Mid-Major Power Rankings: Top 10 For Week 5
Mid-Major Power Rankings: Week 5
While the BCS era is dominated by the big six automatic qualifying conferences, there is always a few outsiders from the mid-major conferences that make major noise when bowl time comes around.
This year hasn’t been any different. Already we’ve had “big time” programs fall to these little guys in each and every week. The Arkansas Razorbacks, Illinois Fighting Illini, and Utah Utes are all AQ teams that have felt the bite of the mid-majors, and surely won't be the last.
At the end of the season, there will be a number of these small guys knocking on the BCS door trying to get in. How many will get in. If these mid-majors have any say in it, they’ll push as many in as possible and cause us all to ask that age-old BCS question: Why not let the little guys have their shot?
So how do these mid-majors stack up? There are the usual suspects that are always crashing the party but there are plenty of surprises as well representing the Mountain West Conference, Western Athletic Conference, Mid-American Conference, and the Sun Belt Conference. Conference USA just missed the cut, but has a team lurking in the wings.
The MAC and WAC boast the most teams with three a piece in the top 10, while the Mountain West and Sun Belt have a pair of clubs representing them.
So without further ado, we count down the top 10 mid-major teams in college football as of Week 5. Prepare for a few surprises.
10) Louisiana Monroe Warhawks 1-2 (0-0) Sun Belt
The Warhawks have made an early name for themselves, despite being just 1-2 to start to the season. Beating an eighth-ranked Arkansas team to start the season with a high-powered offensive attack, led by quarterback Kolton Browning, put the Hawks on the national map. The rest of their early-season scheduled hasn’t disappointed in the fireworks department.
The very next week, UL Monroe went into Auburn and put a scare into Gene Chizik and the Auburn Tigers, eventually falling in overtime 31-28. After that, they went toe-to-toe with the Baylor Bears falling 47-42 in a shootout.
The offense has been fearless facing these big-time programs, averaging 506.6 yards per game on offense with Browning averaging 366 total yards of offense per game, the fifth highest mark in the nation. But for the Warhawks to remain nationally relevant, they will need to tighten up their defense, currently surrendering 36.3 points per game, and start winning games rather than just losing close.
9) Toledo Rockets 3-1 (1-0) MAC
The Rockets aren’t new to being amont the best mid-major teams in the country and look to be on their way to another strong showing in 2012. The Rockets traveled to the desert to start the season and took an explosive Arizona Wildcats team to the brink, eventually losing 24-17 in overtime.
Since then, it’s been nothing but wins for Toledo as they’ve pulled out a win on the road against the Wyoming Cowboys 34-31 before getting a few decisive wins over the Bowling Green Falcons 27-15 and the Coastal Carolina Chanticleers 38-28. The offense is driven by quarterback Terrance Owens who is averaging 280 yards of total offense per game.They’re going to have their work cut out for them to compete for the wild MAC, sitting as the third best team in the conference in this week’s power rankings.
8) Western Kentucky Hilltoppers 3-1 (0-0) Sun Belt
The Hilltoppers started 2012 with a pair of SEC road trips against the Alabama Crimson Tide and Kentucky Wildcats. The Tuscaloosa trip didn’t go so well, losing 35-0, but they bounced back against their in-state rival, besting Kentucky 32-31 in Lexington with a gutsy overtime two-point conversion.
On top of going 1-1 against SEC opponents, Western Kentucky has been dominant with an additional pair of wins. They’ve averaged better than 30 points a game, even with the blanking in Tuscaloosa, while holding their opponents to 23 points per game. They’ll get into their conference schedule soon and will look to keep their high-level of play going.
7) Utah State Aggies 3-1 (0-0) WAC
The Aggies have been strong through their early schedule. Dominating wins over the Southern Utah Thunderbirds and Colorado State Rams show that Utah State is playing at the level they were expecting to. But with an overtime upset win over the rival Utah Utes 27-20 and a well-played trip to Camp Randall with a close 16-14 loss to the Wisconsin Badgers, the Aggies are showing flashes that they might be better than expected.
Sophomore Chuckie Keeton leads the Utah State offense, which is averaging 424 yards per game, pacing them with 270 total yards per game through the first four weeks. The Aggies defense has also risen up to bolster the team, allowing just 14.5 points per game, good for 20th best in the nation. Utah State will need to keep this strong start going as they enter WAC conference play. If they do, they will keep raising their national profile.
