Welcome to this week’s edition of Gee, Five Thoughts. This past Saturday was as status quo as it gets in this world, with most of the big stories happening in the very antiquated world of the SEC. Nonetheless, here are five things I took away from the G5.
1. Coastal Cruising
It seems like not too long ago, everyone in the Sun Belt East (with the exception of James Madison) felt like they had a fighting chance at winning the division. But one fateful Thursday night in Conway, South Carolina changed all that.
With Coastal Carolina’s 35-28 win over App St., the Chanticleers all but wrapped up the Sun Belt East. While there were some dicey moments, namely when Grayson McCall went out with injury, CCU seems to keep the Mountaineers at arms length the duration of the game. With games left at home against an up and down Southern Miss team and road games at Virginia and James Madison to end the season, I don’t see them winning out (if for no other reason than they may rest some people those last two games) but they have established themselves as the class of this division and can probably start planning for either Troy or South Alabama in the conference title game.
There were a couple takeaways from MACtion beyond “Tuesday Night Football is awesome.”
First up, Ohio completely blitzed previously undefeated (in conference) Buffalo 45-24. Kurtis Rourke probably established himself as the top QB in the MAC (with apologies to DaQuon Finn) by throwing for 317 yards and 5 touchdowns and the Bobcats now control their own destiny in the MAC East. If I am giving out way-too-early superlatives, the best running back in the conference may be Carson Steele of Ball St., who rushed for 192 yards and a touchdown as the Cardinals went to Kent St. and pulled out a 27-20 victory. Meanwhile Bowling Green may just be the hottest team in all of the conference, as they won their third in a row by beating Western Michigan 13-9 in a game that was not exactly aesthetically pleasing. The Falcons also share a 4-1 conference record with Ohio and Buffalo, and the division title may come down to the last week of the season when Bowling Green travels to Ohio (you know what I mean) to face the Bobcats.
3. A Public Service Announcement
You may have seen my Group of 5 Top 25 list on Twitter every Sunday. One team I leave off that list is Liberty. I do that moreso for off-the-field reasons, and when they join Conference USA I will put my morals off to the side and cover them like any other team. But I did want to acknowledge their 21-19 win in Fayetteville against Arkansas Saturday. They are currently sitting at 8-1, with their lone loss a one-point decision to Wake Forest in September. This team is very, very good and assuming Hugh Freeze stays around – which is a pretty large assumption – this team is going to be a force to be reckoned with for the foreseeable future.
4. ESPN Made Another Bad Decision
It’s widely recognized that ESPN’s coverage of Group of Five games is less than stellar, but they had a golden opportunity to generate a little goodwill within the G5 fanbase.
Instead they decided to just P all over us.
One of the prime games this weekend is UCF traveling to New Orleans to take on Tulane. Both teams are ranked, that in and of itself is enough justification. On top of that…New Orleans.
So what does Gameday do? Go to Austin. Again.
Look, I like watching TCU as much as the next guy. They are explosive on offense in much the same way Tennessee and Ohio St. are, but in a New Blood form. But you know who else fits that category? Their future conference rival UCF. And is there honestly a better story in college football than Tulane and their sweet, sweet unis? If nothing else, the game will be straight uniform porn. It just feels like the powers that be decided after going to Jackson St. a couple weeks ago that they had sufficiently broadened their Gameday horizons and are back to the traditional blue blood locations. And it sucks.
Gameday is in need of a demographic shakeup. Adding Pat McAfee has been a nice start. He’s great, But lean all the way into it and go to locations not generally visited. You might be pleasantly surprised at the success it generates.
5. Looking Ahead
As you could probably ascertain from the previous note, it is a good weekend for G5 matchups. Other than the triple shot of MACtion we get Tuesday and Wednesday, how about Georgia Southern at Louisiana Thursday night in a game that will make the Eagles bowl eligible with a win and put the Ragin Cajuns one step closer to that with a victory. Friday night we get East Carolina going to Cincinnati in a game that may (along with Tulane vs. UCF) determine the AAC title game participants.
Among the Saturday slate includes an SMU team that just put up 77 points taking on a USF squad who just fired their coach. Don’t rule out 100 points by the Mustangs. North Texas travels to UAB in the marquee matchup in Conference USA. And in the Mountain West, keep an eye on the San Jose St. at San Diego St. game after dark.