For one it wasn’t easy, and it wasn’t pretty for the other, but both Memphis and Temple kept pace Friday night with the best the Group of Five has to offer — and kept their hopes for that group’s lone New Year’s Six bid very much alive in the process.
In rain-soaked Charlotte, drenched thanks to the outer edges of Hurricane Joaquin, the Owls overcame a choppy, weather-related start to pull away from the home-standing 49ers 37-3. Down in South Florida, the Tigers overcame an early 10-0 hole to post a hard-fought and extremely defensive 24-17 win over the Bulls.
The win moves Memphis to 5-0 on the season, and 2-0 in the AAC West. It was also the U of M’s 12th straight win dating back to last season, matching TCU’s current streak for the second-longest in the nation and behind only Ohio State’s 17 straight.
Temple, meanwhile, has won four straight to start the season and, at 2-0, is the only team in the AAC East that even has a conference win in 2015.
In the very early stages of Week 5, Memphis and Temple are currently two of five undefeated Group of Five teams — and four of those teams come from the AAC, with the other two teams from that conference being Navy and Houston at 3-0. The only other undefeated G5 is the MAC’s Toledo at 3-0.
Given the four AAC members in this unbeaten group, the undefeated ranks will have no choice but to thin in the coming weeks. In a span of three straight weeks from Nov. 7-21, Memphis will play, in order, Navy, Houston and Temple, with the latter two coming on the road — and that’s not even mentioning their Oct. 17 road trip to Oxford to face third-ranked Ole Miss. Houston and Navy both play each other as well as fellow West foe Memphis, while Temple catches a break in that they only face Memphis, at home, of that West threesome.
Eight other G5s have just one loss entering Week 5: Tulsa (2-1) of the AAC; Marshall and Western Kentucky (each 3-1) of Conference USA; Ohio (3-1) of the MAC; Air Force (2-1) and Boise State (3-1) of the Mountain West; and Appalachian State (2-1) and Georgia Southern (3-1) of the Sun Belt.
None of those teams mentioned above are ranked in either the Associated Press or coaches’ Top 25 polls. Toledo, though, is the first team in the AP’s “others receiving votes” category, while Boise State is three spots behind UT in that same category. Houston, Temple, Memphis and Navy also received AP votes in the most recent Top 25.
All of those teams also received votes in the coaches’ poll, although Boise at an unofficial No. 31 is currently the highest of the G5s.
Of course, the picture for the Group of Five will remain murky and muddled until the first release of the College Football Playoff rankings Nov. 3. And, even then, there will still be five more weeks of jostling for positions and the right to claim a spot in a lucrative New Year’s Six bowl.