Welcome to this week’s Good news bad new5 column. This has been a pretty wild season to say the least, but traditionally, November is when things really get weird. True to form, this week feels set up to follow suit. For one, MACtion begins Tuesday night. Two, a ranked UTSA heads to UTEP in one of the marquee matchups on the weekend. Not just in CUSA, in the nation! Let’s review the weekend that was.
Good news: Navy doing Navy things.
Last Friday night, Navy beat Tulsa despite throwing for the same amount of yards as I have in my NCAA athletic history. (That would be Zero.) That is definitely not a sustainable offensive approach, but Tulsa is down this year. The Midshipmen have struggled this year at 2-6, so it was good to see – if only for a night – the traditional Navy attack back.
Bad news: The Playoff Rankings come out tonight.
It is still to be determined if this will be good news or bad news for Cincinnati fans, but the first rankings will determine a lot as to where the Bearcats sit in the eyes of the Playoff Committee. If they are comfortably in the Top 4 (which they should be IMO), then reasonable minds could argue that they just need to win out to maintain their position. If they are overlooked in favor of teams like Michigan St. and Oklahoma (not to mention a one-loss Alabama) then it is going to be a steep uphill climb to get the respect they deserve.
Good news: ODBeats La Tech
In one of the under the radar Group of 5 games of the weekend, Old Dominion beat Louisiana Tech 23-20. Special teams was the name of the game for ODU as they took the opening kickoff of the second half for a touchdown and kicker Nick Rice kicked two field goals with under two minutes remaining to give the Monarchs the lead and ultimately the victory. In a season where Old Dominion sits at 2-6, there’s not much to get excited about this year. But getting their first conference victory in a week where they have been accepted into a new conference (the Sun Belt), things could be looking up in Norfolk.
Bad news: Florida Atlantic are thieves of joy
Twitter was all fired up last week about the idea of College Gameday going to El Paso for this weekend’s Battle for Texas. There was just one problem, UTEP had a game at Florida Atlantic they had to win first. Sure enough, people in Boca Raton were not interested in rolling over for that to happen. While the Miners were definitely game, losing 28-25, the fact is that FAU is a very good team. They are tied for first in the East Division after all. Perhaps this will eliminate a distraction for the Miners and they can focus on the task at hand, trying to beat the undefeated Roadrunners.
Good news: MACTION BAYBEE!!
Three games tonight, two tomorrow night. Get your mind right, people.
Bad news: If Bowling Green can light up your defense then…
With every other MAC school playing this week, the spotlight for the conference was on Bowling Green at Buffalo Saturday. To the untrained eye, they saw the Falcons put up 56 points and thought “wow, they are good”. And while BGSU is improving, those who know, know that was a reflection of a porous defensive performance by the Bulls. I will say that between Bowling Green coach Scot Loeffler getting ejected for two Unsportsmanlike Conduct calls and their quarterback Matt McDonald scoring on a fake kneel down play, I like them playing the role of the Bad Boys of the MAC.
Good news: Utah St. is going bowling.
A lot of talk about who the best team in the Mountain West is has centered around teams like Fresno St., San Diego St., and Nevada. But sitting atop the Mountain Division is Utah St. At 6-2, the Aggies are already bowl eligible behind first year head coach Blake Anderson and quarterback Logan Bonner, But with a win over second place Air Force already and a favorable schedule remaining (at New Mexico State, at San Jose State, Wyoming at home, at New Mexico), Utah St. can realistically aim higher than a bowl.
Bad news: SDSU might be going full Iowa.
Having not much in the way of offense, the Aztecs were playing with a bit of house money during this undefeated start. Sure enough, the Fresno St. offense were able to find ways to move the ball and the offense just wasn’t able to keep up in their 30-20 loss. A higher profile “all brakes no gas” team in Iowa had a similar great start to their season but has since regressed to the mean. It’s not outside the realm of possibility the same happens here. Their loss wasn’t a case of them having a poor outing, they are what they are.
Good news: Competitive balance.
For most of the season, it appeared to be Coastal Carolina as Snow White and the rest of the conference as the dwarves. But App St. defeated the Chanticleers and followed that up with a convincing victory over UL Monroe. While at 7-1, Louisiana is head and shoulders above their division and proving that last year was not a fluke. If this is a “rising tide lifts all boats” situation, where teams raise to their level, then the conference will be set up well for a long time.
Bad news: Texas State is a dumpster fire.
Ok so calling the 2-6 Bobcats a dumpster fire might be a bit harsh, but man did they look awful in a 45-0 loss to Louisiana Saturday. Fortunes can changes quickly in the Sun Belt. (Ask Coastal Carolina who brought up the rear two years ago, and a much improved UL Monroe, who was winless last year.) But for a team who looks to be the bottom of the conference for now and curiously recruited no incoming freshman last year, the future doesn’t look for the program.
5 Games to keep an eye on:
1. UTSA @ UTEP – A Top 16 team headed to El Paso. But also keep an eye on it for me, because there is a real possibility I will be going.
2. Northern Illinois @ Kent St. – I think these are the top 2 teams in the conference, but who really knows?
3. Army @ Air Force – With as much as these two teams love to run the ball, an 11:30 Eastern kickoff may be over by 2.
4. Central Michigan @ Western Michigan – Two good teams and rivals in a conference where literally anything can happen? Sign me up.
5. SMU @ Memphis – The adage “don’t let one loss become two” is very much in play here, especially if the Mustangs have any hops of reaching the AAC Championship game.
Top 10 Group of 5 teams:
1. Cincinnati (8-0) – In regards to Cincinnati being a Top 4 team, I will not tolerate any Bearcat slander.
2. UTSA (8-0) – The matchup against UTEP lost a bit of luster on a national scale, but not on a regional one.
3. Houston (7-1) – I bet they would like to have that Week One game against Texas Tech back.
4. Fresno St. (7-2) – Probably the best team in the Mountain West, but I would listen to arguments to the contrary. I saw them play Hawaii.
5. SMU (7-1) – I would enjoy a Best-of-5 series between them and Houston.
6. Louisiana (7-1) – Much like Houston, lost Week One to a Big XII team and haven’t lost since.
7. Appalachian St. (6-2) – I was worried about a letdown against UL Monroe after beating Coastal the week before, and they promptly beat the Warhawks by 31. Ok then.
8. Nevada (6-2) – That same fictitious Best-of-5 I am wishing for between SMU-Houston would also apply to Nevada against Fresno St.
9. Northern Illinois (6-2) – The best team in the MAC until further notice. Which could be tonight.
10. Coastal Carolina (7-1) – Would have liked to see them boatrace Troy just to prove the App St. game was a fluke and they are still a juggernaut. That didn’t happen.