Week 2 has to be the week of the Sun Belt Conference for the Group of Five. Two Sun Belt teams defeated Top 10 AP ranked teams, while another beat a historically top school. All games were on the road.
The two teams to beat the Top 25 squads were Marshall and Appalachian State. Marshall defeated Notre Dame, while App State defeated Texas A&M. Notre Dame came into Week 2 ranked as the #8 AP Poll team, while Texas A&M was #6.
Georgia Southern was the third SBC squad to pull off a P5 road win with the Eagles taking down the currently downtrodden Nebraska.
In front of a sellout crowd of 77,622 in South Bend, Marshall picked up a signature 26-21 victory over eighth Notre Dame.
Marshall was the first to pick up the win over Notre Dame. An 11-play, 94-yard touchdown drive—which culminated with a 3-yard touchdown connection from redshirt senior QB Henry Colombi to sixth-year TE Devin Miller on 3rd-and-3—gave the Thundering Herd a 19-15 lead with 5:16 to play. Senior DB Steven Gilmore’s pick six on the ensuing Notre Dame possession provided Marshall with a 26-15 advantage it would not relinquish.
Sixth-year RB Khalan Laborn tallied 163 yards in the win—the most rushing yards that a player has recorded against the Fighting Irish since 2016—as the centerpiece of a Herd offense that scored on all four of its red zone attempts.
The victory was Marshall’s second over a Top 10-ranked opponent, joining its 27-20 win over sixth ranked Kansas State in 2003.
App State, who scored 40 points in the fourth quarter to nearly knock off in-state ACC foe North Carolina in Week 1—did one better in Week 2, marching into Kyle Field and taking down sixth ranked Texas A&M, 17-14, in front of a crowd of 92,664.
RB Camerun Peoples delivered in the clutch for the Mountaineers—converting a 3rd-and-1 opportunity to extend App State’s final drive and then scampering for 48 yards on the ensuing play, which allowed the Mountaineers to run out the clock. The redshirt junior finished with a game-high 112 rushing yards in the contest, while redshirt senior QB Chase Brice threw for a game-high 134 yards and a touchdown.
The Mountaineer defense, led by a seven-tackle effort from junior DB Nick Ross, held the Aggies to just 186 total yards.
The win was App State’s second over a Top 10-ranked foe, following the infamous 34-32 victory over fifth ranked Michigan in 2007 then as an FCS squad. The Mountaineers also took two ninth ranked foes in Tennessee (2016) and Penn State (2018) to overtime following their move to the FBS ranks.
Georgia Southern showcased its new pass happy offense in front of the 384th-straight sellout (86,862) at Lincoln’s Memorial Stadium with a 45-42 victory over Nebraska.
Sixth-year QB Kyle Vantrease threw for 409 yards, becoming the first Eagle to post back-to-back 300-yard passing performances. Sophomore WR Derwin Burgess Jr. caught a Georgia Southern single-game record 12 passes for 119 yards, while RBs redshirt junior Gerald Green (132 yards, 2 touchdowns) and junior Jalen White (85 yards, 2 touchdowns) each found the end zone on two occasions for the Eagles.
The victory was Georgia Southern’s second over a Power Five opponent, joining its 26-20 win over Florida in 2013 when the Eagles were still at the FCS level.
Below are some video highlights of each of these contests.
BYU Makes Statement
Late Saturday night, BYU hosted soon-to-be Big 12 conference mate Baylor. In a matchup of Top 25 teams, #25 BYU battled the #9 Bears in the trenches and earned redemption over last year’s disappointing loss in Waco. BYU would win the back-and-forth game 26-20 in overtime.
QB Jaren Hall led the Cougars to the win in overtime, coming up clutch in the fourth quarter and helping BYU survive in extra time. In the absence of top WRs Puka Nacua and Gunner Romney, it was freshman Chase Roberts who stepped up big. Roberts was Hall’s favorite target on the night, with Roberts pulling in eight receptions for 122 yards and a touchdown. He also had a passing touchdown to Jaren Hall on a trick play in the third quarter. Hall was clutch for the Cougars, completing 23-of-39 passes for 261 yards and a touchdown, alongside his 22-yard touchdown reception.
But it may have been the Cougar defense that won this game. held Baylor to just 289 yards of offense and just 137 passing yards. Baylor pounded the rock consistently, rushing the ball 52 times but averaging just 2.9 yards on the ground.
