Category: UConn Huskies

Group of Five Update: Boise State pushes way back into the mix

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Welcome Boise State back into the Group of Five conversation. The Broncos picked up their second win of the season against a power conference opponent, even if it was against Virginia. The Broncos went on the road without their starting quarterback and they absolutely hammered Virginia. It was just the kind of win Boise State needed to remind people the Broncos still belong in the New Years Six discussions among Group of Five conference contenders.

The highest-ranked Group of Five champion as determined by the College Football Playoff selection committee’s rankings will receive a seat at the adult table in the New Years Six bowl line-up. Boise State grabbed that spot last season, but the Broncos are already playing catch-up in this year’s race due to a loss to BYU and the overall strength of the Mountain West Conference coming into question based on the on-field results this fall. If Boise State’s offense is going to tick the way it did against Virginia the rest of the way, then watch out for the Broncos. They have the brand image helping them out as well compared to other contenders.

Toledo still has some weight of its own with a road win at Arkansas to brag about, along with a win against Iowa State. Those wins are starting to drop in value though, especially the Arkansas game after the Razorbacks just dropped their third straight game. Maybe Toledo ruined Arkansas’ season. But the Rockets still must get out of the MAC to maintain their standing, and that means getting by Bowling Green and Northern Illinois at some point. The Huskies have fallen in the race with two losses but are still looking to be a solid threat in conference play. Bowling Green also has a pair of power conference victories and should be a tough team to beat in the MAC.

The American Athletic Conference saw all of its top teams remain undefeated this week. Memphis continued to show off its offensive skill in a wild win over Cincinnati, dropping the preseason AAC favorites to 0-2 in conference play and all but seemingly eliminated them from New Years Six consideration. Navy scored a road win at UConn and Houston blew away Texas State. Temple was off this week. The AAC also scored a win over the ACC with East Carolina edging Virginia Tech, but the conference also saw UCF drop to 0-4 at South Carolina and SMU upset at home against James Madison.

Here’s how I think the College Football Playoff selection committee might rank the top Group of Five teams at this point in the season.

  1. Toledo (3-0; two wins vs. Power 5 conferences)
  2. Memphis (4-0; looking like the team to beat in the American)
  3. Temple (3-0; Beat Penn State and Cincinnati, hoping to be undefeated when they face Notre Dame on Halloween)
  4. Boise State (3-1; Two wins vs. Power 5 conferences, but MWC holding them back)
  5. Navy (3-0; Mids are rolling with Keenan Reynolds and sound defense, big home game with Air Force this week before going to Notre Dame)

Teams on the radar: Houston, Bowling Green, Air Force

Houston’s biggest win of the season is still the week 2 upset at Louisville. If the Cougars get out of Tulsa with a win to fo 4-0, Houston could be lining up an undefeated regular season. The biggest games will come much later in the season with both Memphis and Navy at home.

Bowling Green has won two games against Big Ten opponents and they have the t-shirts to prove it. But those wins came against Purdue and Maryland. The Falcons have lost twice though, which means they could be chasing a couple of teams and need some help outside of the MAC.

Air Force is 2-1 and has a big game at Navy this weekend. The Falcons suffered a loss at Michigan State in week 3, their only opportunity against a power conference opponent. The strength of the Mountain West holds Air Force back for now, but a 10-2 Air Force team with a Mountain West championship would be a very intriguing Group of Five candidate for the selection committee to consider.

Looking Ahead Game of the Week

Navy (3-0, 2-0 AAC) vs. Air Force (2-1, 1-0 MWC); October 3, 3:30 p.m. ET

Not only is the first part of the Commander-in-Chief series underway between these two service academies, but positioning in the Group of Five race will be on the line. A win for Navy would move the Midshipmen to 4-0 and knock the Mountain West down another rung while boosting the American’s standing. With the margin for error already reduced for Air Force with one loss and a struggling MWC, a win may be critical for Air Force to keep much hope of playing in a New Years Six bowl alive.

LSU’s road game at Syracuse a rare trip to the Northeast for the SEC


LSU will travel to the Carrier Dome to face Syracuse at noon ET Saturday, and if that game feels a little weird, it’s because it is.

But it’s not as odd of a scheduling quirk as UMass’ home game against Mississippi State at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro next year, or Mizzou’s trip to UConn in 2017. At least it’s against a power five opponent.

