Welcome to this week’s installment of Good news bad new5, a column devoted to all things G5. There is a lot to unpack after a full slate of games last weekend. So let’s take a look at that half full and half empty glass that is college football. (Analogies are hard.)
Good news: UCF is a true threat nationally.
The Knights got off to a bit of a rocky start in their game against Boise St. Thursday night. But the Gus Malzahn-led team won with – get this – DEFENSE AND RUNNING THE BALL. If they can prove themselves as more than a one-dimensional team who throws the ball all over the yard and can be beaten by an off night by Dillon Gabriel, the Gus Bus may go all the way to a NY6 bowl game.
Bad news: Tulane might be the third best team in the conference despite what their record suggests.
The Green Wave put up a valiant effort in Norman, losing to Oklahoma 40-35 in a game that might have looked totally different had a hurricane not come through the south and forced this to be a road game. Freshman quarterback Michael Pratt looks like the real deal, throwing for nearly 300 yards and 3 touchdowns against a defense that everyone said was improved. The defense picked off Heisman candidate Spencer Rattler twice, they did everything right. But they still lost.
And with their schedule remaining, it probably won’t be the last time.
They have roads trips scheduled with Ole Miss, East Carolina, SMU, UCF and Memphis and Cincinnati comes to where ever Tulane calls home this season. That’s not easy. They are likely looking at a 6-6 record and the distinction of being “better than their record indicates”.
Good news: Conference USA might be this year’s Sun Belt.
UAB, Marshall, Charlotte and UTSA all had good wins Week One and look like teams that could garner Top 25 attention throughout the year. Louisiana Tech is a made field goal away from being included in that group. That level of depth at the top is reminiscent of the Sun Belt last year when Coastal Carolina and Louisiana (who I’ll get to in a bit) spent most of the season in the Top 25. I am particularly high on UTSA, who in this very column last week I said had a very good chance of beating Illinois. I legitimately think they could run the table.
Bad news: It probably won’t matter on a national scale.
An undefeated UTSA probably isn’t representing the G5 in a NY6 bowl as long as Cincinnati (or UCF) has 0 or 1 losses. Despite the AAC’s best attempt to call themselves a P6 conference (which they aren’t, just like UCF didn’t win a national title, @me) the reality is that their perception is a bit higher than CUSA. So is the Sun Belt’s for that matter, so if Coastal Carolina has a season reminiscent of last year’s they too would likely get a coveted spot ahead of a UTSA. A win over Illinois just isn’t likely to carry a lot of cache. I don’t make the rules, if I did Sincere McCormick would be a household name.
Good news: Northern Illinois isn’t awful anymore!
The Huskies, not long ago an Orange Bowl opponent of Florida State, has fallen on hard times recently. Though their fortunes may be turning. Behind Michigan State transfer Rocky Lombardi, they upset Georgia Tech 22-21 Saturday. It’s probably an outcome that says more about the Yellow Jackets in all actuality, but for this week, the Huskies hope they can be a player in a wide open MAC West.
Bad news: The quarterbacks may not be who we thought they were.
There was a lot of preseason hype centered around two guys, Dustin Crum of Kent St. and Kaleb Eleby of Western Michigan. Both teams had season openers against Power 5 teams – Kent St. against Texas A&M and Western Michigan against Michigan – that would really elevate their status among the best college quarterbacks.
The problem is, they both disappointed.
Crum, the leader of the highest scoring offense in college football last year, finished 12-26 for 89 yards and two interceptions Saturday night against Texas A&M. Granted it was the #6 team in the nation and they weren’t necessarily expected to win. But they didn’t show out at all.
Eleby fared a bit better against the Wolverines, finishing 20-37 for 191 yards and a touchdown. But when you are trying to make an impact that you are a little brother to a state school that has been struggling over the past few years, pedestrian isn’t good enough.
Both teams could bounce back and have really good years, but for now, perception is reality.
Good news: Mountain West teams finished 2-2 in games against the Pac-12 Saturday.
Nevada beat California last night, while Utah St. beat Washington St. That’s cool. Nevada could win the Mountain West and Utah St. needed a win under new coach Blake Anderson to give fans hope that a turnaround can happen sooner rather than later. (BTW, it may be a rough season for football in the state of Washington.) However…
Bad news: It was probably the wrong two teams that won.
