Wow! What a year for the G5! From Cincinnati and Coastal Carolina running the table in the regular season, to major wins by Louisiana, Liberty, BYU, and Arkansas State, to Ball State’s wild winning streak to close the year, it has never been a better time to be a Group of Five football fan.
We have grown accustomed over the years to seeing the American Athletic Conference (AAC) dominate the Group of Five news. While the AAC had its share of moments in 2020, other conferences and teams stepped up as well.
COVID-19 wrecked many a schedule in 2020. Unbalanced and partial schedules were the rule of the day, yet many teams persevered and enjoyed unprecedented success. The final poll of 2020 attempts to recognize those teams that were able to gut through unprecedented challenges and achieve new heights.
For those of you that follow the Group of Five, it should not be a surprise to see Cincinnati ranked #1. The Bearcats dropped a heartbreaker to Georgia on a 53 yard field goal with 2 seconds remaining. Otherwise, the Bearcats were unblemished and mostly unchallenged in a rugged AAC conference. Next up was Liberty. Liberty made the most of its opportunities, beating two ACC teams and coming within a whisper of beating a third. They won an overtime thriller against the number 3 team in our rankings, Coastal Carolina. Coastal started the year with its second consecutive win over Kansas and kept rolling from there until dropping its final game to Liberty in the Cure Bowl. Rounding out the top 5 were BYU and Louisiana. Both teams lost only one game, both to Coastal Carolina in nail biting finishes.
The second five consists of MAC champion, Ball State who won their first bowl game ever, beating the MWC champion San Jose State in the Arizona Bowl. San Jose State, which beat Boise State in the MWC championship, finished just behind Ball State. Nevada, another MWC team, beat Tulane in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl to finish 7-2 and place eighth in our final poll. The Guru’s will admit, it was tough to choose between the next five teams in the poll. Buffalo was dominant up to their loss in the MAC Championship to Ball State, finishing up with a win over Marshall in the Camellia Bowl. Appalachian State won its sixth straight bowl game (in six attempts) to finish 9-3, with its three losses coming to teams that were a combined 28-5. Memphis capped off an 8-3 campaign by beating Florida Atlantic in the Montgomery Bowl.
Finishing just behind App State and Memphis were SMU, Army, and Buffalo. SMU’s bowl game was cancelled, eliminating a chance for them to improve their ranking. Army dropped a three point decision to West Virginia in the Liberty bowl to finish 9-3.
The final G5 Guru’s Poll is shown below.
|Team||Conf||Record||Post Season result|
|Cincinnati||AAC||9-1||(L) 21-24 UGA (SEC)|
|Liberty||INDG5||10-1||(W) 37-34 CCU (SBC)|
|Coastal Carolina||SBC||11-1||(L) 34-37 LIB (INDG5)|
|BYU||INDG5||11-1||(W) 49-23 UCF (AAC)|
|Louisiana||SBC||10-1||(W) 31-24 UTSA (CUSA)|
|Ball State||MAC||7-1||(W) 34-13 SJSU (MWC)|
|San Jose State||MWC||7-1||(L) 13-34 BSU (MAC)|
|Nevada||MWC||7-2||(W) 38-27 Tulane (AAC)|
|Buffalo||MAC||6-1||(W) 17-10 Marshall (CUSA)|
|App State||SBC||9-3||(W) 56-28 UNT (CUSA)|
|Memphis||AAC||8-3||(W) 25-10 FAU (CUSA)|
|Army||INDG5||9-3||(L) 21-24 WVU (Big12)|
|Tulsa||AAC||6-3||(L) 26-28 Miss St (SEC)|
|Marshall||CUSA||7-3||(L) 10-17 Buffalo (MAC)|
|UCF||AAC||6-4||(L) 23-49 BYU (INDG5)|
|Georgia Southern||SBC||8-5||(W) 38-3 La Tech (CUSA)|
|Tulane||AAC||6-6||(L) 27-38 Nevada (MWC)|
|Hawaii||MWC||5-4||(W) 28-14 Houston (AAC)|
|Georgia State||SBC||6-4||(W) 39-21 WKU (CUSA)|
|UTSA||CUSA||7-5||(L) 24-31 ULL (SBC)|