6) San Jose State Spartans 3-1 (0-0) WAC
The Spartans opened the season by pushing the Stanford Cardinal to the brink in Palo Alto, ultimately losing 20-17 and casting doubts as to how good Stanford was going to be this season. Subsequent games have put the concerns about the Cardinal to bed, and make San Jose State’s performance all the more impressive. The Spartans followed up their near upset with a few comfortable wins at home before going on the road and overcoming a stout San Diego State Aztecs team on their home turf.
Quarterback David Fales has been impressive through the first four games, leading the Spartan passing attack which has averaged 305.8 yards through the air per game, the 20th highest mark in the country. The defense has been average, allowing 21.8 points per game, 46th ranked in the country. The WAC has looked strong through the early season schedule and will provide a tall task for the Spartans to work through if they want to come out on top.
5) Louisiana Tech Bulldogs 3-0 (0-0) WAC
The Bulldogs missed out on an opening game against the Texas A&M Aggies due to the recent hurricane that hit the gulf region. That game got postponed, and the Bulldogs took that extra week off to prepare to start the season with three dominant wins, scoring more than 50 points in wins over the Houston Cougars, Rice Owls, and Illinois Illini.
The Bulldogs have built this fast start on the play of senior quarterback Colby Cameron averaging 311 yards of total offense per game. They’ve relied on the offense to win in shootouts as the defense is currently ranked 114th in the nation surrendering 36.7 points per game. If the defense can improve and the offense continues its high-powered offensive ways, the Bulldogs will be a force to be reckoned with the rest of the season.
4) Nevada Wolfpack 3-1 (1-0) MWC
The Wolfpack have ridden a high powered offense to get off to another strong start in 2012. They went on the road to Berkley and ruined the opening of the new Memorial Stadium, beating the Cal Bears 31-24 in Week 1 for as good a start as they could hope for. They followed that game up with a slip-up at home against the South Florida Bulls in a one-point loss, but have bounced back from that with back-to-back wins by double digits, including a 69-24 road win against the Hawaii Warriors.
The Wolfpack are averaging 557 yards of offense per game this season, good for eighth highest in the country. They are paced by quarterback Cody Fajardo, who is ranked ninth in the country in total offense at 344 yards per game, and running back Stefphon Jefferson who is leading the country in rushing, averaging 175 yards per game. The Wolfpack’s vaunted pistol-offense is going to put up numbers and makes them dangerous down the stretch.
3) Ball State Cardinals 3-1 (1-0) MAC
The Cardinals have a pair of victories over AQ teams with tough wins at Bloomington over the Indiana Hoosiers and over South Florida. Their one loss came on a trip south against the Clemson Tigers in a 52-27 rout, but there will be much better teams to take much worse losses against a talented Tigers team.
Ball State has built their strong start on the strength of the running game, ranked 20th in the nation averaging 239 yards per game. The ground game is led by sophomore Jahwan Edwards who is gaining 107.5 yards per game. The running game will be the key for the Cardinals to continue their strong play as they enter MAC play.
2) Boise State Broncos 2-1 (0-0) MWC
The Broncos have been king of the mid-majors for years now, and they’ve set their sights on going out on top once again in their final season before joining the big boys. They struggled out of the gate, losing to the Michigan State Spartans in East Lansing 17-13, but have bounced back with back-to-back wins and sit at 24th in the AP poll after a 7-6 win over the BYU Cougars.
The Broncos have based their success this season on their defense rather than their offense as they did when Kellen Moore was under center. The offense has sputtered out of the gate, ranking 94th in total offense at 355.33 yards per game and 109th in scoring, averaging a mere 19.7 points per game. The defense, however, has been stellar, ranking 18th in total defense allowing just 296 yards per game and 11.7 points per game, good for 10th best in the country. The offense will need to pick up some of the slack if the Broncos hope to match the success they’ve achieved as the king of the BCS busters.
1) Ohio Bobcats 4-0 (0-0) MAC
The Ohio Bobcats capture the top spot in the power rankings for playing strong and balanced football through the first month of the season. Their signature win came in Week 1 when they traveled to Happy Valley and beat the Penn State Nittany Lions 24-14 and followed up the big win with strong performances over the next three games.
The Bobcats are playing well on both sides of the ball with the offense gaining 465 yards per game, good for 35th in the country, and allowing 322.5 yards on defense, 26th best in football. The offense is keyed by quarterback Tyler Tettleton who is averaging nearly 300 yards of total offense per game. Most impressively, however, is the defenses turnover margin of +2.5 per game, tied for third best in the country with a little team from Tuscaloosa, the Alabama Crimson Tide. Maybe you’ve heard of them? Getting mentioned in the same breath as a Nick Saban Tide team is more than enough to propel the Bobcats to the very top of the mid-major power rankings.