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Did any Group of Five conference make a statement in Week 1?

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OK, so the bragging rights between the power conferences after one full weekend of college football may draw more interest and debate, but what about the Group of Five? Non-conference matchups in the first few weeks of the season may actually have more riding on the outcomes for Group of Five conferences than they do the power conferences. With just one spot guaranteed to the highest-ranked champion of the Group of Five conferences — the American Athletic Conference, Conference USA, MAC, Mountain West Conference, and the Sun Belt Conference — the race to win a seat at the New Years Six bowl lineup is already underway for the non-power conferences.

So, which conference is off to the best start as a whole? It just might be the conference that claims to be the nation’s sixth power conference.

The AAC went 5-4 this weekend to be the only G5 conference to go over .500 through Saturday’s games (East Carolina is playing today against North Carolina A&T). That 5-4 mark includes breaking even against power conference competition. The AAC was the only non-power conference to grab a win against a power conference opponent thanks to Cincinnati spoiling the debut of Chip Kelly at UCLA Saturday night. The conference had a rough opening weekend though with Navy, SMU, and Tulane all taking losses and Temple being upset at home by FCS Villanova. At least UCF and Memphis performed as expected, there were some demoralizing losses for the conference. We’ll see how that plays out down the line.

Conference USA went 6-8, but all six of the wins came against FCS opponents. Conference USA was 0-5 against power conferences, lacking a signature win for the conference as a result. Two of the conference’s losses came on the road against Wisconsin (Western Kentucky) and Oklahoma (FAU), which is understandable, but Old Dominion getting blown out on the road against Liberty in Liberty’s first FBS game in program history was not a great look. UTEP losing by 20 at home against FCS Northern Arizona also does not sit well for the conference. Conference USA is one of two Group of Five conferences yet to place a team in the New Years Six bowl lineup under the current format.

The other is the Sun Belt Conference, which nearly landed the win of the weekend for non-power conferences. Appalachian State gave it a serious run but could not escape Penn State with a road win against a top 10 team that could have shaken up the entire Group of Five race right out of the blocks.  Instead, the Sun Belt went 5-5 overall, with all five wins coming against FCS opponents and a mark of 0-3 against power conferences. A few of those wins against FCS squads were nailbiters as well (Georgia State, UL Monroe), and Troy ended up getting blown out at home by Boise State of the Mountain West Conference.

Like UCF (and Memphis or Houston), Boise State is perceived as the flag-waving program for the Mountain West in 2018. The Broncos got their season off to a great start with their road win against the Trojans, but the conference overall had a bit of an underwhelming result this weekend. The Mountain West was 6-6 in games, but just 2-5 against FBS opponents and 0-5 against power conferences. While Boise State and Hawaii looked solid, the conference as a whole will look to improve their results if the conference is going to have a solid chance to send its champion back to the New Years Six ahead of the AAC.

And then there is the MAC, two years removed from sending its champ to the Cotton Bowl. It was a rough weekend for the MAC, with a record of 0-6 against FBS opponents and loading up on five wins against FCS foes.

Middle Tennessee State brings back ex-Blue Raiders RB Shane Tucker as grad assistant

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There will be a very familiar face in the Middle Tennessee State football building when the Conference USA school reconvenes.

Memorial Day, Middle Tennessee State announced that Shane Tucker has been added to the extended football staff.  Specifically, Tucker will serve as a graduate assistant for Rick Stockstill.  Tucker will work on the offensive side of the ball for the Blue Raiders.

From 2013-2017, Tucker was a running back at MTSU.  And a wide receiver as well.

In 39 appearances, Tucker started 17 of those games.  He started contests in 2013 (three), 2014 (two), 2015 (four) and 2017 (eight).  The Memphis native’s 2016 season ended before it started because of an offseason injury.

During his time in Murfreesboro, Tucker ran for 1,162 yards and 15 touchdowns on 271 carries.  He also caught 67 passed for 869 yards and another seven touchdowns.

In 2014, Tucker earned honorable mention All-Conference USA honors.  As a fifth-year senior in 2017, he was named a permanent captain.

Middle Tennessee State is coming off a 4-8 2019 football campaign.  That was the program’s worst record since going 2-10 in 2011.  MTSU also saw its school-record streak of bowl appearances end at four in a row.

One of the players Tucker Will Likely work with?  Martell Pettaway.  The West Virginia running back transferred to the Conference USA school in January.

Ex-Georgia State RB Gerald Howse, 28, found dead in his home

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Georgia State is mourning the loss of a member of its football family.

Sunday, Georgia State announced the passing of former Panther football player Gerald Howse.  Howse was just 28.

