WHAT TO WATCH FOR THIS WEEK: Late Friday afternoon, FAU hosts Marshall for a nationally-televised (CBS Sports) contest. The Owls are hunting for their first win in the series with the Herd, which would make them eligible for bowl berth in December.
Saturday in nonconference action, WKU also goes for the coveted sixth win as it closes out a three-game series with Vanderbilt. The Hilltoppers just might have the momentum as the visitor has won each of the last two meetings. Southern Miss also steps out of league play, meeting Tennessee for the first time since 2007. The Golden Eagles have never beaten the Vols in Knoxville, sitting at 0-5 all-time.
In C-USA matchups, UAB, which is a perfect 4-0 at home this season, could also become bowl eligible for just the fifth time in program history as it hosts Rice. North Texas, which leads C-USA’s West Division, hopes to become bowl eligible, taking on Louisiana Tech. The Mean Green control their own destiny in reaching the conference championship game, holding the head-to-head tiebreakers over UAB, Southern Miss and UTSA. One team is guaranteed to be bowl eligible on Saturday when 5-2 UTSA leaves Texas for the first time this season, taking on 5-2 FIU. The Panthers are perfect at home this season but the Roadrunners won the only other meeting in the series, 16-13, in 2014.
The Mountain West’s day begins Saturday with Air Force taking on Army in its final game of the Commander-In-Chief series this season. The Falcons have dominated the series and own 20 CIC trophies but the Black Knights are riding a four-game win streak that made them bowl-eligible two weeks ago. Fresno State is also taking a break from league play, hosting BYU for the first time since 1998. The Bulldogs would become bowl eligible with a win, making Jeff Tedford the third head coach in the history of the program to lead Fresno State to a bowl game in year one at the helm.
There are four big division battles in the Mountain West as New Mexico hosts Utah State and Colorado State battles Wyoming in the Mountain while Hawai`i visits UNLV and San Diego State takes on San Jose State in the West. It is the 109th meeting of the Border War between the Rams and Cowboys, which makes the series the longest-running continuous rivalry west of the Mississippi. The Aztecs need a win at SJSU to stay in the race with Fresno State in the West. A victory is crucial to avoiding the hot seat for the Lobos, Aggies, Rainbow Warriors and Rebels. All four currently have five losses this season and would have to win out their remaining games after suffering a loss this weekend. Please check out the complete schedule with series notes and viewing information on page 1 of the linked PDF above.
POSTSEASON OUTLOOK: The first of 78 bowl bids has been officially claimed. Army earned its sixth win in Week 8, solidifying its automatic spot in the Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl. There are 38 other teams around the FBS who are now bowl-eligible. Every conference has at least one team eligible. The SEC leads the way with seven ready for the postseason. Two teams, Ole Miss because of a self-imposed penalty, and Coastal Carolina because its transitioning to the FBS, are ineligible for the postseason. Thirteen others have been eliminated from postseason play.
The Mountain West’s San Diego State, Colorado State, and Boise State and Conference USA’s Marshall are among the group waiting for an invitation. The MW’s Wyoming and Fresno State are just one win away from joining the party, as are C-USA’s Florida Atlantic, FIU, WKU, North Texas, Southern Miss, UAB and UTSA. From our partner conferences, only Old Dominion, at 2-6, is on the cusp of elimination. C-USA’s Charlotte, Rice and UTEP have already been eliminated, as have the MW’s Nevada and San Jose State.
POSTSEASON PROJECTIONS: Several national collegiate football analysts do their best to piece together a prediction for how the bowl lineup will turn out. The projections for the 2017 Gildan New Mexico Bowl vary with seven different Conference USA schools and five Mountain West programs getting nods. San Diego State leads the way as the Mountain West representative with six nods while Wyoming (2), Colorado State (2), Air Force (1) and Fresno State (1) also garner votes. For Conference USA, three are predicting the North Texas Mean Green will be making their first appearance in the Albuquerque-based bowl while UTSA, FAU and WKU all received two bids.