The past weekend wasn’t a memorable one for some of the nation’s top Group of Five programs. However, the Sun Belt delivered, as Appalachian State, Georgia Southern and Marshall all picked up upset wins as college football betting underdogs while pocketing payouts of more than $1 million.
Myself and fellow HERO Sports contributor Bennett Conlin will rank our top 10 Group of Five teams each week during the regular season, and combine our submissions to form the Group of Five Power Poll. Here are our Week 3 rankings:
1. Appalachian State (last week: T-8)
After putting up 61 points in a two-point loss to North Carolina in their season opener, the Mountaineers rode their defense to a stunning 17-14 win over then-No. 6 Texas A&M. Appalachian State out-gained the Aggies 315-186, won the turnover battle 2-0 and dominated the time of possession 41:29-18:31. College Gameday is headed to Boone, North Carolina for Saturday’s showdown with Troy.
2. Marshall (last week: 10)
The Thundering Herd made their first appearance in the Power Poll last week, and have climbed all the way to the No. 2 spot after taking down then-No. 8 Notre Dame 26-21 in South Bend. Marshall overhauled its roster this offseason by adding 24 transfers and is clearly a different team than the squad that went 7-6 last fall.
RELATED: Sun Belt Power Poll
3. Cincinnati (last week: 7)
While another undefeated regular season is out of the question for the Bearcats, their seven-point loss to Arkansas — which is now a top-10 team — doesn’t seem that bad considering the early-season setbacks of some of their Group of Five counterparts. They throttled FCS Kennesaw State over the weekend and should handle Miami (OH) on Saturday.
4. SMU (last week: 2)
The Mustangs have out-scored their opponents 93-26 amid a 2-0 start to the season, albeit one of these wins came over an FCS bottom-dweller in Lamar last weekend. SMU will get a solid test at Maryland on Saturday before heading to No. 4 Michigan the following week.
5. Houston (last week: 1)
The Cougars tumbled from the top spot in the Power Poll following an overtime road loss to Texas Tech. Six first-quarter penalties for 71 yards led to a 17-3 halftime deficit, and they still managed to claw their way back. However, Houston will need to find a way to start faster, given that it also trailed UTSA by two touchdowns in its season opener.
6. Air Force (last week: 6)
While two Mountain West favorites have already suffered losses, the Falcons are 2-0 and coming off a 31-point beatdown of Colorado. Their 508.5 rushing yards per game are over 200 more than any other FBS team, and there’s a realistic chance they will be favored in their final 10 regular-season games.
7. Fresno State (last week: 3)
The Bulldogs threw away an opportunity for a Power Five win over Oregon State, missing two field goals and an extra point in a 35-32 loss. The offense was still promising, with Jake Haener throwing for 360 yards and a touchdown, and Jordan Mims racking up two touchdowns and 149 yards from scrimmage. However, a run defense that gave up 178 yards on the ground needs to improve.
8. UTSA (last week: unranked)
After giving up a 14-point, fourth-quarter lead in an overtime loss to Houston in the season opener, it was the Roadrunners who overcame a late deficit in an overtime win over Army last week. Senior quarterback Frank Harris led the way, completing 71.1% of his passes while compiling 407 total yards and four touchdowns.
9. ECU (last week: unranked)
After nearly upsetting a ranked NC State team in their opener, the Pirates steamrolled Old Dominion 39-21 over the weekend. Their well-balanced attack was too much to overcome, passing for 270 yards and rushing for 261, while holding their opponent to 15 yards on the ground.
10. Tulane (last week: unranked)
The Green Wave have out-scored inferior opponents 94-10 throughout the first two weeks of the season. If they can pull out a win at Kansas State on Saturday, they could find themselves in the top half of the list next week.
Dropped out: Coastal Carolina, UAB, UCF