
There could still be a big bowl awaiting East Carolina, but winning on the road at Cincinnati is hardly a given. The Pirates may be sending quarterback Shane Carden and wide receiver Justin Hardy to the Senior Bowl, but any hope of playing in the Peach Bowl will be dependant on avoiding another slip-up in conference play. The talent is on the roster, but ECU has to get back to starting strong.