Marcus McMaryion previews Bulldogs’ crucial matchup at Boise State
Fresno State and Central Florida, the leading Group of Five players to land a spot in a New Year’s Six bowl, made no move forward or backward on Tuesday in the second set of College Football Playoff rankings.
The Bulldogs, 8-1 and 5-0 in the Mountain West Conference, are No. 23. UCF (8-0 and 5-0 in the American Athletic Conference) is No. 12.
There was some movement around the Bulldogs at No. 23, with Washington in at No. 25 and Auburn in at No. 24, Iowa State moving up to No. 22 from No. 24 and Boston College in at No. 17 up from No. 22.
Fresno State this week plays at Boise State, which with a win could have some impact on the CFP committee.
The Broncos are 7-2 and 4-1 in conference play.
The top four teams in the CFP rankings are No. 1 Alabama, No. 2 Clemson, No. 3 Notre Dame and No. 4 Michigan.
The rankings on Tuesday are the second of six to come from the College Football Playoff committee, with the final rankings to be released on Dec. 2.
The highest-ranked champion from a Group of Five conference is guaranteed a spot in a New Year’s Six bowl – UCF last season beat Auburn in the Peach Bowl.
The Bulldogs, of course, have to take care of their own business. They close the regular season with tough games back-to-back at Boise State and against San Diego State, and end at home with San Jose State.
If they win out and advance to the Mountain West Conference championship game they likely get Utah State, which is ranked ahead of Fresno State in the Associated Press Top 25 (the Aggies are 14th, the Bulldogs 16th) and is averaging 50.1 points per game to lead the conference, almost 10 points per game more than the Bulldogs in second at 40.4.
Central Florida has three regular-season games remaining against Navy, Cincinnati and at South Florida and if it wins its division the American Athletic Conference championship game where it likely would get Houston.
If the Knights find some trouble down the stretch, here’s how it might happen …
Navy (2-7, 1-4 in AAC)
Navy is leading the American Athletic Conference in rushing offense and UCF already has allowed 200-plus rushing yards in four games including two against teams that have not run the ball well – Connecticut and Temple. The Huskies are ninth in the AAC in rushing offense and put up 220 yards against the Knights and the Owls are 10th in the AAC and gained 226.
The other two teams to top 200 rushing yards are Florida Atlantic (320 yards) and Memphis (281). But the problem they all had was slowing down the Knights’ offense, even with decided advantages in time of possession, the one thing that Navy might have in its favor on Saturday when these teams play.
UConn had the football for 38:08 and still lost 56-17. Florida Atlantic had it for 31:07 and lost 56-36. Memphis had the ball for 35:19 and lost 31-30. Temple had it for 38:08 and lost 52-40.
Navy is not running or possessing the football as well as it did a year ago, and on the flip side there is little evidence that it can slow down the UCF offense.
In five road or neutral site games this season, Navy is allowing an average of 42.2 points.
Stat that stands out: Navy has lost six games in a row, its longest losing streak since 2011, and 10 games in a row played on the road or on a neutral field. The last time Navy played a game in the state of Florida it did pull off an upset, beating Notre Dame 28-27 in a 2016 game that was played in Jacksonville.
Cincinnati (8-1, 4-1)
The Bearcats are leading the AAC in scoring defense, allowing only 14.0 points per game. The problem is, they have not yet played any of the top scoring teams in the conference – no Houston, no UCF and no Memphis, which are Nos. 1, 2 and 3 in the conference and Nos. 5, 6 and 7 in the nation in scoring offense.
They also have to play at UCF, and the Bearcats’ home-road splits are glaring for an offense that is going to have to take advantage of its scoring opportunities ...
Points at home: 44.0. Points on the road: 27.8.
Total yards at home: 515.5. On the road: 396.8.
Cincinnati could get a barometer how it might fare on Saturday when it plays South Florida, which is ranked 36th in the nation in scoring offense.
That game is on the Bearcats’ home field.
Stat that stands out: Cincinnati is leading the AAC in total defense, rushing defense, scoring defense, passing efficiency defense, first downs allowed and third-down defense. It also is leading the conference in three-and-outs, forcing a quick punt 51 times in 122 opponent possessions, 41.8 percent of the time.
South Florida (7-2, 3-2)
The Bulls were ranked No. 21 in the Associated Press Top 25 and No. 20 in the Coaches poll after starting the season 7-0, but have dropped their past two games including a 41-15 loss at home last week to a 3-5, now 4-5, Tulane team.
The Bulls play at Cincinnati and at Temple before UCF comes to town, and they could be riding a four-game losing streak into that game. They also could have a two-game winning streak and a chance to rack up a 10th victory, given the way their season has gone to this point.
South Florida has put up more than 30 points five times, but it also has scored 25 points or less four times including the loss to Tulane, the fewest points it has scored in a game since a 34-14 loss at No. 14 Florida State in 2015.
The Seminoles might bear resemblance to Tulane now, but they didn’t four years ago.
The only thing the Bulls have done consistently is give up yards on the ground and UCF is second in the AAC in rushing offense.
South Florida has allowed 248.2 yards a game on the ground, 11th in the conference and 124th in the nation.
Stat that stands out: USF could keep pace in a shootout with UCF – it has churned out more than 400 yards of offense in 18 of its past 19 games and has topped 500 yards four times this season including a season-high 626 against Illinois.