Another week of CFP rankings by the committee, and another message to G5 teams that they have no shot. Fresno State remained at No.23 in the rankings, but more crucially, UCF remained at No.12. This is of course important because it’s the highest rated Group of 5 conference champ that will get the spot in a NY6 bowl game, either the Fiesta or Peach. As of this moment, it pretty much comes down to UCF and Fresno State. Other teams like Utah State or Cincinnati could make a run for the bowl game, but they’ll need a whole lot of help to get there, including beating on of the ranked teams already in.
One metric that the committee claims that they look at wins over teams with a .500 or better record. Fresno State has 3 of those right now, wins over Toledo, Nevada, and Hawaii, with the chance to pick up 3 more down the back stretch of the season here, since that team in San Jose can’t get their act together. They go to Boise this weekend, host SDSU the next, then will probably face either Utah State or Boise in the championship game if Fresno holds serve. That could give them at least 6 wins, with potential for another 1 if Wyoming can get to a bowl game. Just getting those 3 more wins, especially over the likes of Boise, San Diego, and potentially Utah State, should give them a great chance to move up the rankings, especially given that other ranked teams will be playing and losing.
The problem for Fresno State is that their path is clear to the NY6, but there is still a roadblock presented by the UCF Knights. Fresno does need to go undefeated the rest of the way, probably in dominating fashion as they have been playing, but they need UCF to lose at least one game. Especially since the biggest stipulation is that the highest ranked team has to be a conference champ, depending on who they lose to, and when, that could clear the path for the Bulldogs. The only risk would be if an undefeated UCF loses to an 10-1 Cincinnati, and they win the conference, the Bearcats could jump Fresno State for the spot.
Let’s take a quick look at the chances of Fresno State getting to 11-1, or 12-1 with a conference championship win. ESPN’s FPI gives the Dogs a 30.5% chance of winning out, and a 52.8% chance of winning their conference. Comparatively, they give Utah State a 22.1% of winning out, and only a 35.2% chance of winning the conference. Boise State only gets a 10% chance to do either, and SDSU’s prospects are even slimmer, only 1.3%. The Bulldogs definitely seem to have the best shot out of the Mountain West of staying clean, and getting to the promised land of the NY6. Using S&P+, we see a much closer race between Fresno State and Utah State, which makes sense as the advanced stats have liked both teams a lot more than the committee has. Fresno has a 56% of getting 11 wins, while Utah State has a 53% projection. That would pair both teams into the conference championship game, and I really have a hard time seeing USU being unranked if they get to 11-1 and the division title. This would crucially give the winner a Top 25 win, which doesn’t look like the AAC winner will have on that final weekend.
As with all things though, this is solely based on Fresno State winning out, and that starts with taking down Boise on the blue turf Friday. This would be huge, as the Bulldogs have yet to win on the Smurf, and only have one win against Boise in Boise 34 years ago. Then they come home to face a feisty SDSU team to decide the West Division. Those of us that are longterm Fresno State fans know to not get ahead of ourselves, we’ve definitely stubbed our toes before, but this team looks far more equipped to not trip than any before, except maybe the 1985 team.
Tune in Friday night on ESPN2 to see Fresno State take on those Broncos from Boise.