Is Western Michigan headed to the Cotton Bowl? Three things to know
Western Michigan needs late interception to beat Ohio 29-23 to win the MAC
Update: Temple routed Navy 34-10 on Saturday to win the AAC Championship, thus eliminating the Midshipmen from consideration for the Cotton Bowl.
Original story (edited)
The race for a New Year's Six bowl berth at the Group of Five level just got a little more interesting with Western Michigan's 29-23 win over Ohio on Friday night to win the Mid-American Conference.
It wasn't that Western Michigan won to finish the season 13-0. It's how they won. And how the Broncos won was, in a word, unconvincing.
Ohio is well-coached by Frank Solich and proved to be a worthy adversary. The question is whether that affects Western Michigan's chances of making the Cotton Bowl to represent the Group of Five. Will the committee reward a perfect season? Or will it go with Navy, one of the hottest teams at any level of college football? As of last Tuesday, Western Michigan and Navy were ranked No. 17 and No. 19, respectively.
With one of the relevant Group of Five games in the books, here's what we took away.
1. Western Michigan was tight from the opening kickoff: There was just ... something ... off about Western Michigan all night. Balls were dropped, turnovers were committed and the defense allowed big plays. It's like Western Michigan knew it was playing for a New Year's Six bowl spot and played not to blow it. It almost did. A Robert Spillane interception sealed the deal, but not before Ohio mounted the kind of drive that made everyone rooting for the Broncos hold their breath. Receiver Corey Davis (9 catches, 155 yards, 1 TD) was excellent, as usual, but the Broncos seemed ... stiff.
2. Ohio did all the right things (except win): Hats off to Ohio coach Frank Solich. He's one of the most consistent coaches in college football and turned Ohio into a perennial contender. He just hasn't been able to win the big game. He had the right game plan to beat Western Michigan, too. The Bobcats played excellent defense all things considered and weathered the storm of early turnovers. The switch to Greg Windham at quarterback was the right move. Whereas Western Michigan was uncharacteristically sloppy and ineffective, Ohio played loose and got stronger as the game went on. Keeping Western Michigan to three early field goals inspired confidence for the rest of the game.
3. The playoff selection committee has a potentially interesting debate looming: Western Michigan's win has brought into question whether the College Football Playoff selection committee will award the Broncos a spot in the Cotton Bowl as the highest rated conference champion in the Group of Five or wait to see what happens in the Navy-Army game if Navy wins the American Conference championship over Temple on Saturday.
If Temple beats Navy, the question is moot. The Broncos will not be rated behind a three-loss Owls squad. However, Navy has been creeping up on WMU in the rankings the last few weeks. If Navy wins, the selection committee has two options:
- Award Western Michigan the spot in the Cotton Bowl.
- Decide that Navy gets the Cotton Bowl berth if it beats Army.
If the selection committee decides on Navy, several teams will be waiting on bowl berths in both the American and Mid-American conferences at least because of the domino effect of a team being chosen for the Cotton Bowl.
How Navy wins will likely matter as well. Winning by three isn't the same as winning by 30.
Last year, when Navy was in this situation late in the season, the selection committee decided that it would wait on full rankings and bowl announcements until after the Navy-Army game, essentially putting everything on hold for a week.
That concern may be cast aside by Western Michigan's win, but it could get tricky again if Navy blows out Temple.
Either way, Western Michigan now becomes the biggest Temple fans outside of Philly.
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