Group of Five Power Ranking: Can Navy overtake Western Michigan in next three weeks?

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Western Michigan got a well-deserved opportunity to shine in the national spotlight this weekend by hosting ESPN College GameDay. They lived up to the hype by going out and picking up a solid 38-0 victory at home against lowly Buffalo. Western Michigan is now 11-0 on the year with one final regular season test against Toledo coming this week. Western Michigan may be one of two undefeated teams in the country right now (Alabama being the other) but can the Broncos stay ahead of other candidates from the Mountain West Conference or the American Athletic Conference? It is beginning to feel as though it could, although the AAC has a strong case to be made for a two-loss champ to be in the running.

The Mountain West Conference may be just about out of the mix thanks to Wyoming’s thrilling victory over San Diego State Saturday night. The Cowboys held off San Diego State by defending a two-point conversion attempt on the final play following a fantastic effort on a Hail Mary on the final play of the game. Wyoming, with three losses, has now defeated San Diego State and Boise State. The Aztecs should fall farther behind the pack, while Boise State will continue to be blocked from playing for the MWC title if Wyoming wins its final game of the season, next week at New Mexico. The MWC title will likely come down to Wyoming and San Diego State, who has already clinched their division and may have to make a return trip to Wyoming for the conference championship game.

San Diego State’s loss and Boise State continuing to be blocked looks like great news for the American Athletic Conference. In a week that saw Houston take down its second top five opponent of the year on Thursday night, it turns out the sexiest two-loss Group of Five candidate was also shut out from contention. That is because Navy blew away East Carolina to clinch the AAC West Division title, thus eliminating Houston from the running. Navy will now likely get a chance to host the AAC championship game against either Temple or USF. The AAC East will be decided next week (Temple clinches with a win or a USF loss; USF clinches with a win and a Temple loss). Navy is 8-2, including a win over mighty Houston. If Navy goes on to take the AAC crown and finishes the season at 11-2, would the Midshipmen have a shot at taking over Western Michigan for the New Years Six bowl?

You better believe it, if the selection committee recognized the overall strength of the AAC is superior to the MAC this season. Plus, Navy is pretty darn good too.

We’ll let one more week go by before really seeing how the final candidates stack up, but the case for Navy will be a strong one to consider with a better strength of schedule, better wins overall and, honestly, a better brand to market. How can you go wrong with Navy? It’s time to throw the records aside and give Navy some strong consideration.

With just one final week left in the regular season in most of the Group of Five conferences, here are the top five contenders for the New Years Six bowl spot, keeping in mind a candidate must own a conference championship to qualify.

1. Navy (8-2)

It’s simple to me, really. If Navy and Western Michigan meet on a neutral field, I think the Midshipmen come away with the win. I also think it is time to recognize the AAC as the best Group of Five conference out there, which I have been saying for weeks. It is the best from top-to-bottom compared to the other conferences, and way ahead of the MAC.

 

2. Boise State (10-1)

Yes, the door appears to be closing, but there is still a crack that Boise State can wiggle through. Boise State needs to win their final game of the season at Air Force this week and then pull for Wyoming to lose to New Mexico. It’s not that far out of reach. If it happens, Boise State will play for the MWC championship and would host the title game on the blue turf. 12-1 Boise State will have a great chance and would likely stay ahead of any AAC champion and Western Michigan.

3. Western Michigan (11-0)

The Broncos may still have the advantage in the race to the New Years Six based on their undefeated record the committee will struggle to shy away from. If the Broncos stay ahead of the AAC candidates this week, as I suspect they might, then they should feel good about being in the NY6 driver’s seat the next two weeks. It will be their’s to lose, despite how I feel about Navy and the AAC.

4. Temple (8-3)

The Temple Owls have a very good chance to wrap up the division this week to reserve a spot to play Navy in the AAC Championship Game. All the Owls have to do is beat 3-8 East Carolina at home on Saturday night. It’s possible the division could already be clinched by then if UCF can score an upset over rival USF earlier in the day. Either way, the odds are in Temple’s favor here, but three losses sets them behind the pack a little, although it is worth mentioning all three of those losses have come against teams with winning records (Army, Penn State, Memphis) and two of those road losses were by seven points each.

5. USF (9-2)

The Bulls are on the run but a head-to-head loss to Temple puts them in a tricky spot entering the final week of the season. They are the only AAC team to hand Navy a loss this season, and would feel good about a potential rematch if things work out. USF at 11-2 would look strong against any of the G5 contenders.

Kentucky confirms addition of Troy transfer QB Sawyer Smith

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It’s now officially official.

In late April, Sawyer Smith took his first step in moving on from Troy by announcing on social media that he had placed his name into the NCAA transfer database.  Two weeks later, the quarterback used social media to reveal that his next stop at the collegiate level would be at Kentucky.

Monday, Smith’s expected new home confirmed the player’s addition to the roster.

”We’re excited to have Sawyer join our program,” UK head coach Mark Stoops said in a statement. “It’s great to add a quarterback with his experience and success. He helped lead Troy to an outstanding season last year and we’re glad to have him here.”

As Smith comes to the Wildcats as a graduate transfer, he’ll be eligible to compete for a starting job immediately.  Additionally, he’ll have another season of eligibility he could use in 2020.

Smith played in 13 games this past season, including starts in the last seven.  In those appearances, the Florida native completed 62.9 percent of his passes for 1,669 yards and 14 touchdowns to go along with six interceptions. He also rushed for 191 yards and another touchdown.

