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Race for New Year’s Six bowl game: One conference loss can knock a team out

Conference play gets going for most of the Group of Five, and some will be an elimination game.

Notre Dame v Air Force Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images

There are starting to be fewer and fewer chances for teams in the Group of Five to make a splash, and more so this week. As a reminder, a team must win their conference to be able to be eligible for the automatic spot for a big money bowl game.

This week there are some important league matchups this week.

Memphis at Temple, 8 PM, October 6 (ESPN) - The Tigers suffered their first loss of the year this past week when they fell to Ole Miss, 48-28, in what was their worst offensive output of the year. Temple has a pair of loses so far and it started Week 1 when they fell to Army and their other loss was only a seven-point defeat against Penn State.

Temple is holding on tightly with any chance of earning a big bowl game and will need to finish 11-2 and hope if the MAC or Mountain West champ also have a pair of losses. For the Owls to keep in the race they need better quarterback play out of Phillip Walker who is completing only 56 percent of his passes and has six touchdowns to seven interceptions. Their run game is solid with Ryquell Armstead and Jahad Thomas who have combined for 513 yards and 12 rushing touchdowns.

Memphis’ defense has been solid and gave up 24 points total prior to that blowout loss to Ole Miss, so the players are there. Temple is not as good as Ole Miss but they are better than Bowling Green and Kansas. Stop the run game and force a few interceptions to win the turnover margin and Memphis wins at home.

#19 Boise State at New Mexico, 9:00 PM, October 7 (CBS Sports Network) - Preparing for the triple option on a short week is enough for many fanbases to break into a cold sweat at night, but few teams have had more trouble with an underdog opponent than Boise State's troubles with the Lobos.

Bob Davie's squad has given the Broncos fits in the last few years, and they have averaged roughly 6.5 yards per carry in their run-heavy offense to date in 2016. Leading rusher Teriyon Gipson returned last week against San Jose State and ripped off 156 yards on just 11 carries, and he's just one of three or four Lobos RBs who can punish a lack of defensive discipline. Boise State QB Brett Rypien will need to avoid the turnovers that sunk him in this matchup a year ago, but don't be surprised if the offense leans heavily on Jeremy McNichols (504 rushing yards, 7 TDs) to keep the Lobos' potent offense off the field.

Toledo at Eastern Michigan, 3:00 PM, October 8 (ESPN3) - Raise your hand if you had the Eastern Michigan Eagles getting off to a 4-1 start this season. Now put your hands down, because you're all lying.

The most moribund football program in the nation has already equaled its second-best win total of the last decade -- EMU hadn't reached four wins since 2011, when they won six, and have won four games just six times since 1996 -- and they've shown some surprisingly resiliency in close wins against Wyoming and Bowling Green in the last two weeks. However, the Rockets are a motivated opponent who want to re-emphasize their contender status in the MAC.

One thing to keep an eye in whether EMU quarterback Todd Porter can avoid mistakes against a Toledo secondary that hasn't forced any interceptions to date: The junior has thrown nine, tied for the most in the MAC. It'll also be interesting to see whether Porter can avoid the slow starts and late mistakes that have plagued him in the season to date: His QB rating in the first and fourth quarters is just 88.79.

#6 Houston vs. Navy, 3:00 PM, October 8 (CBS Sports Network) - One of last year's biggest and most entertaining Group of 5 games may not have quite the same stakes this time around, but the Midshipmen might still be the biggest obstacle between the Cougars and an undefeated run through the AAC's West division.

Air Force was able to force Navy to throw in their Commander-in-Chief tilt, but look for the Middies to try and re-establish their strength against a run defense that, quite frankly, has been otherwordly in 2016: UH has allowed just 1.6 yards per carry, the best figure in the FBS, and they rank sixth and second in Bill Connelly's Power Success Rate and Stuff Rate, respectively. The offense gets the headlines, and rightfully so, but the Houston linebackers --Steven Taylor, Tyus Bowser and Matthew Adams -- have combined for 15 tackles for loss.

Air Force vs. Wyoming, 3:30 PM, October (ROOT SPORTS) - Air Force is an under-the-radar undefeated team that is getting next to no talk about them getting into a New Year’s Six game. They take on a Wyoming team that actually beat the Falcons the last time the two played in Laramie back in 2014.

Air Force has a very good defense and one of their best in about five years, and they will be challenge this week going against one of the best backs in the country in Brian Hill who has the ability to break off a big run and a big game as he is known for rushing for over 200 yards in a single game. Cowboys quarterback Josh Allen has shown signs of being a pretty good signal caller — as long he is not frustrated and forces throws like he did against Nebraska — who is mobile and has thrown for 1,031 yards and averaging 8.e yards per attempt. His accuracy needs work which is not even at 60 percent.

Air Force will use its heavy does of running game but also look for Nate Romine to go over the top to find Jalen Robinette down field who is averaging 25.91 yards per catch.