This may come as a shock to a lot of you, but the Walk-On Redshirts G5 Top 25 is not the same as the AP Poll.
This world lives in its own vacuum and is independent of the Power 5 conferences. That’s a very important point for us all to consider when establishing criteria for the rankings.
Case in point, there are 11 teams in the Group of 5 that are 2-0. And last week’s #1 team, Tulane, lost 37-20 Saturday to Ole Miss. Now, the game was much closer than the score would indicate and the Green Wave was without their star quarterback Michael Pratt. Could an argument be made that Tulane is still the top team in the G5, or are they what their record says they are? No one would argue that UL Monroe is better than Tulane, even though their record is better. But you can still acknowledge the success that the WarHawks have had to this point, even if victories over Army and Lamar aren’t the most exciting.
On the other side of the coin is Boise St. There is no world in which an 0-2 team could be ranked in the AP Poll without people crying from the mountaintops that they don’t deserve it. But here, due to the quality of opponents they have played (Washington and UCF) and the shallower pool of teams to choose from, it is justifiable. (They aren’t, but it IS justifiable.)
But the complete subjectivity is what makes this exercise so enjoyable. There’s no correct formula. It’s the most eye-testy poll there is. So with that in mind, here is this week’s G5 Top 25.
1. Western Kentucky (2-0) – This isn’t so much a reward for a 30-point win over FCS opponent Houston Christian but an acknowledgment that they are what most people thought they would be going into the season. A dangerous offense with a very good quarterback leading them and a defense that is good enough most weeks. Pay no attention to the fact that this Saturday they play at Ohio St. That wasn’t a factor at all. Nope.
2. Tulane (1-1) – As you could probably decipher from above, I tend to not punish Tulane too much for their loss on Saturday. Along with the reasons mentioned above, their is also the fact that Ole Miss is probably really good. And that game was winnable for about 55 of those 60 minutes. A letdown this Saturday at Southern Miss might be problematic however.
3. Georgia Southern (2-0) – I don’t know if Georgia Southern is even the third best team in the Sun Belt East, let alone the entire Group of 5. But they are a competent defense away from being scary good. The offense looked borderline unstoppable Saturday in their 49-35 win over a UAB team I came away liking more than I expected to. I don’t expect them to beat Wisconsin Saturday, as I think the Badgers will run all day on them. But the Eagles should be able to put up some points.
4. Fresno St. (2-0) – An overtime win over FCS foe Eastern Washington is a bit alarming and is the second win via shootout, but maybe that’s just who Fresno St. is. A PAC-12 After Dark (RIP) game at Arizona St. Saturday will tell us if this team is either the class of the Mountain West or just another team that can score points but has a leaky defense.
5. Liberty (2-0) – Two CUSA teams in the Top 5 doesn’t not necessarily signify a revolution, but it does suggest that there are some good teams at the top of this conference. Kaidon Salter is a steady quarterback who has thrown for 7 TDs and yet to throw a pick, and him as well as two RBs have rushed for over 100 yards. The next two games are on the road but winnable (At Buffalo and FIU). This team could go on a, ahem, run.
6. James Madison (2-0) – Arguably the most entertaining game that involved a Group of 5 team took place in Charlottesville, as the Dukes beat Virginia 36-35. I’ll say more about this game in my “Gee, Five Thoughts” column later this week, but it is exactly the kind of win I needed to see from JMU to become a believer. An interesting conference matchup at Troy will take place this Saturday. A win there and JMU will skyrocket up this list even more.
7. Wyoming (2-0) – I don’t think we can take too much from a 31-17 win over a Portland St. team that gave up 81 points to Oregon the week before. The larger measuring stick will come this Saturday in Austin in a potential letdown spot for the Texas Longhorns.
8. Air Force (2-0) – The Falcons won 13-3 over Sam Houston St. in a Sickos Special Saturday that honestly probably said more about the BearKats than Air Force. Conference play starts Friday night at home against a Utah St. squad that could be feisty.
9. Memphis (2-0) – I may honestly have this team ranked too low, but I need to see Memphis be more than a team that beats who they should and loses to who they should. Their 37-3 win over an Arkansas St. team that is probably not trying to save their coach’s job felt about right. Let’s see how they handle a Navy team Thursday night that has given them fits in the past.
10. Marshall (2-0) – Rasheen Ali reminded everyone how good he really is Saturday, scoring 3 TDs in a 31-13 win over East Carolina. Much like Memphis, this is a squad that could really use a signature win, as ECU feels like they are going to have a down year. Their opportunity will come after a bye week, when they host Virginia Tech.
11. Georgia St. (2-0) – An under-the-radar impressive performance was GSU’s 35-14 win over UConn Saturday night in Atlanta. The Panthers at least have established their identity. They want to ground and pound their opponents with the combination of RB Marcus Carroll, who already has 6 TDs and nearly 300 yards, and quarterback Darren Grainger who also has almost 200 yards rushing in two games. A game at Charlotte this Saturday in a revenge spot will be fun.
12. Toledo (1-1) – A 70-3 win over Texas Southern shows the type of offensive explosion they are capable of. But the Rockets will be a tough team to evaluate going forward, as they have a schedule that looks to be full of teams they should beat. They host San Jose St. Saturday.
