Welcome to this week’s G5 Top 25. As a Florida St. fan, I’m a bit melancholy today. Prayers up for Jordan Travis. But this is about the Group of 5. So let’s see where we stand after a wild week in our world.
1. Tulane (10-1) – Let’s get this out of the way now. I’m not sure Tulane is the best team in the G5. I’m not even sure they are going to play for their conference championship. But with their only loss being to Ole Miss, they need to be knocked off their perch. That may very well happen this Friday when UTSA comes to town. But they did look as good as they have in quite a while in Saturday’s 24-8 win at Florida Atlantic, so maybe they are rounding into form just in time. I firmly believe that wins over UTSA and SMU would get them a NY6 bid.
2. Liberty (11-0) – Liberty closes out their regular season this Saturday at UTEP, but all eyes are on that conference championship game against a New Mexico St. team that is white hot. A win there may be more impressive than anything else they have done all season and open some eyes in the NY6 committee. It will be very interesting to see what happens with this team if they finish out the season undefeated.
3. Toledo (10-1) – Toledo had the toughest test on their conference slate last Tuesday when they narrowly escaped Bowling Green 32-31, scoring a 59-yard touchdown with under two minutes to play on fourth down. That clutch play kept them in the NY6 discussion and got them a Top 25 ranking in the AP poll. With a regular season finale at Central Michigan and a MAC Championship game against Miami OH, a rematch from about a month ago, they have a chance to finish with a 12-1 record. They need a few breaks to make it as the NY6 representative, but this team is very good nonetheless.
4. SMU (9-2) – In one of the more entertaining games of the weekend, SMU escaped Memphis with a 38-34 win Saturday. The victory kept their AAC Championship (and possibly slim NY6) hopes alive. They can close out an undefeated conference season with a win Saturday at home against a Navy squad that is playing better of late.
5. UTSA (8-3) – We’ve reached the fireworks factory.
Since about August, everyone had an eye on this Friday’s game pitting UTSA at Tulane and expecting it to determine at least one of the representatives in the conference title game. Sure enough, it will. Tulane feels like the immovable object to UTSA’s irresistible force. I cannot wait. (A reminder, this game is Friday.)
6. James Madison (10-1) – At least the atmosphere at College Gameday looked awesome.
Look, it’s hard to say exactly what went wrong for JMU in Saturday’s 26-23 overtime loss to App St. Maybe there was too much pressure with all eyes on Harrisonburg, Virginia. Maybe there was a feeling that with the NCAA denying them the opportunity to play for a conference championship and bowl (yet again) that there wasn’t much to play for. Or maybe, Appalachian St. for the second year in a row, has a flair for the dramatic when GameDay is involved. (Remember last year when they hosted they defeated Troy on a Hail Mary?) Whatever the reason, the Cinderella story had a Bambi ending. But they can still have a say in who represents the Sun Belt East based on their game Saturday at Coastal Carolina.
7. Troy (9-2) – It looked a little dicey through three quarters, but Troy came through in the fourth quarter Saturday against Louisiana, pulling out a 31-24 win. The Trojans were tied at 17 heading into the final stanza before scoring two touchdowns to get the victory. They now wrap up their regular season at Southern Miss in a game that doesn’t hinder them from making the Sun Belt title game but would make a statement to whomever is their opponent in that game.
8. UNLV (9-2) – In a day where Fresno St. lost to New Mexico, UNLV took control of the conference with their 31-27 win at Air Force Saturday. A win Saturday at home against San Jose St. clinches a birth in the Mountain West title game.
9. Memphis (8-3) – A good effort by the Tigers against SMU Saturday wasn’t quite good enough in their 38-34 loss to the Mustangs. With the conference title no longer a possibility, they can still set their sights on a 10 win season (after the bowl game) but that starts with a win in their regular season finale Friday at Temple.
10. Miami OH (9-2) – It’s been done relatively quietly, but Miami OH clinched a spot in the MAC title game and a rematch against Toledo with their 23-10 win against Buffalo last Wednesday. They sit at 9-2 with losses only to Miami Fla. and Toledo. Assuming no hiccup at Ball St., this is a very successful season for the RedHawks.
11. New Mexico St. (9-3) – With apologies to App State, the most impressive victory in the G5 was by New Mexico St., who went to Auburn and left with a – dare I say dominant? – 31-10 win. Winners of 7 in a row, they play Jacksonville St. this Saturday in a game that ultimately doesn’t mean much since the Aggies have clinched a spot in the CUSA Title game, but it’s going to be a very good game.
12. Jacksonville St. (8-3) – Now that the JMU undefeated run is over, let’s talk more about the injustice that exists with Jacksonville St. also not being able to play in a bowl. Just have them play each other and be done with it. Everybody has fun. Everybody Wang Chungs.
13. Ohio (8-3) – We’ve reached the portion of the poll where teams have been bowl eligible for a couple weeks but can’t play for a conference title. So they are basically jockeying for position in the bowl hierarchy. Ohio beat Central Michigan 34-20 last week and head to Akron Saturday for the season finale. Cool.
