Sound the alarms, midweek Sun Belt action returns tonight!!
Louisiana travels to Marshall in a game that sounded a lot more interesting in the offseason. Watch it anyway. (Blame Louisiana more for the disappointment. At least Khalan Laborn is fun to watch.) Beyond that, here are five other observations from the weekend that was and the week ahead.
1. Texas (State) is BACK
I sure hope that Layne Hatcher didn’t exclaim the Bobcats back after beating App St. last weekend. One overused Lone Star State quarterback gif is enough. Regardless, Texas St. provided probably the most surprising result of the weekend by beating a suddenly pedestrian Mountaineer team 36-24 in a game that wasn’t even that close. While most people may point to the preseason conference favorites struggles (especially defensively and running the ball) do no overlook the fact that the Bobcats now sit at 3-3. They have alternated wins and losses throughout the season, so let’s exercise a bit of caution as far as their standing in the West Division, but let’s not give Jake Spavidal his walking papers just yet. This has a decent shot to be a bowl team.
2. In other Lone Star State news…
UTSA established themselves as the team to beat in C-USA (again) by holding off Western Kentucky 31-28. The Roadrunners may not necessarily get through the conference schedule unscathed (considering road games at UAB and Rice remain) but this game was likely a preview of the Conference Championship game.
Also, the comeback of the weekend took place Friday night as the Houston Cougars scored two touchdowns in the last two minutes of the game to shock the Memphis Tigers 33-32 in a game that may have salvages their season. I talked a little bit about how Houston has disappointed in lieu of expectations of an undefeated season and NY6 bowl bid, but a loss here may have put ANY bowl bid into question. Clayton Tune will not garner any Heisman considerations and his numbers aren’t eye-popping, but he is a gamer who will make them a difficult out from here on out.
3. The best team in the Mountain West has been established.
Friday night also offered a coming out party for the San Jose Spartans, and boy did they bust out Kool-Aid Man style.
With a 3-1 record that didn’t really make a lot of waves, SJSU had a golden opportunity to show what they were capable of as they played a UNLV team that a lot of people thought could play the role of “best team in the conference”. I think all questions were answered after the 40-7 drubbing delivered by the Spartans. Chevan Cordiero accounted for 339 total yards and 4 TDs and the defense completely shut down the Rebels. With road games left against Fresno St. this weekend and San Diego St. and Utah St. down the road, I’m not proclaiming San Jose St. to win out, but if things break right, they could, which makes them your NY6 representative.
4. Bulls Mafia!
The Buffalo Bulls are off to a 3-0 conference start after a 38-7 drubbing of Bowling Green last weekend. Buffalo has leaned on a terrific running game behind Mike Washington and Ron Cook Jr., a quality that makes success sustainable as the weather turns cold. Upcoming games against Toledo and Ohio (and to a lesser extent Central Michigan and Kent St.) will challenge the defense, but for now as they only undefeated team in the East Division, the Bulls have a nice cushion.
In the West Division, Toledo sits with a 2-0 record, with a surprising Ball St. and an ascending Eastern Michigan nipping on their heels. Keep an eye on the Eagles, who hosts Toledo October 29th in a game that could decide the division after travelling to Muncie the week before. If they can win both those, they become the team to beat in that division. Ball St. has won 3 of their last 4, but they host UCONN in an interesting game this weekend and face Eastern then go to Kent St. and Toledo. That’s a very challenging slate.
5. Looking ahead
There aren’t a ton of games that look interesting on paper this week in the world of the Group of 5, so of course that means to expect some chaos. (The Power 5 slate is loaded, but who cares am I right?) There will no doubt be some interesting games in the MAC, MWC and Sun Belt, but I personally think there are chances for a couple upsets in the American. An improving Navy team heads to Dallas to take on an SMU team reeling from transfers and a loss in Orlando to UCF last Wednesday. Also, Tulane heads to Tampa to take on a USF team that has been struggling, but played competitively against Cincinnati. One of these times, the Bulls are going to get someone, and a Green Wave team that is looking to become bowl eligible could be that team.