Welcome to this week’s Good news bad new5 column. I spent the weekend in Mississippi. Had to get the pulse of Southern Miss fans as they played Alabama. Let’s just say, Brett Favre and Frank Gore Jr.’s father could’ve suited up and it wouldn’t have given Eagles fans any more optimism heading into that game. Now then, on to the weekend in review in the world of Group of 5 land.
Good news: I’m saying there’s still a chance.
I hate to sound like a broken record, especially considering they didn’t even play this weekend, but the reality is Cincinnati is the measuring stick for the Group of 5 and the best chance at changing the landscape of college football. And things are kinda sorta falling into place for them to make the College Football Playoff. They needed Notre Dame to be undefeated coming into their matchup this weekend (and need them to end the season with Cincinnati being their only loss). They also needed traditional playoff staples Clemson, Ohio St. and Oklahoma to show cracks. Clemson is basically done, and the others are on thin ice. There’s obviously a lot of football to be played, but if the Bearcats win out and the whole world burns around them, it’s possible they finish in the Top 4.
Bad news: Tulane might be broken.
Flashback to Week One, when Tulane went toe-to-toe with Oklahoma. The main takeaway seemed to be that Tulane could be really good. But aside from a beatdown of Morgan St., they have looked progressively worse since that game. The Green Wave now sit at 1-3 after losses to objectively very good teams Ole Miss and UAB. The silver lining is that they have a chance to get right a bit against ECU and Houston before the meat of their conference schedule when they travel to SMU, host Cincinnati and go to UCF. They also end the season at Memphis. They need to win one of those and not slip up anywhere else to become bowl eligible. It’s not even October yet, but they are in must-win mode.
Good news: Meep meep.
I don’t care if the season is only a third of the way over, I am taking a victory lap on UTSA. I’ve been saying all year long that they are good and the schedule is setting up for them to have a very special season. Don’t believe me? Fact check me. They showed that they are more than good by spotting Memphis, a team who hasn’t lost at home since 2018, 21 points in the first quarter and coming back to win on a last-second field goal 31-28. Sincere McCormick is a legit Doak Walker Award candidate at running back. One might think that they are due for a letdown, but their next game is against winless UNLV. (Again, the schedule sets up perfectly for them.)
Bad news: Western Kentucky can relate to Tulane’s situation.
Western Kentucky has scored at least 31 points in each of their 3 games. However, they have one win to show for their effort. And it’s not that their defense is atrocious, but they have had two significant challenges, losing to Army and Indiana. And the schedule doesn’t get any easier, as their next two opponents are undefeated Michigan St. and undefeated UTSA. They could be staring at the distinction of being the most fun 1-4 team to watch in college football history as they head into a back half of the schedule that is more manageable. But by that point, a bowl bid may be out of reach.
Good news: The Force is strong.
One of my pet peeves is when analysts say that “college football is better when (insert traditional power) is good”. I tend to think college football is pretty great every year. But having said that, there is something special about seeing the service academies succeed. Either Army or Navy are usually good every year, so getting eyes on the Commander-in-Chief Trophy tends to fall on whether or nor Air Fore can pull their weight. Thus far, they are 3-1, losing only a 49-45 shootout to Utah St. They appear to have the type of team that can challenge Army for the CIC trophy and give fits to their Mountain West foes. Dare I say, college football is better when Air Force is good?
Bad news: Broken Trojans.
For those who need a reminder, San Jose St. won the Mountain West last year. There was little reason to think they couldn’t do the same this year. But after a Week Zero win over Southern Utah, they have looked pretty stagnant offensively, scoring a grand total of 27 points in three games against USC, Hawaii and Western Michigan. They have a “Get right” game coming up against New Mexico St., but after that they get to the heart of their conference schedule which has plenty of potential landmines. If they don’t find their offense quickly, they may prove that last year was an aberration.
Good news: Going Bowling Green?
Every year, a MAC team catches a Big 10 team when they least expect it. I don’t think anyone expected Bowling Green to be the MAC team to do that this year. Prior to the season, some people were saying that Bowling Green was the worst team in the FBS not named UCONN. But after a 14-10 win over Minnesota, they are 2-2 heading into conference play. They aren’t producing a lot on the offensive end, which is a pretty key component in winning games. But there are wins to be had as conference play starts, with their first three opponents Kent St., Akron and Northern Illinois and Ohio their season finale opponent. I don’t expect them to challenge for a conference title, but a bowl bid is not impossible.