14. Air Force (8-3) – Air Force was undefeated headed into November. People forget that. But after blowing a 20 point halftime lead to UNLV Saturday, now they need to win this Friday at Boise St. to even play in the conference title game.
15. Fresno St. (8-3) – Speaking of broken Mountain West teams, you OK Fresno St.? Because OK teams don’t lose to New Mexico. I understand Mikey Keene is not 100% at quarterback, but he is not responsible for a rush defense that has been gashed in back-to-back games. They wrap up their regular season at San Diego St. in Brady Hoke’s finale for the Aztecs.
16. Wyoming (7-4) – At least the Cowboys looked good Saturday, beating Hawai’i 42-9. They probably should be ranked higher than Air Force and Fresno St. based on that, but they did lose to both of those teams so here we are. A win Saturday at Nevada will give Wyoming an 8-win season and a shot at a bowl game that sounds more like a reward than a punishment.
17. Appalachian St. (7-4) – Some may call the Mountaineers fun crushers, but the reality is this team had a lot to play for Saturday at James Madison. They needed to win out against JMU and this Saturday against Georgia Southern and get a bit of help to play for the Sun Belt title against Troy. Winners of four in a row, they are hot right now.
18. Coastal Carolina (7-4) – Winning 5 conference games in a row before losing to Army Saturday has the Chanticleers in position to represent the Sun Belt East against Troy with a win against a very angry (or very defeated) James Madison team Saturday.
19. Bowling Green (6-5) – Tuesday night was one of the more heartbreaking losses in recent memory if you are a Bowling Green fan. As it is, they are still bowl eligible and winners of 4 of their last 5. They wrap up their season Tuesday night at Western Michigan in a game that would look really sweet if it were to snow heavily in Kalamazoo.
20. South Alabama (6-5) – In a cluster of Sun Belt West teams sitting at 6-5 (USA, Texas St., Arkansas St.) the Jaguars have won two straight, including shutting out Marshall Saturday, so they get the nod here. Plus they beat the Arkansas St. team that hung 77 on Texas St. Saturday. Having said that, they could easily lose to Texas St. Saturday so whatever.
21. Georgia Southern (6-5) – I did not expect Senior Day in Greensboro to end with the whimper that it did.
Credit to Old Dominion. They have been much pluckier than anyone expected going into this season, and can even become bowl eligible with a win against Georgia St. this weekend. But Georgia Southern is better than what they showed in a 20-17 loss Saturday. Now they face white-hot Appalachian St. Saturday in hopes of keeping them from representing the Sun Belt East in the conference title game.
22. Georgia St. (6-5) – You know how you can see Colorado quitting in real time when you watch them play? Well anyway, let’s talk about Georgia St.
I’m not saying it is the same situation as what is going on in Boulder. (That team is getting smoked by James Madison and in Baton Rouge too.) But you can certainly see that once they became bowl eligible and eliminated from conference title hopes, it feels like they are going through the motions. If they need a goal, they can keep Old Dominion from becoming bowl eligible this Saturday.
23. Boise St. (6-5) – I’m not entirely sure what to make of this team. They have scored 30 points 9 straight games and 4 of their 5 losses are by a combined 13 points. They are still eligible for the conference title and can get there with a win Friday at home against fading Air Force. But oh by the way, they fired their coach a week ago. *Throws hands up* I kinda want this roller coaster to end with a conference championship.
24. San Jose St. (6-5) – Winners of 5 in a row, San Jose St. became bowl eligible Saturday night with a 24-13 win over San Diego St. We essentially have semifinal games this weekend to determine the Mountain West Champions. (Who says a 4-team playoff system can’t work?) Air Force takes on Boise St. and San Jose St. travels to UNLV.
25. Arkansas St. (6-5) – I was torn between Arkansas St. and Texas St., but in the end I decided to go with the team that just hung 77 on the other team. Everyone gets their own tiebreaker rules I guess.
My favorite stat from the 77-31 Red Wolves victory was that exactly ZERO of the 11 touchdowns were done through the air. That’s right, quarterback Jaylen Raynor did not throw a touchdown pass. They rushed for 7 scores, had a kick return for a touchdown and the defense scored three themselves. What a wild four hours that must’ve been for people who watched that game. Arkansas St. REALLY wanted to be bowl eligible. So now they get to play with a little house money in their season finale at Marshall.
Also, the following teams can become bowl eligible with wins this weekend: Navy, South Florida, Rice, Northern Illinois, Central Michigan, Eastern Michigan, Utah St., Colorado St., Old Dominion, Marshall, Louisiana
So there is this week’s Top 25. Who is overrated? Underrated? Let us know on any of the @walkonredshirts socials. Also, we have partnered with Underdog Fantasy to help give you our Underdog picks for each weekend! Sign up today with Promo Code WALKON and get your first deposit doubled up to $100! Sign up HERE.