Highlights: CSJ FBS Group of Five Top Five Games and Recap of Week 10

Liberty K Alex Barbar celebrates game winning FG at Virginia Tech (Courtesy of AP)

The Group of Five undefeated teams just stay undefeated. The five schools (that have played four games or more) coming into this week stayed that way with all picking up rather easy wins this week. The group includes BYU, Cincinnati, Liberty, Coastal Carolina, and Marshall.

BYU played in arguably the top match-up of the weekend with a trip to Boise State. The Cougars showed that they were ready for this road test and defeated the Broncos easily 51-17. The Cougars dominated their former Mountain West Conference rival Friday. They outgained the Broncos 573-249. RB Tyler Allgeier rushed for two touchdowns, including an 86-yarder that opened the scoring in the first quarter. QB Zach Wilson threw for 359 yards and two scores on 21-of-27 passing and showed that he very well should be in the Heisman Trophy conversation. WR Gunner Romney caught six passes for 133 yards. The win improved BYU to 8-0—the only eight-win team thus far in all of college football.

Liberty won the best game of the week at another Power Five school in Virginia Tech. The Flames had already defeated another ACC school in Syracuse earlier this year. But Liberty won this game in the most ironic way. With the game tied at 35-35, Liberty lined up for a field goal attempt with eight seconds left in the game. As Liberty tried a 59-yard field goal from Alex Barbir, the kick was blocked and returned by Virginia Tech for an apparent go-ahead touchdown but the Hokies coaching staff had called a time out just before the play was snapped to ice the kicker. And rather than go for the field goal again, Liberty sent out its offensive unit and ran the ball and also got out of bounds for an eight-yard gain that only took three seconds off the clock. Barbir nailed the 51-yard kick to send the Flames to their best start in school history at 7-0. Liberty has one more ACC school in North Carolina State left as well as a game at fellow undefeated Coastal Carolina to end its season so wins in those two contests give the Flames two more resume building victories.

Cincinnati had another dominant victory with this one at home over Houston, 38-10. The Bearcats won by at least 28-points for the third straight game with a dominate offense and defense in this game. QB Desmond Ridder had 162 yards passing and 103 rushing, while RB Gerrid Doaks had a career high game with 184 yards on the ground. The Cincinnati defense allowed the ten points in the first half but shutout the Cougars in the second half and gave up just 282 yards overall on the game. The win moved the Bearcats to 6-0.

Coastal Carolina used its defense to get to 7-0 as it only allowed two field goals in the first half in its 23-6 homecoming win over South Alabama. The defense allowed just 336 yards overall and forced two fumbles. The Chanticleers offense was not as dominate but still efficient. QB Grayson McCall threw for just 209 yards and one score. But the ground game was where the offense went in this game. A trio of backs including Reese White, McCall himself, and Shermani Jones each had 60 yards or more on the ground in giving the Sun Belt leaders a tie for the best start in conference history with App State, who also started last season at the same 7-0 mark.

Marshall seems to be the forgotten undefeated team this season and might be because of a couple games that were lost to COVID-19 reasons. The fact remains that the Thundering Herd sit still undefeated at 6-0 following its easy win at home over Massachusetts 51-10. And Marshall also has its impressive home win over Sun Belt favorite Appalachian State on its resume, as well as a win over Florida Atlantic a couple of weeks ago. The Thundering Herd also have a favorable schedule the rest of the way.

What are the chances for a Group of Five in the College Football Playoff?

We know that the College Football Playoff has just four schools this year and the playoff committee will be very challenged to figure out what four teams are the best given the SEC, Big 10, and Pac-12 will only be playing conference only schedules. But the ACC and Big 12 are playing one non-conference game and many of those are against G5 squads.

I believe the best way for a Group of Five team to rain on the Power Five’s parade is to hope for losses by the P5 champions and to be undefeated themselves.  Without non-conference games for the P5 schools, this will lead to more push for an undefeated team such as one of the five schools mentioned above to rain on what so far has only been a Power Five playoff in its five-year history. 

BYU and Cincinnati right now are both ranked in the Top 10 of the AP and Coaches polls so those two schools probably have the best track to getting a CFP berth. 

As for the Power Five leagues, there are currently seven Power Five schools ranked in the Top 25 of those polls of Alabama, Ohio State, Notre Dame, Wisconsin, Oregon, Indiana, and Southern California.  Of course, Clemson playing without a number of its top players in yesterday’s overtime loss at Notre Dame likely will also be considered if they win the ACC title game.  The best thing for a Group of Five squad will be to have at most three undefeated P5 squads going into the conference title games and have some upsets to give an undefeated Group of Five school the argument to be included in the Top 4. 

