ESPN released their 2017 preseason Football Power Index (FPI), and as usual we see the heavyweights at the top. The Group of Five conferences get shown no love in these early preseason rankings, but we all know there will be at least two in the running for the coveted New Years Six bowl as the season draws to a close.
Last year we saw teams such as Houston (47), South Florida (44), and San Diego State (58), finish slightly higher in the final rankings but it still seemed like they did not deliver the huge impact of past underdogs trying to break in with the big boys.
What about the teams that won’t be at the top but should still outperform these somewhat meaningless rankings? I’ve got three teams that will fly under the radar in September, but turn the CFP committee selection process upside down.
1. Boise State Broncos (56th) - The Broncos should be much improved on offense, even with new starters at tailback and a young receiving core. Junior Brett Rypien should be a shoo-in for the Davey O’Brien watch list when the season kicks off, and I expect him to reach the 35 TD mark this year.
The schedule is tough, with a road trip to Washington State and a key home game against Air Force, but the Broncos are good enough to go undefeated.
2. Appalachian State (74th) - We’ve already talked about how good Appalachian State has been since joining FBS, so why wouldn’t they be one of my picks to make a New Years Six bowl?
App State has been on the casual fan’s radar since upsetting the Wolverines in the Big House, and this season could be the best one since joining the FBS ranks. Their stud halfback Jalin Moore has the potential to reach 1,800 yards and 15 touchdowns.
Under center they have Taylor Lamb who also picked up 500 yards on the ground. If this offense gets off to a hot start against Georgia and pulls the upset, I see no reason why they shouldn’t be a favorite to win out and secure the NY6 Bid.
3. Tulsa Golden Hurricane (67th) - We’ve all heard the saying “Offense gets the glory but defense wins the game.” With this Tulsa offense being even more explosive this season they will get the glory and win games for the Golden Hurricane faithful.
They should end the season in the top five in total offense. A non-conference matchup against the Oklahoma State Cowboys, as well as home visits from Memphis, Houston, and Navy, should lead into Tulsa sitting with at most one loss heading into the showdown at Raymond James stadium against the USF Bulls.
With the AAC heavyweights scheduling better opponents in the non-conference slate, the Golden Hurricane would be a lock for the Group of Five pick even if they have one loss and are up against an undefeated App St. or Boise St. team. This could be the team to turn the CFP committee upside down this season if they are to run the table.
What teams in the Group of Five will surprise you compared to their initial FPI ranking? Comment below!