Welcome to this week’s Good news bad new5 column. There is a lot to unpack from last weekend’s college football action. The main takeaway )aside from the highway robbery that took place in Memphis) is probably Fresno State’s dramatic 40-37 win over UCLA, establishing them as a factor in the Mountain West and very likely in the NY6 conversation. But there is so much more in the land of the G5 to talk about. So let’s get to it.
Good news: Cincinnati did what they needed to do.
At the beginning of the season, pundits who wondered if Cincinnati had a shot at the CFP pointed to two games – Saturday at Indiana and Oct. 2 at Notre Dame – as must wins. Part one has been accomplished, as they Bearcats defeated the Hoosiers 38-24. They didn’t look like a Top 4 team doing it if you watched the game, and an Indiana win probably isn’t going to hold as much cache and most thought at the beginning at the season. But Cincinnati cannot afford a loss this season anywhere if they want to accomplish their goals.
Bad news: On a personal level, the AAC kinda ruined my Saturday.
So as some of you may know, I am from Indiana and a born and bred Hoosier. So I was emotionally invested in their game against Cincinnati. I also married a Mississippi St. alum, so the game against Memphis also was a significant one in your boy’s household. Needless to say, I have thoughts on how that one ended. (The Cliff Notes version is: Take the “technically that punt return is legal” BS out of the equation. What isn’t legal is having two players with the same number on the field at the same time, which Memphis did on that play. Also, acknowledging that Mississippi St. recovered the onside kick but OH BY THE WAY THERE IS A PENALTY THAT WE DIDN’T ACTUALLY THROW A FLAG ON is not real good officiating considering that is something they could probably do every single time there is a review but don’t.) So yeah, we aren’t loving Memphis right now. At least my expectations were lower for IU winning.
Oh yeah, also Dillon Gabriel broke his clavicle on the last play of the game Friday night on that dumb “hook-and-lateral” play, effectively ending any hope of UCF posing a threat to Cincinnati.
Good news: Thinking….thinking…
This wasn’t a great week for the conference honestly. Louisiana Tech and Marshall lost after squandering 4th quarter leads, while FIU and Rice got boatraced by Big 12 opponents and Charlotte and Southern Miss both lost to Sun Belt foes. I guess the good news is that by UAB and UTSA beating conference teams, they establish themselves early as the class of the conference.
Bad news: Louisiana Tech is two heartbreaking plays away from being undefeated.
Two weeks ago, they lost to Mississippi St. after a game-winning field goal attempt was blocked. Saturday, they lost to SMU on a Hail Mary. To be fair, last week they beat FCS school Southeast Louisiana 45-42, so that game could have easily gone the other way as well. The Bulldogs could be anywhere from 3-0 to 0-3, so it’s hard to tell where exactly they fit in the CUSA ethos, but at least they are entertaining.
Good news: I think I was wrong on Western Michigan.
At the beginning of the season, I had high hopes for the Broncos. They then got housed in the Big House by Michigan in a loss that looks more reasonable the more data we have on the Wolverines. I was kinda off on the Broncos at that point. After a shutout of Illinois St. Western Michigan made the statement win the conference’s reputation needed by going to Pittsburgh and beating the Panthers 44-41. Kaleb Eleby looked like the quarterback preseason hype suggested he could be, going 23-34 for 337 yards and three touchdowns against what is considered a stout Panther defense. They have what looked to be a very difficult schedule through October, with home games against San Jose St., Ball St. and Kent St. along with road tilts at Buffalo and Toledo. On the other hand, none of those teams have impressed the way we may have thought they would coming into the season. Call the Broncos the class of the MAC until proven otherwise.
Bad news: The East Division teams all have losing records.
Looking at the East Division standings made me sad. Go ahead, look at it!
Every team in the division has a losing record. However, the silver lining is that by process of alphabetization, Akron and Bowling Green are the top two teams in the division. Enjoy that while it lasts Zips and Falcons fans.
Good news: Honestly, a lot of things.
The following teams are undefeated: San Diego St., Utah St. and Wyoming. Notice that I did not mention preseason conference contenders Boise St., Nevada or San Jose St. Now don’t get me wrong, those three teams haven’t necessary given any reason to believe they won’t be challengers for the Mountain West crown (though I will talk more about Boise St. shortly), but having the three undefeated teams, two of which have defeated Pac-12 teams, shows the depth of the conference as a whole. I haven’t even mentioned Fresno St., who just defeated UCLA and probably should have beaten Oregon. That will make for an exciting conference slate.
