AP college picks: Boise State and Memphis get a chance to make their mark _lowres

When Justin Fuente accepted the head coaching job at the University of Memphis in December 2011, he inherited a program that had won only five combined games in the past three years, according to the school’s website. In 2014, Fuente led the team to a 9-3 regular season record and the Tigers’ first conference championship since 1971. The team also went on to defeat BYU in the Miami Beach Bowl. In 2014, Fuente was named the American Athletic Conference’s Coach of the Year, as well as a finalist for the Eddie Robinson Coach of the Year award. (AP file photo)

Away from the five matchups of ranked teams in college football this weekend there is a compelling subplot. Two games have major implications in the race to be the best team from the so-called Group of Five conferences.

No. 21 Boise State faces its toughest remaining test of the season at Utah State on Friday night. On Saturday, Memphis hosts No. 13 Ole Miss with a chance to score the most impressive victory for a team from outside the power conferences against a Power Five team.

The Group of Five champion ranked highest by the playoff committee at the end of the season gets a prized spot in one of the New Year’s Six bowls.

Boise State of the Mountain West was the preseason favorite to land that bid and the Broncos (5-1) would be undefeated if not for Tanner Mangum’s late touchdown pass for BYU last month. Boise State has outscored its opponents 204-24 since. If the Aggies can’t stop the Broncos in Logan, it seems doubtful any other Mountain West team will be able to do it.

Memphis (5-0) is one of three unbeaten teams in the American Athletic Conference, along with No. 24 Houston and Temple. The AAC has racked up some nice victories against Power Five teams. Houston has won at Louisville, Temple beat Penn State and Cincinnati has a win against Miami. A victory against Ole Miss not only gives Memphis a resume centerpiece, but it boosts the credibility of the conference as whole, which is important.

Those AAC teams are bound to bruise each other. Memphis plays both Houston and Temple, though the Owls don’t play the Cougars.

No. 22 Toledo will also be in the mix for that G5 slot in the big bowl games if the Rockets can win the Mid-American Conference.

The picks:

PAC-12 AFTER DARK

No. 18 UCLA (plus 6½) at No. 15 Stanford

The Cardinal have owned the Bruins lately, winning seven straight, the longest Stanford streak in history of the series ... Stanford 27-23.

FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS

No. 21 Boise State (minus 9½) at Utah State

Broncos have won 12 straight against the Aggies, dating to 1998 ... Boise State 28-17.

No. 24 Houston (minus 19) at Tulane

Have to play some offense to keep up with the Cougars, and the Green Wave rank second-to-last in the American ... Houston 42-17.

NONCONFERENCE RIVALS

No. 13 Ole Miss (minus 10½) at Memphis

About a 90-mile road trip for the Rebels, who have won last six meetings ... Ole Miss 45-28.

USC (plus 6½) at No. 14 Notre Dame

Will the Trojans be galvanized or disorganized? Little of both probably ... Notre Dame 31-23.

MARQUEE MATCHUPS

No. 7 Michigan State (plus 8½) at No. 12 Michigan

Wolverines are playing the type of suffocating defense the Spartans have used to win six of the last seven meetings ... Michigan 28-21.

No. 8 Florida (plus 9½) at No. 6 LSU

Fournette effect: The Tigers are one of 11 teams in FBS averaging at least 7.0 yards per play, but the only one gaining more yards per rush than per pass attempt ... LSU 24-17.

No. 10 Alabama (minus 4) at No. 9 Texas A&M

Road game, facing a spread offense; this is the toughest game remaining on the Tide’s schedule ... Alabama 31-24.

No. 17 Iowa (minus 2½) at No. 20 Northwestern

Winner grabs control of the Big Ten West ... Iowa 24-20.

CONFERENCE CALLS

Penn State (plus 17) at No. 1 Ohio State

Maybe two quarterbacks can be better than one for the Buckeyes? ... Ohio State 31-13.

West Virginia (plus 21) at No. 2 Baylor

A penalty filled loss to the Mountaineers kept the Bears out of the College Football Playoff last season ... Baylor 45-21.

No. 3 TCU (minus 20½) at Iowa State

Is there a better quarterback-wide receiver combination in the country than TCU’s Trevone Boykin and Josh Doctson? Rhetorical question ... TCU 45-21.

Louisville (plus 7) at No. 11 Florida State

Seminoles RB Dalvin Cook is averaging 9.0 yards per carry and is not about to let Leonard Fournette run away with the Heisman Trophy ... Florida State 27-21.

Eastern Michigan (plus 28) at No. 22 Toledo

Rockets have won eight straight meetings and scored at least 41 points in each ... Toledo 52-21.

PLUCKY UNDERDOGS

Arizona State (plus 6½) at No. 4 Utah

Utes have best turnover margin in Pac-12 at plus-10; Sun Devils have worst at minus-2 ... Arizona State 28-27.

Boston College (plus 15) at No. 5 Clemson

Eagles have allowed one offensive touchdown in three ACC games and lost them all ... Clemson 21-7.

No. 19 Oklahoma (minus 5) at Kansas State

Sooners have not lost back-to-back regular-season games since 1999 ... Oklahoma 28-24.

TWITTER REQUESTS

The theme of this week’s requests is most disappointing teams in the country.

Oregon (plus 2) at Washington

Oregon has won 11 straight against the Huskies, most in a rout; seems like a good time for UW to break that streak. Status of Oregon QB Vernon Adams is unknown... Oregon 31-28.

Auburn (minus 2½) at Kentucky

If the Tigers don’t win here, it will be really tough to get bowl-eligible ... Auburn 28-24.

Nebraska (plus 2) at Minnesota

At some point a ball has to bounce Nebraska’s way, right? ... Nebraska 28-21.

Pittsburgh (plus 3) at Georgia Tech

Yellow Jackets looking to snap a four-game losing streak ... Georgia Tech 28-20.

LAST WEEK

18-5 straight; 10-13 vs. spread

OVERALL

89-32; 62-54-3