Which Group of Five school had the most impressive Week 1?

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The College Football Playoff selection committee will guarantee one spot in a big revenue bowl game at the end of the season to the highest-ranked conference champion from the so-called Group of Five — American Athletic Conference, Conference USA, MAC, Mountain West Conference, Sun Belt Conference. With no team from any of those conferences starting the season ranked in the top 25 polls, it was crucial for one team to step up and state its case for consideration early on. The opening weekend of the college football season saw more whiffs than home runs by schools fighting for that big bowl game at the end of the year.

Boise State and Utah State, perhaps two of the perceived leading contenders, came up small in their battles with SEC schools. Boise State was taken down by Ole Miss on a neutral field in Atlanta on Thursday night. On Sunday night Chuckie Keeton and Utah State were rolled by Tennessee in Knoxville. If either Boise State or Utah State would have won, they would have become the leader in the clubhouse for the guaranteed bowl spot. So who had the most impressive season debut from each of the Group of Five conferences? Is there a favorite at this point?

AMERICAN ATHLETIC CONFERENCE

The favorites in the AAC did not get off to a great start this season. Houston was embarrassed by UTSA in the grand opening of Houston’s new football stadium. Defending champion UCF was sloppy for most of the afternoon in Ireland against Penn State. A change at quarterback gave the Knights a spark and UCF took a late lead on the Nittany Lions but a field goal by Penn State as time expired dropped UCF to 0-1. Cincinnati, the media’s preseason favorite, did not play this weekend due to some bizarre scheduling. East Carolina held up their end of the bargain with a home blowout of a FCS program, but you don’t win points for that.

Temple may have had the most impressive season debut out of the American Athletic Conference. The Owls opened on Thursday night on the road at Vanderbilt. After sitting through a lengthy weather delay, Matt Rhule‘s program blew away Vanderbilt and ruined Derek Mason’s debut on Nashville. Temple gets a chance to build on that start this weekend at home against a Navy team that gave Ohio State a battle until the fourth quarter.

CONFERENCE USA

In the opening weekend of the season Conference USA teams did not fare well against power conference competition, but the conference did score some big wins by picking on other Group of Five conferences, which is equally important in this conversation. UTSA’s win against Houston raised plenty of eyebrows and has thrown UTSA into contender status in Conference USA as a result. Perhaps just as shocking was Western Kentucky’s blowout of defending MAC champion and 2014 favorite Bowling Green. UTSA’s victory over Houston on the road against an offense that is supposed to put up plenty of yards and points may be the more complete victory in my book, but Western Kentucky smacking around Bowling Green the way they did should not go unmentioned. These two wins alone may have been enough to suggest Conference USA is ahead of the MAC early on. Conference USA is still full of young, growing programs though so let’s see how the season plays out.

MAC

The two most convincing victories in the MAC this weekend happened to come against a pair of FCS opponents. Akron and Northern Illinois had no problems with their season-opening opponents, but they will hardly do anything to convince voters to place them above the performances of schools like Temple, UTSA or Western Kentucky (naturally). There was one MAC contest played this weekend, resulting in Ohio getting a jump in the standings following a road win at Kent State.

MOUNTAIN WEST CONFERENCE

On a weekend that saw Boise State, Utah State and Fresno State all lose to power conference opponents, Colorado State’s win against Colorado could not have come at a better time. Colorado State’s 31-17 victory over in-state rival Colorado put on display every reason why the Rams are expected to make a run in the Mountain West Conference this season. Having Dee Hart at running back will be a nice luxury after rushing for 139 yards and two touchdowns. Colorado may not be a great program, but Colorado State will take it. The Rams, right now, may be at the top of the pack among Group of Five contenders thinking about the big bowl reservation.

SUN BELT

It was not a great weekend for the Sun Belt Conference. Louisiana Monroe’s home victory over a weak Wake Forest team may be the best victory in the books in week one. Georgia Southern nearly pulled an upset at North Carolina State, which would have been the top win among Sun Belt teams this weekend. If not ULM, then Texas State should probably get the nod following a 65-0 victory over Arkansas Pine-Bluff, but again, no points for blowouts of cupcakes, even in the Sun Belt.

WHAT ABOUT BYU?

Under the new structure of the College Football Playoff and the associated bowls, there is not automatic way for BYU to be invited to the party. BYU is not eligible to be considered for the reserved spot among Group of Five champions, even if the Cougars are ranked and no Group of Five conference champion is ranked. BYU’s only way to gain a spot in the bowl rotation is to 1) be selected to play in the College Football Playoff as a semifinalist or 2) be selected as an at-large team in the remaining bowl spots that are open after conference champions and automatic bids are selected.

BYU had one of the most impressive wins of the weekend from any school not in a power conference, dominating UConn in Connecticut. It was just the Huskies, but it was a show of dominance by Taysom Hill and the Cougars that would fare well with any other victory from the Group of Five schools on the opening weekend.

Rutgers AD takes to Twitter to support head coach Chris Ash, downplay any hot seat talk

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We’re weeks away from the 2018 season beginning and with media days underway across the country, there’s inevitably some talk of which coaches are on the hot seat and who might be a few losses away from feeling the heat.

CBS Sports’ Dennis Dodd complies a list every year of who might be feeling some pressure and who is safer than can be around the sport. One of the coaches who he listed as ‘start improving now’ (or a 4 on a 1-5 hot seat scale) was Rutgers head coach Chris Ash. The Scarlet Knights job is one of the hardest in football given their place in the Big Ten and while there has been some progress in the rebuild, Ash is 6-18 overall and only picked up his first conference win last season.

