Latest posts by Joe Broback (see all)
- Big Ten Championship: Ohio State Buckeyes vs. Wisconsin Badgers Game Preview - December 6, 2019
- SEC Championship: LSU Tigers vs. Georgia Bulldogs - December 5, 2019
- Big 12 Championship: Oklahoma Sooners vs. Baylor Bears - December 4, 2019
One series we will produce during the season is the Group of 5 Top 4. Since the College Football Playoff Committee doesn’t believe in these conferences, we put together a hypothetical playoff just for these five conferences (and a few independent teams). Today, we take a look at the 23 best teams from the Group of 5, and make sure you stay tuned for the series when the season begins!
23. FAU Owls
Lane Kiffins brought a ton of attention to FAU in his first season, and won 11 games in his first season. Last year, the hype died with a 5-7 finish. Still, he’s been bringing in talent to campus to compete in Conference USA. Now that teams aren’t giving them as much respect, they could surprise a few people.
22. USF Bulls
Charlie Strong’s back is against the wall, and he seemingly has one more run to prove this is working at USF. Strong made a bunch of changes in the offseason, and Bulls fans are hoping that means more wins. Everyone knows about their 7-0 start and 0-6 finish, but things could be different this season.
21. Georgia Southern Eagles
Chad Lundsford brought a two win team to 10 wins in his first full season as head coach. That’s scary. Shai Werts accounted for 25 touchdowns last year, and didn’t throw an interception (to his 10 touchdowns). The offense could be the most balanced we’ve ever seen.
20. Ohio Bobcats
Nathan Rourke is worth the price of admission, and Frank Solich has yet to have a losing season since 2008. Ohio’s consistency puts them in competition for the MAC title, and this year won’t be different.
19. Louisiana Tech Bulldogs
J’Mar Smith gets overlooked in a conference with quarterbacks like Mason Fine and James Morgan. However, he’s right there with them, and the Bulldogs are right in the mix for the Conference USA title.
18. Tulane Green Wave
Once again a Group of 5 sleeper team, the Green Wave might just be for real this year. Justin McMillan will be the starter at quarterback, and the skill positions are loaded around him. Defensively, Patrick Johnson’s poised for a breakout season.
17. Hawaii Rainbow Warriors
Nick Rolovich has Hawaii back to throwing the ball a million times a game and it’s fun to watch. He’s got the right guys running the show too. Cole McDonald is vastly underrated, and deserves more love among the Group of 5 (and the country too).
16. Nevada Wolfpack
After watching Malik Henry on Last Chance U, we get to see what he can do with Nevada. Jay Norvell gets an extremely talented quarterback, and one that could help his solid team take the next step in the Mountain West.
15. Western Michigan Broncos
They may not be winning 13 games like they did under P.J. Fleck, but the Broncos keep humming along under Tim Lester. It remains to be seen if they can compete for a conference championship, but the winning won’t stop anytime soon.
14. Appalachian State Mountaineers
New coach Eliah Drinkwitz inherits a program that knows how to win football games. He also gets one of the best backfields in the Group of 5. Zac Thomas and Darryton Evans will keep your eyes glued to the field, and the Mountaineers are still the team to beat in the Sun Belt.
13. San Diego State Aztecs
Rocky Long’s going to retire an Aztec, and he’ll probably win at least nine games in his final season. With an underrated running back. Long’s teams know how to win and are one of the most consistent teams in the Group of 5. His running back, Juwan Washington, is undersized but will gash Mountain West defenses all year.
12. FIU Golden Panthers
James Morgan’s poised for a big year, and FIU’s trajectory is headed in the right direction. Butch Davis brought promise to this team, and this could be the year they explode for double digit wins. It will be tough in Conference USA, but this team has the talent to do it.
11. North Texas Mean Green
Mason Fine is back, and that’s about all you need to know. Seth Littrell’s star is an extension of the coaching staff offensively, and the Mean Green will score some points this year. Whether or not they can win the conference is the question.
10. Toledo Rockets
Jason Candle’s done well to replace Matt Campbell, and the Rockets are looking to bounce back after a seven win season. If you’re bouncing back after seven wins, that tells you how your program’s doing.
9. Houston Cougars
No one in the Group of 5 is looking forward to playing a game more than the Cougars. After a rocky Major Applewhite tenure and a horrific bowl game loss to Army, Houston’s ready to erase that from their memory. They snagged Dana Holgorsen from West Virginia, and he brought in a ton of talent at key positions. We know the offense will score and the defense has talent, but will that result in more wins? Week 1 against Oklahoma will tell us a lot.
8. Marshall Thundering Herd
Doc Holliday knows how to win in Conference USA, and his teams ready to do it again. After winning just three games in 2016, Holliday’s teams responded by winning 17 the past two years. They could add 10+ more this year to that total too.
7. Utah State Aggies
Replacing a coach that brought you to new heights is tough, but the Aggies brought back a familiar face. Gary Andersen returns, and must find ways to help his quarterback distribute the ball. Jordan Love’s receiving NFL attention, but he’s one of two starters returning on that side of the ball. Andersen won’t have to win over the fan base, so he can focus to the X’s and O’s.
6. Cincinnati Bearcats
Last year’s 11 wins surprised everyone. Desmond Ridder surprised everyone. Michael Warren II surprised everyone. Now, they must deal with the fact that everyone knows their legit. Besides the defensive line, Cincinnati didn’t lose much. They’re biggest competition will be the UCF Knights, but the Bearcats are ready to knock them off.
5. Fresno State Bulldogs
Jeff Tedford inherited a team that won just four games prior to his arrival. He won 22 in his first two seasons. The Bulldogs exploded under his watch, but they find themselves in need of numerous starters this year. With how the last two years have gone, it shouldn’t be surprising to see them competing for the Mountain West crown again.
4. Army Black Knights
You like option football? Watch Army. If you think that it’s not exciting, then you clearly didn’t watch Army stomp Houston 70-14 in their bowl game. That’s right, 70 points running the triple option. Kelvin Hopkins Jr. runs the show, and gives Army a shot to represent the Group of 5 in a NY6 bowl game.
3. Memphis Tigers
Yes, we understand that the Tigers choked away two games against UCF. Everyone does, and no one knows it more than the kids in this program. That shouldn’t overshadow the fact that Memphis made it to back-to-back conference championship games under Mike Norvell. Even with the loss of Darrell Henderson, this team returns a ton of experience. It’s enough to give them a third shot at the Knights (though it won’t be during the regular season).
2. Boise State Broncos
The next two teams shouldn’t be surprising. Boise State especially. Even with the loss of Brett Rypien and Alexander Mattison, the Broncos move on to the next guy. They’ll enjoy having the best defense in the Group of 5 as well. You better believe Florida State fans should be worried come Week 1, because this isn’t a program that’s afraid to play anyone.
1. UCF Knights
It’s been almost three years since the Knights last lost a regular season game. UCF’s gone 25-1 overall the last two years, and the program’s been on every college football fan’s tongue lately. In the Group of 5, this is the team to beat. They’ll have to retain the top spot without McKenzie Milton, but Notre Dame transfer Brandon Wimbush gives them a solid quarterback. Winning a third consecutive conference title won’t be easy, but Josh Heupel’s team is ready for the challenge.