My apologies for the tardiness, as I’m sure we are all on to Week 4. But the real job had to take a bit of precedence this week. Plus, I like the idea that we just finished up the quarter mark of the season and no more. So with that in mind, let me offer up some superlatives regarding the week that was before accepting that it is time to look ahead.
Best Game You Probably Didn’t See – North Texas 40, Louisiana Tech 37
If you are like me and have your laptop keyed up to ESPN+ while the TV is doing the rest of the Lord’s work, you may have seen the wild
CUSA non-conference matchup between North Texas and Louisiana Tech. (Also if you did that, we need to be friends.) But if you didn’t, you missed one heck of a 4th quarter.
Through 3, the Mean Green were up 30-14 and looking every bit like the team that I thought could be an AAC darkhorse this season. Prior to the game they made a quarterback change to UL Monroe transfer Chandler Rogers and he seemed to provide the spark the offense was lacking through the first two games. All was well.
Then the 4th Quarter happened.
Louisiana Tech went wild, even tying the game up at 37 with just over a minute to play. They happened to make a quarterback change of their own, as Jack Turner stepped in for Hank Bachmeier and threw for 145 yards and ran for another score to bring the Bulldogs back into contention. Alas, Rogers was able to move UNT back into field goal range and Noah Rauschenberg drilled a 31 yard kick as time expired.
Ultimately, in CUSA, I think La Tech will be fine. They will win the games they are supposed to and lose the ones they are supposed to, hovering around bowl eligibility. But this game could be huge for North Texas. A blown lead here would have put them at a very bad looking 0-3. Now, after this week’s game against Abilene Christian, they SHOULD be 2-2 heading into games at Navy and against Temple. There is an opportunity for them to really gain some momentum here.
Most Pleasant Surprise – Colorado St. playing Colorado to the wire.
I really wanted to reserve writing about this game since ultimately the P5 team beat the G5 team, but considering how well the Rams played relative to their Week One game against Washington St., I wouldn’t be doing my job if I ignored their performance. Henry Blackburn hit aside, the Rams played really well, especially on offense. Quarterback Brayden Fowler-Nicolosi needs to cut down on his interceptions, but I can understand why he might have felt the need to force some things and I don’t expect too many Mountain West defenses to be as opportunistic as the Buffaloes.
Now, the Rams have to take the positives away from this game and apply them going forward, because this is a team that could certainly lose at Middle Tennessee St. Maybe this was a turning point for the Rams. But maybe, it was just a bad team that played well against a rival. We’ll find out this Saturday.
Biggest Disappointment – Georgia Southern’s second half performance against Wisconsin.
I talked a little bit about this game in my G5 Top 25 Column, but for 2 and a half quarters, it looked like the Eagles were going to claim another Big 10 victim. The offense was moving the ball very well and the defense that I had hoped to see them play against literally anybody was showing out. But self-inflicted mistakes turned the tide quickly.
After Georgia Southern took a 14-7 lead in the third, it looked like there was a chance. But Wisconsin decided to lean on what makes them so tough to play: an overpowering offensive line and running backs that are game changers. Braylon Allen and Chaz Mellusi were too much and the team couldn’t overcome Davis Brin’s 5 interceptions. Brin had issues with this at Tulsa, so it’s a real issue that needs to be cleaned up. If he learned to trust his playmakers more and the defense plays like they did for most of Saturday’s game, this team will be fine. But it just feels like not everything has come together quite yet. If they get right at Ball St., that will help going into conference play. A loss in Muncie and things could get sideways.
Biggest Overreaction – Florida International is a bowl team.
One of the more pleasant surprises in the Group of 5 is Florida International, who moved to 3-1 after Saturday’s 24-17 win over UCONN in Storrs.
The Panthers inserted freshman Keyone Jenkins Week One against Maine (the Panthers played Week Zero and lost to La Tech I remind you) and he has played ever since, leading FIU to victories against Maine, North Texas and UCONN. I know, not exactly the SEC West, but we are talking about FIU here. Expectation management here, people. Looking ahead, there are games against conference foes UTEP, Sam Houston, Jacksonville St., New Mexico St. and Middle Tennessee St. upcoming. There are 3 wins to be found there before a closing stretch of at Arkansas and Western Kentucky at home. (They also play at Liberty this weekend in a game that may have the Panthers flying a bit too close to the sun.) Coach Mike McIntyre has a reputation for turning around downtrodden teams. He may have earned the benefit of the doubt to get FIU to six wins.
Best chance for a G5 victory over a P5 team – Virginia Tech at Marshall
We are starting to round into conference play, so this section may get tweaked in the future. But considering I told you all last week that Ohio would beat Iowa St., let’s keep riding this while we can. The Thundering Herd have been relatively quiet this season thus far, sitting at 2-0 with wins over Albany and East Carolina. But now things pick up significantly for them, as they have 2 of their next 3 games against ACC foes (Virginia Tech and NC State) with a conference matchup against an Old Dominion they would be wise not to overlook.
I think the Hokies have learned their less that former Marshall QB Grant Wells is not their answer, switching over to dual threat Kyron Drones. While he is neither Michael or Marcus Vick, he is able to make plays with his legs in a way no one else on their roster can. But the rest of the team just isn’t very good. And Marshall has the defense – and the running back in Rasheen Ali – that can make this game the style they want.
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