How does one establish a Top 25 ranking for the Group of Five after only one week?
It’s an interesting exercise to be sure. Some teams were projected to be serious threats to represent the G5 in a NY6 bowl game but ran into buzzsaws (Boise St. and South Alabama). Some had golden opportunities to make statements against Power 5 foes but fell short (Toledo, Coastal Carolina and UTSA) while others took advantage of their chances (Northern Illinois, Wyoming and Texas By God St.) And then there are the teams that did what they were supposed to against inferior opponents. What do we learn from that?
Does Marshall barely beating Albany mean anything? Does Georgia Southern shutting out The Citadel mean they found a defense or was that just a byproduct of playing The Citadel? Conversely, does Arkansas St. losing 73-0 to Oklahoma say more about Arkansas St. or Oklahoma? (Let’s just say there is a high probability this is the only time Arkansas St. is mentioned in a Top 25 list anywhere on the internet.) I don’t know that there are answers to those or the hundreds of other questions like those that could be asked just yet. Which is why this Top 25 ranking will be kinda all over the place.
The criteria will be based on who I think would beat whom, but also takes into consideration teams that just generally impressed and also maybe a hint of “this team may not make the rankings again this year so I will give them their flowers while I can”. That’s about all the context I will be giving. (That’s what my Gee, Five Thoughts column is for.) It’s an imperfect system, get at me in the comments.
1. Tulane (1-0) – Any concerns that Tulane may be a one-year wonder were alleviated after the Green Wave’s 37-17 thrashing of South Alabama. This sets up a match-up against Power 5 foe Ole Miss Saturday that may solidify Tulane’s status as the top G5 team.
2. SMU (1-0) – The Mustangs looked every bit the part of a *heavy sigh* Power 5 school in their 38-14 win over Louisiana Tech. Saturday is a game at Oklahoma in a “hammer the Over” game.
3. Fresno St. (1-0) – You can argue Wyoming deserves the spot as the top Mountain West team at this point and I wouldn’t argue, but honestly, I think Fresno St.’s 38-33 win over Purdue was more impressive. Saturday is a home game against Eastern Washington.
4. Texas St. (1-0) – The most impressive performance in all of the Group of 5 (Tulane included) was Texas St. beating Baylor 42-31. Auburn transfer TJ Finley might have found a home. Saturday they play at UTSA in a game very important for both teams.
5. Wyoming (1-0) – Wyoming may have found an offense to go along with its salty defense in beating Texas Tech 35-33 in double overtime. Next up is a home game against a Portland St. team that gave up 81 points to Oregon.
6. Western Kentucky (1-0) – South Florida was pesky and the Hilltoppers lost star receiver Malachi Corley to injury, but Austin Reed and WKU are still the same scary offense they have been after beating the Bulls 41-24. Next up is Houston Christian at home.
7. Northern Illinois (1-0) – One of the more under-the-radar outcomes was NIU beating Boston College 27-24 in Chestnut Hill. In a weekend where the MAC didn’t exactly show out, this was a positive outcome for the conference. Next up is a game at home against rival (?) Southern Illinois.
8. Troy (1-0) – I don’t read much into Troy’s vaunted defense giving up 30 points to FCS opponent Stephen F. Austin. The game was never really in doubt. I choose to focus more on the 48 points they scored and Kimani Vidal rushing for almost 250 yards. Let’s see what they look like this Saturday at Kansas St.
9. Georgia Southern (1-0) – Playing a triple option team, even one at the FCS level, will test a team’s run defense. And holding The Citadel to under 200 yards and no points is pretty good for a team whose main issue was on that side of the ball. Saturday they host UAB in a very interesting G5 matchup for both teams.
10. San Diego St. (2-0) – This team still has a lot of questions. Giving up 28 points to Idaho St. is curious and beating an Ohio team whose quarterback was never at 100% doesn’t do a ton for me, but 2-0 is 2-0 and Jalen Mayden is a nice player at quarterback. Saturday they host UCLA in a game that they better be clicking on all cylinders if they want to win.
11. Liberty (1-0) – This Jamey Chadwell guy may know what he is doing. He has a quarterback in Kaidon Salter, a rushing attack that racked up 246 yards on the ground and a defense that generated 5 turnovers against Bowling Green. They have their conference opener Saturday at home against New Mexico St. in a game that may determine who is the greatest threat to WKU in CUSA.
12. Air Force (1-0) – This is a reputation play, as there is probably not a lot to be learned from a 42-7 win over Robert Morris. The Falcons rushed for 380 yards and quarterback Zac Larrier rushed for 2 TDs and threw for another. Air Force should be fine, but their game Saturday at Sam Houston will test them.
