Two weeks ago I talked about how seemingly sure locks for BCS bids stumbled on the path in recent seasons, counseling caution lest we get too excited about any team’s chances of claiming the first-ever guaranteed bid into one of the six premier bowl games for a mid-major program. No longer do teams have to meet arcane requirements and clear certain arbitrary thresholds; now all they have to do is win their conference and rate more highly than the other four league champions in the estimation of a dozen selectors.
This weekend proved that adage, as a pair of AAC teams decided to ruin the former Big East’s chances of claiming that golden ticket this season. As East Carolina and defending conference champ UCF — last year’s Fiesta Bowl champion, no less — were being roughed up and handed defeats by Temple and Connecticut respectively, the rebranded league’s stock plummeted. Like Houston and Northern Illinois of the past few years, the Pirates and Knights came tantalizingly close to the Promised Land of FBS football. And like the Cougars and Huskies, the two AAC front-runners fell back to the pack with a thud.
Hope isn’t completely gone for the American… after all, somebody has to win the conference this season, and a championship is a prerequisite for mid-major teams to be considered by the panel. At this point, each of the other four leagues are led by two-loss teams. Only one undefeated team and a single one-loss team are left among the mid-majors. Marshall can’t afford a single defeat in Conference UCSA, and Colorado State sits behind Boise State in the MWC Mountain after their head-to-head defeat. The MAC has tumbled into disarray, and the Sun Belt is led by a team that is currently bowl-ineligible as it transitions from the FCS ranks.
Losses certainly don’t help a team’s case, however. The committee was willing to put East Carolina ahead of the Herd in their first attempt at a Top 25 list despite the former’s defeat at South Carolina. Marshall is likely to be lofted into top billing this second go-around, however; a one-loss gap can be forgiven, but two games in the standings are hard to rectify when that constitutes one-sixth of the entire sample size. But there is plenty of time left in the season, and the current front-runner is not guaranteed to run the rest of its schedule. Stranger things have certainly happened.
So how do all these Group of Five contenders rate in this week’s CFP Mid-Major Power Rankings? Click ahead to read more about where the top teams rank in the race for the Access Bowl bid that will be handed out in December…