The two losses by the conference – San Jose St. vs. USC and Fresno St. vs. Oregon – could have really changed the perception of the conference and drawn more eyes to a conference that easily gets lost surrounded by the Pac-12 and Big 12. Fresno St. had an Oregon team on the ropes that was missing the best defensive player in the country (Kayvon Thibadeaux) and struggling to find it’s offensive identity. While defending conference champion San Jose St. laid an absolute egg against USC. Either one of those games going the other way would have really been nice. (However, Fresno St. has a chance at redemption next week against Flavor of the Week UCLA.)
Good news: There is a legit threat to Coastal Carolina.
Appalachian State was a bit of an afterthought coming into this season after two teams finished in the Top 25 and they weren’t one of them. But they will be a threat to win the conference this year if Chase Brice plays like he did Thursday night against East Carolina. They host Coastal Oct. 20. Mark your calendar, it will decide the conference.
Bad news: The bloom is off the Louisiana rose.
There is no shame in losing to Texas, but that Louisiana team looked like last year was an aberration. They just never really got much going against the Longhorns. I think they will be good, I think they will get to a bowl, but they are no threat to a NY6 Bowl.
Top 5 Games to keep an eye on:
(I touched on a few of them in a previous post, which you can read here and here. This list is more reactionary to the season thus far.)
1. UAB at Georgia (3:30 p.m. ESPN2) – Georgia’s defense might have been the most impressive unit in all of college football last weekend, effectively shutting down Clemson last Saturday night. UAB is not the most prolific offense, but did put up some points against Jacksonville St. and has an interesting running back combination and a pretty solid defense. I’m not saying UAB will win, but I saw a line of Georgia -29 and don’t see any reason to assume Georgia’s offense can score 29 points at this point.
2. Toledo at Notre Dame (2:30 p.m. Peacock) – Sometimes Notre Dame plays a game at home against an opponent that just for whatever reason, gives them fits (usually it’s Louisville or Pitt). Toledo feels like the kind of team that can do the same, especially after Notre Dame’s draining win over Florida State Sunday night. The letdown possibility is high.
3. Utah at BYU (10:15 p.m., ESPN) – The Holy War comes to Pac-12 After Dark. BYU is not the same team they were last year, but they proved by beating Arizona they are still a force to be reckoned with. Utah is further up on the Pac-12 hierarchy than the Wildcats, but the bad blood here makes this game very interesting.
4. Memphis at Arkansas St. (7 p.m. ESPN+) – So this might not be the sexiest matchup, but this game could really springboard each team in their respective conference.
5. Wyoming at Northern Illinois (1:30 p.m. ESPN+) – This game has admittedly gotten more interesting thanks to the Huskies win over Georgia Tech. Interestingly enough, this is the first of two back to back games for Wyoming against MAC competition (Ball St. comes to Laramie next week.)
Top 10 Group of 5 teams:
(I am not using resume for these rankings, rather who would beat whom. So #2 is beating everyone but #1, etc.)
1. Cincinnati (1-0) – Obliterating Miami of Ohio did nothing to suggest they won’t be a problem all year long.
2. Liberty (1-0) – Probably not going to learn too much from them beating the Campbells of the world.
3. Coastal Carolina (1-0) – Probably not going to learn too much from them beating the Citadels of the world.
4. Nevada (1-0) – Didn’t look great against Cal, but good enough to think they can win the Mountain West.
5. BYU (1-0) – Wasn’t sure what to do with them this preseason after losing Zach Wilson, but they look like they will still be good, just not AS good as last year.
6. UTSA (1-0) – I love this team, IDGAF.
7. UCF (1-0) – They have the potential to win the AAC, just need to see a little more consistency on defense.
8. Army (1-0) – The best of the military schools by a mile. Their triple option is in midseason form.
9. UAB (1-0) – A toss-up between them and Marshall. UAB gets their shot at Georgia this week, so it may be the last time we see them in these rankings for a while.
10. Ball St. (1-0) – Probably the best team in the MAC. Let’s see what they do in Happy Valley.
What teams are over/underrated? Hit me up in the comments.