Terry Wilson started all 13 games for the Wildcats in a 2018 season that saw UK reach double digits in wins for the first time since Jimmy Carter was sitting in the Oval Office. Wilson, though, was 10th in the SEC and 63rd nationally with a 133.9 pass efficiency rating.

For what it’s worth, Smith’s 139 rating was fifth in the Sun Belt Conference and 47th in the country.

Lincoln Riley says Jalen Hurts must win the starting QB job at Oklahoma

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Coaches say things to motivate their players even if nobody really believes it. Oklahoma head coach Lincoln Riley, entering his third season in charge of the Sooners this fall, is already proving to be a veteran when it comes to setting the bar high and motivating his quarterbacks in the offseason.

Alabama transfer Jalen Hurts will undoubtedly be the starting quarterback for Oklahoma when the 2019 season kicks off for the defending Big 12 champion on Sept. 1 against Houston. However, Riley is not prepared to publicly anoint his newest quarterback as the heir to the throne of the offense that has produced the last two Heisman Trophy winners at the quarterback position. Instead, Riley is telling media members at Big 12 media days Hurts will have to go out and earn the opportunity.

Don’t be shocked by seeing that quote, because that is what the best coaches will do no matter who is on their team. Except in certain situations where a proven starting quarterback is coming back to the program for a second or third (or fourth?) season, coaches will always hope to inspire healthy competition at every position, including quarterback. By not gifting Hurts the starting job in the middle of July, Riley is setting the tone that will keep Hurts pushing to improve his game and keep other quarterbacks like Class of 2019 five-star recruit Spencer Rattler and four-star Class of 2018 quarterback Tanner Mordecai working to get their shot.

But Hurts is far from any ordinary transfer quarterback. Hurts was the starter for Alabama for the 2016 and 2017 seasons, in which Alabama went to the national championship game both seasons, losing one and winning the other. Yes, Tua Tagovailoa replaced Hurts at quarterback for that national title win against Georgia, but Hurts was a major reason why Alabama was in the national title game two years in a row with him as the starter. Hurts brings multiple seasons of starting experience form one of the top programs in the sport with him. And after Oklahoma lost Kyler Murray to the NFL Draft a year after losing Baker Mayfield, Hurts is stepping right into a position that carried high expectations and demands results.

Hurts may have had a couple of bumps in the road in Tuscaloosa, but he didn’t come to Oklahoma to be a back-up. Riley knows that, but he has the responsibility to make sure everyone on his team is working hard to improve. That message should be heard loud and clear, even if media pundits don’t have to believe it.

LSU CB Kelvin Joseph is back in the transfer portal

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The NCAA transfer portal has seen a number of names come and go this offseason. Now, it appears, LSU cornerback Kelvin Joseph is stepping a foot in the transfer portal for a second time.

Joseph reportedly entered the transfer portal back in May, only to have that story disputed by his father. A day later, Joseph announced on Twitter that his father was, in fact, wrong with his claim. After some time passed, it seemed as though Joseph may end up staying in Baton Rouge to play for the Tigers this fall. LSU head coach Ed Orgeron said “everything is good” regarding the status of Joseph as the story unfolded.

However, as multiple reports have surfaced at SEC Media Days in Hoover, Alabama today, Joseph is now back in the transfer portal.

By entering the transfer portal, Joseph is free to have contact with any other college football program that may be interested in recruiting him. He would have to sit out the upcoming 2019 season if he transfers to another FBS program due to standard NCAA transfer rules, barring any appeal being granted for immediate eligibility.

Joseph was a four-star member of LSU’s Class of 2018. He played in 11 games for the Tigers last season and was suspended from the Fiesta Bowl for unspecified violations of team rules.

NCAA to hear Missouri’s appeal over postseason ban

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As it stands right now, the Missouri Tigers will not be going to a bowl game at the end of the 2019 season even if they go 12-0. That is because the NCAA slapped the Tigers with a postseason ban for the upcoming college football season as part of a litany of sanctions levied against the program in January for violations of NCAA rules linked to ethical conduct, academic misconduct and academic extra benefits. However, Missouri is hoping their appeal will relieve the sanctions with enough time to make some postseason plans.

A report from Dennis Dodd of CBS Sports says Missouri is expected to appear in front of the NCAA’s Infractions Appeals Committee this week to state their case. However, no decision on the appeals is expected to be made for at least another month. A decision to lift a postseason ban could even come as late as September after the start of the 2019 season.

Missouri formally filed its appeal of the sanctions in March. Missouri Athletics Director Jim Sterk said in June he was hoping the appeal would be heard before the football season.

“We really think we have a strong case for overturning the majority of the decisions that they made,” Sterk said in a radio interview. “The people that are a lot smarter than me that worked on this case really presented an appeal that’s strong and compelling. And we’ll be doing an in-person hearing, we’re expecting somewhere in the middle of July and then hear something hopefully by before football starts or shortly thereafter.”

The NCAA lifting a postseason ban during the current season is not unprecedented. In 2014, the NCAA lifted sanctions against Penn State after the start of the season, thus allowing the Nittany Lions to have the opportunity to play in a postseason bowl game at the end of the year. At 6-6, Penn State went on to play in the Pinstripe Bowl against Boston College. The 2014 season was supposed to be the third year in Penn State’s four-year postseason ban as part of the sanctions in the aftermath of the Jerry Sandusky scandal. Penn State served just two years of a postseason ban before the NCAA dropped the sanctions against the program amid legal battles.