It’s only Year 3 of Ash’s tenure though and it seems that kind of pressure isn’t quite reflecting reality from the administration as athletic director Pat Hobbs took to his Twitter account on Saturday to say that there’s no hot seat at all for the young head coach:

We’re sure that Ash appreciates the extra bit of support publicly in what he’s doing with the program but something says he’ll be asked to comment about the whole thing next week at Big Ten Media Days in Chicago. The Scarlet Knights certainly looked much improved in 2017 between the lines but digging out of such a big hole for the program is going to only get tougher as they try to get over the hump and make a bowl game in 2018.

Bowling Green dismisses two players for illegal use of school credit cards

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We’re just over a few weeks from fall camp starting around the country so needless to say, it’s a bad time to lose some players. Such is unfortunately the case for Mike Jinks at Bowling Green however as the program just dismissed two members of the team’s defense.

According to The Toledo Blade, redshirt sophomore linebackers Armani Posey and Dirion Hutchins were both dismissed “as a result of an investigation into the illegal use of credit/debit cards that belonged to the school.” Bowling Green later confirmed that the two players were no longer on the roster.

Posey, also a student and member of the football team, was charged June 26 with receiving stolen property and unauthorized use of property. He was found guilty July 9 of unauthorized use of property, a misdemeanor, in Bowling Green Municipal Court and was given a 180-day jail term that was suspended. The terms of his probation include having no criminal offenses for the next two years, paying $2,000 restitution to the Bowling Green athletics department, and paying a $500 fine.

The charges are the result of a police investigation that began after the university discovered irregular charges on debit card accounts designated for athletic book scholarships. Investigators think the cards were used by those who had the card numbers and security codes.

Mr. Hutchins is accused of taking money off the cards and placed them in a PayPal or Squareup account, then transferred to a bank and liquidated for cash. All told, he is accused of making 27 deposits and taking $9,066 between April 23 and June 26, court documents show.

The illegal usage of school credit cards has been a growing issue in college football the past few years. Just recently, as many as eight Rutgers players were being investigated for the same kind of scheme and some nine Florida Gators were suspended last season for similar reasons.

It’s also been a trying offseason for the Falcons themselves even prior to this latest bit of news. Defensive back and part-time starter Cam Jefferies announced a graduate transfer, wideout Matthew Wilcox was picked up for his second OVI in April, fellow receiver Datin Guyton was dismissed and lost their kicker due to a bizarre eligibility case.

Now on top of all of that, BGSU loses a five-game starter in Posey and a pass-rusher in Hutchins who played in every game last season. Not exactly what you want to have go on during the offseason when you’re coming off a 2-10 year and facing a non-conference schedule with three Power Five foes. The Falcons open at Oregon on September 1st.

Oregon State handed secondary violation for sending mail to Hawaii players

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It has been a pretty slow offseason in college football overall but one of the bigger stories of the past few months had to come back in May when Hawaii head coach Nick Rolovich tweeted (and later deleted) a photo of some recruiting mail from Oregon State aimed at current Rainbow Warriors players. The minor scandal over a Pac-12 school trying to poach a few players so early into Beavers head coach Jonathan Smith‘s tenure was obviously quite the black mark and also had the added layer of several of his new assistants at one time having been coaches at Hawaii.

Now we know exactly what kind of NCAA violations the school committed and spoiler alert, it’s quite minor. Per The Oregonian, the program self-reported a secondary violation as a result of the mailings and were barred by the NCAA from “recruiting the unnamed player in question should he elect to transfer.”

“We initiated a self-report to the NCAA once we learned the inadvertent mistake was made,” Oregon State associate athletic director of communications Steve Fenk said in a statement to the paper. “We admit and understand that what we did was an unintentional violation. The punishment fits. We didn’t try to do anything covert. It was an honest mistake that we took responsibility for.”

No harm no foul all things considered but the whole incident makes that trip to Hawaii for Oregon State in 2019 a lot more interesting now.

Ole Miss hopes to hear back about NCAA appeal this fall, self-reports Level III violation for fans contacting recruits

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It was quite the week for Ole Miss head coach Matt Luke. First he faced the firing squad of media members at SEC Media Days in Atlanta and then he shuffled off to attend the school’s hearing in front of the NCAA Infraction Appeals Committee on Wednesday.

Per the Jackson Clarion-Ledger, the Rebels are hoping for a decision on reducing their bowl ban and other restrictions at some point during this season:

(AD Ross) Bjork and football coach Matt Luke both said they expect the Infraction Appeals Committee to release its final decision, which will either confirm or revise the Committee on Infractions’ conclusions, sometime this fall. Bjork said Ole Miss has not been given a more specific timeline. The COI handed down penalties that included a two-year bowl ban, recruiting restrictions, financial penalties and probation for 21 allegations of violations.

But that’s not the only bit of news surrounding violations at the school this week.

Bjork confirmed to the paper that Ole Miss has self-reported a Level III violation to the SEC league office after a group of fans/boosters improperly contacted recruits through social media sometime late last year. The AD termed the behavior as “direct and deliberate,” resulting in the violation of NCAA rules limiting the contact with recruits. While that minor violation is unlikely to have any impact on the appeal, it’s notable because many of the initial major violations the school was hit for last year involved improper contact with boosters.

NCAA appeals in general are rarely successful so there’s still only a slim chance that the Rebels become eligible for a bowl game this year but until everything is exhausted in the process, Luke and the rest of the folks at Ole Miss can still hold out some hope that they might get a little relief come postseason time.