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

6 Comments

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.

Jonathan Taylor, Chuba Hubbard among semifinalists for Doak Walker Award

Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Wisconsin running back Jonathan Taylor is attempting to do something that has only been done twice before by winning the Doak Walker Award in back-to-back seasons. Taylor was one of the 10 semifinalists revealed by the Doak Walker Award on Thursday, putting last year’s top running back one step closer to pulling off the rare feat on the college football award circuit.

Taylor will have some stiff competition for the award this season. Among the other semifinalists for the award include Oklahoma State’s Chuba Hubbard, the nation’s rushing leader with 1,726 yards and 20 rushing touchdowns (Taylor has 1,463 yards and 17 rushing touchdowns in the same number of games as Hubbard).

Darren McFadden of Arkansas is the most recent player to win the Doak  Walker Award in back-to-back seasons, doing so in 2006 and 2007. The only other player to win the award in consecutive seasons, and the only other two-time winner of the Doak Walker Award, is Ricky Williams of Texas. Williams won the award in 1997 and 1998. Taylor joined former Wisconsin running backs Melvin Gordon (2014), Montee Ball (2012) and Ron Dayne (1999) to move Wisconsin into first place for most all-time Doak Walker Award winners. Texas also has four awards won, but by three players (Ricky Williams twice, Cedric Benson in 2004 and D’Onta Foreman in 2016).

The other semi-finalists for the Doak Walker Award this year include LeVante Bellamy of Western Michigan (21 touchdowns leads the nation), AJ Dillon of Boston College, JK Dobbins of Ohio State, Clyde Edwards-Helaire of LSU, Travis Etienne of Clemson, Kenneth Gainwell of Memphis, Xavier Jones of SMU, Zack Moss of Utah.

Boise State’s second-leading rusher arrested for failure to appear

Getty Images
1 Comment

Were it not for its demise, it’d once again be time for the “Days Without An Arrest” ticker to shine.

The latest college football player with an off-field dustup is Boise State’s Robert Mahone, with KTIK‘s Mike Prater reporting that the running back was arrested earlier this week for misdemeanor failure to appear.  The arrest stemmed from a speeding ticket that went unpaid.

That ticket has since been taken care of, and it’s not expected to impact Mahone’s availability for this weekend’s key Mountain West Conference matchup with Utah State.

A junior, Mahone is second on the Broncos with 411 yards rushing and is tied for the team lead with five rushing touchdowns.  He’s also caught seven passes for another 62 yards coming out of the backfield.

At a perfect 6-0, Boise State leads the MWC Mountain division by one game over USU (5-1) and Air Force (5-1).  Boise is ranked 20th in the most recent College Football Playoff rankings, third behind No. 18 Memphis and No. 19 Cincinnati among Group of Five schools.

With Ralphie V’s retirement, PETA calls on Colorado to end live mascot program

Getty Images
7 Comments

They’re at it.  Again.

Earlier this month, Colorado announced that its live buffalo mascot since 2008, Ralphie V, will be retired after this weekend’s home finale Washington.  In that same announcement, the university confirmed that it is searching for a successor, which will make its debut in 2020.

If it’s up to the individuals at the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, though, the live mascot program at CU will end with Ralphie V.

In a letter posted on its website and addressed to CU System President Mark Kennedy — and as they have done in the past when it comes to the likes of Texas (HERE), Georgia (HERE), LSU (HERE), Mississippi State (HERE), among others — PETA “respectfully request[ed] that you agree not to replace this individual with another animal but rather forgo their use from now on.”

From the letter, which you can read in full HERE:

Using live animals as mascots is often a recipe for disaster. For example, at this year’s Sugar Bowl, Bevo, the longhorn steer used by the University of Texas, broke out of an enclosure and charged the University of Georgia’s bulldog mascot, Uga, nearly trampling him. Then just last month, an Auburn University football player collided with Mississippi State University’s mascot, Bully. Mascots from falcons to big cats have sustained physical injuries because they were being used as living props.

Even if animals aren’t physically harmed, it’s hard to imagine that they enjoy being paraded before raucous crowds, entirely out of their element, and treated as if they were toys rather than living, feeling beings with interests, personalities, and needs of their own. Being forced into a stadium full of bright lights, exuberantly screaming fans, and loud noises is stressful—and can be terrifying—for animals who have no idea what’s going on or why.

Fortunately for those who appreciate the beloved tradition, Ralphie isn’t going anywhere, a university official has confirmed..

Alabama fan charged with murder of LSU fan after shooting during LSU-Alabama game

Getty Images
13 Comments

Sadly, this has become a ghoulish tradition of late when it comes to the LSU-Alabama game.

Last year, an Alabama fan was fatally injured after a verbal altercation with two LSU fans during the annual SEC West clash turned physical.  This year, an LSU fan, 29-year-old James Michael Roland “Mikie” Merritt, was shot with a pistol by 31-year-old David Allen Fulkerson, an Alabama fan, during the game.  After spending nearly a week on life support, Merritt died last Friday after the family decided to pull the plug.

Fulkerson was originally charged with attempted murder; that charge has since been upgraded to murder.

“They just got into it over the ball game,” Colbert County Sheriff Frank Williamson said by way of the Baton Rouge Advocate. “They’d been jawing at each other all day. Alcohol played a big part in it.”

Williamson said that Fulkerson’s and Merritt’s girlfriends are sisters and that the fight broke out at Fulkerson’s residence in Littleville, Alabama. People had gathered there to watch the game in which LSU beat Alabama 46-41.

Court records obtained by AL.com say that Fulkerson, a 31-year-old from Tuscumbia, Alabama, was cheering for Alabama and Merritt was cheering for LSU. When Merritt called a football player an expletive, Fulkerson thought he had said it to him and grabbed his gun.

Fulkerson’s defense attorney has claimed that the shooting was in self-defense, evidenced by a black eye he suffered. However, one witness told authorities that she watched Fulkerson hit himself in the face.