The Objectively Correct G5 Power Rankings
Many are saying that I had a lot of ideas for today's newsletter, and that rankings aren't just an easy content cop-out.
It’s the time of the year that we all know and love. That’s right, folks, it’s time for the month and a half of the college season when arbitrary rankings rule the discourse, from Very Important Journalists explaining that the early November Playoff rankings are actually extremely impactful and worth clicking their columns over, to completely psychotic Ohio State fans taking three hours of their workday to tell you that the Buckeyes should be in the playoff because “it’s supposed to pick the best teams!!!!!!” after they’ve watched their favorite team produce absolute jackshit for two months.
Because this process is just so much fun, and definitely not a dire sign of the rapid decline in the sport’s credibility, I figure we might as well replicate it as best we can here at The Outside Zone Newsletter, albeit with a G5-only twist – because I do not know or care where the P5 teams should be ranked. Not real, doesn’t matter.
These rankings, however? They’re extremely real, and they’re also good as hell.
Real quick here as an aside, I want to say from the jump that I’m not one who wants the G5 teams to split off and create their own playoff. These teams belong in the real playoff just as much as their P5 counterparts, and they shouldn’t have to splinter for the opportunity to compete for a title. This is purely a power ranking, sorted loosely by storylines within a conference or team similarities. I’m not proposing a playoff here – though the top four down at the bottom would, admittedly, absolutely whoop ass. Alright, let’s rank.
No. 25: UTEP
No. 24: Western Michigan
No. 23: Central Michigan
No. 22: Eastern Michigan
I’m not especially confident in UTEP’s ability to beat any team with a pulse, but bowl eligibility is bowl eligibility, and I’m more inclined to include the Miners than I am Gus Malzahn’s dogshit UCF team, even if it is probably better. I cannot split the Michigan trio for the life of me. I think Western may be the best of the bunch, but it lost to Central, so I can’t really put it any higher than the third spot, especially with Eastern yet to play either of the other two.
No. 21: Marshall
No. 20: UAB
No. 19: Boise State
No. 18: Northern Illinois
No. 17: Western Kentucky
We’ve got the No. 2-4 C-USA teams jostling for position, with Marshall and UAB set to square off this weekend and Western Kentucky out in front thanks to its electric offense. I don’t expect that any of this bunch can beat UTSA come December, but they’re all strong enough to crack the list. Sandwiched by the C-USA, Boise State checks in thanks to its highs in beating Fresno State and BYU in what has been a very strange season, and NIU for its ability to win close games. I think that Boise State might be the best of this group when it’s all said and done, but it has the worst resume of the bunch, so it’s staying at 19th until it can claim another quality win - perhaps San Diego State to end the season.
No. 16 Air Force
No. 15: Army
Army is just a different team with Christian Anderson, and that bumps it all the way to 15th despite a 5-3 record. I think that if he’s healthy all year, we’re probably talking about a 7-1, or even 8-0 Black Knight team right now. Air Force isn’t terribly far behind (see: overtime game they just played) but Army gets the nod because of its head-to-head win.
No. 14: Kent State
Far and away the MAC leader right now, the Zips claimed a win over NIU a week ago and really seem to be rolling as we get into November. The Huskies may be on the docket again in the conference title game, and I don’t have a reason to think that Kent State can’t beat them again to earn its first MAC title since 1972.
No. 13: Liberty
No. 12: SMU
These two are so similar to me. Both entered with highly hyped offenses and have in some moments lived up to the excitement, but lapses in focus have led directly to bad losses, be it against Syracuse and ULM for Liberty or Memphis for SMU. I think a matchup between these two would be a blast, but SMU gets the nod right now for one fewer loss.
No. 11: Nevada
No. 10: Fresno State
No. 9: Utah State
Another conference trio, this time with the No. 2 and 3 squads out of the West and the Mountain’s leader in Utah State. I’m not actually all that confident in Utah State as a football team, but the Aggies have a very clear path to 10-2 and a division title, so they take the top spot. Fresno State has been far too disaster-prone to rise any higher, but it’s highs have been so good (and it has a win over Nevada) so I can’t really justify dropping it out of the top 10. A win over SDSU this weekend puts Nevada into the next tier, but for now, the Wolf Pack look to me like a good but not quite great team in a division that really requires them to be great if they want to win.
No. 8: Coastal Carolina
No. 7: Appalachian State
Like Army and Air Force, the head to head gives Appalachian State the nod, but I really can’t split these two either. Coastal Carolina has the better offense, but Grayson McCall may be out for the rest of the season, and the Chants have gone away from what works a few too many times for my taste this season. They’re still unbeaten if they just stick to their guns against App State.
But, they didn’t, and that has to be a factor. App State’s loss to Louisiana was disastrous, but it knocked off CCU at home and should have pulled off the upset over Miami. A run to the Sun Belt title game is highly likely at this point, and I would be stunned if the Mountaineers don’t have something better for Louisiana in try No. 2.
No. 6: BYU
No. 5: San Diego State
I think SDSU is quite a bit better than BYU, but the Cougars have significantly better wins, which is enough to make up for losing to Boise State and Baylor in succession.
No. 4: Louisiana
No. 3: Houston
No. 2: UTSA
No. 1: Cincinnati
Okay so I know I said I don’t want a G5 playoff, but man. This would be so much fun. Louisiana and Cincinnati are the two most physically impressive teams in the G5 ranks, and if both are at their best, I think they have an easy case for the top two spots. This has all of the makings of a serious slugfest - the kind we just don’t get in big games anymore.
Meanwhile, we have the Texas battle in the other semifinal, with UTSA’s fantastic and deep offense against one of the only defenses in this ranking that I think could seriously challenge it.
These four seem, to me, like an obvious and clear-cut top four.