Tis the season – off-season that is – and now that July has rolled around and football is on the vague near horizon like Kilroy peeking in to see what’s up, we decided to give him something to look at with our staff predictions for each Group of Five team and conference.
I will preface this by saying that the standings that you see are a mathematical aggregate of everyone who voted, but I reserve the right here to disagree with the true oddities that appeared in our predictions. This ought to teach me about letting everyone predict every conference.
American Athletic Conference
The AAC picks were a bit wild. The consensus on SMU was 5-7, but they were anywhere between 3 and 8 wins. I personally was the eight-win pick, because they return a ton of offense in a conference that is driven by it, and really think Sonny Dykes can do a good job of winning with the team Chad Morris built for him.
A couple of pickers also had UCF at 8-4 (5-3), which I strongly disagree with. I personally have them at 11-1 (8-0) because I think that with them having more turnover than FAU, they’ll drop that game because of how early in the season it is. Other than that, nothing too shocking I think.
CUSA picks had a strong consensus, except that FIU and UNT were all over the map. FIU was picked everywhere between 2-10 (1-7) and 7-5 (5-3), but I personally think just missing on a bowl game is pretty accurate for them. UNT was picked everywhere from 6 to 10 wins, but I expect big things from a strong offense and an above average defense, which is I was the person to give them a 10-2 record.
Now we get into some contentious stuff, but I think this is more that my staff doesn’t know enough about the MAC than anything else. I don’t think I disagree with the standings overall, except that I think everyone is sleeping on a Ball State team that got absolutely brutalized by injuries last season. I personally think they’ll go 6-6 at a minimum, because the combination of returning talent on offense and the depth they developed due to injuries will make them a very dangerous opponent.
Also, shocker, the West will be the usual logjam. And the consensus is a 1-11 Kent State team, but I’m not even convinced they’ll beat Howard after the way Howard took down UNLV last season; remember, Cam Newton’s younger brother Caylin is the starting QB still.
Mountain West Conference
Few surprises here. Well, Utah State definitely got a bump from having two different crazy people pick them to go 10-2 (aka not lose to anybody but Boise and Michigan State), but otherwise, I think this is a pretty accurate feeling for how the conference might play out. Those standings look like the end of the road for Bob Davie to me.
Sun Belt Conference
Our first year with divisions, hooray! Lopsided divisions, but they’re here nonetheless. Obviously these projections don’t indicate who will beat who, but they suggest that the regular season finale between Troy and App State in Boone will decide who plays against Arkansas State in the inagural Sun Belt Conference Championship game.
- Army 9-3
- UMass 5-7
- New Mexico State 7-5
- Liberty 3-9
No fancy table for these guys, sorry. We got a strong consensus with this cluster as well, and that 9-3 record – if you hadn’t been paying attention thusfar – also includes Army repeating as Commander in Chief Trophy winners. New Mexico State gets back to another bowl game, but Liberty is unable to produce a bowl in their first year of partnering with the Cure Bowl.
Liberty might blow the doors off this projection – they are another team with a lot of offense returning, but it’s hard to say how much they will struggle with their first roster full of FBS opponents with FBS-caliber players. It’s harder to get to bowl eligibility without those lower FCS opponents (and Liberty has only gone 18-15 the last three years in FCS).
UMass might come close, but they might just spend another year going “we kept getting better, so that’s a plus.”
Stay tuned, as we’ll follow later this week with a bowl projection based off these standings.