South Alabama Jaguars

HOUSTON, TX - SEPTEMBER 03:  Greg Ward Jr. #1 of the Houston Cougars takes the field for warmups with his teammates prior to the start of their game against the Oklahoma Sooners during the Advocare Texas Kickoff on September 3, 2016 in Houston, Texas.  (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)
Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images

Group of Five Power-Ranking: It’s Houston and everybody else


As you no doubt know by now, one spot in the New Years Six bowl line-up at the end of the year will be reserved to the highest-ranked conference champion from the American Athletic Conference, Conference USA, MAC, Mountain West Conference or Sun Belt Conference as viewed by the College Football Playoff selection committee. Houston of the AAC took that honor last season with a 12-1 record and took advantage of it by smacking around Florida State in the Peach Bowl. As the 2016 season got underway, Houston left little doubt they intend to be back in the New Years Six lineup again this season, and they may even have their sights now locked in on a possible playoff debate down the line.

One thing to take note here is I tend to not give teams credit for winning games against FCS opponents. Naturally, there were a handful of those games this past weekend. Also, I do not include BYU or Army in this power-ranking, as they do not qualify for the automatic New Years Six bowl spot the way the system is currently organized. But each had solid victories this weekend as well. So, if I had to rank the Group of Five candidates after one week of games, here is how I would rank them to date.

1. Houston (1-0)

It’s pretty simple, really. Houston was the Group of Five team to beta last year and entered 2016 with that expectation once again. No better way to stay ahead of the pack than by jumping all over Oklahoma, a Big 12 favorite this season. It is predicted Houston could have a stranglehold on this top spot in my personal ranking for quite some time, as I actually have gone on record predicting an undefeated season by Houston. The odds are they could be tripped up somewhere along the way (Louisville?), but after getting by the Sooners you have to be feeling pretty good if you are a fan of Houston.

2. Western Michigan (1-0)

The Rowing PJ Flecks managed to do something in game one that Stanford was unable to a year ago; win a game at Northwestern. True, the Broncos did not have to battle against a time zone shift as the Cardinal did for an early kickoff, and the Broncos nearly handed Northwestern a win (quite literally), but a win’s a win. It’s not as though this is a hapless Northwestern squad either. The Wildcats won 10 games last season, but Western Michigan hung around long enough and took advantage of some late opportunities and had a lucky break go their way in the end. They’ll take it and claim the second spot in the ranking this week. They might just have enough to stay there for a while too.

3. Southern Mississippi (1-0)

Watch out for Southern Mississippi this season. Nick Mullens had some rough moments against Kentucky but pulled it together with a strong running game charged by Ito Smith and George Payne to rally on the road against Kentucky.Southern Miss outscored the Wildcats 28-0 after halftime en route to a 44-35 victory in Lexington, already putting the hopes of a bowl game on thin ice for Kentucky.

4. South Alabama (1-0)

Staying on the road in the SEC, we have the South Alabama Jaguars fresh off a nail biter of a road win at Mississippi State. The Jags fell juts behind Southern Miss here because they nearly let the Bulldogs off the hook. Mississippi State moved right down the field following a kickoff out of bounds, and had the game-winning field goal attempt clang(a) off the goal post, giving the Jaguars a win. But applaud the effort. They put Mississippi State in a hole when they needed it the most.

5. Boise State (1-0)

I whiffed at Boise State last season, but the Broncos got off on the right foot this season. While not of the same caliber of Houston’s win, it was hard not to be impressed with how Boise State smacked around Louisiana-Lafayette on the road. Boise State made the trip down to Louisiana and left with a 45-10 victory in far more impressive fashion than I anticipated for this one. It was the kind of blowout win Boise State would make routine in their prime a few years back. Could this be a sign of things to come? In any event, you get credit for winning head-to-head games against other Group of Five conferences, and the Mountain Wets Conference definitely needed that. Boise State could keep the pressure on Houston to keep winning, if the Broncos can avoid messing up things on their own.

On the Radar: Tulsa, Western Kentucky, Louisiana Tech, Cincinnati, Navy, USF, East Carolina, Toledo, Wyoming, New Mexico, Air Force, Utah State, UNLV, San Diego State, Marshall, Georgia Southern

Miss. St. kicker who missed game-winning FG tweets heartfelt apology

Mississippi State's Logan Cooke (43) consoles kicker Westin Graves after he hooked a field goal wide in the second half of an NCAA college football game against South Alabama in Starkville, Miss., Saturday, Sept. 3, 2016. South Alabama won 21-20. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)
Associated Press

The game of football is a cruel, unyielding wench, especially when it comes to the lonely placekicker.

Rarely praised when he succeeds in putting an oblong ball through surprisingly tight uprights, he’s also mercilessly vilified when he costs his team a game. The latest to experience such pain is Westin Graves.

The Mississippi State kicker missed a pair of fourth-quarter field goals in MSU’s upset home loss to South Alabama Saturday. The first miss would’ve given MSU a two-score lead with just over six minutes remaining, the second would’ve won the game with six seconds left bit clanged off the upright.

All in all, it was a miserable day for the Bulldogs in general and Graves specifically.

I don’t know about you, but I’ll be rooting for Graves for the remainder of his career.  What a classy and heartfelt missive by a young man who’s obviously dejected and heartbroken over the events that transpired earlier today.

