Highlights: CSJ FBS Group of Five Championship Game Recap 2022

The five Group of Five leagues hosted their championship games this past weekend with the the best of the best getting a shot at a New Year’s Six bowl bid. That bid likely will go to the AAC’s Tulane, who defeated UCF 45-28 to avenge its lone conference loss of the season.

The victory marks the program’s first conference championship since winning C-USA in 1998 and likely secures the team’s spot in the Cotton Bowl against a New Years Six at-large selection as Tulane had been the highest ranked G5 team in the College Football Playoff rankings coming into Championship Week.. It should be the Green Wave’s biggest postseason appearance since the 1940 Sugar Bowl. Tulane went 8-0-1 as a member of the SEC that season and faced 10-0 Texas A&M out of the Southwest Conference.

While Tulane’s defense has been a calling card for the team’s success during this 11-2 campaign, the offense was wildly productive in the win against UCF. QB Michael Pratt threw for 394 yards and four touchdowns while adding 48 yards rushing and a another touchdown on the ground; while RB Tyjae Spears totaled 199 rushing yards on 22 carries with a touchdown. Tulane’s 649 of offense marked a season-high for the team, which had eclipsed even 500 yards of offense just once against an FBS opponent (564 in a 45-31 win at USF on Oct. 15) prior to this game.

Tulane could have won this game by even more, or at least avoided a late scare from UCF, had it not been for some early miscues. The Green Wave turned the ball over on downs and Pratt threw an interception in the first half to stifle scoring opportunities. The offense then proceeded to lose two fumbles in the second half as UCF made its charge back into the game. Knights QB John Rhys Plumlee entered the game banged up and was benched in the first half, but he returned with great success as he led three second-half touchdown drives. The Knights cut the lead all the way to 31-28, but then gave up a 60-yard touchdown run to Shae Wyatt that proved to be the dagger in the contest.

Here are some highlights of the historic win for the Green Wave:

Making Two Other Cases for the New Year’s Six Bowl

While the AAC again looks like it will be the G5’s representative in a New Year’s Six bowl game, there could be an argument between Troy and UTSA also being the best team in the G5. Both Troy and UTSA won their respective conferences with ease. Like Tulane both are conference champions with two losses in total on the season.

The Trojans defeated Coastal Carolina 45-26 at home in the Sun Belt title game as QB Gunnar Watson and the streaking Troy Trojans came out with a flurry of big plays to route the Chanticleers.

Watson passed for 318 yards and three long touchdowns to give Troy their 10th straight win over Coastal Carolina in the Sun Belt Conference championship game on Saturday.

The Trojans raced ahead 31-0 and with a 316-22 advantage in total yards en route to their Sun Belt-record seventh league title. Coach Jon Sumrall‘s first season began 1-2, with one loss on a Hail Mary pass, and ended with fans celebrating Troy’s first Sun Belt title since 2017 and first via a championship game.

Here are some highlights of this game:

UTSA repeated as Conference USA champions in defeating North Texas 48-27. It was the last game both would play as members of C-USA as both will be moving to the AAC next season. But the Roadrunners are leaving their soon-to-be prior league in style. UTSA QB Frank Harris passed for 341 yards and four touchdowns and CB Clifford Chattman had an interception for a school-record fourth consecutive game, to help propel UTSA to the victory.

With their 10th straight win, the Roadrunners ran their record to 11-2 on the season and successfully defended the program’s first-ever conference title won last year. It also marked their second triumph over the Mean Green (7-6) this season.

Harris, who was named the game’s MVP, completed 32 of 37 passes, good for a C-USA Championship Game-record .865 completion percentage, nearly breaking his own program record in the process. The senior tossed three of his touchdowns to WR Zakhari Franklin, who had 10 receptions for 144 yards while matching the school record for TD receptions in a game. Harris also rushed for 49 yards and a score to give him 390 yards of offense and five total scores.

Here are some highlights from this game:

The Other Two Title Games

The MAC and Mountain West were the other two title games but either finalist in their respective games would do no better than three losses so there is little likelihood these champions could get to the New Year’s Six game but still both had a lot to play for for conference bragging rights.

In the MAC, Toledo won the lowest scoring MAC title game in history in their 17-7 win over Ohio. The Rockets won their12th MAC Championship title overall, and fourth triumph in the MAC Championship Game. It was also Head Coach Jason Candle’s second MAC title. His Rockets won the title in 2017, his second year as Toledo’s head coach.

QB Dequan Finn, who missed two games in November with a sprained ankle, was 16-of-25 for 154 yards and added 86 yards on the ground. Toledo’s running game totaled 236 yards, led by RB Jacquez Stuart, who had 93 yards and the game’s first touchdown, a 29-yard run on Toledo’s opening drive. WR Jerjuan Newton was Finn’s top target, snagging six passes for 77 yards.

