Sources said conference, bowl and school officials have a potential solution even if the Cotton Bowl announcement is delayed, which would allow all but three of the 40 bowls to be announced Sunday.
The solution is based on several factors, most notably that South Alabama and Louisiana-Lafayette each win Saturday to become bowl-eligible and Clemson and Washington win the ACC and Pac-12 titles, respectively.
If all that happens, the tentative plan would be as follows:
Navy is the highest-ranked Group of 5 champion
Navy goes to the Cotton Bowl, Western Michigan plays North Texas in the Heart of Dallas Bowl, and Army plays a Big 12 team, most likely Baylor, in the Armed Forces Bowl.
Western Michigan is the highest-ranked Group of 5 champion
Western Michigan goes to the Cotton Bowl, Army plays North Texas in the Heart of Dallas Bowl, and Navy plays a Big 12 team, most likely Baylor, in the Armed Forces Bowl.
However, bowl officials stressed that those scenarios get blown up if more than three 5-7 teams are needed to fill bowls or there are major upsets in the Power 5 championship games.
"If so," a source said, "then we'll have to reshuffle the cards again."
American Athletic Conference commissioner Mike Aresco and MAC commissioner Jon Steinbrecher both declined comment about the possible bowl situations.
If Navy wins the American title game Saturday, College Football Playoff executive director Bill Hancock has said the committee could delay announcing the Group of 5 representative in the Cotton Bowl until after the Dec. 10 Army-Navy game. Hancock would not specify how close in the rankings Navy and the next-closest Group of 5 champion has to be to delay the decision.
On Tuesday, Western Michigan was ranked No. 17 and Navy was No. 19.
Delaying the Group of 5's bid to the Cotton Bowl could create a domino effect, delaying several bowl announcements involving Group of 5 teams, a situation bowl officials told ESPN could "paralyze" the system.
The College Football Playoff pairings and bowl selections are scheduled to be announced Sunday.
Bowl officials are concerned that delaying bowl bids by a week would cause huge logistic and financial hardships on teams, fans and bowl communities.
A Temple win against Navy on Saturday would eliminate the Midshipmen from Cotton Bowl contention and allow all the bowl selections to be announced Sunday, prompting one bowl official to admit "I don't want to be un-American, but nearly everyone in the bowl industry, quite frankly, is rooting against Navy."
The bowl season begins Dec. 17 with five bowls -- all involving Group of 5 teams. Teams usually arrive to those bowls on Dec. 14, so if there is a delay in announcing bowl pairings, those schools would have little more than a 72-hour turnaround between learning what bowls they are in and traveling to the sites.
In June 2015, the College Football Playoff changed its rules so that the final rankings would be delayed until after the Navy-Army game if it could impact the playoff field or the Group of 5 bid.