Bad news: The bloom is off the Boise St. rose.
The Broncos are 1-2 to start the season, with close losses to UCF and Oklahoma St. On the surface, there is no real shame in that. However, their next three games are as follows: At Utah St., home against Nevada and at BYU. I’m not saying they WILL lose all three, but it’s not outside the realm of possibility. They also have games at Fresno St. and San Diego St. and a home game against Wyoming in November. I don’t know what their final record will be, but it could be something in the area of 7-5, which just feels weird for a Boise St. team.
Good news: The conference is better than the SWAC...albeit barely.
South Alabama held off Alcorn State 28-21 while UL Monroe (and maybe only) win of the season by kicking four field goals and holding Deion Sanders’ Jackson St. to a touchdown en route to a 12-7 victory. Neither win was particularly pretty – both teams actually trailed at half – but at the end of the day, a win is a win. Especially for a team like the Warhawks, who may not see a lot of success this season.
Bad news: What the hell was that Arkansas St.??
A week ago I looked at Arkansas St., coming off scoring 50 points against Memphis, heading to Washington, a team that had looked pretty dreadful in two losses to that point, as a potential upset possibility. Instead they gave up 50 points again, losing 52-3(!) to the Huskies. That defense needs A LOT of work, and games at Tulsa and at Georgia Southern either give them a chance to get right before playing Sun Belt heavies Coastal Carolina and Louisiana, or it puts them in a big hole the rest of the season.
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. UTSA at Memphis – As mentioned above, this one got personal. But taking that part out of the equation, Memphis could be due for a letdown and UTSA is not the team to let down against. (Ask Illinois.)
2. UAB at Tulane – Quite frankly, after starting the season with Oklahoma and playing Ole Miss last week, Tulane could use a break. Unfortunately for the Green Wave, they don’t get one, as they play a UAB team that just trucked North Texas to begin their conference slate. Fortunately for anyone able to watch the game on TV, we will be able to see Tulane in some sweet, sweet unis.
3. Boise St. at Utah St. – I mentioned it earlier, but this is a very important game for both these squads. Boise St. needs a win to keep relevant in the Mountain West, while Utah St. needs a win to prove their undefeated start is not a fluke.
4. Marshall at Appalachian St. (Thursday night) – This game lost a bit of luster after the Thundering Hurd blew a 17 point fourth quarter lead to East Carolina Saturday, a team that App St. beat three weeks ago. (Seriously, if these three are going to play each other, just have them in the same conference. I did a whole thing about it.)
5. Liberty at Syracuse (Friday night) – The Flames have been under the radar to start the season but greatly resemble the team that finished the season in the Top 25 last year. They face their toughest test to date (such as it is) by travelling to the Carrier Dome Friday night to face Syracuse.
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 (3-0) – Any chance of joining the CFP hinges on beating Notre Dame in two weeks.
2. BYU (3-0) – BYU might have messed up joining the Big 12 because they would probably be the best team in the Pac-12.
3. Coastal Carolina (3-0) – A road game at Buffalo proved to be a challenge and may have exposed some weaknesses in their run defense. But I’m not sure anyone in the conference can expose said weakness.
4. Memphis (3-0) – With UCF now without Gabriel, they may pose the biggest threat to Cincinnati in the AAC.
5. UTSA (3-0) – They were my football crush early, so it’s funny that this week they are heading to Memphis to right a personal wrong. As the last undefeated CUSA team, this could be the toughest test remaining on their way to an undefeated season.
6. Liberty (3-0) – Their schedule is going to hinder them on a national level. But Malik Willis is a dude.
7. Army (3-0) – Just quietly doing their thing until October when their schedule gets significantly more challenging (at Ball State, at Wisconsin, Wake Forest).
8. SMU (3-0) – The Mustangs won a thriller over Louisiana Tech on a Hail Mary. Now they get city rival TCU in a game that they could have been looking ahead to.
9. Wyoming (3-0) – What BYU is to the Pac-12, Wyoming is to the MAC. They could easily be undefeated when they host Fresno St. October 16.
10. San Diego St. (3-0) – I know Fresno St. is nationally ranked after beating UCLA, but San Diego St. also beat a Pac-12 team Saturday (Utah) and hasn’t lost to one yet this season. They host the Bulldogs Oct. 30, it’ll work itself out.
What teams are over/underrated? Which games involving G5 teams pique your interest? Hit me up in the comments.