Welcome to this week’s Good news bad new5 column. I just want to point out that three of the Top 15 teams are from outside the Power 5 conferences. SMU is in the Top 25 and UTSA could make a case to be. That’s pretty awesome. Now let’s dive a little deeper.
Good news: You mean besides the obvious?
I’m not going to write some huge thinkpiece on “Does Cincinnati deserve a playoff bid” or whatever. I’ll leave that to everyone else. Quite frankly, their path has been pretty clear. Win out and watch the world burn around them. They have done that and there’s no reason to think they won’t continue to do so. So I would rather send my “good news” to two other teams, Temple and Navy.
Navy got their first win of the year by beating a Dillon Gabriel-less UCF 34-30, while Temple beat Memphis 34-31. Neither win was expected, as both Navy and Temple were projected to finish toward the bottom of the conference, while UCF and Memphis were not. But both games show the conference might have a bit more depth than previously expected.
Bad news: Tulsa doesn’t have an offense.
Last year, Tulsa was able to get away with not being the highest-octane offense by having a great defense. This year however, they don’t have a first-round pick like Zaven Collins on that side of the ball. And boy did they get exposed by Houston last Friday night.
The Cougars, off to a 4-1 start behind a solid defense and running game (which sounds a lot like Tulsa last year) hammered the Golden Hurricane 45-10. Tulsa is 1-4, and while losses to undefeated Oklahoma St. and Top 10 Ohio St. are forgivable, I will remind you all that they also lost to Cal-Davis Week One. Assuming losses at Cincinnati and at SMU, their best case scenario is mediocrity at 6-6.
Good news: The other UT school is pretty good.
A lot has been made (by me) about UTSA and their quest for perfection. But there is another Texas satellite school in the conference that should not be overlooked. UTEP is off to a 4-1 start, which is already more wins then they have had in each of the last four years. With two more conference wins, they become bowl eligible. Next up for the Miners is struggling Southern Miss, a very winnable game. At that point, bowl eligibility will be all but a given. They can aim their sights higher.
Bad news: At least their new stadium looks nice.
UAB was christening their new stadium and flat laid an egg against Liberty Saturday night, losing 36-12. (Dragons lay eggs right? I’m not a Game of Thrones guy.) UAB’s problem has largely been at quarterback, as Dylan Hopkins has thrown for 653 yards in 5 games. Do the math. They need more from their passing game to compliment a pretty stout defense if they want to be the top of the conference this year.
Good news: The cream has risen to the top.
There is a TON of mediocrity in the MAC. Nine of the 12 teams in the conference are either 3-2 or 2-3. However, Western Michigan might have proven themselves to be the cream of the crop.
The Broncos won their fourth game in a row, beating Buffalo 24-17 in Buffalo. They were trailing 10-7 going into the fourth quarter before putting up 17 points in the decisive stanza. Quarterback Kaleb Eleby and receiver Skyy Moore connected 11 times for 163 yards and two touchdowns and the defense caused three fumbles and sacked Kyle Vantrease three times. When they lost to Michigan Week One, they looked like just another MAC team. Now, that loss doesn’t look so bad.
Special shout-out to Ball St., beating Army 28-16. I’ll be honest, kinda didn’t see that one coming, especially after Ball St. looked pretty listless in three losses to Penn St., Wyoming and Toledo. I would suggest this could be the start of a turnaround but, uh…
Bad news: Ball St. goes to Kalamazoo next weekend.
I could be surprised and Ball St. could beat Western Michigan, but if they don’t….Bell’s Brewery is right there.
Good news: The conference is wide ass open.
Nevada’s 41-31 win at Boise St. Saturday confirmed that the Bronco stranglehold on the conference is officially in the past. The reality is it probably puts the Wolf Pack at the top of the food chain, but teams like undefeated Wyoming and San Diego St., along with Fresno St., Air Force and even last year’s champs San Jose St. are capable of going on a run throughout the conference schedule. It’s going to be a fun two months.
Bad news: The Fresno St. hype train has derailed.
