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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.

Ex-Auburn, Miami RB Asa Martin lands at Memphis

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After going from AU to the ACC, tailback Asa Martin is now ticketed for the AAC.

Got that?

Per 247Sports, Martin has apparently enrolled at Memphis for the 2019 season. Per transfer rules he’s sitting out the year either way unless there’s some sort of NCAA waiver involved but it’s still the sophomore’s third school in nine months.

Martin was originally a four-star recruit in the class of 2018 and saw action in five games for the SEC Tigers as a true freshman, rushing for 57 yards all told while catching two passes for 36 yards. He entered the transfer portal in late December though, just after Auburn’s season had concluded.

Eventually Martin found a home at Miami and enrolled in time for spring practice. Perhaps he was not thrilled at the situation because come mid-June the tailback was back in the transfer portal looking for a new program to play with.

We’ll see if this latest move to Memphis sticks because we’ve certainly seen that Martin is no stranger to moving around.

Penn State transfer Tommy Stevens gets the nod as Mississippi State’s starting QB

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Tommy Stevens’ reunion with Joe Moorhead has proven to be a fruitful one.

The Penn State transfer was named the starting quarterback on Thursday by the Mississippi State head coach, ending a camp battle with Keytaon Thompson and others in the bid to replace Nick Fitzgerald under center for the Bulldogs.

Stevens made his way to Starkville rather surprisingly this offseason after spring practice for the Nittany Lions wrapped up. While he was expected to be the heir apparent to Trace McSorley in State College for the 2019 campaign, it seems that a competitive battle with fellow Penn State QB Sean Clifford pushed him to enter the NCAA transfer portal instead.

While some may have questioned the move initially given that Thompson has starting experience at MSU and in Moorhead’s system, things apparently worked out in the end as Stevens takes over for Fitzgerald instead.

A noted dual-threat with the ball in his hands at PSU, Stevens rushed for 118 yards and two touchdowns last year while also passing for 110 yards, a touchdown and an interception. Mississippi State opens the season against Louisiana-Lafayette in New Orleans on Aug. 31 before their home opener against Southern Miss on Sept. 7.

Arkansas inks 2-for-1 series with old rival Tulsa, Golden Hurricane also add LaTech to non-conference slate

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The non-conference scheduling wheel in college continues to roll.

It has been a particularly busy month for Arkansas in terms of lining up future opponents. Hot on the heels of confirming another home-and-home series with Oklahoma State deep into the future, the Razorbacks announced on Thursday that they have agreed to a 2-for-1 series with old, old rival Tulsa over the next decade.

The Razorbacks will host the Golden Hurricane in Fayetteville on Nov. 21, 2026 and Sept. 1, 2029. The return trip to Tulsa is set for Sept. 4, 2027.

The regional rivals were old foes back in the day and have met 73 times over the years. Arkansas won 23-0 last season in their most recent meeting and will make their first trip to Northwest Oklahoma since 1952 when that 2027 date rolls around.

The Golden Hurricane also had some additional scheduling news from earlier in the week when they announced a home-and-home with ex-CUSA foe Louisiana Tech. The old conference rivals will meet in Ruston on Sept. 21, 2024 and then play a return game the following year on Sept. 27, 2025 at Tulsa’s H.A. Chapman Stadium.

Virginia Tech confirms Ryan Willis will start vs. Boston College

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Justin Fuente is sticking with what works.

On Thursday, the Virginia Tech head coach confirmed to reporters at a press conference that senior Ryan Willis has kept the starting job and will be QB1 for the team when they open against Boston College in Week 1.

Willis took over early last season when previous starter Josh Jackson suffered a broken leg against Old Dominion. The latter wound up transferring to Maryland while Willis, a transfer himself from Kansas, threw for 2,716 yards, 24 touchdowns and nine interceptions in 2018. Though he did keep the Hokies’ bowl streak alive — barely — thanks to a win over rival Virginia in the final week of the regular season, Willis was just 4-6 as a starter overall.

Fuente and company will certainly hope for better play out of the position with another year in the system and can get off to a good start in 2019 with three straight home games against ODU, Furman and Duke following their trip to Chestnut Hill on Aug. 31.