Group of Five power rankings: Cincinnati’s playoff argument, Boise State-BYU battle on the blue turf

Group of Five power rankings entering Week 10 focuses on Cincinnati’s growing playoff argument and BYU vs. Boise State on Friday night.

This season has brought with it so many surprises and uncertainty. The season has left many in the college football community to wonder if this is the season where a Group of Five team sneaks into the National Semifinal. With Oklahoma State’s loss — and a guarantee they’ll lose another — could this be the year?

There are a few teams on this list that have an argument. The Cincinnati Bearcats have blown out two of their three toughest opponents this season. UCF still looms on their schedule. However, the Bearcats have no Power Five team on their schedule. Does playing in the best Group of Five conference balance that out?

The Liberty Flames are the new kids on the block, and their schedule is intriguing. They are football independents, neither Group of Five or Power Five. The Flames also have three ACC teams on their schedule. The Flames have taken care of the Syracuse Orange. If they can beat Virginia Tech and North Carolina State, they belong in the conversation.

The BYU Cougars are the most intriguing team on the list. Like Cincinnati, the Cougs do not have a Power Five team on their schedule. Their toughest game is this week against the Boise State Broncos. However, BYU has done with their schedule exactly what they’re supposed to do. The Cougars have destroyed everyone on their schedule except UTSA.

Do any of these teams have any chance of making the National Semifinal? The short answer is no. The best the Group of Five can hope for is an at large bid and the New Year’s Six bid they get every year. However, if we have some anarchy, you never know.

Group of Five power rankings entering Week 10

5. Marshall Thundering Herd (5-0, 3-0 CUSA)

The Marshall Thundering Herd are the one team on this list who do not have much of an argument for the New Year’s Six. Their schedule won’t be strong enough with an undefeated record. The Herd would have to hope for every other team ahead of them to lose at least twice. Still, Doc Holiday –best coach name in the country, by the way– and the Thundering Herd have put together a fine season in Huntington.

Marshall likes to get it done on defense. This season, the Herd are third in the country in scoring defense, surrendering 9.4 points per game. Their balanced attack is led by running back Brendan Knox and his 624 yards from scrimmage and eight total touchdowns. Unfortunately, their toughest games are behind them. However, an undefeated season is nothing to shake a stick at, and that is just what the Herd are on their way to having.

4. No. 25 Liberty Flames 6-0

The Flames’ schedule is arguably the most difficult of any on these rankings down the stretch. In addition to playing Virginia Tech and North Carolina State, the Flames end their season with Coastal Carolina who could also be undefeated when they meet at the end of the season. If the Flames find a way to run the table, are they in the conversation?

The only issue with their schedule is two FCS schools. Liberty played North Alabama and play Western Carolina. However, Cincinnati played Austin Peay and has no Power Five schools on its schedule. Does playing in a conference give the Bearcats the advantage? No matter how it turns out for Liberty, they could have a magical season.

Their biggest issue could be how to keep Hugh Freeze after this season.

3. No. 15 Coastal Carolina Chanticleers (6-0, 4-0 Sun Belt)

Coastal Carolina has been one of the great stories in college football this season. One of the newer teams in FBS, their undefeated start, has been a surprise. Redshirt freshman quarterback Grayson McCall is a star in the making, and the Chantincleer defense is stingy, giving up just 18 points per game. Coastal Carolina has a Power Five win, albeit against Kansas. However, they do have a win against Louisiana, ranked 21st when they played, and have a game against Liberty, who could be ranked and undefeated when they clash. It might not be enough schedule to get into the Playoff, but if Cincinnati slips up or make it to the Playoff, the Chanticleers could find themselves playing on New Years’.

2. No. 9 BYU Cougars (7-0)

The Cougars are the most intriguing team in these rankings. BYU does not own a Power Five victory, nor do they own a win over a highly ranked Group of Five team. Their reason for being 2nd on this list and No. 9 in the country is what they’ve done to teams on their schedule. The Cougars have laid waste to every team on their schedule. The only team to give them competition this season is UTSA. The Cougars have one of the most accurate passers in the country in quarterback Zach Wilson. Their defense has allowed 20 points just once this season. If they continue to dominate the competition for the rest of the season, the Cougars just might get an at-large bid.

1. Cincinnati Bearcats (5-0, 3-0 AAC)

The Bearcats are in the driver’s seat in the most difficult conference in the Group of Five. Every doubter who said they could not score enough points to keep up with the more high-powered offenses has been laid to rest after scoring 91 points in the last two games against No. 16 SMU and Memphis.

Luke Fickell has one of the best secondaries in college football paired with a pass rush that can get home without blitzing. Their ground and pound offense is difficult to defend with so many teams built to defend spread offenses. Though the Bearcats do not have a Power Five victory, Cincy’s last two wins have been impressive and there are three tough games — Houston, UCF and Tulsa — left on their schedule. Who knows what could happen with a bit of chaos and anarchy.

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