13. Coastal Carolina (1-1) – A competitive loss at UCLA and a workmanlike win over Jacksonville St. don’t exactly have Coastal standing out among the crowded Sun Belt East. After a likely paycheck game against Duquesne, their conference schedule gets going in a big way with a Thursday night home game against Georgia St.
14. UTSA (1-1) – UTSA turned into a defensive team so gradually we didn’t even notice, holding the Texas St. offense to 13 points in a 20-13 win. Quarterback Frank Harris left the game early with an injury that almost game the entire Roadrunner Nation a heart attack, but returned to throw the winning TD pass. Kevorian Barnes may be the key to this entire team, rushing for over 100 yards. Up next is a Friday night home game against Army.
15. SMU (1-1) – Somebody knew something when they put the Mustangs 28-11 loss to Oklahoma on ESPN+, because it was not the aesthetically pleasing game fans of offense were expecting. As it is, I kinda think holding the Sooners to 28 points will prove to be more impressive as the season wears on. After a tune-up Saturday against Prairie View A&M, they get another shot at a Big XII Heavyweight in the Sonny Dykes Bowl against TCU.
16. South Alabama (1-1) – A 35-17 win over SE Louisiana is pretty ho-hum, so they still need to get the stink of that performance against Tulane off of them. There is a golden opportunity to do so Saturday at Oklahoma St., a game they certainly can win.
17. San Diego St. (2-1) – The Aztecs continue to be a pretty miserable watch when they have the ball and a 35-10 loss to UCLA could easily be followed up by a loss to Oregon St. that looks similar, but I kinda have to keep them ahead of Ohio who I think might be pretty good since they beat them Week Zero. So here we are.
18. Appalachian St. (1-1) – App St. almost got another big fish while also exercising their Tar Heel demons. Alas, it was not meant to be, as UNC got a 40-34 overtime victory Saturday night. Nate Noel reminded everyone why he is one of the top running backs in the conference, rushing for 127 yards and two scores. It can also be argued that quarterback Joey Aguilar outplayed Drake Maye, throwing for 275 and two scores. As you have noticed, the division is pretty stacked so it remains to be seen how it all shakes out. But App State reminded everyone, even for a night in a loss, what they could be. They should beat East Carolina Saturday night at home.
19. Ohio (2-1) – The Bobcats are known by star quarterback Kurtis Rourke, but proved during Saturday’s 17-10 win over Florida Atlantic that their calling card may be defense and a running game. Their one-two punch of Sieh Bangura and O’Shaan Allison rushed for 125 yards and they held FAU star running back Larry McCammon to 23 yards on just 7 carries. That approach may serve Ohio well in the MAC. Next week they take on Iowa St. at home in a game that is very winnable.
20. Rice (1-1) – If you remember my column on Futures to take in the AAC, you’ll recall that I was pretty high on Rice this year. (My Accountability Buddies can read that column here.) The Owls didn’t disappoint, gutting out a 43-41 overtime win over Houston Saturday night. While they did squander a 28-7 4th quarter lead and almost lost the game in the process, they proved that they will have a formidable offense. JT Daniels threw for over 400 yards and he connected with Luke McCaffrey for 7 catches for 99 yards and two scores. (Including one that is highlight worthy.) That combo will be one to watch going forward. Up next is Texas Southern, but their schedule actually sets up well until they host Tulane Oct. 28. Keep an eye on this team.
21. Troy (1-1) – I don’t like what I am seeing with Troy. For a team that was expected to have one of the top defenses in all of the Group of 5, giving up 72 points in two games is a bit alarming. And this Saturday at home against JMU followed by a game against Western Kentucky will not offer any relief. Things could go south here if they aren’t careful.
22. UAB (1-1) – I watched a decent amount of UAB-Georgia Southern (thank you ESPN+ and a fully operational laptop) and actually came away impressed with the Blazers. With Trent Dilfer coaching, I kinda expected a bit of a hot mess of a team, but I think they will be alright. Jacob Zeno threw for almost 400 yards and Jermaine Brown is still a top flight running back, even if they are skewing to a more pass-happy offense. I have questions about the defense, but trust things to get figured out. It would behoove of them to do so this Saturday at home against Louisiana before road games at Georgia and Tulane.
23. Texas St. (1-1) – The team that played UTSA Saturday didn’t exactly resemble the one that ambushed Baylor just a week prior. But regressions to the mean are to be expected and UTSA’s defense might be low-key really good. Saturday’s game against Jackson St. probably looked a little more daunting a year ago, so expect the Bobcats to get back on track.
24. Utah St. (1-1) – Losing to Iowa by 10 on the road and putting up 78 points against Idaho St. leaves quite a wide swath of possibilities for the Aggie team. But I like Cooper Legas and this Friday’s game at Air Force followed by a home battle with James Madison could be a coming out party for him. I’m just trying to get out in front of it if that is the case.
25. UL Monroe (2-0) – Real talk: I don’t know if UL Monroe is actually good. In fact, they probably aren’t. And they will probably lose to an angry Texas A&M team by 40 and might do the same to a currently 0-2 Boise St. if that happened. But let’s just acknowledge this moment in time where a Terry Bowden coached team is undefeated and the only team in the Sun Belt West that can make that claim and be glad in it.
So there is this week’s Top 25. Who did I miss? Who is overrated? Let me know in the comments/social media. (You know the @walkonredshirts platforms.)