It’s been however many hours after Tennessee beat Alabama and I still have Rocky Top stuck in my head. College football rules.
1. All roads lead back to the American
There is so much to unpack from an absolutely unbelievable weekend of football. But from a Group of Five perspective, one of the main questions up in the air is “Who is the best team?” The last two unbeatens both lost Saturday (more on that later) and there are only a handful of teams with one loss. The top teams appears to be Cincinnati, UCF and Tulane in some order. With all three teams still playing each other, the standings will sort themselves out, and chances are the team representing the Group of Five in a NY6 Bowl will come from that cluster, as it has always been.
2. Fine Young Cannibals
Thanks to losses by Coastal Carolina and James Madison, there is only one team undefeated left in the cannibalization that is the Sun Belt East Division…
There is so much to process from that list, you could teach a college course on data analysis using the Sun Belt East Standings as a metric. Coastal is 3-1, but scored and given up 124 points. Marshall has only scored 20 points in two conference losses, but 140 points in their other 4 games. Old Dominion is 3-3 overall, giving up and scoring 157 points halfway through the season, making them the literally definition of mediocrity. GEORGIA STATE IS STILL VERY MUCH ALIVE!! The more you look at this, the more fascinating it is. As for who is the best team, keep an eye on Georgia Southern, who knocked off JMU Saturday and probably should have done the same to Coastal Carolina a couple weeks ago if not for the Myrtle Hurdle. Of course, their next two games are against the division leading Monarchs and then hosting West Division leading South Alabama. Though being the Giant Killers they are, that may be exactly what they want.
3. More about those Monarchs
With all the talk about Marshall and James Madison joining the Sun Belt and expecting to make an impact, Old Dominion (and Southern Miss, who is doing just fine in the West Division thank you very much) slipped a little bit under the radar. Now, if you read my “Predicting the Futures” column on the Sun Belt, you know that I expected them to be much better than most experts, and I predicted them to beat Virginia Tech in another column. Not completely intending to toot my own horn, the point is that they had a lot going for them this year that warranted more attention than they were getting.
Coming into Saturday with a 2-3 record, they had shown flashes, but kinda lacked a true identity on offense. They may have found it Saturday during their 49-21 beatdown of Coastal. Blake Watson gained 256 yards on the ground on just 18 carries. While he’s always been a solid RB, the Monarchs used UCF transfer D.J. Mack as a change-of-pace QB. His mobility needed to be honored and opened up a lot of holes for the rest of the ODU ground game. Hayden Wolff was efficient, going 12-16 for 180 yards and 2 TDs, and WR Ali Jennings did Ali Jennings things. Defensively, they sacked Grayson McCall 7 times. Everything clicked. Now, if this is who they are, then there is a real chance this is the best team in the Sun Belt East. But they do have to show some consistency for me to buy in completely. Their game this week against Georgia Southern is going to be Must-See TV. (Or Must-See Streaming.)
4. Do you know the way out of Fresno?
After a demolition of a UNLV team that may be a bit more fraudulent than they looked a week and a half ago, a lot of people were looking at San Jose St. as a team that could potentially run the table and represent the G5 in a NY6 bowl.
Saturday night, the Spartans lost 17-10 to a Fresno St. team that has looked like a shall of themselves since Jake Haener got hurt. The story of the game was the second half, where the SJSU offense completely disappeared and the usually stingy Spartan defense showed cracks in their run defense. Who knew that the key for Fresno St. was to not let their backup quarterback do much more than handoff?
So with the Spartans falling back to Earth, the best team in the Mountain West might be Boise St. The defense has been very good, especially in conference, but making the switch from Hank Bachmeier to Taylen Green has opened things up offensively. This weekend’s game at Air Force could determine the Mountain Division champion.
5. Looking Ahead
Let me get out in front of this now, this weekend’s slate of games is the best of the year for fans of the G5. It’s basically how last weekend was for those sheep who watch Power 5. Here are just a few that will impact conference standings:
Wednesday: Georgia St. at Appalachian St.
Thursday: Troy at South Alabama
Friday: UAB at Western Kentucky
Saturday: Cincinnati at SMU; Toledo at Buffalo; Memphis at Tulane; Georgia Southern at Old Dominion; North Texas at UTSA; Boist St. at Air Force
College football rules so hard.