As the college football season is dwindling down, the hunt for bowl games is on. While many of the Power 5 schools are setting their spot in the bowl games they will play in, the Group of 5 schools are still competing for the coveted spot to play in a New Year’s Six Bowl. Here are some of the top contenders to represent the Group of 5 in a New Year’s Six Bowl.
Houston Cougars (AAC)
The Houston Cougars have the best chance of all the Group of 5 teams to make a New Year’s Six Bowl. Houston is currently 10-0 on the year, but there schedule has not been impressive. They did beat #21 Memphis this past week, but their next best win is against Louisville, who is currently 6-4. The Cougars did lose their starting quarterback, Greg Ward Jr., to injury against Memphis but backup quarterback Kyle Postma helped lead them to a comeback victory. Houston does have to face #20 Navy and play in the conference championship game, potentially, so it is not a cakewalk to a New Year’s Six Bowl. However, Houston could stay undefeated and find themselves in the discussion to crack into the College Football Playoffs.
Navy Midshipmen (AAC)
Navy is an interesting candidate to make a New Year’s Six Bowl. They are 8-1 this year, with their sole loss coming to Notre Dame. Navy did beat #13 Memphis two weeks ago to throw themselves in the discussion for being the highest ranked Group of 5 team. Navy does have to play Houston, on the road, before the season is done, which is their toughest challenge of the year. With quarterback Keenan Reynolds leading the way on offense, nothing is impossible. Reynolds, who is electric with his feet as well as his arm, leads a complex triple option system at Navy that leaves opposing defenses confused. As for defense, the Midshipmen had improved greatly on that side of the ball which has made them the deadliest of the teams mentioned. If Navy can take down Houston, then seeing the Midshipmen in a New Year’s Six Bowl should come as no surprise.
Toledo Rockets (MAC)
Toledo has not received a lot of love from the college football community. They did upset #18 Arkansas at the beginning of the year and have only lost once since then, against Northern Illinois. Toledo, however, could not afford a loss while playing in the MAC. The Rockets still have to play Bowling Green, a game which they are projected to lose (according to ESPN’s FPI), which would hurt their chances to play in a New Year’s Six Bowl. Toledo will need to air the ball out like they have been to continue their success. Quarterback Phillip Ely has thrown for over 2100 yards so far on the year, along with 18 touchdowns. Ely has been able to get the ball to all of his receivers, with three receivers totaling over 400 yards on the season. With a little bit of luck, Toledo could bring some “MACtion” to a New Year’s Six Bowl.
Memphis Tigers (AAC)
Just two weeks ago, it seemed as it Memphis was preparing to find themselves in the discussion for a spot in the College Football Playoffs. Memphis had knocked off #13 Ole Miss in stunning fashion and were ranked 13th in the nation with an 8-0 record. However, two consecutive losses, coming against Navy and #24 Houston, have derailed their hopes for not only a spot in the College Football Playoffs, but also their quest for a New Year’s Six Bowl. Quarterback Paxton Lynch had the Tigers riding high but the two tough losses have set them back. However, they still can find their way back into the conversation. The have to travel to Temple this week, which will be another tough game for them. If Memphis can take down Temple and SMU the following week, along with Houston losing out and Navy losing to Army or Tulsa, then they can find themselves in the American Athletic Conference Championship Game and back in the conversation to represent the Group of 5.
Temple Owls (AAC)
The Temple Owls were off to their best start in school history. They were 7-0 before losing a tough game against Notre Dame that had national media attention. Many still valued Temple as it was “a good loss” but after recently losing to USF, they saw their chance at a New Year’s Six Bowl slip farther out of their fingertips. However, they still have a chance at redemption. Temple plays Memphis this week and UConn the following week. If they win out, which they are projected to, they would play in the conference championship game against either Houston or Navy. A win against either would help their resume. The best case scenario would be for Houston to beat UConn, then Navy lose to Tulsa, and wrapped up with Navy beating Houston. This would set the Owls with a deflated Cougars team that is easier to beat than the Midshipmen. The dream is not dead for Temple, but it is currently on life support.
Western Kentucky Hilltoppers (C-USA)
This is some well deserved love for the Conference USA. Western Kentucky might be 8-2 on the year, but their two losses were against #5 LSU and Indiana, a game on the road where Western Kentucky almost upset them. The Hilltoppers cannot afford another loss if they want a shot to represent the Group of 5 in a major bowl game. They still have to go up against FIU and Marshall, another team that could represent the Conference USA in a major bowl game. Winning out would not help Western Kentucky unless sheer madness were to arise in the American Athletic Conference. The Hilltoppers have the hardest road to a New Year’s Six Bowl but it is not an impossible situation.