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College football ’18: Group of Five contenders

Group of Five

Remember that talk a couple of years back when the Group of Five – the second tier of FBS conferences – wanted its own playoff? There have been better ideas.

So, while such a postseason tournament doesn’t seem to be lurking on the horizon, we’re stuck with the status quo. One team from those leagues outside the traditional Power Five will gain a spot in a Selection Committee bowl game, of course won’t be in either semifinal game.

At the moment, anybody who follows college football knows the current state of the Group of Five is really a one-team show That doesn’t mean we can’t take a look at the contenders in general.

Here are five worthy of consideration:

UCF (4-0)

Barring a complete collapse, the Knights are headed back to a New Year’s Six bowl as the pride of the Group of Five. They are up to No. 12 in the rankings and boast a Heisman candidate in quarterback McKenzie Milton.

UCF has won 17 in a row, a run that included a Peach Bowl victory over Auburn last season. Looking at their schedule, the Knights could face an interesting task at Memphis in two weeks and close the regular season at South Florida, which could be a free-for-all. There’s also the American Athletic Conference title game that likely awaits.

UCF and its fans can clamor for days about getting a shot at the College Football Playoff, but it’s more of a dream than anything. Until that dream somehow becomes a reality, another Peach Bowl bid seems likely.

Boise State (3-1)

A disappointing showing at Oklahoma State last month knocked the Broncos out of the Top 25, but they rebounded nicely with a 34-14 rout of Wyoming. Boise has busted the big boys before, and if UCF stumbles once or twice, it’s the next best offering among the Group of Five.

However, Mountain West crossovers against San Diego State and Fresno State await, but both are at home. Along with a visit from BYU. The Broncos also get Utah State at home to end the regular season with a Mountain West championship game possibly to follow.

Cincinnati (5-0)

Following consecutive 4-8 seasons, the Bearcats appear to have turned things around in Luke Fickell’s second year as coach of another quality AAC East program. They are off to their best start since 2012, which included a win at UCLA to open this season.

Group of Five
Michael Warren II (Photo by

Trips to Temple and UCF appear to be the biggest tests remaining on the schedule for Cincinnati, which is getting by because of a defense that’s held three opponents to seven or fewer points. Sophomore Michael Warren II ranks second in the nation with 10 rushing touchdowns while averaging 108.2 yards on the ground.

South Florida (4-0)

Quietly, Charlie Strong’s team is undefeated, the third of its kind in the AAC East. It hasn’t been easy, though, with the Bulls needing fourth-quarter rallies to beat Georgia Tech and Illinois. Getting by East Carolina last week also wasn’t a picnic.

The issue for South Florida is its remaining schedule. The Bulls still must visit Houston, Temple and Cincinnati. They get UCF at home, which could be special if they manage to remain undefeated by then.

Utah State (3-1)

The Aggies enter the weekend tied with Boise State atop the Mountain West’s Mountain Division. They’ve won three in a row after nearly pulling off a season-opening upset at Michigan State.

Group of Five
Photo by

Utah State, which ranks fourth in the nation averaging 51.5 points, visits BYU this weekend so it will be interesting to see just where it stands in terms of being a serious contender within the Mountain West. The Aggies have gone to a bowl in six of the last seven seasons but have lost the last two.

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