I’ll be honest, I was never super high on Fresno St., even after their win over UCLA. Sure, they played Oregon close, but they also played UNLV close. Sure, Jake Haener is good, but is he the best quarterback in the conference? (I happen to think Carson Strong is.) It just seemed like that UCLA win was doing a lot of heavy lifting for their resume. They have a bye week but then check out their next four games: At Wyoming, home against Nevada, at San Diego St. and home against Boise St. It’s not impossible to believe that they lose all four of those games and 4-1 turns into 4-6.
Good news: Louisiana is back on track.
The Ragin’ Cajuns are quietly 4-1, with their only loss being on national TV against a very good Texas team. Levi Lewis has kind of turned into a game manager, throwing for almost 1,100 yards with seven touchdowns and only one interception. They face Appalachian St. in a week, which will be fun. If they get past that, they should be able to win their division.
Bad news: Arkansas State still has not even remotely figured out how to play defense.
The Red Wolves couldn’t get right against a Georgia Southern team that just fired their coach and has players drinking beers on top of moving buses. In fact, they gave up 59 points and 503 yards RUSHING to that team! For frame of reference, Notre Dame has 404 yards rushing all season. What the hell guys?? And up next, Coastal Carolina on Thursday night. Pray for Arkansas St.
5 Games to keep an eye on:
1. UTSA @ Western Kentucky – I have admittedly been bullish on Western Kentucky this year, thinking they would bite either Army, Indiana or Michigan St. due to their potent offense. But the Spartans exposed a pretty fatal flaw in the Hilltoppers, they can’t stop the run. UTSA has a running back comparable to Kenneth Walker in Sincere McCormick. And WKU can still put up points, especially at home.
2. Wyoming @ Air Force – Fresno State’s loss to Hawaii showed that the Mountain West is wide open and these two teams are squarely in the mix. Expect both teams to establish the run early and often. Either team could be accused of looking ahead, and Air Force travels to Boise St. next week, while Wyoming hosts Fresno St. This will be a fun game.
3. Ball St. @ Western Michigan – As I mentioned, Western Michigan is the best team in the MAC and Ball St. can beat anyone and lose to anyone. A Cardinal win here throws the whole conference into chaos.
4. Boise St. @ BYU – This is not a typical Boise St. team, so they could easily get blown out by BYU. But they did beat Utah St. by more than the Cougars did. Ipso facto.
5. Temple @ Cincinnati – I’m not expecting a letdown by the Bearcats, especially since Temple snuck up on Memphis. But wouldn’t it be so 2021 if Temple won and ended any hopes of Cincinnati getting a playoff bid?
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 (4-0) – A CFP birth is right in front of them. They just have to win out.
2. BYU (5-0) – A legit Top 10 team, but next two games against Boise St. and Baylor will test them.
3. Coastal Carolina (5-0) – A 50+ point win against UL Monroe suggests they may run roughshod over the rest of the Sun Belt.
4. UTSA (5-0) – Didn’t earn a lot of style points in their win against UNLV. But don’t need them at this point.
5. SMU (5-0) – Tanner Mordecai leads the nation in touchdown passes. I know he wasn’t beating out Spencer Rattler, but Oklahoma might look a little different if he was their QB.
6. San Diego St. (4-0) – Haven’t played a conference game yet, but two wins over Pac-12 teams is still something.
7. Wyoming (4-0) – Them and SDSU are interchangeable at this point, but the Aztecs have played a tougher schedule, so they get the nod.
8. Nevada (3-1) – I’m a big “being undefeated matters” guy, but the reality is, this is probably the best team in the Mountain West.
9. Western Michigan (4-1) – Not outside the realm of possibility they end the season 11-1 with only a loss to Michigan.
10. Appalachian State (4-1) – Get the slight nod over Louisiana, but the two teams play in a week. The battle to see who is the second best team in the Sun Belt will sort itself out.
What teams are over/underrated? Which games involving G5 teams pique your interest? Hit me up in the comments.