According to one report, Howse was found dead at his home in Cookeville, Tenn.  A cause of death has not yet been released.

From GSU’s release:

Howse, from Murfreesboro, Tenn., and Siegel High School, lettered at running back for the Panthers in 2013-14 after transferring from NE Oklahoma A&M.

After graduating with his degree in sociology, he entered the coaching profession, beginning with stints at Oklahoma Baptist (2015) and NE Oklahoma A&M (2016-19). He was honored as the NJCAA Top Assistant Coach in 2017.

In January of 2020, Howse was named as the running backs coach at Tennessee Tech of the FCS.  The football program’s head coach, Dewayne Alexander, released a statement addressing his assistant’s passing as well.

Gerald was a first-class young man. He was highly thought of by so many people. His coaches at Siegel High School – Greg Wyatt and David Watson – always brought him up whenever we had positions come open. He displayed a very positive attitude. He was a man of character who lived out faith, family and football. He was so close to his family – his mom, dad and sister – that it was one of the biggest reasons he came here to Tennessee Tech: coach in the area, be back in Middle Tennessee and be close to his family. He was an outstanding coach and a man every coach would want on his staff. Gerald made a huge impact on our players in the short time he was here. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends, as well as the Tennessee Tech football family. Anytime you lose a staff member, it affects a lot of people.

Pac-12 targets June 15 for return of players for voluntary in-person workouts

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The Pac-12 is the latest to contribute to the measured return of college football.

Last week, the NCAA announced that it would allow schools to bring its student-athletes back to campus for voluntary workouts starting June 1. Friday, the SEC announced that it will allow players to return starting June 8.  That same day, the Big 12 announced its target date is June 15.

Monday, the Pac-12 followed the Big 12’s lead, with that Power Five confirming a return date of June 15 for voluntary in-person athletic workouts. The league came to its decision to allow student-athletes to return to campus following a meeting of the Pac-12 CEO Group earlier in the day.

The conference also made sure to note in its release that the universities will “determine whether and how to open its sporting facilities in accordance with relevant county and state guidelines.”

“As educational institutions, our highest obligation is to the health and welfare of our students, faculty, and staff,” said Pac-12 CEO Group Chair and University of Colorado Boulder Chancellor Philip DiStefano in a statement. “As we considered the pros and cons of taking steps that can pave a path to returning to play, those considerations were foremost, guided by the advice of our own medical experts along with public health officials.”

“The Pac-12 is committed to the well-being of our student-athletes, and the decision to allow for voluntary workouts, subject to a determination by each school, is guided by the advice of our medical experts and will be supported by the detailed protocols established by our medical advisory committee in concert with our campus’ own safety guidelines,” said Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott. “As states have either already opened or begin to open up access to parks, gyms and other training facilities, student-athletes should have the option at this time to be in, what for many, will be a much safer environment on campus, where they can have access to the best available health, well-being and training support.”

The ACC and Big Ten are the only Power Fives to not announce a uniform plan for a return.  Both Ohio State and Illinois, though, will allow players to return June 8, for example.  Ditto for Clemson and Louisville as well.

Arizona’s leader in receiving yards underwent surgery on a fractured foot earlier this month

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A key piece of the passing game for Arizona football is recovering from a health issue.  Fortunately, it doesn’t appear it will impact his availability for the upcoming season.

Prior to Arizona shuttering spring football practice because of the coronavirus pandemic, Jamarye Joiner suffered a fractured left foot.  It was reported at the time that the wide receiver was “believed to have suffered a Jones fracture, which is a break between the base of the foot and the fifth metatarsal.”

According to The Athletic, Joiner underwent surgery to repair the damage May 12.  The procedure was delayed as elective surgeries were scuttled because of the pandemic.

The same website reported that the receiver will be sidelined for a period of 6-12 weeks.  Such a timeline would extend, at the long end, to early August.  Arizona is scheduled to open the 2020 football season Aug. 29 against Hawaii.

Joiner was a three-star member of the Arizona football Class of 2018.  The Tucson native was rated as the No. 6 prospect regardless of position in the state of Arizona.

Originally signing as a quarterback, Joiner completed three of his four pass attempts for 17 yards in two games a true freshman.  Playing in less than four games allowed Joiner to preserve a year of eligibility.

Prior to the start of summer camp, Joiner made the move from quarterback to wide receiver.  In his first season at the position, the redshirt freshman led the Wildcats in receiving yards with 552 and receiving touchdowns with five.  His 34 receptions were third on the team, while his 16.2 yards per catch was second among the nine players with at least 10 receptions.

Arizona head football coach Kevin Sumlin this month became one of a handful of coaches to take a pay cut.