Power-conference programs are preparing for some critical games that will decide the College Football Playoff picture, but a handful of matchups from the Group of Five mean a lot to the lesser-discussed schools.
Each of the American Athletic Conference, Conference USA, Mountain West Conference and Sun Belt Conference deserve some love. We’re here to share some of ours.
Note: Thanks to mid-week MACtion, the Mid-American Conference has already played its Game of the Week. Toledo knocked off Bowling Green in what could’ve been a preview of the title matchup.
AAC: Cincinnati vs. South Florida
The showdown between Houston and Navy is the most important remaining tilt remaining for the conference, but a sneaky South Florida team might slide into the AAC championship. Those dreams are reliant on some help from Memphis, but USF’s hopes disappear if it doesn’t beat Cincinnati anyway.
Should the Bulls knock off Cincy, they could eliminate the one-game lead Temple currently holds because the Owls will take on a formidable Memphis squad. Since South Florida beat Temple head-to-head, the tiebreaker leans toward Willie Taggart’s team.
C-USA: Western Kentucky vs. Florida International
Western Kentucky stands atop of the East Division because of a 6-0 conference record. Since the team’s regular-season finale is against Marshall (9-2, 6-1 C-USA), a loss wouldn’t doom the Hilltoppers. Nevertheless, falling to Florida International would be pretty embarrassing.
On the other hand, this contest could be the final game of FIU’s season. The Panthers enter the battle at 5-6, needing a victory to earn bowl eligibility. Plus, the team just endured a 52-0 smackdown form Marshall, so both pride and the postseason are on the line.
Mountain West: Air Force vs. Boise State
Air Force’s last conference title came in 1998. Boise State won the Western Athletic Conference the following year, and the program has added 11 more since then. Now, the Broncos need a win on Saturday to keep their Mountain Division hopes alive—which is a reasonable dream.
Still think Boise State has decent shot of reaching MW title game. Beat Air Force at home, San Jose St. on road. Have AFA beat New Mexico.
— Brian Murphy (@murphsturph) November 16, 2015
However, Air Force possesses a slight edge. The Falcons are 5-1 in conference play, whereas Boise State is 4-2. Air Force could eliminate the longtime non-power conference power from earning another championship then be one victory away from ending its 17-year drought.
Sun Belt: Georgia Southern vs. Georgia
The country’s most scattered conference is a week or two from crowning its champion, but the college football world might pay attention when Georgia Southern takes the field. The triple-option attack heads to battle an SEC opponent in Georgia, which can be beaten on the ground.
Georgia Southern shocked Florida in 2013. The Eagles nearly upset both North Carolina State and Georgia Tech in 2014. They’re due for putting another scare into a big-name opponent, and the shorthanded Bulldogs could be the next victim.