clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Underdogs Poll: Will conference championships change the picture at all?

Crowns will be distributed throughout our college football nation, but barring a serious upset, how much impact will those wins have on our poll?

Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

What is the Underdogs Poll? Every week, writers and editors from SB Nation's Group of Five blogs -- Bull Run, The Daily Stampede, Down the Drive, Hustle Belt, Miner Rush, Mountain West Connection, The UConn Blog, Underdog Dynasty, and Vanquish the Foe -- put their heads together to determine the best of the best, week in and week out, from the teams we cover.


Conference championship week kicks off tomorrow night with 2016's last edition of MACtion, and while our recent number one is no longer unanimous, Western Michigan's perch above the rest of the field does beg the question of how wins can shake up the rankings with little more than bowl season ahead of us after this. Is there any room left to move up or down?

1 Western Michigan (9) 98 1
2 Navy 78 4
3 South Florida 74 5
4 Boise State (1) 71 2
5 Houston 45 3
6 Temple 38 10
7 San Diego State 31 6
8 Troy 23 8
9 Toledo 20 9
10 Western Kentucky 18 12
11 Tulsa 13 13
12 BYU 12 NR
13 Appalachian State 10 15
14 Memphis 5 NR
14 Wyoming 5 7
Dropped out: Arkansas State, Louisiana Tech Others receiving votes: Arkansas State (4), Louisiana Tech (3), Colorado State (1), Old Dominion (1)

Normally, we save our games of the week for last, but since there aren't that many to go around, we might as well start there this time. WMU draws Ohio in the MAC title game (Friday, 4:00 PM PT, ESPN2) having already dispatch East division foes by an average margin of roughly 39-7. The Broncos already pitched shutouts against Buffalo and Akron, and they may be licking their chops to square off with a Bobcats offense that has struggled in the past couple weeks: After finishing -3 in turnovers against Central Michigan, Ohio scored just nine points in their division clinching win vs. Akron.

However, the Bobcats have quietly fielded the conference's best defense, with a defensive line and linebacker unit that both rank in the top 15 nationally in Havoc Rate and pace the MAC in yards per play allowed on the season. Tarell Basham racked up nine sacks and was an easy all-conference selection, but linebackers Blair Brown and Quentin Poling have combined for 8.5 sacks and 25 tackles for loss, as well, and their ability to hold up against a WMU attack that closes better than just about anyone in the country (5.55 points per trip inside the 40, 2nd in FBS) will determine the viability of an upset bid.

If the unexpected happens, though, what then? The winner of the American Athletic Conference championship (Saturday, 9:00 AM PT, ABC) could shoot to the top of the rankings. Navy has received plenty of headlines, and rightfuly so, but Temple has raised its game in the last month and should be a tough test for the Midshipmen running attack: The Owls have allowed just 3.32 yards per carry in AAC play and 2.85 YPC in three November games, while Navy has racked up 6.21 and 7.14 YPC, respectively.

Out in Bowling Green, Western Kentucky and Louisiana Tech will battle for the Conference USA title (Saturday, 9:00 AM PM, ESPN) in what should be a sneaky good battle of dynamic offenses and much improved defenses. The Bulldogs and Hilltoppers rank first and second nationally in yards per play on offense, and they also rank third and first in C-USA in the same category on defense. It could be a "first to 40" affair with quarterbacks Mike White and Ryan Higgins leading the way, as the two have combined to complete about two-thirds of their passes and throw for 65 touchdowns.

The Mountain West championship (Saturday, 4:45 PM PT, ESPN) may have more trouble changing hearts and minds after both San Diego State and Wyoming came out flat in blowout losses to end the regular season, but chances are it'll be another exciting matchup nonetheless. Cowboys running back Brian Hill got the better of SDSU's Donnel Pumphrey the first time around, and the reeling Aztecs defense will need to find answers after getting hammered by Colorado State last Saturday.

Appalachian State, meanwhile, has already claimed a share of the Sun Belt title and will wait to see if it's theirs alone while Troy hits the road to face Georgia Southern (Saturday, 9:00 AM PT, ESPN2) and Arkansas State travels to Texas State (Saturday, 4:30 PM, ESPN2). Both favorites should thrive on defense: The Red Wolves and Mountaineers lead the SBC in team sacks, while GaSo's running attack has struggled in 2016 -- two full yards per rush less than in 2015 -- and Texas State has averaged a putrid 2.26 yards per carry on offense.

Underdogs of the Week

Linnel Bonner, WR, Houston - 17 catches, 235 receiving yards, one touchdown in a 48-44 loss at Memphis

Aaron Jones, RB, UTEP - 24 carries, 304 rushing yards, four touchdowns in a 52-24 win vs. North Texas

Nick Stevens, QB, Colorado State - 10-of-15, 210 passing yards, four touchdowns in a 63-31 win at San Diego State

Will Worth, QB, Navy - 5-of-7, 104 passing yards; 15 carries, 107 rushing yards; four total touchdowns (1 pass, 3 rush) in a 75-31 win at SMU