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Navy’s upset of Houston scrambles playoff picture for Group of 5

Photo by Daniel Kucin Jr./Icon Sportswire

Houston is out, and the Power Five schools are glad about that. Louisville is closer to narrowing the long odds of being in, and the Big 12 and the Pac-12 are worried about that.

The Group of Five feels worse. It is demoralized.

Sixth-ranked Houston (5-1, 2-1 AAC West) is no longer a threat from the Group of Five to break up the stranglehold the nation’s top five conferences have on the College Football Playoff’s four berths. Not after falling from the ranks of the unbeaten with a 46-40 loss Saturday at Navy (4-1, 3-0 AAC West).

Louisville, ranked No. 7, won this week without playing. The Cardinals have an opportunity to make a case for one of the four playoff berths if it wins out and Clemson claims the ACC with an unbeaten record and ranked in the top three. Neither Clemson nor Florida State remain on Louisville’s schedule.

The Cardinals jumped into the Top 10 with a 63-20 win over Florida State. They nearly upset Clemson before falling 42-36 on the Tigers’ field. Louisville is in position to finish with an 11-1 record with its only loss played at Clemson in a game that went down to the final seconds.

That’s a lot of “ifs,” but it’s more plausible now that Houston has lost, although Houston, oddly enough, is still is still a factor in determining the final four. Louisville plays Nov. 17 at Houston.
What if Louisville wins impressively with the national focus on the Thursday night non-conference game at Houston? What if by then the Heisman Trophy race has been narrowed down to Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson and only a couple more players?

Louisville will be sitting pretty.

The Big 12 doesn’t have a team ranked higher than No. 13 Baylor. The Pac-12 still has No. 5 Washington, but if the Huskies stumble, the next ranked conference member is Stanford at No. 15.
That’s why for the first time in the three years of the CFP, a conference may be able to claim two berths among the four.

That thought will grate on SEC folks. They’ve talked talk about deserving multiple spots. The SEC also looks down on the ACC.

They had both spots in the 2011 season’s BCS National Championship Game when No. 2 Alabama beat No. 1 LSU. This time a year ago Alabama trailed Ole Miss for the SEC West title. The thought of Alabama being left out of the CFP had SEC fans riled. Then Ole Miss lost to Arkansas on a fluke play that enabled the Razorbacks to ultimately win in overtime and hand Alabama the SEC West title.

Crazy things happen. Therefore, all of the above possibilities waiting to play out are reasons explaining how big it was for Navy to upset Houston.

On the Houston-Navy TV broadcast, the CBS Sports Network crew kept calling Navy’s win the Midshipmen’s biggest in 32 years.

To be precise, it was even bigger than the one it was compared to.

This conquest was bigger for Navy than beating No. 2 South Carolina in 1984. This was a program win. Beating South Carolina in 1984 was a fluke victory.

In 1984, Navy was only a 3-5-1 team when it shocked visiting South Carolina, 38-21. Two weeks later the Midshipmen finished their season with a loss to Army for a 4-6-1 record. Navy followed with a 4-7 record in 1985.

In 2016, Navy is a Top 25-caliber program. The Midshipmen finished 2015 with an 11-2 record and ranked No. 18. Navy may soon return to the Top 25.

The Houston win showed Navy is more than a band of overachievers that once in a while surprises teams unfamiliar with stopping the triple-option offense.

On this day, Navy outscored Houston’s explosive offense that entered the game with a 221-56 margin. Houston’s defense knew what to expect; the Cougars beat Navy 52-31 last year in a game that decided the AAC West title.

This was a program win for Navy. The Midshipmen damaged the Group of Five’s hopes for a CFP berth, but they lifted their own profile on the national landscape unlike the 1984 victory over South Carolina.

Follow Tom Shanahan of Today’s U on Twitter: @shanny4055

Navy’s upset of Houston scrambles playoff picture for Group of 5

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