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Group of Five Power Ranking: WMU still on top, but MWC picture welcomes Boise back to the conversation


College football has two FBS teams still without a loss two weekends to November. One of them is Alabama. The other, after a chaotic day around the country, is Western Michigan. The dream of Western Michigan reaching the College Football Playoff may in fact be just that, a dream, but the Broncos remain in solid position to reach a New Years Six bowl game as they hit the final stretch of the season.

At 10-0, Western Michigan has outscored their opponents 444-195 this season. P.J. Fleck and his program can wrap up the MAC West Division title with a win and a Toledo loss, which likely means the regular season finale will determine the division. Toledo is the last great hurdle standing between Western Michigan and a trip to perhaps the Cotton Bowl. Toledo is 8-2, so it is nothing to shrug off, although Western Michigan will get Toledo on their home turf. The way Western Michigan has been playing, the Broncos are the clear leader in the Group of Five race to a New Years Six bowl game, but things just got a bit more interesting in the Mountain West Conference last night with Wyoming losing a triple overtime shootout at UNLV.

San Diego State (9-1) is already locked in to play in the MWC Championship Game at the end of the year and is now playing for home-field advantage. This week they will play on the road against Wyoming, who now must win games just to stay in front of Boise State. Wyoming owns a head-to-head tiebreaker with Boise State, but these Broncos (9-1) can reclaim the top spot in the Mountain Division with a win at home against UNLV this week and a San Diego State victory in Laramie. Then, if Boise State can win at Air Force in the regular season finale, the Broncos would meet the Aztecs in the championship game.

Does a one-loss Mountain West Conference champion have enough to back up an argument to move ahead of an undefeated Western Michigan? Maybe, if it is Boise State that comes out on top. The big card Boise State can play is having a win over Washington State, who sits atop the Pac-12 North entering this week all by themselves. WMU has a pair of road wins against Big Ten teams, Northwestern and Illinois, but the Broncos could potentially have two wins against top 25 teams to bring to the table, and it is arguably true the Mountain West Conference is a stronger conference than the MAC. San Diego State would still have a case to be made too should they end the year with one loss and the MWC crown, although with just one win against a top 25 team (Boise State) and a bad loss at South Alabama.

Boise State is very much alive in this conversation, folks.

But what about the American Athletic Conference?

The AAC may be the best all-around Group of Five conference, but it may have picked itself apart this season with little time remaining without some help from the MAC and MWC (which is not out of the question entirely). The AAC has a handful of teams that may be favored against Western Michigan and perhaps more than capable of giving Boise State and San Diego State a good battle, but the conference is guaranteed to have a conference champion with no fewer than two losses with USF (8-2), Temple (7-3), Navy (7-2), Houston (8-2) and even Tulsa (7-3) still in the running. These are some really good teams we are talking about here in the AAC, and it shows the AAC has more depth than any other Group of Five conference, but can any come out on top in the end and make a case against an undefeated Western Michigan or a one-loss MWC champ?

I’ll entertain the arguments, but I fail to see how it becomes enough to sway the selection committee when it comes time to ranking the teams and setting the New Years Six table.

So, as we hit mid-November, here is how I have the Group of Five pecking order lined up. This is now more of a ranking of likeliness to play in the New Years Six rather than a specific power ranking, so please keep that in mind. Also, as a reminder, BYU and Army are not included in this exercise.

1. Western Michigan (10-0)

Win out and there is no denying Western Michigan a spot in the New Years Six. Row the boat to the Cotton Bowl if they reach 13-0. 12-1 may sink the boat.

2. San Diego State (9-1)

San Diego state can pretty much wrap up a home game for the MWC championship game with a win at Wyoming. This is far from a given, but if the Aztecs beat the Cowboys this week, San Diego State is the favorite to win the MWC and may end up doing so with just one loss that will be hard to ignore.

3. Boise State (9-1)

Boise State is back in this as a legitimate candidate if San Diego State helps them out this weekend, but Boise State cannot look past their two remaining regular season games. UNLV just showed how dangerous they can be, and Air Force on the road is no easy game for the Broncos. Plus, they may have to win in San Diego at the end of the year.

4. AAC Champion

Take your pick really, because it is pretty wide open, but it looks as though we are going to have a conference championship game between Navy and Temple or South Florida. Navy is in a favorable position to wrap up the West Division while USF continues to keep the pressure on Temple to win. Temple wins the East with two wins vs. Tulane and East Carolina or one win and one USF loss against either SMU or UCF. Temple has the odds in their favor here, but it is too close to call.

Whoever comes out of this conference will still need some help elsewhere. But it could still happen!

5. Troy (8-1)

There is not enough chaos in the world to throw Troy into the New Years Six but I wanted to make sure we pay respect to what they are doing in the Sun Belt Conference after edging Appalachian State this weekend. Troy’s only loss this season was on the road in Week 2 against Clemson, a 30-24 setback. That’s not too shabby at all for the Trojans. Since then, Troy has rattled off seven straight wins and gone 5-0 in the Sun Belt, putting them in a tie for first place with Arkansas State. That puts the top spot in the Sun Belt on the line this Thursday night when Troy hosts Arkansas State.

