Sep. 30, 2016
Access Bowl, Houston vs Memphis
After the first four weeks of college football the access bowl picture is finally coming into focus. Currently there are eight Group of Five programs that remain unbeaten. Right now Houston is the clear favorite having beaten a top five ranked Oklahoma in game one. It would have helped their cause if Oklahoma would have stayed ranked, but they could return to the rankings during conference play. Beyond Oklahoma's fall from the rankings, Houston still has some high hurdles to clear before the access bowl prize is awarded. Lets take the current unbeaten AAC access bowl favorites one by one.
Houston - Houston has cleared its first hurdle beating Oklahoma, but they still have Louisville to contend with at home. Even before Louisville they have two matchups with currently unbeaten conference opponents Navy and Memphis on the road. Adding in two 2015 bowl teams, UConn and Tulsa, to the mix doesn't make things any easier. Tonight Houston will have a chance to avenge their only loss from last season against a offensively challenged but solid UConn defense. This is Houston's chance to make a big impression on the CFP committee before the poll comes out.
Memphis - So far Memphis has played a fairly light schedule beating a woeful Kansas (43-7), and demolishing Bowling Green (77-3). New head coach Mike Norvell has drastically improved offensive production, even without Paxton Lynch, but the biggest improvement has been on defense. Historically Memphis has had to win shootout games for lack of a serious defensive threat. This year Memphis has racked up 155 points and only given up 27. This week Memphis will face its biggest test against a Top 20 Ole Miss team on the road. Ole Miss will be out for blood after losing to Memphis on the road last season. Memphis has a good chance to upset Ole Miss, but win or lose they will still get a shot at Houston, probably for the AAC West title, the last game of the season. Memphis and Houston are currently the access bowl favorites.
Navy - This is not the Navy team of 2015. How could it be after losing the greatest quarterback in Navy history Keenan Reynolds. Keenan now holds the NCAA records for career touchdowns (88), and rushing yards by a quarterback (4,559). To say Keenan is irreplaceable is a massive understatement. Even still Navy head coach Ken Niumatalolo has found a way to eek out two conference wins after losing his starting quarterback to injury in game one. To remain unbeaten Navy will need to play their best game this week against another unbeaten and access bowl contender Air force. The following week brings Houston to Navy's home field for a possible battle of unbeaten's. Navy's road to the access bowl is strewn with depth charges like Memphis and Notre Dame, but don't count them out just yet. The triple option is a powerful explosive in its own right and should not be mistaken for a dud. If Navy can quickly jell around heir backup QB this carrier could navigate itself to the access bowl.
The AAC isn't the only conference with unbeaten access bowl contenders. The MAC has a solid Western Michigan team that has already beaten two Power 5's, and a high flying Toledo team that can light up a scoreboard. Toledo has a good chance to upset a shaky BYU team tonight on the road.
The MWC has three unbeaten programs including perennial giant killer Boise State who has already dispatch two PAC 12 opponents. Add in unbeaten San Diego State knocking off Cal, and a Air Force team already on top of the Mountain Division, and you have a recipe for MWC access bowl inclusion.
Enjoy the games!
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