S. Alabama whips out the Fun Belt, stuns Mississippi State

STARKVILLE, MS - SEPTEMBER 3: Quarterback Dallas Davis #11 of the South Alabama Jaguars leaps over defensive back Brandon Bryant #1 of the Mississippi State Bulldogs for a first down at Davis Wade Stadium on September 3, 2016 in Starkville, Mississippi. The South Alabama Jaguars defeated the Mississippi State Bulldogs 21-20. (Photo by Michael Chang/Getty Images)
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Everybody knew that life after Dak Prescott would be tough for Mississippi State.  But losing-to-a-Sun-Belt-team tough?

As it turns out, yep.

Actually, it started out well for the Bulldogs, with MSU cruising to a 17-0 first-half lead on South Alabama in Stark Vegas.  That gap tightened up to 20-7 by the end of the third quarter… and then the fourth quarter happened.

South Alabama v Mississippi StateUSA, four-touchdown underdogs entering the contest,  further cut into the lead with just under 13 minutes remaining on a Tyler Thomas four-yard touchdown run.  MSU maintained control at 20-14 for the next 10 minutes, and had the opportunity to go up two scores with just over six minutes remaining… but missed a 46-yard field goal attempt. With just over six minutes remaining.  On the ensuing drive, USA marched 71 yards in nine plays, capping off the drive with a four-yard Dallas Davis touchdown pass to take their first lead of the game at 21-20 with six minutes and change left.

MSU wasn’t finished, however, as they drove 54 yards following the kickoff to set up a game-winning 24-yard field goal attempt with six seconds left… and proceeded to clank that attempt off the upright to give the Jaguars the 21-20 win.

Since becoming a full-fledged FBS member in 2012, USA had never beaten a Power Five team until today.  In fact, they lost six of seven such games by 20 or more points, and the average margin of defeat in the seven games was 28.1.

South Alabama to continue studying possibility of on-campus stadium

COLUMBIA, SC - NOVEMBER 22:  Teammates Desmond LaVelle #34 and Montell Garner #16 of the South Alabama Jaguars celebrate after recovering a fumble against the South Carolina Gamecocks during their game at Williams-Brice Stadium on November 22, 2014 in Columbia, South Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
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It’s never a good thing for your college football program to play in a stadium that’s 61 years older than the team it hosts. Such is the case for South Alabama, where the Jaguars, born in 2009, play in Ladd-Peebles Stadium, born in 1948.

The school has completed a feasibility study into building an on-campus stadium, which concluded three things:

A) Ladd-Peebles Stadium’s 36,000-seat capacity is about 10,000 seats too large.

B) Building an on-campus stadium would require displacing the university’s intramural programs.

C) It would cost between $85 million and $115 million to build it.

From a letter South Alabama president Dr. Tony Waldrop sent to school supporters and media:

At this point in the process, it has been determined that:

The most viable and logical site for a stadium would be the location of the current intramural fields near the football field house, with the intramural fields being relocated to another area of campus.

The logical seating capacity for a stadium would be in the range of 25,000 seats, with the capacity for additional expansion in the future if needed.

The cost of a stadium, along with the associated infrastructure and improvements, would fall into the range of approximately $85 to $115 million.

The results of this process tell us that construction of an on-campus stadium is feasible. At the same time, we also know that construction of a stadium can only be achieved with the assistance of external financial partnerships and significant philanthropic support. We will continue to examine possible models for financing, but at this time the University has not identified sources of funding that would allow us to advance to the next stage of planning.

So, yes, identifying a need for a stadium is one thing. Finding the money to do it is something else entirely.

GoDaddy Bowl changes name to Dollar General Bowl

MOBILE, AL - DECEMBER 23: Members of the Georgia Southern Eagles celebrate after defeating the Bowling Green Falcons on December 23, 2015 at Ladd Peebles Stadium in Mobile, Alabama. The Georgia Southern Eagles defeated the Bowling Green Falcons 58-27. (Photo by Michael Chang/Getty Images)
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The jokes pretty much write themselves on this one.

The GoDaddy Bowl has changed its name to the Dollar General Bowl effective immediately, it was announced Wednesday.

“Having a title sponsor in today’s world is just fantastic,” bowl president Jerry Silverstein told “There are a lot of bowls out there, and for Mobile to get the recognition from a national sponsor, to want to participate in the event we have here, just leads to the national stage of what we try to produce here in Mobile.”

The new sponsor was celebrated in a very, uh, Dollar General way.

Heading into its 18th season, Dollar General Bowl will be the sixth different name and third separate title sponsor for the Mobile, Ala., based game. It was born in 1999 as the Mobile Alabama Bowl, then changed to the GMAC Mobile Alabama Bowl a year later. The name stuck as simply the GMAC Bowl from 2001-10, before the name switched to the Bowl in 2011. The “.com” was dropped before the 2014 game.

Representatives from the Sun Belt and MAC will compete in the 2016 game for the eighth consecutive season on the night of Dec. 23 (8 p.m. ET, ESPN). Georgia Southern took last year’s game by a 58-27 score over Bowling Green. The Sun Belt has claimed three of the last four Dollar General Bowls over its northern adversaries.