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New Year’s 6 Bowl Game Race: Houston is preseason leader

Each week we look at the games that will have an impact on the New Year Six Bowl race.

College Football Playoff National Championship - Head Coach Press Conference Photo by Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images

Each week we look at the biggest games that will have an impact in the race for the automatic spot for a New Year’s Six Bowl Game among the Group of Five.

Making a big money bowl game is a big deal for the Group of Five teams and each week we will go over games to watch that will impact the race. In addition to this weekly article we are also hosting the Underdogs Poll each Tuesday during the season.

Obviously, it is Houston who is in the pilot seat right now as they are coming off a season where they topped Florida State in the Peach Bowl, return quarterback Greg Ward, Jr., and head coach Tom Herman.

Also, to consider from the AAC are Navy, Temple, South Florida and Cincinnati.

Even if Houston stumbles they will still be in the running as a loss to Oklahoma will not ding them all that much, but a win will put them miles ahead for the rest of the year.

Next in line will be the Mountain West with San Diego State and Boise State at the top and then Air Force could be in the mix if they are able to win the conference.

After these teams it will take others to garner a big upset or hope the AAC and Mountain West champions have two or more losses.

The MAC will have options like Northern Illinois, Toledo and Western Michigan. Looking at Conference USA there is Southern Miss who is expected to have a good year.

Over to the Sun Belt, Appalachian State has a shot to win their conference and they have two chances this year to provide a pair of huge upsets. It starts on Thursday playing at Tennessee and then they host Miami, and that is the Miami Hurricanes that are coming to Boone, North Carolina.

GAMES TO WATCH (ALL TIMES ET)

Appalachian State at Tennessee, 7:30 PM, September 1 (SEC Network)

There's been consternation in some circles about the Volunteers' high ranking, and there's no doubt they'll be tested right away by the Mountaineers, who've been known to topple heavy favorites from time to time. The defense is likely to key any upset bid, headlined by linebackers John Law and Eric Boggs, but don't sleep on junior quarterback Taylor Lamb: He led the SBC in passing touchdowns (31) and passer rating (160.71), and was second in yards per attempt.

Toledo at Arkansas State, 9:00 PM, September 2 (ESPNU)

The Rockets were America's darlings for a while until they stumbled late in the year, foiled again by Northern Illinois in the MAC West division, but replacing head coach Matt Campbell (gone to Iowa State) and quarterback Phillip Ely with Jason Candle (last year's offensive coordinator) and Logan Woodside (the starter in 2014) isn't all bad.

Meanwhile, Blake Andersen's Red Wolves surprised many with a convincing November win at Appalachian State that helped them toward the Sun Belt title. They'll be replacing Fredi Knighten at QB, but seven starters return from a defense that forced 34 turnovers last year.

Colorado State vs. Colorado (Denver), 8 PM September 2 (ESPN)

Yeah, yeah, Colorado is nothing special and Colorado State is not a favorite to win the Mountain Division, let alone get to a New Year’s Six game. However, a win over a Power Five team will help the Rams move closer to the discussion of a big money bowl game.

Oklahoma vs. Houston, 12 PM, September 3 (ABC/WatchESPN)

I mean, this is the obvious number one choice, isn't it? The Sooners are a top-five team nationally, while the Cougars are easily the highest ranked Underdog.

Western Michigan at Northwestern 12 PM, September 3 (ESPNU)

The Broncos are pegged to be in the MAC championship game and beating up on a Big Ten team will do similar things to what Colorado State’s win over Colorado could mean. The only exception is that Western Michigan is ahead of the Rams in this discussion.

Boise State at Louisiana-Monroe, 12 PM, September 3 (ASN/WatchESPN/Altitude)

The Broncos should win this game as they are a big-time favorite but it is one of the few FBS vs. FBS matchups. Boise State is without starting safety Dylan Sumner-Gardner but that should not come into play in this game.