Highlights: CSJ FBS Group of Five Top Five Games and Recap of Week 14

Coastal Carolina team members celebrate with fans following the 22-17 win over BYU (Courtesy of Myrtle Beach Times)

In a game that happened basically overnight, it turned out to be one that many are calling an instant classic.  The game was BYU at Coastal Carolina—a match-up of two 9-0 teams coming into the game made possible due to the Chanticleers cancelation with its game with Liberty due to COVID-19 reasons amongst the Flames team.  While we did not know this game would happen until early this past Thursday, it turned out to be one that was a must-see game. 


Coastal Carolina would win this game as the Chanticleers stopped BYU on the last play of the game one-yard short of what would have been the game winning touchdown for the Cougars. 

The Chants had the game plan to keep the ball out of the hands of BYU and star QB Zac Wilson.  They won the time of possession battle 37:51 to 22:09.  And when BYU did have the ball, the “Black Swarm” defense, which was undersized but had the quickness edge rushed the soon-to-be NFL bound quarterback all night long. 

And the also undersized offensive line for Coastal was able to dominate the larger BYU defensive front to gash the Cougars for the most rushing yards it had given up this season—281 yards on the ground.  BYU came into the game giving up just over 89 yards average this season. 

Coastal Carolina with the strong running game was able to keep its third down plays at very manageable distances.  And with the ground game, Coastal ate up the clock to keep the powerful BYU offense on the sidelines.  The Chants had two drives for touchdowns 85 yards and 94 yards. 

BYU also had to burn two timeouts before Coastal’s last drive and the gassed BYU defense allowed two first downs before finally stopping the Chants.  That left the Cougars with less than a minute on the clock and 82-yards from a game winning score. 

Wilson and the BYU offense was valent in their last minute offense.  He completed 5 of 6 passes — including a 33-yarder to Gunner Romney — to get the Cougars into position for the win.

Unfortunately for BYU, it all ended up one yard short after WR Dax Milne caught the pass over the middle from Wilson but was stopped before reaching the goal line as time ran out.

Now, Coastal Carolina looks poised to be the top ranked Group of Five team in the next College Football Playoff rankings this upcoming Tuesday as the only G5 team (that has played at least six games) to be undefeated. 

Coastal still has Troy on the schedule for next week and will have a rematch with 9-1 Louisiana for the Sun Belt Conference title game the following week. 

Louisiana picked up a huge win at its Sun Belt neminsis of Appalachian State, 24-21 Friday as the Ragin’ Cajuns will go into a bye week before traveling to Coastal Carolina for the title game.  The win was the first ever in eight attempts for Louisiana to defeat the Mountaineers.

Another Undefeated Team Goes Down

The one team that could have spoiled the G5 New Year’s Six bid for the winner of BYU and Coastal Carolina game was Marshall.  The Thundering Herd came into its home game against Rice as a heavy favorite as the Owls were playing just their fourth game of the year and came into the game with just a 1-2 record. 

And to make matters worse for the Owls, it was playing without starting QB Mike Collins and leading WR Austin Trammell due to COVID-19 reasons. 

But the Owl defense came up big in this game.  Rice came away with five interception and returned one of those by S Naeem Smith for a touchdown to help the Owls shutout Marshall, 20-0. 

Backup QB JoVoni Johnson started after he had not attempted a pass in two previous games this season. The Owls didn’t need his arm much though and instead used its ground game behind freshman Khalan Griffin to eat up clock time against the nation’s top rushing defense.

Marshall fell into a first place tie in the Conference USA East Division standings.  But the Thundering Herd do hold the tie-breaker with its win over those Owls earlier in the season.  Marshall will host Charlotte in its last game of the regular season and needs a win or an FAU loss to get to the C-USA title game, where it would play the West Division champion and its unclear who that might be as of yet—UTSA or UAB.  UAB has less conference games than the already completed schedule of UTSA. 

UAB had its game with Middle Tennessee State canceled this week due to COVID-19 issues and has only played three C-USA contests with a 2-1 record and will play Rice in the last week of the regular season this week.  It is not known if four games in C-USA play will be enough for UAB to make its third straight C-USA title contest or not.  Next week will likely have some clarity from the league office what the minimum number of games are to be considered into the conference championship game.  

