Highlights: CSJ FBS Group of Five Top Five Games and Recap of Week 9

Cincinnati QB Desmond Ridder, rear, celebrates a touchdown against Memphis with teammates Alec Pierce (12) and Cam Jones (18) during the first half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Oct. 31, 2020, in Cincinnati. (Courtesy of Gary Landers)

Well, I am back after a brief bout of COVID-19 in my household with my wife testing positive for the virus. I also felt the affects myself with some of the symptoms of fatigue, congestion, slight fever, and lose of taste. Personally, it took around three days of rest and isolation to kick the virus. My wife also saw a similar fate but took her an extra day or so to get back up to par. We started our isolation after her positive test last Saturday, Oct. 24th and look forward to getting out of the isolation next week.

And it was a good week to return to see the Group of Five this week. 

Cincinnati has made two statements in a row.  Last week, the Bearcats blew out SMU on the road and followed that up with another blowout against last year’s Group of Five’s best Memphis.  The Bearcats got a little revenge from losing to the Tigers twice last year, including the AAC title game.  This time, Cincinnati won 49-10. 

While the Cincinnati defense was its normal self (limited Memphis to just 5 yards rushing on the game to name one key statistic), QB Desmond Ridder and the offense has started to click.  The Bearcats have been over the past few seasons a run first team but confidence in Ridder is growing.  In fact to start this game, Ridder dropped back to pass on the first 14 plays of offense for the Bearcats. 

Ridder picked the Tigers apart with a mix of passes across the middle and runs off zone read options. He finished with five total touchdowns and 271 yards passing.

The AAC race looks to be Cincinnati’s to lose as the only other undefeated team in conference play is Tulsa.  The Golden Hurricane won a conterversial 34-30 win at home against East Carolina Friday to stay undefeated in conference play and Tulsa’s lone loss was at Big 12 conference leader Oklahoma State.  Tulsa’s QB Zach Smith, however, did take advantage of three calls that would have given the Pirates the road victory. 

A pass infererence calls on a 4th down play could have gone either way on what would be the Golden Hurricane game winning drive. 

While pass interfence is always a judgement call, the very next play for Tulsa was likely the most contervisial.  RB TK Wilkerson had the ball stripped free by ECU S Jireh Wilson and it was recovered by ECU CB Ja’Quan McMillian, giving the Pirates the ball back. But the referees went to the replay system and deemed Wilkerson regained possession of the football by the time his knee hit the ground. This despite having the ball stripped free a split second earlier on his way to the ground.

That play would be reviewed and below is the official release from the AAC:

The American Athletic Conference has acknowledged an officiating error that occurred in the fourth quarter of the Oct. 30 East Carolina-Tulsa football game.

With 1:52 remaining in the fourth quarter, a Tulsa ball carrier was ruled by the on-field officials to have fumbled, with the ensuing recovery by East Carolina. After further review of the play by the replay official, the ruling on the field was reversed; the replay official determined that the ball carrier had regained possession and was down, prior to East Carolina’s ultimately recovering the ball.

After reviewing the video of the play, the Conference has determined that the judgment of the replay official was incorrect. The ball carrier did not regain possession of the ball, and the ruling on the field awarding the ball to East Carolina should not have been reversed.

The American Athletic Conference has conducted a review of the game and has communicated its findings to East Carolina and Tulsa.

And the third conterversial call came a few plays later.  The Pirates forced Tulsa into a fourth-and-five from the ECU 32. Smith’s pass to Josh Johnson was behind the receiver, who made a sliding grab at what was ruled on the field a completed catch. Replay showed the ball skidding across the turf, yet The American replay officials confirmed the catch on the field, awarding Tulsa a first down. Wilkerson rushed for 18 yards on the next play and punched a 1-yard score into the end zone with 29 seconds remaining, giving Tulsa a 34-30 lead that turned into the game winner.

Tulsa and Cincinnati were to face each other a few weeks ago but that game was postponed due to COVID-19 reasons on the Bearcats.  It fittingly was rescheduled for Dec. 5th in what very well could be a AAC championship preview. 

BYU and Coastal Keeping Rolling While Liberty and Marshall were Off

The four other top canidates for the top G5 spot and a New Year’s Six Bowl game all performed well. Both BYU and Coastal Carolina stayed undefeated as well with impressive wins Saturday against their opponents.

Liberty was off this week after it fairly easily handled Southern Miss at home last week, 56-35.   The Flames have what might be its biggest game at the ACC’s Virginia Tech next week in what could be a big resume builder should Liberty pick up another the road win at a Power Five school. Remember, the Flames earlier defeated another ACC school in Syracuse also on the road. 

