The College Football Playoff’s second rankings were released on Tuesday, and just two Group of Five teams were included.
At No. 18 are the UCF Knights, while the Memphis Tigers sit at 22nd. UCF is one of the lone remaining unbeaten teams in the country, and also hold a win over Memphis already. The Tigers are 8-1, but own a win over UCLA, plus victories over Houston and Navy. For UCF, the head-to-head win provides the advantage right now. But a loss (to Memphis or another opponent) would eliminate them on strength of schedule alone. This isn’t fair, but we’re looking at how the committee typically does things.
The Knights currently have a 58 percent chance to go 11-0, according to Bill Connelly’s S&P+ projections, and doing so (plus winning the American Athletic Conference) would earn them the Group of Five’s access bowl bid with ease.
However, there’s still a 42 percent chance they fail to make to the end of the regular season unblemished. And that’s where we need a lineup of teams that could potentially take that spot.
Below, you’ll find a list of the season’s top Group of Five teams, with some Vegas-style odds on whether or not they’ll be access bowl-bound or not this postseason.
1. UCF Knights (8-0); Odds: +700
UCF’s torn through opponents at an alarming rate this season, and that has set them up well to go unbeaten the rest of the way. The lone problem on their resume is created by the game against Georgia Tech cancelled by Hurricane Irma. A win (or even a close loss) there would’ve provided a strength of schedule boost. Without it, it’s likely win-out or bust in the eyes of the committee, barring other losses in this group.
2. Memphis Tigers (8-1); Odds: +1200
Memphis stands a good chance (54 percent) to get past both SMU and East Carolina to close the season, but then they probably need to beat UCF the second time around in the conference championship. Given the 40-13 loss the first time around, that’s far from likely — though also not impossible. If the Tigers win out, they’re the pick — something only the top three teams (all AAC squad, coincidentally) can say.
3. USF Bulls (8-1); Odds: +2000
The Bulls led this group for an extended period to start the year, and then they fell by four to Houston. That set them back, though it doesn’t eliminate them at all. They’ll face UCF at the end of the year, and a win (as long as they beat Tulsa the week prior) hands them a division title and a high-quality victory. Against a 10-1 Memphis team in a hypothetical AAC title game, that’s yet another chance to pick up the type of quality win currently missing on the resume.
4. Boise State Broncos (7-2); Odds: +2500
Boise has quality games against foes like San Diego State, Washington State, Virginia and Troy, but they’re just 2-2 in those contests. If they win out, they could also end up hurting their case by beating (a potential MWC West champ) Fresno State twice. Ideally, SDSU finds a way into the title game at 10-2, which would afford Boise a big favor in terms of strength of schedule.
5. Troy Trojans (7-2); Odds: +2800
Troy has something no one else has here: a road win over a ranked Power Five team (LSU). If the Tigers can stick around the top 25, that only helps the Trojans’ case assuming a Sun Belt championship. The win over LSU would be enough to surpass Boise State (has a head-to-head win over Troy) if both teams win out. They’ll need losses from the AAC trio, though.
6. San Diego State Aztecs (8-2); Odds: +3500
It appeared that San Diego State was out of the race after two straight blowout losses to San Diego State and Fresno State, respectively. But the Aztecs’ win over Stanford is still one of the best victories of any team in this group. The main hurdle is the tiebreaker loss to Fresno State right now. If the Bulldogs (4-1 in the Mountain West) win two more games, that eliminates SDSU (currently 4-2 in the MWC).
7. Ohio Bobcats (8-2); Odds: +4000
The Bobcats won going away against Toledo on Wednesday, putting itself in the MAC driver’s seat and beating a very good team in the process. Despite dealing the Rockets a defeat, the strength of schedule gets a bump there. Plus, they own a win over Kansas (not strong, but a Power Five win (which the committee will factor in) and a loss to Purdue. Ohio stands a very good chance to get to 10-2 with the only games remaining against Akron and Buffalo. If Toledo wins out, that provides a chance to collect a second quality win in the MAC title game.
8. Toledo Rockets (8-2); Odds: +5000
Toledo was pasted by Ohio, which throws their odds for a considerable loop. Now, their resume hinges on a big loss to Miami and a 10-point win over Northern Illinois. That’s it. Even a win over Ohio to take the MAC championship would do very little to boost the strength of schedule. The Rockets now need chaos to occur in front of them to have any chance to make an access bowl.