Group of 5 Preview: Technically Still Part of College Football

Don’t you dare forget about the Group of Five conferences lingering in the corner outside the orbit of the College Football Playoff. Didn’t the 2017 National Champion come from this group, after all? Unfortunately, as we head into the 5th season of the altered post-season these league members are fighting more than ever for respect and recognition.

Summary of Last Year

Your conference champions included Central Florida, Florida Atlantic, Toledo, Boise State, while Troy and Appalachian State shared the Sun Belt crown. You can expect most of these teams to be directly in the mix once again in 2018.

Only 4 teams finished the season ranked including UCF #6, Memphis #19, Boise State #22, and USF #23. Central Florida owned the whole season with a miraculous 13-0 season capped off with wins over 4 ranked teams, including a Peach Bowl victory over Auburn.

Only one G6 team finished inside the Top 50 of the recruiting rankings and that was a surprising Cincinnati (#47) program coming off a 4-8 season. The other top teams included: Boise State #56, USF #64, Toledo #65, FIU #66, and take a look at Tulane #68!

The Group of 5 top recruit for 2018 is Cincinnati tight end Leonard Taylor who checks in as the No. 299th overall player in the country.

Top Out of Conference Game(s)

UCF at North Carolina
Georgia Tech at USF
Memphis at Missouri
Navy vs. Notre Dame
Arizona at Houston
Boise State at Troy
Boise State at Oklahoma State
Fresno State at Minnesota
Arizona State at San Diego State
Northern Illinois at Iowa
FAU at Oklahoma
FAU at UCF
Appalachian State at Penn State
Troy at Nebraska

There are a lot of games to choose from, but if we’re picking from the potential national contenders I’m really focusing on the bolded above. Both Boise State and Florida Atlantic are not playing around outside of their conference this year.

Most Important League Game(s)

AAC: UCF at USF

Conference USA: UAB at Louisiana Tech

MAC: Ohio at Miami (OH)

Mountain West: San Diego State at Fresno State

Sun Belt: Troy at Appalachian State

As is the case with most conferences the Group of 5 leagues mostly have imbalanced divisions at this moment in time. The big exception would be the AAC which is also the strongest G5 league by a wide margin. Most are expecting USF to take a step back from last year, and UCF probably won’t go undefeated again, but their rivalry should be one of the best conference games of the season again.

Sell 2018: Houston

It’s year two of Major Applewhite with the Cougars and he’ll be replacing half his starters from a year ago. The offense went through fits in 2017 (28.3 points per game) and lost the edge from the Herman years. Most expect a fight for the West division in the AAC, although a pair of Power 5 programs await early in the season to add fatigue plus both Navy and Memphis will be road games.

Buy 2018: Buffalo

Don’t sleep on the Bulls! Lance Leipold is entering his 4th season in Western New York and is coming off a 6-win season last year. That’s the 3rd most wins for Buffalo over the last 20 years. They have a sneaky good quarterback in Tyree Jackson, lots of pieces coming back all over the roster, and might win 7 or even 8 games. I’m not kidding.

Offensive Player of the Year: QB McKenzie Milton, UCF

Last year this award featured plenty of competition between Milton, Rashaad Penny, Riley Ferguson, and Quinton Flowers. For 2018, Milton should absolutely own this race from start to finish. Those other contenders are gone and he’s coming off a 4,000-yard passing and 600-yard rushing season with 45 touchdowns.

Defensive Player of the Year: DT Ed Oliver, Houston

Putting up 39 tackles for loss through 2 seasons is good, ya’ll. Oliver is such a heavy favorite you shouldn’t even bet on anyone else winning.

League Title Game(s)

AAC: UCF vs. Navy

Conference USA: FAU vs. UAB

MAC: Toledo vs. Miami (OH)

Mountain West: Boise State vs. Fresno State

Fresh off an off-season contract extension how about Chuck Martin making the MAC title game!?? Okay, they’d likely be significant underdogs in the game but getting there would be a nice accomplishment. Martin almost pulled it off two years ago and is in a good spot to make another run in a pretty weak conference where a few of the top teams from last year should take a step back.

It’s lining up to be a disappointing year across the Group of 5 leagues. UCF with a new coach likely can’t approach their amazing run from last fall, Toledo just had their best season this century, and Boise State won 11 games only to be granted the honor of facing 7-win Oregon in a bowl game. Push all your chips in on a Florida Atlantic undefeated season with crazy Lane Kiffin!

By |2018-08-13T22:33:02+00:00August 13th, 2018|Football|7 Comments

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Michael BryanjuiceboxUnderthrown ShoelaceKGnd09hls12 Recent comment authors
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nd09hls12
nd09hls12

Houston is worth watching for Ed Oliver alone. Watching him go against G5 offensive linemen isn’t fair. It’s the defensive version of when Ben Roethlisberger was at Miami of Ohio.

Underthrown Shoelace
Underthrown Shoelace

I don’t remember Big Ben getting a lot of press at Miami until the draft came around. Looking back at his stats, they weren’t quite up to snuff with the top QB Jason White (2003 Heisman Trophy Winner), and White’s were against much better competition. Big Ben didn’t get any love in the Heisman Voting either.

It could be the increased media exposure for smaller schools in 2018 vs. 2003, but Ed Oliver seems to be viewed as much more of a dominant force and sure-fire NFL top 5 pick than Big Ben ever was in college.

nd09hls12
nd09hls12

I should have been more clear: Big Ben definitely wasn’t a Big Deal 5-Star from day 1 like Ed Oliver. I meant only in the sense that he completely dominated the game against inferior competition and was so much *bigger* than everyone he played against. My recollection is that Big Ben used to just basically swat away MAC d-linemen, much like Ed Oliver does with CUSA O-linemen.

Big Ben did get plenty of hype back then, though, at least for the time. I watched enough games that I was positive he was going to be the best QB among him/Manning/Rivers. Not sure if that actually turned out to be the case… all kinda hit, I guess?

juicebox
juicebox

Oliver was a 5 star, top 10 prospect, who I believe dominated at the Opening and other national events. His profile has always been high, and talent never in doubt. So it could just be that he personally has always had media coverage.

KG
KG

>”Didn’t the 2017 National Champion come from this group, after all?”

[A] 2017 National Champion, not [the]–and I thought it was hilarious seeing how butthurt Bama got about the whole thing. Especially since if anyone knows anything about dubiously claiming national championships, it’s Bama. I mean, come on–UCF even owned the transitive victory over Bama by beating Auburn, the only team to beat Bama (and who beat both NC game participants).

Michael Bryan

I agree that UCF probably isn’t going to make noise again, but I really hope they go 11-1 or 12-0 to see how the committee handles it. They got zero love last year but the bowl win over Auburn will definitely have residual impact and if they were able to go undefeated again, I think it’d be pretty close. Boise State kind of showed that even though it isn’t supposed to matter, year to year carry-over (would have seen this if Herman had stayed at Houston too) matters in rankings, whether poll or playoff or otherwise.

Also Milton is the truth and is going to put up bananas numbers.

KG
KG

I think with Frost gone, it gives the committee an out. It SHOULD be a sign that UCF is a strong program, but I think the committee would seize anything they could to say “well, sure, but they have a different coach than last year so we’re not going to credit what they did last year.” In other words, their logic will be anything but logical, because NCAA.