Here are some highlights of this game:
Kings of Colorado
Hosting the the Pac-12’s Colorado for the first time since 1974, the Air Force built a 20-0 lead and would easily take down the Buffaloes 41-10. Air Force put the game to bed in the third quarter with 21 straight points. The Falcons though did have their mistakes and still won the game easily.
FB Brad Roberts ran for 174 yards and three touchdowns. Overall, Air Force finished with 435 yards rushing after gaining 582 a week ago against Northern Iowa.
The win for the Falcons might bolt them into the Top 25 AP rankings with the 2-0 start and Air Force begins Mountain West play next week at Wyoming.
Here are some highlights from the game played in rainy, foggy conditions:
College Football Playoff Expansion
Something I forgot to bring up last week was a big win for the Group of Five. The ten FBS conference had presidential meeting to decide to expand the College Football Playoff from its current four-team set-up to a 12-team bracket.
As of now, the expanded playoff will debut following the 2026 season at the latest. However, the desire is to start as soon as possible, the earliest date being after the 2024 season. The conference commissioners are working on the details of this but the model right now would have the six top conference champions of the ten FBS leagues get automatic bids to the CFP. The top four conference champions would receive the top four seeds and get byes to the second round. The 5 through 12 seeds would play in the opening round with the higher seeding hosting the lower seed in these four games.
This means at least one Group of Five team would included every year in this scenario and could be more if they finish better than one or more of the current Power Five leagues.
This past week, officials started laying out the frame work for the playoffs. Friday’s release stated first-round games on campus will be played at least 12 days after conference championship games. That would make the start mid-December with playoff games running alongside bowl season. The quarterfinals would be held around January 1st.
In an expanded playoff, all of the New Year’s Six bowls would be included (four for the quarterfinals and two for the semifinals). It is not yet been ironed out when the semifinals and championship game would be played but likely would be into mid-to-late January for each of these contests.
For an example, last year would be the 12-team field using the last CFP rankings with Cincinnati being the lone G5 squad:
And this would have been the 2020 it would have been two G5 squads with Cincinnati and Coastal Carolina:
Can’t Escape FCS Upsets
While the five P5 wins for the Group of Five this week were great, the not so good news for the G5 was losses to FCS squads. Four G5 schools lost their contests to FCS squads this week with Utah State, Bowling Green, Buffalo, and Nevada all losing at home to the lower level squads.
The biggest loss had to be Utah State to in-state Weber State. The reigning Mountain West champions threw four interceptions and were outgained 402-278 on the night in a 35-7 Weber State win.
The other three games were close but the G5 teams found a way to lose.
Bowling Green lost to Eastern Kentucky in seven overtimes, 59-57. The seven extra periods tied the mark for the second-longest overtime contest in Division I football history.
Buffalo lost on the last play of regulation to Holy Cross as this game looked like it might also go to extra time. But Holy Cross QB Matthew Sluka somehow found WR Jalen Coker for a 46-yard TD and a 37-31 upset win for the Crusaders.
Nevada was off to a 2-0 start after notching wins over New Mexico State and Texas State and playing an FCS foe of Incarnate Word this week seemed likely the Wolf Pack would see a 3-0 start especially after Nevada built a 17-3 lead in the first quarter. But UIW scored the next 35 points and took down the Wolf Pack in Reno 55-41.
TOP 5 GAMES OF THE WEEK
Here are my top five games that featured G5 vs. G5 contests this week. The biggest game had to be the overtime win for UTSA at Army. The Roadrunners had just lost last week in extra time at home to Houston but seemed to used that overtime experience to notch the road win in West Point.
1. UTSA 41 ARMY WEST POINT 28 (OT) (WEST POINT, N.Y.)
2. WESTERN MICHIGAN 37 BALL STATE 30 (MUNCIE, Ind.)
3. TULSA 38 NORTHERN ILLINOIS 35 (TULSA, Okla.)
4. LIBERTY 21 UAB 14 (LYNCHBURG, Va.)
5. UTEP 20 NEW MEXICO STATE 13 (EL PASO, Tex.)
Originally from LaMoure, North Dakota, Kent is a 1996 graduate of North Dakota State University. His prior writing experience is over 15 years having previously worked with D2football.com, I-AA.org, and College Sporting News before coming to College Sports Journal in 2016. His main focus is college football is the Missouri Valley Football Conference within the Division I FCS. And in 2017, he began also to look at the FBS Group of Five conferences of the American Athletic, Conference USA, Mid-American, Mountain West, and Sun Belt.
Reach him at this email or click below: