We’re at the midway point of the 2023 college football and one of the interesting questions that has emerged is which Group of Five program will receive a bid to a New Year’s Six bowl game. This year, the Cotton Bowl, Fiesta Bowl, or Peach Bowl are all in play for the fortunate team who earns the bid.
Since 2014, a spot in one of the six prestigious New Year’s bowl games has been reserved for the highest ranked Group of Five conference champion in the final set of College Football Playoff rankings. In the nine seasons this system has been in place, the American Athletic Conference reigned supreme by claiming seven bids and its crowning achievement came in 2021 when Cincinnati actually made the semifinals of the College Football Playoff.
However, the race is wide open this year as a number of top programs from these conferences could be standing among the sport’s elite during New Year’s weekend. Each week moving forward, we’ll comb through each league and identify the programs who stand a chance at grabbing the bid.
Tulane got the G5’s NY6 bid in 2022 and have a really good shot at repeating that this year. The Green Wave improved to 5-1 on Friday night, going into fellow AAC contender Memphis and knocking off the Tigers in a 31-21 victory. Their only loss of the season came against Ole Miss, but the CFP committee will most likely give them Both Memphis and SMU are still contenders for the conference title, but the Green Wave are clearly in the driver’s seat here.
Liberty is the only remaining undefeated team in the new-look CUSA and on Tuesday, it handily put down Jacksonville State 31-13. The Flames have handled their business so far, but an extremely weak schedule may hold it back as the CFP committee convenes next month. Their toughest regular-season test will come on the road against second-place Western Kentucky on October 24, so they’ll need a good showing in that showdown.
As it currently stands, the MAC Championship Game would pit Toledo against Miami-OH as both teams are 6-1 with undefeated marks in conference play. The Rockets won an ugly 13-6 game over Ball State on Saturday while Brett Gabbert and the Redhawks handled their business in a 34-21 road victory over Western Michigan. These two teams will actually play each other next Saturday, so the winner will emerge as the favorite in the MAC.
The MWC has a number of contenders for both the league title and the G5’s NY6 bid and at the top is Air Force. The Falcons gutted out a 34-27 victory over Wyoming on Saturday and remains the only undefeated team in the conference. The likes of Wyoming and Fresno State have been top teams in the league at 5-1 and could continue to pile up wins as the second half of the season unfolds. Don’t sleep on a suddenly resurgent UNLV, who is also 5-1 after defeating rival Nevada on Saturday.
James Madison is the last remaining undefeated team in the league and would have a shot at the conference title/NY6 bid if not for archaic NCAA transition rules that makes them ineligible. If they aren’t granted a waiver in time, reigning champion Troy would most likely have the best shot as it currently stands at the top of the Sun Belt West. Considering how much of a dogfight the Sun Belt has already been this year, there’s a good chance the conferences eliminates itself from the NY6 running down the stretch.