As a Florida St. football fan, I appreciate you respecting my privacy over the past couple of days. Now on to the weekend that was and will be in G5 play.
Good news: The conference has a great team at the top and some depth.
Whether Cincinnati can make it to the playoffs is yet to be determined. Unlikely as it may seem, early season losses to Clemson and Ohio St. help their case. Unfortunately, an early season loss to their opponent Saturday, Indiana, hurts it. The fact that teams within their conference such as Memphis, UCF and SMU are off to good starts strengthens the perception of the conference and will draw more eyes on their matchups throughout the year. Cincinnati needs help, and for the most part, are getting it.
Bad news: Navy has an offense problem.
Following a three week period in November where every game was postponed, they finished out their season where they scored a combined 13 points to Memphis, Tulsa and Army. After an offseason where they could theoretically fix their woes….they haven’t. In two games this season (to Marshall and Air Force) they have scored 10 points total. 23 points in five games is not great Bob. They fired their offensive coordinator following Saturday’s loss, but that might prove to be a short term solution. They are a triple option offense, always have been and always will be. At some point, personnel matters. They just may not have the dudes, and for a military school, that’s a difficult issue to fix. (On the football field of course.)
Good news: Florida Atlantic is back to being interesting.
A loss to Florida Week One and a win against Georgia Southern in Week Two may not tell us a lot about the Owls’ standing in the Conference USA, but the combination of Willie Taggart (who by far does his best work with smaller schools) and Miami transfer N’Kosi Perry will put up points, which will have them in the hunt in a wide open conference.
Bad news: UAB has some work to do.
I kinda thought UAB had a shot to keep Saturday’s game close against a Georgia team that struggled to score against Clemson and was missing their starting quarterback.
I was very, very wrong.
The Blazers were the ones who had a hard time mustering points (though they did score one more touchdown than Clemson did against the Dawgs). I don’t think there is anything inherently wrong with UAB, but the rest of the conference is on the come up and they feel stagnant.
Good news: Central Michigan and Western Michigan both pitched shutouts.
Ok so they were against FCS schools Robert Morris and Illinois State, but a shut-out is a shut-out. If that sounds a bit like damning with faint praise, well, it is. Because the bad news is…
Bad news: No conference teams won against an FBS school Saturday!
Sure, there were several close calls (Toledo against Notre Dame, Northern Illinois against Wyoming, Ohio against another FBS school Duquesne) but there were also opportunities for the conference to make a statement against “big brother” Big 10. Ball St., one of the conference favorites, laid an egg against a very good Penn St. team. Likewise, Buffalo couldn’t go to Nebraska and hang with a Cornhusker team that is mediocre at best. Miami of Ohio travelled to Minnesota who is without their best offensive player (running back Mo Ibrahim) for the rest of the season and put up a valiant effort but still left with an L. Unfortunately, the conference is running out of opportunities to make a statement on a national level and may end up just existing in their own fun bubble.
Good news: San Diego State is a passing attack away from being really good.
Defense and a running game. If you have those two elements, you have a shot. And the Aztecs do in spades. San Diego St. obliterated Arizona Saturday night 38-14 in a game that wasn’t even that close. Running back Greg Bell has close to 300 yards through two games, which is more yards than quarterback Jordan Brookshire has thrown for. There will need to be more balance, and it would be nice if it started this Saturday against a reeling Utah team.
Bad news: Losses to Oregon State and Vanderbilt happened.
You would think that bottom feeders in Power 5 conferences would be easily ripe for the picking. Based on Saturday night’s outcomes, you would be wrong. Oregon State handled a Hawaii team that we last saw get manhandled by a very good UCLA team, while Colorado State (wearing hideous uniforms) got beat by a Vanderbilt squad that couldn’t score a touchdown against East Tennessee State last week. Unfortunately, these outcomes say more about Hawaii and Colorado State, they are pretty bad.
Good news: South Alabama might be sneaky good.
The Jaguars are off to a 2-0 start after wins against Southern Miss and Bowling Green. They face Alcorn State next before beginning their conference slate against Louisiana. No one if confusing this team with Big Brother Crimson Tide, but those two wins are games that were not guaranteed wins and exactly the type of games they need to earn a bowl bid. For South Alabama and new coach Kane Wommack, that’s something to hang their hat on.
Bad news: Georgia St. is going to have a rough season.
Georgia St. made it to a bowl game last year and looked like a trendy pick to make some noise in the Sun Belt. But they have yet to give any real reason to think that is the case after two weeks. They have really struggled in two losses to Army and North Carolina, and the schedule doesn’t get much easier going forward with games against Charlotte and Appalachian St. and a road game at Auburn next on their docket. If they aren’t careful, they are looking at the possibility of 0-5.
5 Games to keep an eye on:
(I touched on a few games taking place this week involving G5 teams in a previous post, which you can read here and here. This list is more reactionary to the season thus far.)
1. Fresno St. at UCLA – Oregon’s win over Ohio St. last weekend seemed to indirectly raise the stock of Fresno St., who had the Ducks on the ropes just a week and a half ago. They take on UCLA this weekend, who is riding high following their win over LSU on that same day. This feels super trap-y for the Bruins, but maybe having a week off will help them focus on the Bulldogs.
2. Tulane at Ole Miss – This has all the makings of a track meet, despite both teams actually having competent defenses.
3. Nevada at Kansas St. – Wildcat quarterback Skylar Thompson was injured Saturday, and Kansas St. is just not the same without him. Nevada has a clear advantage at the quarterback position with Carson Strong, let’s see if he can carry the rest of the squad to a victory in Manhattan.
4. Arkansas St. at Washington – Arkansas St put up 50 against Memphis Saturday night. So they can score. They also gave up 55, so their defense is…uh….not great. Washington on the other hand, has scored 17 points total in two losses to Montana and Michigan. Something has to give.
5. Ball St. at Wyoming – Despite their showing against Penn St. I still think Ball St. is one of the top teams in the MAC. Losing a game in Happy Valley doesn’t change that. Travelling to Laramie to take on a team that has already beat one MAC squad (Northern Illinois) and is expected to finish in the upper echelon on the Mountain West will probably tell us more more about the Cardinals.
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 (2-0) – Didn’t get off to a great start against Murray St., but eventually got it rolling.
2. Coastal Carolina (2-0) – “They looked good against Kansas” would mean nothing to a Big 12 team, but Coastal Carolina looking good against Kansas tells us they are still probably the best team in the Sun Belt and a Top 25 team.
3. Liberty (2-0) – Likely going to flip-flop with Coastal Carolina throughout the year. I gave them the benefit of the doubt last week because they beat Coastal in a bowl, but I think the Chanticleers are the better team this year.
4. BYU (2-0) – Looked an awful lot like the team they had last year with Zach Wilson in beating Utah.
5. UTSA (2-0) – I’m riding this team until the wheels fall off.
6. Nevada (2-0) – I think this is the best team in the Mountain West, but this week’s game against Kansas State will tell a lot.
7. Army (2-0) – The final score against Western Kentucky was misleading. Army held the high-powered offense pretty much in check until the end and was able to do their triple-option thing.
8. UCF (2-0) – If they get past Louisville Friday night, they will be undefeated going into Cincinnati in mi-October.
9. Marshall (2-0) – Probably the best defense in CUSA, but hard to tell where they stand in CUSA until their competition gets better than Navy and North Carolina Central.
10. Memphis (2-0) – They have a high-powered offense, scoring 97 points in two games, but their next two games against Mississippi St. and UTSA will tell us more about the Tigers.
What teams are over/underrated? Which games involving G5 teams pique your interest? Hit me up in the comments.