We’re two weeks away from the conference championships, and it feels like a New Year’s Six spot is still open. We’ve got the first of the Division 5 coaching changes this week. And James Madison has asked the NCAA for a waiver that could change all that. Let’s get into your questions.
(The questions presented have been edited slightly for clarity and length.)
What will it take for freedom to win the NY6 bid? Under what circumstances would a 13-0 conference champion, Liberty, be eliminated? I am especially concerned about what will happen if Tulane doesn’t win the AAC or wins by two losses. – Zachary G.
Because of what’s happening elsewhere, it’s time to start talking about freedom and the place of NY6. Tulane has won four straight games by one point against teams with record losses. I know the Green Wave are busy, but they aren’t playing their best, and they have a red-hot UTSA to close out the regular season. If Tulane wins, it gets the spot, but has more chances to drop the playoffs than Liberty.
Elsewhere, SMU and Memphis are 8-2 and play each other this week in what is essentially an AAC playoff game (Tulane/UTSA next week, with each winner going to the title game). My colleagues Stuart Mandel and Scott Dochterman predict SMU for the New Year’s Six, with wins over Memphis and Tulane/UTSA. SMU doesn’t currently have notable wins like Independence, but those two wins will be more than the Fire can handle.
And don’t forget that Toledo sits there at 10-1 with 10 straight wins and an opening loss to Illinois after being caught on a last-second field goal by the Wild on fourth-down. Air Force, UNLV and Fresno State are all 8-2 as well in the Mountain West.
Does the committee really prioritize two losing teams over undefeated independence? I really don’t know. Because Liberty isn’t in the CFP Top 25, we don’t know how far behind the Tulane Flames.
And, of course, there’s the omission of James Madison’s full bowl eligibility, which might put Duke over the top anyway. A decision on this issue may come this week.
If James Madison can make enough bowl appearances after the final weekend of the regular season to qualify for the NCAA Sun Belt Championship (and it could). NY6 plate)? – Joseph M.
I guess we’ll get a verdict before then. The CFP said not having enough 6-6 teams will not make JMU eligible for a New Year’s Six bowl. It goes with the NCAA’s decision on JMU’s position. The Sun Belt allows fully qualified teams to compete for a conference championship, and teams must win their conference championship to qualify for a G5 NY6 spot. So here’s the order in which things happen:
1. NCAA grants exemption to JMU’s fully eligible team 2. The Sun Belt allows JMU to play in Game 3 of the conference championship. JMU wins the Sun Belt Championship
Everything else remains TBD, but I can tell you, the other Group of 5 conferences don’t believe JMU should get a waiver (and could take the NY6 spot away from them).
What coach should the Broncos look to hire after Andy Avalos leaves Boise? In the new landscape of college football, should Boise fans expect the level of success they’ve enjoyed for the past 25 years? Who, if anyone, rates the best football program in the Mountain West (better going forward)? – Benny C.
To answer Benny’s excellent question, what about San Diego State after Brady Hoke was fired? – Allen D.
Both of these works are the two best in group 5. Both expect to compete for the 12-team CFP. Changes were made as neither went in that direction. While there may be a lot of overlap for candidates for these jobs, what they need is slightly different.
Boise State needs someone who knows how to build on a lot of fan support and be a head coach. The Broncos still sell out every game and, as they say, hope to win 10-plus games every year. There have been rumors and reports of Avalos missing the locker room, so Boise State needs someone to connect with the players.
San Diego State is looking for someone to fix the terrible mess. It’s a job that’s close to his ability and should fill a new stadium. It has high expectations, but not the same as Boise State. It also has the best weather in America.
Names I see as good fits for both jobs include Washington offensive coordinator Ryan Grubb, Missouri offensive coordinator Kirby Moore, Oregon State offensive coordinator Brian Lindgren, Montana State head coach Brent Vigen, former Boise State head coach Brian Harsin and former Virginia head coach Bronco Mendenhall.
