Welcome to Road to the NY6! Each week, I’ll be taking a look at UCF’s chances to snag the Group of Five’s automatic slot in a New Year’s Six bowl. After an unexpected bye week due to Hurricane Florence, let’s see how UCF stacks up against the rest of the Group of Five.
Group of Five Power Rankings
Disclaimer: These power rankings aren’t my personal opinion of which team is the best. They’re simply a ranking of which team currently has the best chance to make a New Year’s Six bowl, based on the opinions of the national media and upcoming games.
Last Week: bye week
This Week: vs FAU
Well it took a couple weeks, but the Knights have finally established themselves as the team to beat in the Group of Five. While UCF had the weekend off after the team’s game against UNC was canceled, Boise State fell to Oklahoma State on the road, leaving the Knights as the sole ranked Group of Five team.
But fans shouldn’t start booking their tickets to a New Year’s Six bowl just yet. UCF still has plenty of potentially tough matchups left on the schedule, including one on Friday night. FAU, coming off an 11-win season, poses an interesting challenge to UCF. The Owls have looked good in their last two games, scoring over 30 points in both outings. But their season opener was a disaster, where they were torn apart by Oklahoma on the road. From the opening snap, the Owls looked outmatched and went on to allow 66 points while only scoring two touchdowns of their own.
Many UCF fans believe that their team is one of the best in the nation and can hang with any of the national powerhouses. The Knights have a chance to earn that reputation this weekend. Friday’s game is largely being billed as a matchup between two top Group of Five teams. But if UCF can dismantle their opponent in the same manner that Oklahoma did, it can continue to distance itself from the rest of the mid majors.
- Boise State
Last Week: 44-21 loss to Oklahoma State
This Week: At Wyoming
It was a very frustrating week for Boise State. After finally jumping the Knights in the AP Poll, the Broncos had the chance to earn a legitimate resume-boosting win against the Cowboys. A victory could have put them in the driver’s seat for the rest of the season.
Instead, they were easily dispatched by Oklahoma State, and it’s not looking like they have another shot at a big win on their schedule. Of course, Boise State is far from being out of the race. In 2014, the Broncos made it to the Fiesta Bowl despite losing two games and remaining unranked as late as three weeks before Selection Day. But last weekend was unquestionably a major step back that could haunt Boise State for the rest of the year.
Last Week: 25-19 win at Illinois
This Week: Vs East Carolina
Here’s a scary question for UCF fans: Where exactly does USF lose a game on its schedule? The Bulls are done with Power Five opponents for the year, have only perpetually-awful UMass remaining on their non-conference slate, and play an AAC schedule outside of UCF that had a combined 2017 record of 31-54.
There’s a very real possibility that the War on I-4 could end up deciding who gets to a New Year’s Six Bowl this year. Outside of a potentially tough road game against Houston next month, there’s really nothing standing between the Bulls and an undefeated season except UCF.
- North Texas
Last Week: 44-17 win at Arkansas
This Week: At Liberty
I don’t think North Texas was really on anyone’s radar at the start of the season, but the Mean Green have established themselves as one of Conference USA’s top teams a quarter of the way through the season. They haven’t played a tough opponent yet, but a victory against lowly Arkansas is still an SEC win and has to count for something.
North Texas’s offense has also been rolling from the start of the season. The Mean Green are averaging 49.3 points per game this season, and junior quarterback Mason Fine has already passed for 8 touchdowns against just one interception.
Depending on how FAU looks once conference play starts, North Texas may be the team to beat in Conference USA.
Last Week: 63-7 win vs Alabama A&M
This Week: Vs Ohio
It’s still very early in the season, but it’s looking more and more like Cincinnati is one of the American’s top teams this year. The Bearcats are 3-0 and have won all of their games by multiple possessions. In the last season where Cincinnati started 3-0, the team went on to win a conference championship and finish with 10 wins.
Maybe a New Year’s Six Bowl is a bit out of reach for the Bearcats, but making it back to a bowl game for the first time since 2015 and maybe even challenging for a conference championship is certainly a possibility.