Western Michigan (12-0) received a boost in its effort to play in the Cotton Bowl, moving up four spots to No. 17 in the College Football Playoff rankings released Tuesday night.
However, WMU is looking over its shoulder at Navy (9-2) which moved up six spots to No. 19. While WMU was taking care of business against MAC rival Toledo 55-35, the Midshipmen dominated SMU 75-31. Now they are on the Broncos’ heels for the G-5’s spot in the New Year’s Six — the Cotton Bowl.
Navy’s main advantage over WMU is its 46-40 win over then-No. 6 Houston in early October. Western Michigan doesn’t have a win over a top 25 ranked team. The Broncos’ schedule ranks 118th among FBS teams compared to 70th for Navy.
Both WMU and Navy will be in action this weekend in their respective conference title games. On Friday night, WMU will play Ohio (8-4) for the MAC championship in Detroit. On Saturday, Navy will square off against Temple (9-3) for the American Athletic Conference championship in Annapolis, Md.
The Midshipmen still have their annual rivalry game with Army (6-5) on Dec. 10 in Baltimore. Depending on the outcome of the games this weekend, the Cotton Bowl may wait one more week to announce its bid.
While WMU and Navy are close in the human polls, the computers see it differently. The College Football Computer Composite, which was used to rank teams in the former Bowl Championship Series, still exists and still ranks teams. Among the metrics feeding the CFCC are wins and losses, strength of schedule, home-field advantage, how recent a game was played and margin of victory.
According to the computer poll, WMU ranks 11th compared with 23rd for Navy. The Broncos are ranked as high as sixth by Richard Billingsley and eight by Wes Colley. And, per the old BCS formula, the top four, as of today, would be: No. 1 Alabama, No. 2 Ohio State, No. 3 Washington and No. 4 Clemson. Washington jumps Clemson in the computer polls, as the computers rank three Pac-12 schools in the top eight, including No. 7 Southern California and No. 8 Colorado.
WMU still controls its fate. So P.J. Fleck’s Broncos must continue to “Row the Boat.” They are favored by more than two touchdowns against Ohio in the MAC title game.
So could Navy overtake WMU for the Cotton Bowl bid? Sure. Crazier things have happened this college football season. Just last week, as rumors about Tom Herman’s future were swirling, Memphis (8-4) stunned Houston (9-3) in a 48-44 thriller. Kentucky (7-5), expected to lose by four touchdowns, instead stunned in-state rival Louisville (9-3) 41-38 for the win.
So, yes, it’s possible. However, WMU with the MAC championship should clinch the G-5’s Cotton Bowl bid.