Highlights: CSJ FBS Group of Five Top Five Games and Recap of Week 1

UCF QB Dillon Gabriel celebrating a TD during the Knights 36-31 Week 1 win over Boise State (Courtesy of UCF Athletics)

Wow, it it good to have a full week of football back this year. Last year, we had the Mountain West and Mid-America Conferences postpone their starts to the season and also had a couple teams not play at all last fall due to the COVID-19 pandemic. And had another play in the spring.

Yes, we had a couple of Week 0 games in the Group of Five but there is nothing like a full slate like we had this past weekend.

The game of the week was between two Group of Five titans with Boise State traveling to UCF. After a weather delay, the Broncos started strong and raced out to a 21-point lead in the first half but the Knights came back in the end to pick up the 36-31 win at home. See some highlights of this game below:

We had six Group of Five teams defeat their Power Five opponents and the highlights of these games can be seen in my Top 5 games of the week (plus one).

The top ranked in the Sagrain Cincinnati had no issue with rival Miami of Ohio as the Bearcats won at home 49-14.

Big (12) News

But we also had some big news in the conference realignment story. It appears the Group of Five will be losing four of its top members to go to a Power Five conference. The Big 12 Conference as many know are about to lose Oklahoma and Texas to the Southeastern Conference. This news broke a little over a month ago.

Three American Athletic Conference teams are reportedly set to be invited including Cincinnati, Houston and UCF. The fourth school appears to current independent BYU.

As the report shows, it appears the Big 12 will invite these four schools some time later this week. It is not clear though as to when they would join. BYU being an independent for football could join right away but the three AAC schools need to give 27 months notice to the league if they plan to leave or pay a hefty buy-out.

This is a big hit to the Group of Five and namely for the AAC if this in deed comes true.

UConn Coaching Situation

The Connecticut Huskies are off to a rough start with two straight losses this fall in a road contest at Fresno State and then a home defeat to FCS Holy Cross. The Huskies went without playing a game either in the fall or spring of the 2020-21 year.

And it seems this may have been too much for Coach Randy Edsall as he will step down immediately, which came one day after the coach originally said he will coach the remainder of the season before retiring. Defensive coordinator Lou Spanos will take over as interim coach of the Huskies. 

“Upon further reflection by both Randy and I, and after having the opportunity to visit with Randy today, we are both in agreement that it is in the best interest of our student-athletes to have a new voice leading UConn football,” UConn athletic director David Benedict said in a statement. 

Low Lights

While there were the six G5 wins of P5 schools, there were also four FCS losses amongst the G5. The aforementioned UConn loss to Holy Cross. Here is a list of the four contests that the G5 lost to the lower subdivision:

  • UC Davis 19, Tulsa 17 (Thursday)
  • Eastern Washington 35, UNLV 33 (Thursday)
  • South Dakota State 42, Colorado State 23 (Friday)
  • Holy Cross 38, UConn 28 (Saturday)

American Blues

The American Athletic Conference has prided itself in being the Power 6 league (the next best league outside of the five Power conferences of the Big 10, Big 12, ACC, Pac 12, and SEC) but it did not show it too much in week 1.

I already showed above that Tulsa, who was in the AAC championship game last year and was in a very tight contest before falling at Cincinnati in that game, just lost its opener to a non-FCS playoff team from this spring in UC Davis.

While Cincinnati still remains the favorite to earn the Group of Five’s New Year’s Six bid, but some truly horrid performances from conference mates sure didn’t do the Bearcats any favors to get that bid. In the Thursday slate alone, outside of the Tulsa loss, NC State blanked South Florida, and East Carolina was thoroughly outclassed by Appalachian State. On Saturday, Navy lost to Marshall, 49-7, and Rutgers smacked Temple, 61-14.

But the class of the league this year likely is Cincinnati and UCF, who as mentioned earlier did pull off a nice win over Boise State, but the league is starting 2021 behind the eight-ball when being considered the top G5 league.

Top 5 Games of the Week (Plus One)

While the UCF win over Boise State normally would be in my top games of the week, I had to put the six wins over Power Five schools in this week’s list. Northern Illinois, Utah State, BYU, Charlotte, UTSA, and Nevada all picked up wins over their P5 foes.

The biggest win I felt was the Northern Illinois win at Georgia Tech. The Huskies were coming off a winless 2020 COVID-19 shortened season (0-6) but have come to play in the 2021 season. And second had to be Utah State over Washington State. The Aggies were just a one-win team a year ago and got the win in Week 1.

In the NIU game, Tyrice Richie made a diving catch of a two-point conversion pass with 38 seconds to play to give the Huskies a 22-21 win over Georgia Tech.

The catch, made official after a review, followed a three-yard touchdown pass from QB Rocky Lombardi to WR Clint Ratkovich that pulled NIU within one at 21-20. Ratkovich’s catch capped a textbook two-minute drive executed nearly perfectly by Lombardi in the come-from-behind win for the Huskies.

Here is that and the rest of the G5 wins in my rankings below:

1. NORTHERN ILLINOIS 22 GEORGIA TCH 21  (ATLANTA, GA.)

2. UTAH STATE 26 WASHINGTON STATE 23  (PULLMAN, WASH.)

3. BYU 24 ARIZONA 16  (LAS VEGAS, NEV.)

4. UTSA 37 ILLINOIS 30  (CHAMPAIGN, ILL.)

5. CHARLOTTE 31 DUKE 28  (CHARLOTTE, N.C.)

BONUS: NEVADA 22 CALIFORNIA 17  (BERKELEY, CALIF.)

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