Since 2014 when the powers that be installed a College Football Playoff, the Group of Five is 3-1 over the Power Five in the New Year’s Six. Boise State over Arizona in 2015, Houston over Florida State in 2016 and UCF over Auburn in 2018 are the victories. The only loss is Western Michigan falling to Wisconsin in 2017.
Most underrated team that could get the New Year’s Six bid
Cyrus Smith: Houston. The Coogs will have the one of the best players in the country as Ed Oliver has the potential to be a top three pick in the 2019 NFL Draft. His presence is enough to ensure that Houston will have a chance in every game. But the reason I’m all in on Houston winning the AAC West at least and being a dark horse to make it to the NY6 is because of D’Eriq King’s upside at quarterback in a Kendall Briles offense.
There’s an influx of P5 transfers that will have to come through at the skill positions so there is some cause for concern but if they play to their potential Houston could win 10 games.
Jeremy Mauss: Fresno State. Last year, they had a new coach in Jeff Tedford and he produced a nine-game swing while leading the Bulldogs to the Mountain West title game. The Bulldogs ended up beating a pretty good Houston team in the Hawaii Bowl.
That team brings back 15 starters and will arguably have one of the best defenses not just in the Mountain West, but in the country. However, the offense is the unit that could make a huge leap.
Four player on the offensive line retrurn as well as arguably the best receiving group in the Mountain West. Quarterback Marcus McMaryion returns too. McMaryion transferred from Oregon State to Fresno State last August and sat for a while before being the starter and rolling off wins in conference play.
James Jimenez: FAU. It’s really hard to say FAU is underrated here, since they have Lane Kiffin and a million great players, but I do think the media is overlooking the Owls.
FAU plays a fairly tough non-conference with Oklahoma and UCF both on the road and a sneaky Air Force squad at home. If the Owls can hang with perennial playoff contender Oklahoma and pull off an upset vs. UCF to potentially take the Knights out of NY6 consideration, the Owls have a great shot of breezing through the conference slate to reach the championship game and place themselves in position to contend for a NY6 berth.
The only thing that could really stop this from happening is if the committee thinks C-USA isn’t good (see Marshall in 2014).
Most overrated team team that’s receiving hype to get the New Year’s Six bid
Cyrus Smith: UCF. This is mainly due to expectations being sky high for Josh Heupel. Heupel’s offenses at Mizzou did well against bad teams and were mediocre to bad against good teams. I’m convinced that we’ll see some drop off from the offense. With that said, with Mckenzie Milton back the offense should still be dynamite.
My biggest concern is the defense. Randy Shannon as a defensive coordinator has never fielded great defenses and the Knights will now have to replace stars in Shaquem Griffin and Mike Hughes. The players are there, but I’m just not sold on the coaching staff living up to the hype in Year 1.
Jeremy Mauss: FAU. We know losing one game will not kill a team’s chance for the NY6 so that Oklahoma game will either vault them to the leader of the pack or be a blemish in which the Owls will need to win out.
Lane Kiffin is basically the offensive coordinator so bringing in Charile Weis Jr. doesn’t do too much, but a new quarterback and transfers are going to make this offense gel a bit slower. Looking at the schedule they play a tricky Air Force team and also UCF, so there’s some tough roadblocks in their way.
James Jimenez: Boise State. The Broncos are definitely a household name and have immediate brand recognition due to their past success in (pre-NY6) BCS bowls. As such, they’re usually considered one of the best G5 teams to on a year-to-year basis. But this year, I just don’t quite know if they’re going to be up to snuff.
The Mountain West projects to be a little stronger than in recent history, with SDSU, Fresno State and Wyoming all emerging of late, and their OOC schedule... isn’t really convincing. They face Troy and Oklahoma State on the road while hosting UConn and BYU. Of those teams, only OK State has a chance of reaching 10 wins or Playoff spot and the Broncos’ fate would likely rely on how good the Cowboys are over the rest of the season. Troy isn’t a given victory and any chance of advancing to the NY6 will likely rely on taking three of these four games, if not all of them.
With teams such as FAU, Memphis and UCF in the mix, I just don’t think Boise will have a decent shot.
Who do you think will get the New Year’s Six bid
Cyrus Smith: Boise State. The Broncos return virtually everyone from an 11-win team and gets the nod over UCF due to having continuity on the coaching staff. Bryan Harsin was responsible for leading Boise to the NY6 in 2014 and I think that continuity combined with experience makes them the favorite to rep the G5 again in 2018. S&P+ pegs the Broncos as a favorite in 11 games and their toughest conference games (Fresno State and San Diego State) will be at home.
Jeremy Mauss: Boise State. For one they are ranked at the moment and ahead of any other Group of Five team. They have a solid schedule by playing Troy and Oklahoma State on the road in non-conference play and if BYU does anything decent that could be a quality win too. They get Fresno State and San Diego State at home, and those teams could be on track to win 10 games.
James Jimenez: UCF. It’s going to be the winner of the American. Whether that’s Houston, Memphis, UCF or even Navy (if they manage to pull off several miracles) the committee has always favored American Athletic Conference members in the CFP polls, ranking AAC teams earlier and more consistently than any other G5 conference, which makes sense considering the AAC is formerly the Big East and has bashed us over the head with the inevitably ill-fated “Power 6” campaign.
My bet would be on UCF, who is a media darling on a mission and happens to be returning a lot of talent, including potential Heisman candidate McKenzie Milton.