With only three weeks remaining in the regular season of college football, a three-team race has emerged in the “Group of 5” between three very impressive teams. Which team will have the most likely shot to make it to a Big Six bowl game on New Year’s day? Will it be the undefeated Thundering Herd of Marshall? The Broncos of Boise State? Or the surprise Colorado State Rams?
Thundering Herd undefeated, unloved – Another week, another dominating performance by the Marshall Thundering Herd. The 10-0 Herd rolled over the Rice Owls 41-14 with dominating performances by star QB Rakeem Cato (297 yards, 4 TDs) and RB Devon Johnson (199 yards and a score) while clinching the East division of Conference USA, but still saw themselves unranked in the College Football Playoff ranking. What more can the Thundering Herd do to impress the committee and make a Big Six bowl game? For starters, they cannot overlook their game at UAB this Saturday, as the Blazers sit at 5-5 this season and could be primed for a huge upset against the Herd. Following that game, the Herd will host Western Kentucky the Friday after Thanksgiving in what should be a high scoring affair that could also the Thundering Herd be upset. Should the high powered offense (2nd in the natioin at 47.1 PPG) and outstanding defense (allowing just 16.3 PPG) lead the Herd to victories in their last two games, they will be undefeated going into the Conference USA Championship where they will have a date with the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs or Rice Owls. A matchup with the Bulldogs would be a very entertaining matchup that would be Marshall’s biggest test on the year, and could be the deciding factor on if they will be the representative from the Group of 5 to make a Big Six bowl game. Only time will tell how far the Thundering Herd can be held back as one of the two only undefeated teams in the nation.
Battle brewing in the Mountain West – The Mountain Division of the Mountain West will certainly be a very entertaining battle down the stretch as to who will come out on top of the division, but only two teams have legitimate chances at making a Big Six bowl game. Those two teams are the Colorado State Rams (9-1; 5-1 in MW play) and the Boise State Broncos
(8-2; 5-1 in MW play). Though the Rams have been playing “lights out” as of late, winning their last eight games in a row, they have a glaring problem with their resume, and that is that they have lost to the Boise State Broncos in week two. The Rams however own wins over Colorado, Boston College, Nevada and Utah State and have been so impressive in the last ten weeks that it would be tough for the playoff committee to continue to keep them out of their Top 25 and if a slip up occurs by Marshall or Boise, may have no choice but to put them in the Big Six bowl game. On the other hand, the Boise State Broncos boast an impressive resume with wins over Colorado State, Lafayette, Nevada and BYU, but have losses to Ole Miss and a glaring loss at Air Force that has probably kept them out of the Top 25. Many experts currently predict the Broncos to make the Big Six bowl game and win the Mountain West championship, but a showdown with Utah State and a championship game with either Nevada or San Diego State potentially may keep the Broncos from winning the remainder of their games. The Mountain Division is definitely wide open at this point with four teams with eight wins or more and four teams that could make the Mountain West Championship, but it really should be considered Boise State or Colorado State’s to lose. And if one of them is to lose, does the other make a Big Six bowl game ahead of Marshall?
It will certainly be interesting to watch how these three teams play down the stretch, and who will make that prestigious Big Six bowl game as the first “Group of 5” representative.