With the losses of Texas A&M and Ohio State, the pool of undefeated teams in the top 20 is down to nine. Because Baylor and West Virginia play either other, the pool of undefeated teams will be reduced to eight. In order for Western Michigan to make it to the New Years Six, a few of those teams will have to slip out.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at each team’s chances of going undefeated moving forward.
Of the teams that are undefeated, a Boise State loss would probably help Western Michigan’s cause the most.
Boise State is in the same boat (pun intended) as Western Michigan in that a loss will probably drop them out of the top 20 at least. Their remaining schedule is as follows: at Wyoming, San Jose, at Hawaii, UNLV and at Air Force.
I think of those five teams, Wyoming probably has the best chance of knocking Boise out. The Cowboys have shown surprising success in a season that was expected to be a wash. If that result actually happens, it’d be the best of both worlds for WMU, as the Broncos beat a team that beat Wyoming in EMU.
This is probably another team that could help Western Michigan. Their games to finish out the season are: at Oklahoma State, Kansas, at Texas, Oklahoma, at Iowa State and Baylor.
Of those games, West Virginia losing to Oklahoma State would help the Broncos the most since the Broncos handily beat a team that beat Oklahoma State in CMU. At 5-2, that could happen.
Oklahoma could be another team that could beat West Virginia. And of course, there’s Baylor. It’s entirely possible that West Virginia could finish with three losses. That would really help Western Michigan, especially if one of those losses is to Oklahoma State.
Since I’m talking about West Virginia, I might as well talk about Baylor right now.
They finish with the following games: at Texas, Texas Christian, at Oklahoma, Kansas State, at Texas Tech and at West Virginia.
With four of their last six games on the road, they probably have the toughest trip to undefeated of the bunch. I think either Oklahoma or West Virginia have a chance of knocking them out especially since both of those are on the road. For some reason, I expect them to finish with two losses.
I had a tough choice between the Huskies and the Huskers. I think both teams have a tough road to remaining undefeated. Both teams play three out of five on the road. Both teams run through a gauntlet of good teams.
The Huskies road is as follows: at Utah, at California, Southern California, Arizona State and Washington State. Of those opponents, I think the Utes provide the biggest chance of knocking them out. If that happens, it could be problems for Western Michigan as Utah will be one of the one loss teams.
Because it’s a rivalry game, the Cougars could provide the next biggest challenge. The Trojans have the potential of jumping up and biting the Huskies. So again, I think the Huskies finish with two loses.
Nebraska presents a minefield for Western Michigan. If any of their future opponents knock them out, it doesn’t really help Western as it will propel those teams higher in the polls. Nebraska next travels to Madison to face the Badgers. At two losses, the Badgers are still pretty dangerous and may be looking for revenge.
Then they travel to Columbus where they face a pretty upset Buckeye team that could put itself back into the College Playoff hunt with a win over undefeated or one loss Nebraska. Nebraska returns home to Lincoln to face the Gophers and the Terrapins. Those teams present a minor threat to Nebraska. The Cornhuskers finish the regular season in Iowa City where they face the Hawkeyes.
I think if the Cornhuskers survive that gauntlet, they should be considered for the Playoff.
Of the teams remaining in the top four, Clemson probably has an easier road to remaining undefeated. But again, I don’t think a loss by Clemson really helps Western Michigan all that much.
Unless that loss is to South Carolina.
Their remaining schedule is: at Florida State, Syracuse, Pittsburgh, at Wake Forest and South Carolina. Of those teams, I think Florida State and Pittsburgh present the biggest challenge. Florida State would love the opportunity to knock Clemson out and that may motivate them. Still, I don’t think it will matter.
Like Clemson, I don’t think a Michigan loss will help Western Michigan that much. In the effort of balance, I will highlight their remaining schedule.
Michigan travels up to East Lansing where they should beat the Spartans. They return to Ann Arbor to face the Maryland. Again, they should win that one.
Then they head out to Iowa City where they face the Hawkeyes. After that, the Wolverines return to the Big House to face the Hoosiers and finish the season in Columbus where they face the Buckeyes.
A potentially one-loss Ohio State team could be looking to knock the Wolverines out of the Big Ten Title game. A loss wouldn’t hurt Michigan’s chances at a NY6 bowl, but it could potentially knock them out of playoff contention. What does all of this mean for Western Michigan? Honestly, nothing. Unless you want Michigan and WMU to play each other in an access bowl.
Alabama is another team that doesn’t really help WMU’s cause.
Alabama travels to Baton Rouge to face Coach O and the LSU Tigers this week and then return home for three games, against Mississippi State, FCS-level UT-Chattanooga and the Iron Bowl against rival Auburn.
Of the top four teams, they probably have the best chance to remain undefeated. It’s possible that LSU or Auburn could jump up and bite them. While it doesn’t help WMU directly, two losses might help the Broncos as other teams rise up to fill the vacuum.
And of course we can’t talk about Western Michigan’s road to a New Years Bowl without talking about them.
The Broncos will be on the road the next two weeks, with two very winnable games against Ball State and Kent State, respectively. After that, the Broncos end up in the thick of #MACtion games, as they face Buffalo and Toledo to end the year.
While I believe Toledo gives them the biggest test of their remaining opponents, I think the Broncos will prevail in the game. This is because the Broncos cannot afford not to win; any loss they take over the next four weeks will definitely knock WMU out of contention, as ESPN’s Power Rankings Index places WMU as the team most likely to stay unbeaten at 61 percent.
So what does all this mean?
It means WMU fans will have to cheer against Boise State and West Virginia. Specifically, the Other Broncos need to lose at least one and WVU has to absolutely fall apart.
This is the easiest road for WMU to shoot up the rankings, as those results would most likely force the teams down the rankings, giving WMU a chance to fill the void. As I said in my post last week, the sweet spot will probably have to be a ranking between 15 and 19.