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Stats Corner: Getting Invited to the Big Bowl

Analyzing the chances of Group of Five teams to earn Cotton Bowl Bid

Hawai’i v Boise State Photo by Loren Orr/Getty Images

As teams reach the half way mark of the season, the eyes of all the “Mid-Majors” is on the Group of 5 bowl bid. The highest ranked Non-Power 5 team will get a spot at the table. The last couple years the Group of 5 bid has gone to University of Central Florida. This year Central Florida is out so there will be a new selection, with the current favorite being Boise State. The week for Stats Corner, we are going to do something a little different and going to look at the teams in order of most likely to earn the coveted spot, assuming the said team wins out, you lose and all bets are off.

Boise State (odds on favorite)

With a current AP ranking of 14, the Broncos have the inside track for the bid. The biggest obstacle is they could go the whole season without playing a ranked team. Strength of schedule will be something the committee will consider. The win against Florida State is still a good win, but loses value each week. Hawaii can still be considered a good win by the end of the season. But will a win against BYU be worth anything, since the Cougars can’t seem to figure out if they are a good team at beats USC and Tennessee, or a team that loses to Toledo and South Florida. And San Jose State, Wyoming, New Mexico and Colorado State aren’t going to be considered great wins either.

To earn the bid: First and foremost the Broncos need to take care of their business. Next, they need to cheer for Utah State and San Diego State. If Utah State can win big until November 23rd they should at least be getting votes and possibly ranked for the match-up against Boise State. San Diego State is getting votes in both the AP and Coaches Poll, if they continue to win, they should be ranked for a conference final game against Boise State. Two ranked teams in their last 3 games should be enough for the undefeated Broncos to get in.

SMU (better than average chances)

If the Broncos have an issue with a weak schedule, the Mustangs have a crisis. They may be undefeated, but their wins include Arkansas State, North Texas, Texas State, and South Florida. Not exactly a gauntlet. They do have games against 5-1 Temple, 5-1 Memphis, 4-1 Navy, and 5-1 Tulane. So the back end of the schedule is much tougher and will provide a boost should they emerge unscathed. While it probably shouldn’t matter, Boise State has more name recognition and a longer history of winning big games which will factor in the human element. There is also a conference championship game against either Cincinnati or Temple which will also boost the Mustang’s resume.

To earn the bid: SMU has to win everything and hope Boise State loses. They also need to play a ranked opponent in the conference championship. I don’t think they pass an undefeated Boise State team, especially since they are currently ranked 5 spots lower at 19.

Cincinnati (coin flip)

If you are going to have a loss of you resume, losing at Ohio State isn’t a bad loss. Losing 42-0 does hurt, a little. Unfortunately, for the Bearcats, their week one victory over UCLA isn’t the defining victory they had hoped for. They did beat UCF, but they were a couple weeks late on ending the winning streak as UCF already had one loss on the season, which would have garnered more attention. The next few games at 2-4 Tulsa, 3-3 ECU, 1-5 Connecticut, and 3-3 South Florida. Not a resume building sequence.

To earn the bid: The game against Temple will most likely decide who is going to conference champion. Best case for the AAC, would to have 1 lose Cincinnati play 1 lose Temple and the winner play an undefeated SMU for the conference title. If Boise State has a bad loss, an AAC team might sneak past them.

Tulane (Schedule is a lot tougher from now one)

The Green Wave do have a loss, but losing 24-6 at Auburn is not a bad loss. As is the current theme, they can’t claim any great wins (I’m sensing a theme here). That could change with 5-1 Memphis, 4-1 Navy, 5-1 Temple, 4-2 UCF, and then 6-0 SMU for the next few weeks. If Tulane can emerge spotless, and then beat Cincinnati or Temple in the conference title game, they would have to be considered for a spot.

To earn the bid: Run the table, hope Boise State loses, and the ranked AAC teams win a bunch to increase the conference profile.

Temple (Need some help)

The win over Maryland is nice, losing the next week to Buffalo is not. Close wins over ECU and Memphis are most likely going to spell problems down the road.

To earn the bid: Win at SMU, at Cincinnati, then win the conference title against a ranked team. That would give them wins against all the AAC teams ranked above them, and hope that Boise’s loss is worse than losing to Buffalo 38-22.

Appalachian State (The odds are not in your favor)

The team who shocked the world by winning in the Big House, could play spoiler again this season. They did beat North Carolina, who was a two point conversion away from beating Clemson, but that is it (once again no great wins). There are only two other schools in the Sun Belt Conference with winning records Louisiana Lafayette, who App State has already beaten, and Georgia State who is hosting the Mountaineers on November 16th. Everyone else on in conference, and the Mountaineer’s schedule, is .500 or below.

To earn the bid: Win out, and hope Boise loses before the conference title game, doesn’t make the title game, and AAC teams beat up on each other with ranked teams losing to non-ranked teams.

Utah State (You’re saying there’s a chance)

The Aggies have a shot. The loss against Wake Forest, while frustrating, doesn’t look as bad now that Wake Forest is 5-1 and has been ranked. Losing to LSU is sort of expected, but 42-6 is agonizing. The only teams left on their schedule without a winning record are BYU and New Mexico. The Aggies have the chance to pick up so solid wins and a statement game against Boise State on Nov 23rd. A 8-2 Utah State team would probably be ranked and two ranked teams meeting would be good for the conference and another two ranked team in the title game would be another win.

To earn the bid: Beat everyone big, as in 2018 style, play a ranked team in conference title game and win, have App State lose, and watch AAC teams lose to each other and unranked opponents.

San Diego State (Play your cards right and hope for the best)

I’m giving Utah State the slight edge over the Aztecs, due to the head to head victory and Utah State still has a chance to beat a ranked team in Boise State. San Diego State should win out as the only team left with a winning record is Hawaii. Nevada, Fresno State, and BYU are all at home. At 11-1 that should get them ranked. Their obvious choice would be beat Boise State in the title game, although beating a ranked Utah State team would diminish their previous loss.

To earn the bid: If the Aztecs can go 12-1 with the only lose to a 9-3 Utah State team, and victories over UCLA and Boise State, their chances are pretty good, especially if the AAC beat each other and App State stumbles.

Prediction: I think this is the year for the Mountain West. I think Appalachian State loses one game and then the American Athletic Conference teams lose to each other, including two ranked teams losing to unranked teams, and knock themselves out of contention. The most likely choice is Boise State, but if Utah State or San Diego State runs the table I think either one would take the bid from the Broncos. But one loss by any team mentioned above they are out of the running.