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Race to New Year Six bowl game: Key American games this week

There is a key Mountain West, AAC and MAC contest this week.

NCAA Football: Memphis at Navy Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Week 9 of college football is here for the week starting Thursday night and there are a handful of key games in every group of five conference outside of the Sun Belt when it comes to the automatic bid for a big money game.

There are maybe eight or so teams in the running for what seems like to be the Cotton Bowl, and here are the games to pay attention to, or root against depending on your team.

Top Underdogs Games of Week 7 (all times PT)

Ohio vs. Toledo, 4:30 PM, October 27 (CBS Sports Network) - The Rockets have done nearly everything expected of them coming into 2016, but Frank Solich's Bobcats are, once again, quietly competing for another MAC East division title. Ohio's taken care of business against mediocre to bad conference foes, but Jason Candle's high-power offense will be difficult to slow down.

The road to a victory may come to down creating opportunities on defense, as they have all season, and hoping to catch a break or two: They've forced 20 fumbles in seven games, tied for second in the FBS, but recovered just eight of them. Toledo's receivers will want to look out for free safety Javon Hagan, who's broken out as a redshirt freshman with four forced fumbles and two interceptions.

No. 22 Navy vs. South Florida, 4:00 PM, October 28 (ESPN2) - The Midshipmen seized control of the AAC West by stunning Houston, held off a challenge from division foe Memphis and now head to Tampa to face a motivated Bulls team that badly needs a conference win. No pressure.

If nothing else, this is an intriguing duel of running quarterbacks who are up against stout run defenses: Both Navy and USF have allowed under four yards per carry in AAC action thus far, while Will Worth has shouldered the load with 473 yards on 104 carries (the latter figure being the most in conference play) and Quinton Flowers averages nearly 7.5 yards per run. Flowers, in particular, has more total runs of 10-plus yards in the American than anyone but Tulsa's D'Angelo Brewer, so containing him will be key.

No. 13 Boise State vs. Wyoming, 5:00 PM, October 29 (CBS Sports Network) - This game is a big showdown in the Mountain West as both teams are undefeated in league play and the winner will have a leg up for the division race.

Boise State has had ease against Wyoming and has an all-time record of 10-0 and by an average score of 38.6 to 12.3. The line for this game is 13.5 points in favor of the road Broncos.

However, this Wyoming team is better than it has been over the past few years, maybe even decade. The Cowboys have a running back in Brian Hill that can rival the Broncos Jeremy McNichols and this will be a big matchup, but only if Hill can have a good game. He has been held in check the past two games against Boise State with just 65 and 76 yards plus two touchdowns. If the Cowboys are going to pull the upset they need Hill to rush for his average which is 144 yards per game this year.

The Wyoming defense will also need to try to slow down this passing attack led by Brett Rypien slinging the ball to the likes of Thomas Sperbeck, Cedric Wilson and others. The Cowboys do have a solid secondary led by Andrew Wingard and Marcus Epps but they will need to force Rypien into one of his poor outings.

On the other side, Wyoming QB Josh Allen needs to keep making plays but not try to force anything because when he does that bad things can happen; just go back and look at the fourth quarter of the Nebraska game.

Tulsa vs. Memphis 5:00 PM October 29 (ESPNEWS) - This is an elimination game in the American Athletic Conference’s West division as each team has one loss in league play and the winner can attempt to keep pace with Navy. Tulsa already has the leg up because they have not yet played Navy, but Memphis’ blemish against the Midshipman.

The Golden Hurrican have a ton of offense led by a balanced attack of QB Dane Evans and a myriad of running backs. Evans has not been great but he has done some good things this year with 13 touchdowns but his eight interceptions is an issue. He varies game-to-game in completion percentage with a high 70 percent against Fresno State but then a low of 46 percent against Ohio State which is forgivable. Overall, he is under 60 percent on the year.

Memphis’ only loses have come against rank teams and their other loss besides Navy was vs. Ole Miss. The Tigers also can score points so this game could easily be in the upper 30s, if not higher. Riley Ferguson leads the way for the Tigers and is a top 30 quarterback in many categories and his best attribute is his accuracy where he completes 65 percent of his passes.

If Tulsa can force Memphis to run that is their key to victory. The Tigers are 88th in yards per game but their top three rushers average over six yards per carry but their leader had only 468 yards. Do not look for a lot of running from Memphis and they probably will keep throwing if they are in a rut but that should not be too much of an issues as Tulsa’s defense will give up yards.