Toledo’s defense, ranked No. 1 in the MAC much of the season, dominated the Bobcats for most of the game, holding Ohio to the fewest points by any team in MAC Championship Game history. Ohio gained 262 yards of total offense, including just 69 yards in the second half. Junior linebacker Dallas Gant led Toledo with 10 tackles and junior Nate Bauer had an interception.

Finn was named the game’s Offensive MVP, while LB Dyontae Johnson (eight tackles, 0.5 TFL) was Defensive MVP.

See highlights of this game below:

In the Mountain West, possibly the biggest upset of the five title games took place as Boise State hosted Fresno State but the Bulldogs bested the Broncos 28-16 on the blue turf in Boise.

Fresno State avenged their early October 40-20 loss to the Broncos. Bulldog QB Jake Haener threw for 184 yards and a touchdown but the highlight play of the game was Nikko Remigio return of a punt 70 yards for a score.

Fresno State (9-4) overcame a 1-4 start to the season and a rash of injuries to win its final eight games, claiming the program’s third Mountain West crown.

Remigio’s electric return snaking back and forth across the field sparked Fresno State before Cameron Lockridge intercepted the first of two passes, returning it 25 yards to the Broncos’ 17-yard line. Three plays later, Jordan Mims scored on a 2-yard run to put the Bulldogs up 14-3. They never relinquished the lead.

After Boise State edged within 14-9 in the third quarter, Fresno State tacked on two more touchdowns in the fourth quarter to put the game out of reach.

Jordan Mims rushed for 83 yards and a pair of scores for Fresno State. See highlights of this game below:

Non-Championship Games

This week saw two bowl hopefuls make-up for lost games during this season. New Mexico State hosted FCS Valparaiso after already getting a waiver to be bowl eligible due to missing their game against San Jose State earlier this season after the death of SJSU player Camdan McWright in a traffic collision Oct. 21. The Aggies easily won their game against the non-scholarship Pioneer League foe 65-3 to get their sixth win of the season (although they already had a win over an FCS foe earlier).

The Aggies though will be going to a bowl game for the first time 2017 and will make their third ever bowl game in program history under first year head coach Jerry Kill. See highlights of this last game below:

Buffalo was the other team this week that needed a sixth win to become bowl eligible. The Bulls had to postpone their game against Akron three weeks ago when the Buffalo area had a large snow storm.

The Bulls’ WR Quian Williams scored a go-ahead touchdown with 1:15 left in the fourth quarter and Buffalo rallied past Akron 23-22 to become bowl eligible for the fourth time in five seasons.

It was just the second catch of the game for Williams, who extended the ball over the line just before being knocked out of bounds for a 16-yard touchdown on fourth-and-10. The 2-point conversion was no good but CB Marcus Fuqua sealed it with his second interception of the game and conference-leading seventh of the season.

QB Cole Snyder was 23-of-43 passing for 264 yards and three touchdowns for Buffalo (6-6, 5-3 Mid-American Conference), which opened the season 0-3 before winning five straight. Justin Marshall made six catches for 83 yards and two touchdowns and Williams finished with 30 yards receiving. See highlights of this game below:

Bowl Eligible Teams

With New Mexico State and Buffalo now being eligible, there are now 81 total teams in all of FBS eligible for the postseason. For the Group of Five, there are 34 eligible teams of that group. Below is a list of all FBS teams that will see bowl action with one 5-7 needed to fill the 41 overall bowl games. This likely will go to another G5 team in Rice via APR qualification.

AAC7Cincinnati, East Carolina, Houston, Memphis, SMU, Tulane, UCF
ACC9Clemson, Duke, Florida State, Louisville, NC State, North Carolina, Pittsburgh, Syracuse, Wake Forest
Big 128Baylor, Kansas, Kansas State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, TCU, Texas, Texas Tech
Big Ten9Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio State, Penn State, Purdue, Wisconsin
C-USA5Middle Tennessee State, North Texas, UAB, UTSA, Western Kentucky
Indp.5 (4 G5)BYU, Liberty, New Mexico State, UConn, Notre Dame
MAC6Bowling Green, Buffalo, Eastern Michigan, Miami-Ohio, Ohio, Toledo
MWC7Air Force, Boise State, Fresno State, San Diego State, San Jose State, Utah State, Wyoming
Pac-127Oregon, Oregon State, UCLA, Utah, USC, Washington, Washington State
SEC11Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, LSU, Mississippi State, Missouri, Ole Miss, South Carolina, Tennessee
Sun Belt7Coastal Carolina, Georgia Southern, Louisiana, Marshall, South Alabama, Southern Miss, Troy

Bowl announcements will all be made later this Sunday, December 4th.