The first rankings of the College Football Playoff will be in a little over a week from now on Tuesday, November 17th.  The final rankings will be announced following the conference title games on Sunday, December 20th

But I think this might be a year even if a G5 school is not included in the CFP Final Four that it could be a year where two G5 teams get picked for New Year’s Six Bowl games if there are at least two schools that remain undefeated at the end of the season.

Do You Know the Way to San Jose?

San Jose State so far is the surprise team in the Mountain West Conference.  The Spartans are off to its best start since 1982 when the team was coached by Jack Elway, the father of NFL Hall of Fame QB John Elway. 

Now the Spartans are coached by Brent Brennan and likely this week’s win over San Diego State on the road was his first signature win.  In the first two wins over Air Force and New Mexico, QB Nick Starkel was the star after he threw seven touchdowns in those two games. 

In this game though Starkel was forced out with an injury he got in the first quarter of this game. And at the time of that injury, SJSU was down 10-0 to the Aztecs. After Starkel went out, back-up Nick Nash came in, and he performed admirably. With his arm and his legs, Nash accounted for three touchdowns and 222 yards. But the story of what he did was better told in the closing minutes of the first half when he led the Spartans on a 94-yard drive that sent them into halftime trailing only 10-7.

The Spartan defense continued its ascend this week as well.  Now through three games, SJSU is holding opponents to an average of 99.7 rushing yards, the third-best mark in the Mountain West. That’s a far cry from last season, when the Spartans were the sixth-worst team in the nation in that department.

In the end, San Jose State defeated San Diego State 28-17.  SJSU will have Boise State and another up-and-comer in Nevada, who is the only other undefeated overall team in the Mountain West through three games. 

The Wolfpack, by the way, hammered Utah State 34-7 this week. Nevada picked up a tough overtime win to start its season over Wyoming and then hammered rival UNLV in its second game.

Not looking too far ahead but the schedule has these two undefeated MWC teams to end the regular season on Dec. 11 in what looks right now like a game that will decide who goes to the MWC title contest.

The MAC is Back

The MAC was the last Group of Five conference this season to get its start and it started all of its squads on the traditional mid-week schedule.  All six games for the MAC started this past Wednesday. 

My preseason picks of Buffalo and Toledo in their respective divisions got off to rather easy starts. Buffalo defeated Northern Illinois 49-30 on the road, while Toledo easily won at home over Bowling Green 38-3. 

Western Michigan also got an easy win at Akron, 58-3.

All of the other three games this week were very close contests.

Kent State eked out a home win over Eastern Michigan, 27-23 with a late touchdown to get the win. Central Michigan got a field goal in the fourth quarter and its defense held on to defeat Ohio 30-27. And what was probably the best game in the MAC competitive-wise was Miami getting a touchdown with just 10 second left in the contest to win at home over Ball State.

Anderson Out at Utah State

Following the Aggies blowout loss to Nevada, Utah State fired coach Gary Anderson. Anderson was back for his second stint at USU. He came back to Logan last year after leaving the school following the 2012 season with stints as the head man at Power Five schools of Wisconsin and Oregon State. His overall record at Utah State in the two stints was 33-33 and 7-9 in this second stint. No immediate word on his replacement have been made as of yet.

Anderson becomes the second school in the Group of Five to replace its coach in season this year.  Southern Mississippi’s Jay Hopson mutually agreed to leave with the USM administration after the Golden Eagles first game this year just before Labor Day.  His replacement of Scotty Walden also left just a few weeks ago to be named the FCS Austin Peay’s new head man.  Tim Billings is now the interim head coach for the rest of this season in Hattiesburg.

COVID-19 Postponements This Week

It was a tough week in the postponement area in all of college football as COVID-19 numbers are surging to all-time daily highs over this past election week.  Six Group of Five games, along with four additional Power Five games were either postponed or canceled this week.  Below is the list of games this week overall:

          Purdue at Wisconsin Canceled                            

          Air Force at Army      Postponed                         

          Tulsa at Navy           Postponed                         

          UTSA at Rice            Postponed                         

          Charlotte at Middle Tennessee Postponed                      

          Arizona at Utah        Canceled                           

          FIU at UTEP              Canceled                           

          Louisiana Tech at North Texas Postponed                      

          Louisville at Virginia Postponed                          

          Washington at California Canceled

Top 5 Games of the Week

Here are my top five games of the Group of Five games with highlights for this week. The top game had to be the Liberty win at Virginia Tech but we also had a number of other top games this week as all of the Group of Five outside of three schools (Connecticut, Old Dominion, and New Mexico State) are now in action. Click on the score link for the full game story.

1. Liberty 38 Virginia Tech 35 (Blacksburg, Va.)

2. Miami (OH) 38 Ball State 31 (Oxford, Ohio)

3. Memphis 34 South Florida 33 (Memphis, Tenn.)

4. Central Michigan 30 Ohio 27 (Mount Pleasant, Mich.)

5. Louisiana 27 Arkansas State 20 (Lafayette, La.)