THIS WEEK’S GAMES TO WATCH FOR: All action for the Mountain West and Conference USA is on Saturday this week and there are major games that will affect each league’s conference championship game. There are lots of possibilities in C-USA as three teams have only one loss in league play and four others having just two conference defeats. East Division leading WKU welcomes North Texas to Bowling Green, having won 11 straight home games against C-USA foes and could clinch the East Division title with a win and some help. Old Dominion is in second place just behind WKU and the Monarchs became unconditionally bowl-eligible for the first time last week. ODU plays host to Southern Miss for the first time, with the Golden Eagles needing a win to gain their bowl-eligibility. Middle Tennessee is one and a half games behind WKU as the Blue Raiders get ready for a trip to take on a struggling Marshall team. Louisiana Tech leads the West Division by one game over UTSA as the Bulldogs play their final home game of 2016 against the Roadrunners. A UTSA win would make them bowl-eligible for the first time and put them in the drivers seat to win the West.
Mountain Division leading Wyoming visits Las Vegas, where the Cowboys have won two straight against UNLV. A win for the Cowboys would give the Cowboys their eighth win of the season, the most since 2011, and move them to 6-0 in MW play, setting up a potential MW Championship preview as they host San Diego State. Boise State needs to continue its dominance (five straight wins) over Hawai`i to stay in the Mountain race with Wyoming but the Rainbow Warriors must win if they want to keep their bowl dreams alive. New Mexico also looks to keep pace with the Cowboys as the Lobos will travel to take on the Utah State Aggies. The Lobos haven’t won in Logan since 1997 and they have split the last four meetings. San Diego State, which has already clinched the West Division spot in the Championship game, has won 16 straight Mountain West contests, which is the longest active conference win streak nationally. The Aztecs are outscoring their opponent 35.3-10.1 during that stretch. They are at Nevada, which is fighting off post season elimination. For a complete schedule with series notes, see page 1.
POSTSEASON OUTLOOK: The post season picture is becoming clearer as the 2016 college football season winds down. There are 48 teams eligible for a bowl game with each conference boasting at least two bowl eligible teams. The American, ACC, Big Ten, Pac-12 and SEC lead the way with six eligible teams each. None of the four independent teams are eligible yet but two (Army and BYU) are just one win shy. Overall, there are still 62 teams that could possibly get eligible and 18 that have been eliminated.
For our partner conferences, the Mountain West’s Boise State was the first to become eligible with a victory in week 7. With a win in week 8, San Diego State was the first from the league’s West Division to become eligible. Wyoming picked up the necessary six wins in week 9 with its first win in program history over 13th-ranked Boise State. This past weekend, New Mexico and Air Force joined the ranks with its six Ws. Colorado State could be the next in if the Rams win at Air Force Saturday night. On the flip side, Hawai`i, Nevada, Utah State and UNLV find themselves in a must-win situation with just three games remaining. Fresno State and San Jose State has been eliminated.
For Conference USA, Louisiana Tech, Middle Tennessee and WKU all picked up eligibility after victories in week 9. Old Dominion joined the elite with a huge win over Marshall in week 10. Southern Miss and UTSA are one win away from the six required for a bowl bid. UTEP is in a must-win situation with a 3-9 record three games left. FIU, Florida Atlantic, Marshall and Rice are out of contention. Both leagues have commitments to six bowls, including the Gildan New Mexico Bowl.