Marshall unexpectedly had its game at Florida International postponed due to COVID-19 reasons on the FIU side.  This is the third game for the 5-0 Thundering Herd had postponed due to COVID-19 reasons.  Marshall, right now, only has three very winnable games left on the slate and all are at home the next three weeks against UMass, Middle Tennessee, and Charlotte.  Of course, the FIU game and possibly its earlier game with Rice that could be made-up as well in Conference USA play.  It also lost an out-of-conference game with the AAC’s East Carolina. 

Coastal Carolina welcomed back freshman QB Grayson McCall after he missed the Week 8 narrow win at home over Georgia Southern. He came back with what might have been his best performance of the season with four touchdown passes and another touchdown rushing. The Chanticleers’ defense was also stout as it held Georgia State to 106 total yards in the 51-0 shutout road victory.

BYU had another one-sided win as well against Western Kentucky in Provo. The Cougars had little trouble moving the ball in the first half behind QB Zach Wilson, as the Cougars scored touchdowns on their five possessions and put up 312 yards of offense before halftime. BYU would coast in the second half with a 41-10 win.

Late to the Party in the Mountain West

Boise State might be the great unknown this year. The Broncos improved to 2-0 with its win at Air Force Saturday. The Broncos handled the Falcons 49-30 but the biggest unknown is with QB Hank Bachmeier. He did not travel with the team for the game and instead, Southern California grad transfer Jack Sears started in his place. Sears did well as he threw for 280 yards and three touchdowns and added another score on the ground.

Boise State also easily defeated Utah State to start its season last week 42-13. 

The big match-up this week for all of the Group of Five will be Boise State hosting BYU Friday night.  It is not clear if Bachmeier or Sears will be the starter for that key game for both squads.  It was not clear as to why Bachmeier did not travel with the team this past week as Boise State Coach Bryan Harsin has a policy of not discussing the status or availability for any player when it comes to injuries, COVID-19 or any other reasons, except when a player suffers a season-ending injury.

Three other MWC schools have also started 2-0 to begin the season with Nevada, San Diego State, and San Jose State picking up two victories to start their seasons. 

MAC Getting Started Next Week

The Mid-American Conference will be the last Group of Five conference to start its season.  All 12 MAC teams will get started next Wednesday, Nov. 4th and will play a six-game schedule over the next two months.  Below are my preseason picks for the league:

MAC East

  1. Buffalo
  2. Ohio
  3. Miami (OH)
  4. Kent State
  5. Bowling Green
  6. Akron

MAC West

  1. Toledo
  2. Western Michigan
  3. Central Michigan
  4. Northern Illinois
  5. Ball State
  6. Eastern Michigan

2020-21 Bowl Game Dates and Times Announced

The newly named “Bowl Season” bowl games were announced this week. There will be 37 bowl games this year starting with the Frisco Bowl on Dec. 19th and ending with the College Football Playoff National Championship game on Jan. 11th.

As part of the modified bowl season, a number of games have been canceled. Gone, at least for this year, are seven bowls: the Bahamas Bowl, Celebration Bowl, Fenway Bowl, Hawai’i Bowl, Holiday Bowl, Quick Lane Bowl and Redbox Bowl. The Montgomery Bowl will be played as substitute of the Fenway Bowl for this season only, while a decision regarding the Las Vegas Bowl will be announced at a later date.

Army was the first school and so far, the only school to accept a bid as the Midshipmen will play in the Independence Bowl on Dec. 26th.

Bowl schedule with date, time and TV network:

Dec. 19

Tropical Smoothie Cafe Frisco Bowl

Toyota Stadium (Frisco, Texas)

7 p.m. on ESPN

Dec. 21

Myrtle Beach Bowl

Brooks Stadium (Conway, South Carolina)

2:30 p.m. on ESPN

Dec. 22

Famous Idaho Potato Bowl

Albertsons Stadium (Boise, Idaho)

3:30 p.m. on ESPN

Boca Raton Bowl

FAU Stadium (Boca Raton, Florida)

7 p.m. on ESPN

R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl

Mercedes-Benz Superdome (New Orleans, Louisiana)

3:30 p.m. on ESPN

Montgomery Bowl

Cramton Bowl (Montgomery, Alabama)

7 p.m. on ESPN or ESPN2

Dec. 24

New Mexico Bowl

TBD (Albuquerque, New Mexico)

