MOVE THE NEEDLE!
It’s been presented as a foregone conclusion that the American Athletic Conference is the best of the Group of 5 conferences. That’s fair enough-after all, they have America’s sweetheart, the Houston Cougars, as the bell cow after dismantling Florida State last season and upsetting then ranked #3 Oklahoma in week one. But for the rest of the G5, it’s about trying to make a statement that their conference is worthy and moving up in the best-of-the-rest hierarchy. We here at pigskinpress.com have taken an all-things-are-equal approach and assigned a point system to show where each conference stands after two weeks, and explain how to move the needle to the next level and climb the G5 power ladder. While not perfect, we feel it reflects an accurate state of affairs for the group of 5 conferences.
The Sun Belt Conference: It’s tough for most to rattle off all of the existing members of the SBC as conference expansion has invited many new teams to the party. For the SBC that’s a good thing! Appalachian State, Georgia Southern, and Arkansas State are carrying the conference and if you ask the diehards, they’ll tell you this year’s conference is as good if not better than the more familiar Conference USA.
C-USA: Oh for the days when Louisville and TCU put this rag-tag, upstart conference on the college football map. Those days are over and the quality has slipped. C-USA finds itself struggling as it moves down the ladder of conference power. But they’re not without their talent! Marshall, MTSU, Louisiana Tech, and a resurgent USM have been good but the conference is very top heavy.
MAC: With NIU coming back down to Earth, you would think the MAC is doomed to slip backwards in 2016. That hasn’t been the case as the MAC West division has gotten consistently stronger the last three years. Yes, the eastern division is dumpster-fire-esque at times, but they’ve been able to beat power conferences enough to keep the nation’s respect with its #MACTION brand of football.
MWC: No conference has tumbled more than the MWC. Having Boise has kept the conference in the conversation about being the American Athletic Conference’s biggest threat. The demise of Fresno State has been a big loss, but hope is on the horizon with Air Force showing signs of life this season as well as Rocky Long’s Aztecs. But at the caliber of the AAC?? Not quite.
American Athletic Conference:The biggest concern for Mike Aresco’s AAC right now is not being the best of the rest, it’s getting gutted by the Big 12 during expansion. While that’s looking less and less likely, the conference getting back to a New Year’s Six game is still highly likely. Houston will be hard to stop, and even if they lose two teams in expansion, look for them to backfill from a number of high quality teams and keep their status as king of the G5 hill.
Here is the scoring key and the conference breakdowns through week #2:
FCS win= 1 point
Mid-grade (G5) home win= 2 points
Mid-Grade (G5) road win= 3 points
Mid-Grade (G5 ranked team) win over ranked opponent at home =4 points
Mid-Grade (G5 ranked team) win over ranked opponent on road= 5 points
Premium (P5) home win = 6 points
Premium (P5) neutral win= 6.5 points
Premium (P5) road win= 7 points
Premium (P5 ranked) home win over ranked team=8 points
Premium (P5 ranked) neutral location win over ranked team= 9 points
Premium (P5 ranked) road win over ranked opponent= 10 points
FCS record 4-0
Mid-Grade (G5 head to heads) 1-4 road wins over Ohio
Premium (P5 head to heads) 1-1 road wins over Miss. St
FCS record 4-0
Mid-grade (G5 head to head) 2-1 w/ home wins over NMSU and San Jose State
Premium (P5 head to head) 1-3 w/ road win over Kentucky
FCS record 6-0
Mid-grade (G5 head to head) 2-1 w/ road win at Louisiana/home win over NIU
Premium (P5 head to head) 0-4
FCS record 3-1
Mid-Grade (G5 head to head) 2-2 w/ road wins at GSU and Arkansas State
Premium (P5 head to head) 1-3 w/ road win at Northwestern
FCS record 7-0
Mid-Grade (G5 head to head) 2-1 w/ road win at North Texas/home win over SJSU
Premium (P5 head to head) 1-1 w/ neutral site win over #3 Oklahoma!
FCS record 1-0
Mid-Grade 2-1 w/ home wins over ODU and New Mexico
FCS record 5-0
FCS record 3-0
Mid-grade 2-1 w/ home wins over UTSA and GSU
Premium 2-4 w/ home wins over Wash. State and Cal
FCS record 3-2
Premium 2-3 w/ road wins at Kansas and #22 Oklahoma State
FCS record 3-0
Mid-grade 1-0 w/ home win over NIU
Premium 2-3 w/ home win over NC State/road win over Purdue
Scoreboard through week #2
*Noteworthy: AAC will play 5 more premium games this weekend
*Noteworthy: MWC has had one more mid-grade opportunity and 1 more premium game than the MAC
*Noteworthy: C-USA has played an identical amount of games in each category as the MAC
Sun Belt= 19 points
*Noteworthy: two fewer teams than C-USA and-many premium games occur later in season
Games that can move the needle this weekend:
Sun Belt (to catch C-USA)
Troy at Southern Miss-Pre-season “yawner” suddenly intriguing as Troy proved themselves worthy by nearly upsetting #2 Clemson and USM had a great come-from-behind victory at SEC opponent Kentucky in week #1. Verdict: No movement for the Sun Belt-Advantage USM
Arkansas State vs. Utah State-We picked this as an upset special back in August and we are sticking to it. ASU has weapons and they will finally shine in this one. Verdict: An ASU upset pushes the Sun Belt even with C-USA
MWC vs. MAC
MWC (to catch MAC)
San Diego State vs NIU-Looked much closer on paper in August before NIU’s decade long empire came crashing down in Laramie in week one. San Diego State could give Houston a run for the New Year’s Six spot. Donnell Pumphrey for Heisman? Verdict: SDSU Rolls. This one won’t help the MAC.
Nevada vs Buffalo-Not sure what to expect here. Last season the Bulls lost by three at Nevada, but they also lost in week one against FCS Albany.
Verdict: This 2nd head-to-head with the MAC will pull the MWC even with a Nevada win
UNLV vs. Central Michigan-Central Michigan pulled the MAC upset of the year by far with a shocking victory at #22 Oklahoma State last week. But this game is not a gimme! UNLV is much improved and gave UCLA a run for their money. Verdict: UNLV finally contributes to the conference and propels the MWC to the #2 standing.
After week three, we will have a much clearer picture, and obviously other games can have an effect of the standings. We’ll check in again next week.
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