Jerry Jeudy, AJ Dillon, Eno Benjamin and more set for State Farm All-Star Football Challenge

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It may fly under the radar for most, but the 22nd annual State Farm All-Star Football Challenge is set to take place on Jan. 31 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. The skills competition will pit 24 college football stars in a team event. Among those participating in this year’s challenge will be Boston College running back AJ Dillon, Penn State defensive end Yetur Gross-Matos, Oklahoma linebacker Kenneth Murray, and Alabama wide receiver Jerry Jeudy.

Five teams representing each of the power five conferences will consist of players from those respective conferences: ACC, Big 12, Big Ten, Pac-12, and SEC. A sixth team of “wild card” players will be comprised of players from the Group of Five or below. This year’s wild card players will come from the Mountain West Conference (Utah State QB Jordan Love, Boise State DE Curtis Weaver), Conference USA (FAU TE Harrison Bryant) and the South Atlantic Conference of Division 2 (Lenoir-Rhyne S Kyle Dugger).

The individual events included in the competition are a quarterback accuracy contest, obstacle course, strength challenge, and a hands competition. A team event will complete the overall event.

Cam Akers, RB, Florida State
AJ Dillon, RB, Boston College
Bryce Perkins, QB, Virginia
Jason Strowbridge, DL, North Carolina

Zack Baun, LB, Wisconsin
Yetur Gross-Matos, DE, Penn State
KJ Hamler, WR, Penn State
Nate Stanley, QB, Iowa

Ross Blacklock, DT, TCU
Kenneth Murray, LB, Oklahoma
Jalen Reagor, WR, TCU
Carter Stanley, QB, Kansas

Salvon Ahmed, RB, Washington
Bradlee Anae, DE, Utah
Eno Benjamin, RB, Arizona State
Anthony Gordon, QB, Washington State

Nick Coe, DE, Auburn
Jerry Jeudy, WR, Alabama
Terrell Lewis, LB, Alabama
Riley Neal, QB, Vanderbilt

Harrison Bryant, TE, Florida Atlantic
Kyle Dugger, S, Lenoir-Rhyne
Jordan Love, QB, Utah State
Curtis Weaver, DE, Boise State

TE Jordan Wilson to transfer from UCLA

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UCLA redshirt junior Jordan Wilson has announced he is leaving the Bruins. In a post on his Twitter account on Friday afternoon, Wilson announced he is entering the transfer portal with the intent of finishing up his collegiate career with some other program.

“[I’d] like to announce that I will be entering the transfer portal, graduating at the end of the Spring quarter, and playing my final year of eligibility somewhere else,” Wilson announced in a statement on his Twitter account.

The decision of Wilson to leave UCLA comes at an unfortunate time for the Bruins. Wilson was likely to be a starter at tight end for UCLA in the fall. Wilson is the third tight end to leave UCLA this offseason. Devin Asiasi previously made the decision to declare for the NFL draft a year early. Matt Lynch also stepped into the transfer portal. Now, UCLA has a wide-open competition for playing time at the tight end spot beginning this spring.

Wilson caught seven passes for 72 yards for UCLA in 2019. He will leave UCLA having caught 25 passes for 244 yards and two touchdowns in the past three seasons. As a graduate transfer, Wilson will be eligible to play his final year of eligibility anywhere he ends up this fall.

USC nabs Todd Orlando from Texas Tech

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USC has a new defensive coordinator. The Trojans announced on Friday the school has officially hired Todd Orlando to fill the role of defensive coordinator. Orlando joins USC after coaching the past three seasons at Texas.

Orlando actually joined the Texas Tech program after being let go by Texas following staff changes with the Longhorns. Despite landing a job with the Red Raiders, Orlando remained a top target for USC head coach Clay Helton.

“We are excited to have Todd join our Trojan football program,” Helton said in a released statement. “He is an experienced and successful defensive coordinator who has made an impact everywhere he has coached. He brings a passion, energy, toughness and discipline to his coaching and those characteristics were evident in our discussions. His defensive system poses an extreme challenge to offenses.”

Orlando replaces Clancy Pendergast, who was let go by Helton amid USC’s own staff changes after a down 2019 season. As previously mentioned (HERE), Orlando actually had worse defensive numbers compared to what Pendergast coached with USC last season. However, a contrast of playing styles and offensive outputs between the schedule Texas faced in 2019 (including games against LSU and Oklahoma) and what USC faced could lead to some skewed figures.

Orlando’s first test as a defensive coordinator will be a monster. USC opens the 2020 season in Arlington, Texas against Alabama.

Cal loses assistant Gerald Alexander to NFL job

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Cal assistant coach Gerald Alexander is leaving to coach with the Miami Dolphins. Alexander confirmed in a message posted on his Twitter account he is heading to the NFL for a coaching opportunity. Multiple reports have confirmed it will be with the Miami Dolphins.

Alexander thanked Cal head coach Justin Wilcox for the opportunity to be a part of Wilcox’s first coaching staff at Cal.

Alexander joined the Cal program in 2017 and spent the past three seasons as a defensive backs coach for the program. He has played a role in helping to coach one of the better defensive teams in the Pac-12. He previously coached at Montana State, Indiana State and with Chris Peterssen at Washington. Alexander played for Petersen at Boise State.

This will mark a return to the NFL for Alexander. He previously played in the league for five seasons with the Detroit Lions, Jacksonville Jaguars, Carolina Panthers, and, appropriately enough, the Miami Dolphins. Alexander was a second-round draft pick of Detroit in 2007.