Road games that far north of the Mason-Dixon line are a rarity for the SEC. Looking at the number of times Army, Boston College, UConn, UMass and Syracuse have welcomed an SEC team since World War II (Buffalo has never played an SEC team at home):

Army (6): 2009 vs. Vanderbilt, 1991 vs. Vanderbilt, 1988 vs. Vanderbilt, 1974 vs. Vanderbilt, 1973 vs. Tennessee, 1968 vs. Vanderbilt

Boston College (7): 1987 vs. Tennessee, 1983 vs. Alabama (Foxboro), 1979 vs. Tennessee, 1963 vs. Vanderbilt, 1949 vs. Ole Miss, 1947 vs. LSU, 1946 vs. Tennessee

UConn (1): 2010 vs. Vanderbilt

UMass (1): 2013 vs. Vanderbilt

Syracuse (5): 2001 vs. Auburn, 1998 vs. Tennessee, 1991 vs. Florida, 1991 vs. Vanderbilt, 1986 vs. Mississippi State

Of these 20 games, Vanderbilt accounts for nine of them, while Tennessee has traveled to the Northeast five times. The last SEC team not based in Tennessee to play in the Northeast was Auburn in 2001.

So that gives LSU’s trip to Syracuse some historical context. And Mississippi State’s trip to Foxboro next year. And Mizzou’s trip to UConn in 2017.

Gotta hit that fertile Northeast recruiting territory, I guess.

Big Ten recognizes Notre Dame, BYU, Army, Cincy & UConn as power opponents

Michigan at UConn

Maybe the Big Ten saw enough out of UConn in a 9-6 loss at Missouri over the weekend. Maybe it was an honest mistake. Whatever the case, UConn will count toward the Big Ten’s new scheduling commitment to fulfill a new power conference opponent scheduling effort.

According to Brett McMurphy of ESPN, the Big Ten has decided that Notre Dame, BYU, Army, Cincinnati and UConn will satisfy the conference’s new scheduling commitment. The new scheduling direction of the conference will eliminate games against FCS opponents and will require at least one game against another power conference opponent each season. Just as the ACC and SEC have confirmed, Notre Dame and BYU will each count for that power conference opponent. The SEC also recognizes Army. For some reason, the Big Ten decided to throw UConn a bone and will count the Huskies as well.

Cincinnati currently has future games scheduled against Purdue, Michigan, Indiana, Nebraska and Ohio State. Cincinnati will now mean Purdue’s schedule in 2016 meets the new Big Ten standard. Michigan already met the requirement in 2017 with a neutral site game with Florida. Ohio State’s schedule was already good to go with TCU in 2019. Cincinnati does help Nebraska meet the requirement in 2020, with the Huskers still needing to fill one non-conference spot on the schedule. Nebraska is also now set in 2025 with two spots still to fill. Indiana’s schedules in 2021 and 2022, already booked solid, now no longer need adjustments to accommodate the new scheduling format.

UConn currently has future games scheduled against both Illinois and Indiana in 2019 and 2020, and Indiana looked to receive the exception from the league office. No other Big Ten opponents are currently lined up for UConn at this time, so it would seem the Big Ten is merely throwing a bone to the Illini and Hoosiers. But why UConn? The Huskies are a dominant force in college basketball, but football has been another story. Did Randy Edsall write the Big Ten office a letter of recommendation for his former school? Was that part of the deal when Edsall left the Huskies for Maryland, that he one day return the favor? Is it because UConn has been in the Fiesta Bowl, because I can think of a few other Group of Five schools that have been more worthy of their BCS bowl entries. Is it because UConn used to be a part of a power conference? If that is the case, why not include Temple? And why would the Big Ten recognize Army as a power conference opponent, but not Navy or Air Force? And why wouldn’t UMass count, since the Minutemen will soon be an independent just like Notre Dame, BYU and Army (well, OK, maybe not just like them, but you get the idea).

The Big Ten is still wise to move forward with this new scheduling commitment, and the conference has said it would make exceptions if needed. The scheduling commitment is still a bold and solid idea in principle, but if exceptions continue to be made just because schedules have been booked years in advance, then the commitment’s goal of improving strength of schedule is not without a flaw. It is good to see the conference will evaluate future exemptions on a regular basis, because programs go up and down over the years. Maybe Cincinnati is a losing program by the time they roll around on the schedules for those Big Ten programs? This is why the Big Ten should stand a bit more firm on its commitment moving forward if it is to have any merit.

UPDATE (3:32 p.m.) McMurphy has updated his original report to reflect the Big Ten’s decision to also count games against Navy as well.