Both schools fell behind in the final conference realignment, which was especially painful for SDSU after waiting to land in the Pac-12. Now they both have to aim to be the big fish in the small pond (and find out what happens with Pac-2). There is potential in both of these jobs, but the top teams of the AAC and Sun Belt won’t easily topple the G5.
What will it take for SMU to crack the top 25? All he can do is beat whoever is on the schedule. He admitted it was a poor effort against TCU before the offense clicked, but Oklahoma played hard. Mustangs beat Tulane opponents who continue to struggle. Does being in the top 10 in offense and defense not register with the voters? That is a reputable company. – Maj. M.
I agree that a lot of people didn’t realize how well SMU was playing after the loss to TCU. My colleague Sam Kahn says SMU is outscoring its conference opponents 270-88, second among all FBS teams in conference play and behind Michigan. The Mustangs are really posting AAC teams.
But they didn’t play any notes to attract more attention. They don’t have a win against a team with a winning record. That will change this weekend if SMU beats Memphis.
Will Old Dominion rise to the heights of Independence and JMU, or will it always be behind its in-state rivals? – Nicholas P.
Old Dominion has its ups and downs, and there’s potential there, but Liberty and JMU have a head start on history and investment in the program. Liberty hasn’t had a losing season since 2005. For James Madison, it goes back to 2002. The emperor brought their program in 2009. So they’re working behind the scenes against programs that already have a lot of space.
Not that ODU can’t get there. But it’s more about getting the program back on a winning streak than comparing it to rivals with more resources.
Two questions: 1) What is Mimi’s (OH) ceiling in the long term and short term this year? 2) Is Miami coach Chuck Martin one of the most underrated coaches in the G5? It looks like he’s had more than six winning seasons. – Brian P.
Martin has put together a perfectly average schedule over the past decade, an improvement over his predecessor. In the year He had an incredible 8-6 MAC championship in 2019 and has reached three bowl games in the last four years, but 2019 was the only season with more than seven wins – until this season. This program is limited each year by the demanding conference schedule. In fact, Bolan’s win over North Texas in 2021 was Miami’s first nonconference victory in more than a decade, after a 31-game win over Army in 2011.
This year, the RedHawks lost to Miami (Fla.) but beat UMass, Delaware State and rival Cincinnati, and are 5-1 in MAC play. Martin Overall, it’s perfectly fine. Not bad enough to get fired, not bad enough to get hired.
But he didn’t have a season. This season finally looks like that. Miami is 8-2 overall and 5-1 in conference play and wins the MAC East (beating Buffalo on Wednesday night). There is a chance for 10 or 11 wins, which has only been done once when Ben Roethlisberger completed a 13-1 season and top 10 in 2003. Miami and Toledo are the MAC programs with the best history and resources in the conference. Full of equal programs. It was very difficult for Mack teams to stand out when they all had the same budget and same pool of players. Martin has done a great job this year, and Miami may finally be ready to get back near the top of the conference, which it feels like it is.
Group 5 Top 10
1. James Madison (10-0) 2. Tulane (9-1) 3. Liberty (10-0) 4. Toledo (10-1) 5. Troy (8-2) 6. SMU (8-2)7. Fresno State (8-2)8. UNLV (8-2)9. Memphis (8-2) 10. USA (7-3)
Just missed: Miami (Ohio), Air Force One, Coastal Carolina, Ohio State, Jacksonville State, New Mexico State
Games of the week
American: SMU (-8.5) at MemphisNoon ET Saturday, ESPN2Pick: SMU to win, Memphis to cover
CUSA: UMass at Liberty (-27.5) 1 pm ET Saturday, ESPN+ Pick: Liberty to win, UMass to cover
MAC: Buffalo at Miami (-8.5) 7pm ET Wednesday, ESPN2Pick: Miami to win, Buffalo to cover
Mountain West: UNLV at Air Force (-3:30 p.m. ET Saturday, CBSNPick: UNLV)
Sun Belt: Appalachian State at James Madison (-9) 2 pm ET Saturday, ESPN+ Pick: JMU
The Michigan-Big Ten battle lines show that the NCAA division is not easy
(Photo of Boise State running back Jambres Dubar: Brian Lossness/USA Today)