Group of 5 race to New Year's Six: Navy leads the way

Houston's comeback win over Memphis moved the Cougars up a bit in the College Football Playoff rankings, but they'll need to beat Navy on Nov. 27 to keep their New Year's Six bowl hopes alive. AP Photo/David J. Phillip

The race to a New Year's Six bowl bid continues to take shape for the Group of 5 conference teams. Three of them are in the latest College Football Playoff rankings. Two teams appear to control their destiny: Navy and Houston. The teams meet the day after Thanksgiving but must take care of business this weekend first. We glance at where those two stand as well as three others in the race for the coveted access bowl spot:


Record: 8-1

Rank: No. 16

What they've done: The Midshipmen are the highest-ranked Group of 5 team and control their destiny. They handled business accordingly over the weekend, routing SMU 55-14. They next travel to Tulsa on Saturday. Navy owns one win over a ranked team (No. 21 Memphis, which was 13th at the time) and its only loss is to the current No. 4 team, Notre Dame. The Midshipmen have won each game by double digits during their current four-game winning streak.

Next big obstacle: Assuming Navy beats Tulsa, everything points to the Nov. 27 showdown at Houston.


Record: 10-0

Rank: No. 19

What they've done: Houston's schedule is working against it and is why the Cougars are not the highest-ranked Group of 5 team despite being undefeated. The Cougars have played the nation's 117th-ranked schedule so far; Navy's is 88th. Houston jumped up five spots from No. 24 last week, thanks to a 35-34 win over Memphis on Saturday, the Cougars' first win over a ranked team this season. Houston plays at Connecticut on Saturday.

Next big obstacle: The Navy game a week from Friday is the big one. The winner will be in prime position heading into the American Athletic Conference championship game.


Record: 8-2

Rank: No. 21

What they've done: The chances of the Tigers getting the New Year's Six bid are slim because they can't win the AAC. Their consecutive losses to Navy and Houston eliminated them from West Division title contention. The most likely scenario would come if the Tigers won out and the AAC East Division champion defeated Houston or Navy in the AAC championship game. That said, the Tigers' résumé is still solid in the eyes of the CFP committee, evidenced by the fact they remain at 21 despite Saturday's loss to Houston. Memphis strength of schedule (70th) is better than Navy's or Houston's.

Next big obstacle: The Tigers play at AAC East Division leader Temple on Saturday.


Record: 8-2

Rank: Unranked

What they've done: The Owls fell out of the rankings after being routed by South Florida 44-23 on Saturday, severely damaging their chances. Their strength of schedule so far (94th) isn't far behind Navy's and the two teams share a common loss to Notre Dame. Their chances hinge solely on getting into the American championship game and winning it.

Next big obstacle: The Memphis game Saturday gives Temple a chance to score a win over a ranked team, something missing from its résumé.


Record: 9-1

Rank: Unranked

What they've done: The Rockets lead the Mid-American Conference West Division and rebounded well from their loss to Northern Illinois with consecutive wins over Central Michigan and Bowling Green. The strength of schedule isn't desirable (110th so far) but they do have two wins over Power 5 conference teams (Arkansas and Iowa State). Arkansas' late-season surge is helping the Rockets. If they close the season out 11-1 (which would include a MAC championship game victory) and things go haywire in the American (for instance, South Florida sneaks in and wins the conference title game), perhaps Toledo can sneak in.

Next big obstacle: The Rockets' need a win in their regular-season finale vs. Western Michigan on Nov. 27 and a Northern Illinois loss to clinch a berth in the MAC Championship game.