MAC Down to One Undefeated Team

Buffalo is the only undefeated team left in the MAC despite the Bulls having its game with Ohio cancelled due to COVID-19 reasons this week.  Buffalo is set to host Akron in the last regular season week this upcoming weekend and with a win will be headed to the MAC title game as the East Division champion.

In the West Division, Western Michigan came into this weekend as the lone other undefeated MAC team but rival Eastern Michigan handed the Broncos a 53-42 loss at WMU’s home field.  WMU still can capture the West Division crown with a road win at Ball State. 

Ball State now also sits at 4-1 so this game with WMU will basically be a West Division title game in Muncie, Indiana.  The Cardinals picked up a rather easy win at Central Michigan, 45-20.  The win secured the first winning record for Ball State since 2013 and have matched the most conference victories in Coach Mike Neu’s five-year tenor. 

Mountain West Standings

San Jose State jumped to the top of the standings with its win at Hawai’I 35-24 this week.  The game was to be played in San Jose but Santa Clara County, where San Jose is located in California, is not allowing any contact sports to be played so the game had to be moved to Honolulu. 

The Spartans, who were playing its first game in three weeks due to COVID-19 reasons earlier, used a pair of 100-yard rushers (Tyler Nevens and Kairee Robinson) to pick-up the road win. 

The only other undefeated team in MWC play is Boise State but the Broncos had its game at UNLV canceled this week due to COVID-19 reasons. 

Nevada is the only one-loss team and could still be in the mix for the MWC title game as the Wolfpack picked up a 37-26 win at home over Fresno State.  The QB-WR combination of Carson Strong to Tory Holton accounted for three touchdowns to lead to the Wolfpack win. Strong threw two additional touchdowns to set a career high of five.  Nevada is schedule to travel to San Jose State this week but likely this game will be moved to Reno given the same reason San Jose had to travel to Hawai’i this week. 

Boise State travels to Wyoming for its last regular season game and believe as long as the game is played, will send the Broncos to the MWC title game.  This also will be clarified by the MWC office as Boise State lost two games already to COVID-19 reasons so it is not clear what the minimum number of games would be to qualify for the conference title game. 

American Title Game Set

Cincinnati was off this week with a scheduled bye and had already clinched a spot in the AAC title game.  The Bearcats sit at 8-0 overall and 6-0 in AAC play.

Tulsa defeated Navy this week 19-6 on the road to also clinched a spot in the title game.  The Golden Hurricane had several drives stalled but K Zack Long hit on four field goals to help move Tulsa to 6-1 overall and 6-0 in AAC play. 

These two teams will square off in Tulsa this week in the last regular season game before playing against each other again on Dec. 19th for the AAC crown.  The winner this upcoming week will get the home field advantage for the AAC title. 

COVID-19 Postponements and Cancelations

This week as the COVID-19 numbers continues to spike throughout the country, 16 games were changed this week in all of college football.  This number includes seven that involved G5 squads with some of these mentioned above.   

Here is a list of all the games this week and if the game as canceled or just postponed:

Wake Forest at LouisvilleDec. 5Dec. 19
Alabama at ArkansasDec. 5Dec. 12
Northwestern at MinnesotaDec. 5Canceled
Maryland at MichiganDec. 5Canceled
Ole Miss at LSUDec. 5Dec. 19
Missouri at Mississippi StateDec. 5Dec. 19
Miami at Wake ForestDec. 5Canceled
Florida State at DukeDec. 5Dec. 12
Kent State at Miami (OH)Dec. 5Canceled
Houston at SMUDec. 5Canceled
FIU at CharlotteDec. 5Canceled
Boise State at UNLVDec. 5Canceled
Liberty at Coastal CarolinaDec. 5Canceled
Vanderbilt at GeorgiaDec. 5Dec. 19
Buffalo at OhioDec. 5Canceled
UAB at Middle TennesseeDec. 6Canceled

Top 5 Games of the Week

Here are my top five games of the Group of Five games with highlights for this week. The Coastal Carolina win over BYU had to be my top pick but added four other nail bitters to the list as well this week.

1. Coastal Carolina 22 BYU 17 (Conway, S.C.)

2. Louisiana 24 Appalachian State 21 (Boone, N.C.)

3. New Mexico 17 Wyoming 16 (Albuquerque, N.M.)

4. Tulsa 19 Navy 6 (Annapolis, Md.)

5. Tulane 35 Memphis 21 (New Orleans, La.)