With the Mountain West and the MAC set to start their seasons soon, the Group of 5 will get more crowded for the New Years Six (NY6) spot. Right now it’s the AAC at the top, but a couple teams sit right behind them. If BYU (5-0) were considered a G5, they’d be first in this list, but they’re not. They can still get the NY6 bid, but some things have to happen. So who deserves the top spot. Multiple teams have a case to be the top team, but only one can have it, so let’s jump into the Top 10 teams for that coveted spot.
1. Cincinnati (3-0)
You could make an argument that Cincinnati is 1A and SMU is 1B and I’d entertain that thought. Both teams are the frontrunners so far for the NY6 spot, but the Bearcats get the edge for one reason: their defense. Yes, the offense could be better, but they’ve done enough to keep the games out of reach so far. Their defense has been mostly lights out so far, allowing just 12.3 points per game. The return of James Wiggins in the secondary clearly elevated that group’s play, and teams are finding it difficult to move the ball. Desmond Ridder and the offense will need to pick up the pace a little, but the defense has it under control for now. They’ll be tested when they face SMU this weekend.
2. SMU (5-0)
The loss of Reggie Roberson already took a toll on the Mustangs, but they found a way to win in overtime against Tulane. While the rushing attack to a step back, Shane Buechele and the offense continued their dominance. Without Roberson, guys like Rashee Rice, Danny Gray, and Tyler Page all stepped up, each going over 100 yards in the game. Tight end Kylen Granson has also been solid for the Mustangs offense. It’s just, once again, up to the defense to decide how high this team goes.
3. Liberty (5-0)
Hugh Freeze is already being linked with SEC jobs that aren’t even open after an upset win over Syracuse. Liberty took it to the Orange this weekend, even without their starting running back. Shedro Louis had a monster day, rushing for 170 yards and two touchdowns in a game where Liberty looked like the Power 5 team more than their ACC opponent. Malik Lewis has been entertaining thus far as well, making the Flames offense explosive. Like BYU, the Flames don’t have a direct path to the NY6, but they’ll gladly take it if other teams falter.
4. Marshall (4-0)
It’s been a fun year for Thundering Herd fans already, and they’re just four games into the season. Once considered a dark horse team for the NY6 spot, Marshall’s out to prove they’re one of the favorites. Reigning Conference USA Player of the Year Brenden Knox continues to gash opposing defenses, averaging 4.9 yards per carry. Quarterback Grant Wells has cooled off quite a bit since his Week 1 explosion, but he’s still been solid and accurate. Marshall’s defense has also stepped up to the plate, only allowing 9.5 points per game (3rd in the country). Linebacker Tavante Beckett continues to be a monster all over the field, and it’s a group that makes Marshall a tough team to beat no matter who they face.
5. Coastal Carolina (5-0)
Not only do the Chanticleers have one of the best fields in college football, but they're also putting a quality product on it in 2020. It all starts with their defense. Six defenders have produced 2.5 tackles for loss already this year, including a team leading 5.5 by future NFL prospect Tarron Jackson. After beating Kansas for the second season in a row, Coastal Carolina also rattled off two consecutive big wins against Arkansas State (52-23) and Louisiana (30-27). Quarterback Grayson McCall isn't exactly slinging it all over the place (186 yards passing per game), but he's taken care of the football with 11 touchdowns to just one interception. Once picked to finish dead last in their division, no one's laughing at this team anymore.
6. Memphis (2-1)
Brady White deserves a ton of respect after leading the Tigers back against UCF last week. He threw for 486 yards and six touchdowns in the biggest game of Memphis' season, a bounce back from their loss the previous week to SMU. Even without wide receiver Damonte Coxie, who later declared he was opting out of the 2020 season for the NFL draft, and cornerback TJ Carter, Memphis found a way to win. Granted, the defense didn't exactly do much to contribute to that, but White and the offense never caved and kept clawing away at the deficit. The Tigers might have a loss, but this team might have found their confidence. Well, offensively for sure. Defensively, there's a ton of work to do for Mike MacIntyre.
7. Louisiana (3-1)
No shame in losing to Coastal Carolina, but it can't turn into a losing streak. After stunning Iowa State and hanging on to beat both Georgia State (34-31) and Georgia Southern (20-18), it felt like the Ragin Cajuns were due for a bad game. It came in the biggest game of their season, but this is still a team that can compete for the NY6 spot. Levi Lewis is more than capable of being a solid passer, and the rushing attack with Elijah Mitchell, Trey Ragas, and Chris Smith remains a dangerous one.
8. UAB (4-1)
Oh hey, would you look at that. Another year of talking about Bill Clark for Coach of the Year. UAB's not slowing down under Clark's watch, even after winning 28 games in the previous three seasons. Seasons, which we should remind everyone, came after not playing football for a few years after the university shut down the program. It's like the Blazers are making up for lost time. Spencer Brown appears to be rejuvenated at running back, and the defense continues to give the Blazers a chance every week.
9. Appalachian State (2-1)
If you feel like the Mountaineers haven't played a game in a long time, it's because they haven't. Appalachian State's last game was a 52-21 win over Campbell on September 26th. They'll face Arkansas State tonight at 7:30pm in their first action in nearly a month. Some time off could be what this program needed to regroup after a tough loss to Marshall just a week before the Campbell game. Zac Thomas hasn't looked like himself yet, though the rushing attack remains as potent as ever. Oh and the Mountaineers defense continues to stifle opposing offenses as well. They'll get a chance to show where they belong in the Sun Belt, and a winning streak would launch them up in these rankings.
10. UCF (2-2)
It was a tough way to lose for the Knights, but this is still a dangerous team. Josh Heupel has things he must address before the next game, like how to get his defense to makes stops, how to get his team to stop committing so many mental/stupid mistakes, and how to rebuild a locker room that got heated with each other after last week's loss. Dillon Gabriel's a star, and he proved that in his school record performance with 601 passing yards. Gabriel currently leads college football in passing yards, and it seems like he's just getting started.