Harvey: Without Power Five status, UH held to different standard

Let's say the University of Houston wins the remainder of its games, including one against No. 7 Louisville and its Heisman Trophy favorite quarterback Lamar Jackson, to finish the regular season with an 11-1 record and a solid Top 10 ranking.

Good season, right? No. Great season.

Yes, but …

That scenario, as envied as it might be by virtually every college football program, might not meet either of coach Tom Herman's goals for his Cougars teams - to win American Athletic Conference championships and play in New Year's Six bowls.

After the 46-40 loss Saturday at Navy, the Cougars dropped from No. 6 to No. 13 in the Associated Press poll, and although they remain the highest ranked among the Group of Five conference teams, they no longer are in control of their own destiny in the AAC.

The Midshipmen would have to lose two of their remaining four conference games in order for the Cougars to have a chance to again represent the AAC West in the conference title game.

At season's end, it doesn't matter how highly the Cougars are ranked if they don't win their conference. That's one of the requirements for a Group of Five team to play in a major bowl.

So as of this week, Boise State, although ranked below the Cougars at No. 15, is projected as the Group of Five's representative in one of the most coveted bowls - this season it's the Cotton Bowl - assuming that the Broncos win the Mountain West Conference.

If Boise State falters, the next team up could be No. 24 Western Michigan from a weakened Mid-American Conference.

As for the Cougars, they, according to a couple of projections, will be spending Dec. 27 back in Annapolis at the Military Bowl against Georgia Tech or Dec. 29 in the Birmingham Bowl against Missouri or Arkansas State.

What a comedown from the Cougars' 38-24 Peach Bowl victory over Florida State last New Year's Eve.

Teams ranked lower than the Cougars at this point in the season projected to be involved in New Year's Six games besides Boise State are two-loss No. 19 Oklahoma, which fell to Houston in the season opener, and No. 21 Utah.

As one of our presidential nominees might say, the system is rigged.

With the College Football Playoff in only its third season, replacing a flawed Bowl Championship Series, which replaced an even more flawed highly political process, it's already clear the Power Five conferences have too much power.

Why is it, for instance, that a Group of Five university must win its conference in order to advance to a New Year's Six bowl while there is no such stipulation for a Power Five university?

That's the reason Monday's meeting in Dallas of Big 12 Conference presidents is so important for the University of Houston.

Expansion from 10 to at least 12 teams is on the agenda. Among the half-dozen or so leading candidates, UH, with its improved academic status, its ongoing conversion from a commuter school to a more traditional university, its financial commitment to upgrades in athletic facilities, its location in the nation's fourth-largest city and one of the largest television markets, and its performance on the football field, should be the frontrunner.

But it might not receive the required eight votes to gain membership because of perceived opposition from out-of-state universities that believe Texas is already represented well enough with four teams in the conference.

More than likely, according to speculation from well-connected and usually reliable media outlets, is that the Big 12 will punt, deciding not to expand now or possibly not in the future.

AAC commissioner Mike Aresco has said one possible solution for Houston and others with similar ambitions is to challenge the CFP to adopt a Power Six. Who decided five was the correct number? Of course, then what would prevent another conference, such as the MWC, from demanding there be a Power Seven?

There is no easy answer, as there never has been in college football. But one should certainly be able to understand how frustrating it must be for Herman unless Houston moves up in the world.

No matter how much UH pays Herman and no matter how much he is liked and respected in Houston, you certainly couldn't blame him for wanting to coach where he has a fair shot at winning national championships and playing in the most prestigious bowls.