Bad news: Putting the 0 in Ohio.
With Frank Solich at the helm, Ohio was a dangerous opponent who got by on solid defense and an offense that made few mistakes. But Solich resigned just prior to the season beginning, rendering the Bobcats a rudderless ship with no direction. They are 0-4 and might need to beat Akron this weekend if they hope to experience the sweet taste of victory at all this season.
Good news: I see U-L Monroe.
Beating Jackson St. 12-7 on September 18 probably is not enough to say that Terry Bowden has UL Monroe on the right track. But following that up with a 29-16 win over Troy is.
Now the not-so-good news (because “bad news” is already a thing). Quarterback Rhett Rodriguez suffered a lung injury in the game so severe that it sent him to the ICU. No update had been given as of Monday. Not only that, they play Coastal Carolina this Saturday. Who knows how the season will end up, and I’m sure it is hard to celebrate a 2-1 record for a team that was winless last year when their quarterback is on a ventilator. But at least this guy on the internet is giving them their flowers.
Bad news: Georgia Southern is taking their COVID year a year late.
Georgia Southern fired head coach Chad Lunsford Sunday after their 28-20 loss to Louisiana. The Eagles are 1-3, with only a five point win over Gardner-Webb to show for their Saturday. The timing is curious, as their is no shame in their losses to Arkansas and Louisiana. But their 38-6 defeat at the hands of Florida Atlantic two weeks ago signaled the beginning of the end for Lunsford. With games against Coastal Carolina, BYU and Appalachian St. still on their slate, it is likely they are playing out the string this year with an eye toward 2022.
5 Games to keep an eye on:
1. Liberty at UAB – The luster is off this game a bit thanks to Liberty’s loss at Syracuse last Friday. But this is UAB’s debut in their new on-campus facility. That should give a very good Blazer team quite the emotional boost.
2. Louisiana Tech at NC State – La Tech is 2-2, but those losses were on a missed field goal at Mississippi St. and a Hail Mary against SMU. NC State is coming off an overtime win against Clemson and actually got smoked by aforementioned Mississippi St. Bulldogs. Ripe for a letdown, just saying.
3. Western Michigan at Buffalo – I proclaimed Western Michigan the team to beat in the MAC in last week’s column. While their win over San Jose St. did help reaffirm that prediction, the real test of my faith in the Broncos comes at fellow MAC challenger Buffalo.
4. BYU at Utah St. – Prior to Saturday, Utah St. was seen as a darkhorse in the Mountain West. They then got a reality check from Boise St. Hosting BYU on a Friday night gives them a chance to show that was merely a bump in the road, or they aren’t who we thought they were after all.
5. Charlotte at Illinois – Charlotte is off to a 3-1 start, with a win over one middling Power 5 school already (Duke). There’s no reason they can’t get a second one here.
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 Saturday.
2. BYU (4-0) – The game Oct. 16 at Baylor just got a bit more interesting after the Bears beat Iowa St.
3. Coastal Carolina (4-0) – May not be challenged until they head to Boone, N.C. to take on App. St. Oct. 20.
4. UTSA (4-0) – Some people are calling them America’s Team. Not me, but some people.
5. SMU (4-0) – While I am especially proud of the UTSA call, let’s not lose sight of the fact that I also said before the season that SMU could be the second best AAC team. (“You did not.” Sure did.) That Texas Bowl game between UTSA and SMU is going to be pretty dope.
6. Army (4-0) – Speaking of interesting games on Oct. 16., I present Army at Wisconsin.
7. UAB (3-1) – The longer their only blemish is a loss at Georgia, the better.
8. Wyoming (4-0) – Let’s agree to never speak of their two point win over UCONN again and concentrate on their 4-0 record.
9. South Alabama (3-0) – I’m not saying they are the second best team in the Fun Belt, but they do get a chance to stake their claim when they host Louisiana this weekend.
10. San Diego St. (4-0) – The fact that the last two undefeated teams in the Mountain West are Wyoming and San Diego St. kinda blows my mind.
What teams are over/underrated? Which games involving G5 teams pique your interest? Hit me up in the comments.