There seems to be some confusion about the selection process for the New Year’s Six bowl games, in particular who is eligible to represent the Group of 5 conferences in their guaranteed spot in one of the games.
There have been rumors circulating that Army could possibly be in line for a spot in the NY6 if chaos reigned and several of the teams in front of them (UCF, Utah State, Boise State) fell at the end of the regular season or their conference champion game.
Here is a quote from Jeff Monken about who gets the NY6 spot that he gave to Sal Interdonato this week.
“It’s going to be the highest-ranked, non-Power Five (school),” Monken said. “Right now, that’s going to be UCF (Central Florida, unless they lose and then there’s Utah State.”
The problem with this rumor is that it is based on a complete fallacy as to how the G5 spot is chosen and a misunderstanding of the “Army-Navy policy” that was created a few years ago when Navy was vying for an AAC championship the week before playing Army.
Here is the Army-Navy policy from the official College Football Playoff site:
“If the committee believes the result of the Army-Navy game could affect Army’s or Navy’s ranking and therefore its place in the playoff or its selection as the group of five representative, only the pairings that affect Army or Navy would be delayed until after the Army-Navy game. In such case, the committee would convene by teleconference as soon as practicable after conclusion of the game, and would announce its revised rankings that Saturday night.”
So, where is the confusion? Well, this says specifically that if the result of the Army-Navy game could impact the rankings and a place in A. the playoff or B. as the group of five representative, then they would delay the rankings.
We all know that there is no chance either of these teams would ever be considered for the playoff in the current configuration. Just look at the uphill battle UCF is facing after back to back undefeated seasons. So, A is out. It’s more of a formality than anything.
Now, according to the Playoff policy, if a team was ranked high enough, they could potentially fill a NY6 spot outside the playoff. Here’s how they choose the other NY6 spots.
“All displaced conference champions and the highest-ranked champion from a non-contract conference, as ranked by the committee, will participate in selected other bowl games and will be assigned to those games by the committee. If berths in the selected other bowl games remain available after those teams have been identified, the highest-ranked other teams, as ranked by the committee, will fill those berths in rank order.”
If you are a displaced conference champion, i.e. you were a P5 conference champion but didn’t make the playoff, and your bowl that you are contracted for is hosting a semifinal game, you are in.
The ACC, Big 12, Big Ten, Pac 12, and SEC all are conferences that have “contracts” with the NY6 bowl games.
Here are the contract bowls:
Orange Bowl: ACC vs. SEC, Big Ten or Notre Dame*
Rose Bowl: Big Ten vs. Pac-12
Sugar Bowl: SEC vs. Big 12
And if you are the highest-ranked champion from a non-contract conference, you are in.
So, who is that?
Well, that’s the group of five representative spot. The other five FBS conferences (AAC, CUSA, MAC, MWC, and Sun Belt) are the non-contract conferences.
So, there will always be one spot available for the highest ranked champ from a G5 conference. But you have to be in a conference and win the championship game to be eligible for this spot.
Army fulfills neither of those.
So, if they can’t make it to the playoff and they can’t be the G5 representative, the only way they could ever get a NY6 game is if after placing displaced P5 conference champions and the highest-ranked G5 conference champion, they were ranked high enough to be chosen. After those teams are placed, the committee then places the next highest ranked teams in their CFP rankings in order to fill the rest of the games.
So, let’s look at where Army would have to be ranked to make it this year:
This year, the semifinal games are at the Orange Bowl and the Cotton Bowl. Let’s just leave 1-4 as is for ease of showing what this would look like.
Here are this year’s semifinal games:
Cotton Bowl: Alabama (SEC champ) vs. Michigan (Big Ten champ)
Orange Bowl: Clemson (ACC champ) vs. Notre Dame
The other contract games would be the Rose Bowl and Sugar Bowl, which would take the champion of the conferences they have contracts with, or another team from that conference if the champion is in the playoff.
Rose Bowl (Big Ten vs. Pac 12): Ohio State or Penn State vs. Washington (Pac 12 champ)
Sugar Bowl (SEC vs. Big 12): Georgia or LSU vs. Oklahoma (Big 12 champ)
So, after those two games, all of the P5 champs are accounted for and all contract games have been fulfilled. That leaves the Peach Bowl and Fiesta Bowl with four at-large spots available for other teams. One of those spots will be for the highest ranked non-contract conference champ (aka G5 rep). So, in reality, there are three available at-large spots which will go to the highest ranked teams remaining.
Fiesta Bowl: UCF (highest ranked G5 champ) vs. At-large
Peach Bowl: At-large vs. At-large
Right now, you have to figure LSU or Georgia is guaranteed a spot, depending on who the Sugar Bowl takes if Alabama is SEC champ. So, the other two spots will go to the teams ranked somewhere between 9-12, depending on where the Pac 12 champ and other Big Ten team (OSU or PSU) end up in the final rankings if they are selected by the Rose Bowl and Michigan is in the CFP semifinals.
Once again, we know that Army will not end up in the top 12 at this point since they are not even ranked now in the CFP rankings and don’t play another game before the final rankings are announced.
So, there is a 0% chance that the Black Knights end up in a NY6 bowl game.
Honestly, I believe that the CFP should change the wording of the “Army-Navy policy” to reflect the same wording of their selection process. In the Army-Navy policy, they use the term “group of five representative”, which is found nowhere else in their selection criteria. Instead, they use the term “highest ranked champion from a non-contract conference”. I believe if they made the verbiage the same, this might alleviate the confusion.
Regardless, Army can not make a NY6 game this season as they are not eligible to be the “group of five representative” since they are not a “non-contract conference champion”, they will never make the playoff, and this year for certain, they will not be a top 12 team.