Army-Navy may not be the only big game for Navy in the month of December this year. With their blowout win over UConn on Saturday, the Midshipmen improved to 7-1 on the season and entered the AP Poll this week at No. 25. Also of note is that previously undefeated SMU lost to Memphis which now means Navy sits atop the AAC West Division with a 5-1 conference record. No, Navy is not in the running for a spot in the College Football Playoff, but a New Year’s Six Bowl bid is absolutely on the table.
According to the rules of the New Year’s Six Bowls, the highest-ranked champion from the Group of 5 gets an automatic bid. This year’s game for the Group of 5 will be the Cotton Bowl.
The rankings that ultimately matter are the College Football Playoff rankings, the first of which do not come out until Tuesday. For now, however, the AP Poll is our best estimate for where the Group of 5 teams stand in the race for the Cotton Bowl. Entering Week 11, Cincinnati is the highest-ranked Group of 5 team at 17. There’s also Memphis (19), Boise State (21), SMU (23), San Diego State (24) and finally, Navy (25).
With five teams ranked ahead of Navy, is the Cotton Bowl actually realistic? When you look at their schedule, the answer is yes.
Yes, the matchup against Notre Dame on Nov. 16 looms large and losing that game would give the Midshipmen their second loss of the season. That would be a tough blow to their ranking, especially if that game ends up being a one-sided loss. What matters most of all, however, is winning the conference and for Navy that possibility absolutely remains on the table.
While the Midshipmen may be in first place at the moment, Memphis sits right behind them at 4-1. Navy’s lone loss this season was to Memphis meaning the Tigers would win any tie-breaker based on their head-to-head matchup, but Memphis still has to play Cincinnati in the season finale. Cincinnati is poised to win the AAC East with a 7-1 record, 4-0 in conference. The Bearcats have wins over UCLA and UCF this season and their lone loss came at the hand of Ohio State.
Behind Memphis, SMU also has one conference loss, but they travel to Annapolis on Nov. 23 giving Navy a chance to hand them their second loss and cement their position within the division.
To summarize, the path the Cotton Bowl for Navy is to keep things close against Notre Dame even in a loss, win all remaining conference games including SMU, hope Memphis loses a conference game most likely to Cincinnati, win the conference championship game and hope that resume proves to be better than the winner of the Mountain West which is the only other conference in real contention for the Group of 5 bid.
A lot of things still have to go Navy’s way for this to happen, plus it is all moot if they don’t keep winning. But while this will require a bit of luck for the Midshipmen, there is no part of this path that you could label as unrealistic. The fact is, the calendar has turned to November, the end of the season is in sight and Navy is still among the team in contention for the Cotton Bowl.
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