13. James Madison (1-0) – I probably underrated JMU in my preseason Top 25 poll, so I am course correcting and moving them up higher than a 38-3 win over Bucknell probably suggests I should. But I reserve the right to drop them significantly if they can’t beat a pretty bad Virginia team in Charlottesville Saturday in a game where the defense should be fine but quarterback Jordan McCloud will have to make plays.
14. Toledo (0-1) – The Rockets were this close to being a lot higher on this list, but Illinois clipped them on a last second field goal to win 30-28. I still think when all is said and done, this is the best team in the MAC, but a loss is a loss and they have one. Look for them to get right Saturday against Texas Southern.
15. Boise St. (0-1) – One could argue this G5 favorite looked the worst out of any that lost Saturday, but the reality is that Washington could have the scariest offense in the country. I will give the Broncos a pass, but they probably need to look a lot better this Saturday at home against UCF.
16. South Alabama (0-1) – Much Like Boise St., I don’t think Saturday’s outcome is indicative of who South Alabama is. Tulane is really good, and poking the bear by saying Mobile is the home of the real Mardi Gras was probably not the best idea. Nonetheless, I still the Jaguars will be an upper echelon team in the Sun Belt West, but that game at the end of the year at Texas St. has become a lot more interesting. They will bounce back this Saturday in their home opener against SE Louisiana.
17. Coastal Carolina (0-1) – You could make a case that Coastal Carolina should be ranked higher than Boise St. and South Alabama based on the fact that they played their opponent tougher than the two teams ahead of them. The Chanticleers actually looked pretty good at UCLA until Dante Moore announced his arrival to the college football world. But I just think South Alabama is better. Plus, this Saturday they play…
18. Jacksonville St. (2-0) – ..this team.
Believe me, Jacksonville St. at Coastal Carolina was not a game that I had high on my list of bangers when Sept. 9 schedule was released, but here we are. The Gamecocks are 2-0 with a conference win under their belts. That’s definitely something to be applauded. But this game will truly test the mettle of Rich Rod’s squad and possibly put them on the national radar.
19. Southern Miss (1-0) – Southern Miss fans can exhale, if only for a week.
Quarterback Billy Wiles played…fine. Frank Gore scored and was able to rest and the Nasty Bunch defense played well in a 40-14 win over Alcorn St. But things get real real fast, as the Golden Eagles travel to Tallahassee to face Florida St. Saturday and follow that up with a game at Tulane.
20. Florida Atlantic (1-0) – Former Texas and Nebraska quarterback Casey Thompson threw for 5 TDs and all-conference caliber running back Larry McCammon ran for 125 yards and ran for a score as the Owls put up 42 points. Ok so it was against Monmouth, but let’s focus on the positives here. This offense led by Tom Herman can be very good and this team will likely be a real threat in the American. Next up is a home date against an Ohio team that doesn’t look the same without a healthy Kurtis Rourke.
21. UTSA (0-1) – That was not one of the best games I’ve seen UTSA play. Sure Joshua Cephus did his thing and running back Kevorian Barnes gained over 100 yards, but they just looked very off. Frank Harris looked like he was forcing things. The defense made several dumb mistakes, including committing a late hit penalty at the end of the first half that led to a field goal that may have been the difference. And their own special teams failed them with a missed field goal. Despite all that, they still only gave up 14 points and lost by 3 on the road without JT Clark at receiver. I honestly don’t know what to expect Saturday at home against a dangerous Texas St. team.
22. Eastern Michigan (1-0) – A 33-23 win over Howard is another one of those outcomes that doesn’t get my super excited about the direction of the team, but Eastern Michigan kinda hangs their hat on methodical, workmanlike outcomes regardless of how it looks. So it is what it is. But they better tighten things up Saturday against a Minnesota team they can beat, even on the road.
23. Temple (1-0) – This might end up being a sleeper team in the AAC. EJ Warner threw for 292 and 2 TDs as the Owls overcame a 21-10 halftime deficit to shut out the Zips in the second half and pull out a 24-21 win. Let’s see how they follow up Saturday at Rutgers in a winnable game.
24. UL Monroe (1-0) – Sorry Memphis, you probably deserve somewhere around here, but I’m a Florida St. fan so my loyalty is with Mike Norvell and anyone named Bowden. UL Monroe was able to muck up their battle with Army enough to pull out a 17-13 win in a game that did not look like it was going to go their way for 3 quarters. 2-0 is a real possibility with Lamar coming into town this Saturday.
25. Charlotte (1-0) – I don’t know if Charlotte has staying power and Biff Poggi scares me, so they get the nod at #25. The good news is, a 24-3 win for a program that just needs positive vibes is a nice way to spend a Saturday. Also, Jalon Jones certainly has potential as a dual-threat quarterback, but needs to eliminate turnovers. Two interceptions against South Carolina St. does not instill a ton of confidence headed to College Park this Saturday to take on a Maryland team that will pose a much tougher test.