Group of Five Update: Boise State pushes way back into the mix

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Welcome Boise State back into the Group of Five conversation. The Broncos picked up their second win of the season against a power conference opponent, even if it was against Virginia. The Broncos went on the road without their starting quarterback and they absolutely hammered Virginia. It was just the kind of win Boise State needed to remind people the Broncos still belong in the New Years Six discussions among Group of Five conference contenders.

The highest-ranked Group of Five champion as determined by the College Football Playoff selection committee’s rankings will receive a seat at the adult table in the New Years Six bowl line-up. Boise State grabbed that spot last season, but the Broncos are already playing catch-up in this year’s race due to a loss to BYU and the overall strength of the Mountain West Conference coming into question based on the on-field results this fall. If Boise State’s offense is going to tick the way it did against Virginia the rest of the way, then watch out for the Broncos. They have the brand image helping them out as well compared to other contenders.

Toledo still has some weight of its own with a road win at Arkansas to brag about, along with a win against Iowa State. Those wins are starting to drop in value though, especially the Arkansas game after the Razorbacks just dropped their third straight game. Maybe Toledo ruined Arkansas’ season. But the Rockets still must get out of the MAC to maintain their standing, and that means getting by Bowling Green and Northern Illinois at some point. The Huskies have fallen in the race with two losses but are still looking to be a solid threat in conference play. Bowling Green also has a pair of power conference victories and should be a tough team to beat in the MAC.

The American Athletic Conference saw all of its top teams remain undefeated this week. Memphis continued to show off its offensive skill in a wild win over Cincinnati, dropping the preseason AAC favorites to 0-2 in conference play and all but seemingly eliminated them from New Years Six consideration. Navy scored a road win at UConn and Houston blew away Texas State. Temple was off this week. The AAC also scored a win over the ACC with East Carolina edging Virginia Tech, but the conference also saw UCF drop to 0-4 at South Carolina and SMU upset at home against James Madison.

Here’s how I think the College Football Playoff selection committee might rank the top Group of Five teams at this point in the season.

  1. Toledo (3-0; two wins vs. Power 5 conferences)
  2. Memphis (4-0; looking like the team to beat in the American)
  3. Temple (3-0; Beat Penn State and Cincinnati, hoping to be undefeated when they face Notre Dame on Halloween)
  4. Boise State (3-1; Two wins vs. Power 5 conferences, but MWC holding them back)
  5. Navy (3-0; Mids are rolling with Keenan Reynolds and sound defense, big home game with Air Force this week before going to Notre Dame)

Teams on the radar: Houston, Bowling Green, Air Force

Houston’s biggest win of the season is still the week 2 upset at Louisville. If the Cougars get out of Tulsa with a win to fo 4-0, Houston could be lining up an undefeated regular season. The biggest games will come much later in the season with both Memphis and Navy at home.

Bowling Green has won two games against Big Ten opponents and they have the t-shirts to prove it. But those wins came against Purdue and Maryland. The Falcons have lost twice though, which means they could be chasing a couple of teams and need some help outside of the MAC.

Air Force is 2-1 and has a big game at Navy this weekend. The Falcons suffered a loss at Michigan State in week 3, their only opportunity against a power conference opponent. The strength of the Mountain West holds Air Force back for now, but a 10-2 Air Force team with a Mountain West championship would be a very intriguing Group of Five candidate for the selection committee to consider.

Looking Ahead Game of the Week

Navy (3-0, 2-0 AAC) vs. Air Force (2-1, 1-0 MWC); October 3, 3:30 p.m. ET

Not only is the first part of the Commander-in-Chief series underway between these two service academies, but positioning in the Group of Five race will be on the line. A win for Navy would move the Midshipmen to 4-0 and knock the Mountain West down another rung while boosting the American’s standing. With the margin for error already reduced for Air Force with one loss and a struggling MWC, a win may be critical for Air Force to keep much hope of playing in a New Years Six bowl alive.