Houston’s 37-27 win over Oklahoma last Saturday sent a major wave through college football. The Cougars smacked the Sooners in NRG Stadium and sent the Big XII favorites reeling.
The College Football Playoff was designed so the Group of Five never gets a playoff team. The G5 is supposed to send their best team to an Access Bowl, play a 10-2 power conference team and call it a day. So far, the G5 is 2-0 in the Access Bowl with Houston beating up on Florida State in the Peach Bowl last season. It might be time to crash the biggest party in the sport and Houston is in the best spot to do so.
Here’s how it happens.
1. 13-0, 13-0 & 13-0.
This won’t happen unless Tom Herman’s team goes undefeated. You have trips to Cincinnati in the third week, a trip to Navy, hosting UConn, who upset the Cougars last season and tricky home games against Tulsa and UCF. Late in the season features a home Thursday non-conference game versus Louisville and a Black Friday trip to Memphis, both of which are prime chances to impress the CFB Playoff Committee.
2. Two of the major conferences slip up.
Even at 13-0, Houston has an inherit disadvantage against the power conferences due to strength of schedule and TV exposure. Still, there’s signs of chinks in the big boy armor. The SEC looked mortal in the first week, the Pac-12 looked shaky and Houston already has a W over one of the major Big 12 teams. If a power conference champion is sitting at 10-2/9-3 versus a 13-0 Houston, things could be looking good for the Cougars.
3. Oklahoma has win 10 games including Ohio State
Right now, there’s doubts about the ability of the Sooners to rebound and win 10 of their last 11 games, but it’s possible. Help for Houston could come in the third week as Ohio State visits Norman for a battle of college football titans. A win there will likely propel OU back into the Top 10 and give Houston transitional property over the Big Ten. The Big 12 slate is a tough one with a fifth week trip to TCU, the next week at the Cotton Bowl versus Texas and late-season games at West Virginia and Oklahoma State, but a 10-2 overall record and 8-1 mark in conference play would be a big check mark for H-Town.
4. Louisville has to beat either Clemson or Florida State en route to 10 wins
The bad news for the Cadinals is that they share the same division with Clemson and Florida State. Both games are early in the calendar with a home ABC game with Florida State in less than two weeks and a trip to Clemson in week five. If Bobby Petrino’s side beats one of the two and finishes with a 10-2 regular season plus a loss at Houston in November, that would be another major boost for the Cougars. Bonus points if UofL somehow squeaks into the ACC Championship Game.
5. The American Athletic has to be as good as 2015
This might be a tough one. Memphis lost their head coach, Navy just lost their starting QB for the season, Temple lost to Army and Cincinnati is an unknown quantity. That might make it easier for Houston to run the table, but they need the league to represent otherwise they’ll be a big fish in a small pond and the CFB Playoff Committee might be more inclined to snub the Cougars. We’ll know a lot more about the ACC after September and most of the non-conference action is done, so there isn’t much time to impress.
Extra. The Big 12 Question
This might mean nothing, but with the human factor of the CFB Playoff Committee, you never know. Houston is publicly one of the favorites for Big 12 expansion along with BYU and Cincinnati. The meeting that’ll likely decide if there’s any expansion will come in mid-October and if Houston is give an engagement ring by the Big 12, that could vault the Cougars’ status in the minds of Tyrone Willingham, Steve Wieberg and the chair of the committee, Texas Tech AD Kirby Hocutt.