3:30 p.m. on ESPN

Dec. 25

Camellia Bowl

Cramton Bowl (Montgomery, Alabama)

2:30 p.m. on ESPN

Dec. 26

Union Home Mortgage Gasparilla Bowl

Raymond James Stadium (Tampa, Florida)

Noon on ABC

Cure Bowl

Camping World Stadium (Orlando, Florida)

Noon on ESPN

SERVPRO First Responder Bowl

Gerald J. Ford Stadium (Dallas, Texas)

3:30 p.m. on ABC

LendingTree Bowl

Ladd-Peebles Stadium (Mobile, Alabama)

3:30 p.m. on ESPN

Radiance Technologies Independence Bowl

Independence Stadium (Shreveport, Louisiana)

7 p.m. on ESPN

Guaranteed Rate Bowl

Chase Field (Phoenix, Arizona)

10:15 p.m. on ESPN

Dec. 28

Military Bowl Presented by Perspecta

Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium (Annapolis, Maryland)

2:30 p.m. on ESPN

Dec. 29

New Era Pinstripe Bowl

Yankee Stadium (New York, New York)

2 p.m. on ESPN

Cheez-It Bowl

Camping World Stadium (Orlando, Florida)

5:30 p.m. on ESPN

Valero Alamo Bowl

Alamodome (San Antonio, Texas)

9 p.m. on ESPN

Dec. 30

Duke’s Mayo Bowl

Bank of America Stadium (Charlotte, North Carolina)

Noon on ESPN

TransPerfect Music City Bowl

Nissan Stadium (Nashville, Tennessee)

3:30 p.m. on ESPN

Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic

AT&T Stadium (Arlington, Texas)

7:15 p.m. on ESPN

LA Bowl

SoFi Stadium (Inglewood, California)

10:45 p.m. on ESPN

Dec. 31

Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl

Amon G. Carter Stadium (Fort Worth, Texas)

Noon on ESPN

Tony the Tiger Sun Bowl

Sun Bowl (El Paso, Texas)

2 p.m. on CBS

AutoZone Liberty Bowl

Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium (Memphis, Tennessee)

4 p.m. on ESPN

Arizona Bowl

Arizona Stadium (Tucson, Arizona)

4 p.m. on CBSSN

Texas Bowl

NRG Stadium (Houston, Texas)

8 p.m. on ESPN

Jan. 1

TicketSmarter Birmingham Bowl

Legion Field (Birmingham, Alabama)

Noon on ESPN2

Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl

Mercedes-Benz Stadium (Atlanta, Georgia)

12:30 p.m. on ESPN

Vrbo Citrus Bowl

Camping World Stadium (Orlando, Florida)

1 p.m. on ABC

Jan. 2

TaxSlayer Gator Bowl

TIAA Bank Field (Jacksonville, Florida)

Noon on ESPN

Outback Bowl

Raymond James Stadium (Tampa, Florida)

12:30 p.m. on ABC

PlayStation Fiesta Bowl

State Farm Stadium (Glendale, Arizona)

4 p.m. on ESPN

Capital One Orange Bowl

Hard Rock Stadium (Miami Gardens, Florida)

8 p.m. on ESPN

College Football Playoff Schedule

College Football Playoff Semifinal at The Rose Bowl Game

Rose Bowl (Pasadena, California)

Jan. 1: 5 p.m. on ESPN

College Football Playoff Semifinal at the Allstate Sugar Bowl

Mercedes-Benz Superdome (New Orleans, Louisiana)

Jan. 1: 8:45 p.m. on ESPN

College Football Playoff National Championship

Hard Rock Stadium (Miami Gardens, Florida)

Jan. 11: 8 p.m. on ESPN

COVID-19 Postponements This Week

As mentioned, Marshall lost its game at FIU but another C-USA game with North Texas and UTEP was postponed this week.  The week also saw the first Power Five Big 10 cancelation of Wisconsin at Nebraska.

So far, no games have been postponed or cancelled for Week 10. 

Top 5 Games of the Week

Below are my top five Group of Five games of the week with highlights and a full recap of the game in the hyperlink.

1. Tulsa 34 East Carolina 30 (Tulsa Okla.)

2. Louisiana Tech 37 UAB 34 (2OT) (Ruston, La.)


3. Georgia Southern 24 South Alabama 17 (Statesboro, Ga.)

4. SMU 51 Navy 37 (Dallas, Tex.)

5. Louisiana 44 Texas State 34 (San Marcos, Tex.)