Highlights: CSJ FBS Group of Five Top Five Games and Recap of Week 8

Liberty running back Dae Dae Hunter, left, protects the ball from BYU’s Kaleb Hayes. Hunter rushed for a career best 213 rushing yards on 23 carries and an 80-yard touchdown run to help the Flames to 41-14 win over BYU. (Courtesy of AP)

After Week 7 we had no remaining undefeated teams within the Group of Five. The number of one-loss teams in the G5 was as seven (AAC–Tulane, Cincinnati, UCF; Sun Belt–Coastal Carolina, James Madison, South Alabama, and Independent–Liberty).

Of those seven one loss teams, all but Coastal Carolina was in action this past week. UCF, James Madison and South Alabama were teams to get their second loss, while the other three managed to avoid the upsets and remain contenders for the G5’s New Year’s Six Bowl bid.

Liberty, as an independent, will not get the slot but the Flames had possibly the best win of the week with its home win over fellow independent but soon-to-be Big 12 member BYU. And the Flames might be the best team below the Power Five right now.

Flame RB Dae Dae Hunter ran for 213 yards and a touchdown on 23 carries, fellow RB Shedro Louis added two rushing scores and Liberty scored the final 38 points to give Liberty the impressive 41-14 win over BYU.

Liberty QB Johnathan Bennett completed 22 of 29 passes for 247 yards and touchdowns. The Flames have won five in a row since a narrow 37-36 loss to No. 13 Wake Forest on Sept. 17. Liberty in the only FBS Independent with fewer than three losses this season while handing BYU its third loss in a row and fourth overall.

See highlights of this game below:

Both Tulane and Cincinnati had tough games but both ended with wins that looks like the last regular season game between the two just might settle the AAC race. But both have to face UCF as well as three other AAC contests each before that final match-up so we should not get too far ahead.

For Tulane, QB Michael Pratt threw for a touchdown and ran for another score, RB Tyjae Spears ran for 125 yards and another TD and Tulane had a dominant first half and hung on to beat Memphis 38-28 at home.

The Green Wave (7-1, 4-0 American Athletic) scored on three of their first four possessions and took a 35-0 lead into the second half before the Tigers rallied but was not enough to come back for the win.

Cincinnati K Ryan Coe kicked a school-record five field goals, including a season-long 52-yarder, and the Bearcat defense broke up what would have been a game-tying two-point play in the closing minutes to hang on 29-27 at SMU.

RBs Charles McClelland and Ryan Montgomery scored on runs of 76 yards and 1 yard for the Bearcats respectively in helping the Bearcats win their 19th in a row against AAC opponents.

See highlights of these two games below:

UCF in the AAC also came into this week with just a single loss and it was a narrow loss at P5 Louisville. But a road trip to East Carolina was too much for the Knights in AAC action. The Pirates built a 17-3 halftime lead and kept the scoring going in the second half for a rather easy 34-13 win.

ECU QB Holton Ahlers completed 30 of 36 passes for 311 yards while WR C.J. Johnson hauled in 11 passes for 140 yards and RB Keaton Mitchell finished with 105 yards on 16 carries to help pace the Pirates.

See highlights below from this game:

In the Sun Belt, three teams came into this week with one loss and the only one to remain that way was idle Coastal Carolina. Both James Madison and South Alabama lost at home to their SBC foes.

Troy upset USA 10-6 as Trojan RB DK Billingsley rushed for 86 yards and a touchdown and K Brooks Buce made a career-long 51-yard field goal to give Troy the trophy for the Battle for the Belt. The Trojans now moved into the SBC West Division lead.

James Madison was playing without injured QB Todd Centeio, who pulled his oblique muscle in practice earlier in the week. Instead redshirt freshman Billy Atkins IV started for the Dukes. To start the game it looked promising for the first time starter as Atkins threw for 121 yards and a touchdown in the opening quarter, but it went downhill rather quickly.

The Dukes did not convert on any third down in the contest, finishing 0-for-17, as Marshall handed JMU a 26-12 loss, its second straight defeat in Sun Belt Conference play.

Marshall was led by RB Khalan Laborn, who ran for 151 yards with two touchdowns as well as the Thundering Herd defense did not allow a point after the first quarter.

See highlights of these games below:

San Jose State – New Mexico State Postponed

The game scheduled between San José State and New Mexico State for this week has been postponed, announced by SJSU Director of Athletics Jeff Konya on Friday. This decision was made after freshman RB Camdan McWright tragically lost his life in an automobile accident (story here).

“In light of the tragic circumstances involving Camdan McWright, we have made the decision with New Mexico State to postpone the game, originally scheduled for this Saturday to a future date in the 2022 schedule. I want to publicly acknowledge Mario Moccia (NMSU AD), Jerry Kill (NMSU football coach) and Braun Cartwright (NMSU Deputy AD) for their efforts in accommodating this request during this very difficult time.”

No make-up date has been made as of yet.

Kennesaw State Officially to C-USA

Last week, Conference USA made it official in adding its tenth member. Kennesaw State will transition from the FCS ranks to FBS and will be a member of the league starting on July 1st, 2024.

“Today is an important day as we formally welcome Kennesaw State University to Conference USA,” Commissioner Judy MacLeod said. “The addition of this growing university continues to build upon our strong foundation and we are excited to partner with President Schwaig and KSU’s leadership team to transform our membership and strategically position the conference for long-term success.”

Kennesaw State is a public university located on two campuses in Kennesaw and Marietta, Georgia. The institution is the third largest university in the state of Georgia, with 43,000 undergraduate and graduate students and more than 180 degree programs. KSU is a student-centered, top-tier research-driven R2 institution, placing it among the top 7% of research universities in the nation and is one of 10 institutions in Georgia distinguished as a Carnegie Designated Community Engaged Institution, which recognizes the collaboration between higher education institutions and their larger communities for the mutual benefit of knowledge and resources.

TOP 5 GAMES

Here are my top five games in the G5 outside of what I showed above. The best game of the week had to be what the current C-USA line-up had in line with a future AAC battle of UTSA and North Texas. UTSA scored the go-ahead touchdown late in the fourth quarter and force a fumble on the UNT last minute drive to secure the win and lead in C-USA. Western Kentucky also defeated UAB in another close game to gain the second place spot as my second top game this week.

See all five of my top games below. See the video highlights of these games with game recaps in the hyperlink.

1. UTSA 31 NORTH TEXAS 27 (SAN ANTONIO, Tex.)

2. WESTERN KENTUCKY 20 UAB 17 (BOWLING GREEN, Ky.)

3. BUFFALO 34 TOLEDO 27  (BUFFALO, N.Y.)

4. EASTERN MICHIGAN 20 BALL STATE 16 (MUNCIE, Ind.)

5. BOISE STATE 19 AIR FORCE 14 (AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo.)

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