What is the Underdogs Poll? Every week, writers and editors from SB Nation's Group of Five blogs -- Bull Run, The Daily Stampede, Down the Drive, Hustle Belt, Miner Rush, Mountain West Connection, The UConn Blog, Underdog Dynasty, and Vanquish the Foe -- put their heads together to determine the best of the best, week in and week out, from the teams we cover.
Last week's shocker in Annapolis, where the Navy Midshipmen beat Houston to take the inside track to the AAC West division title, did more than simply shake up the AP Poll and the race for a New Year's Day bowl. It enabled a new old number one to reclaim the number one spot.
|1||Boise State (6)*||112||3|
|3||Western Michigan (2)||88||2|
|7||San Diego State||38||7|
|15||Middle Tennessee State||3||NR|
|Dropped out: Southern Mississippi, South Alabama, Western Kentucky, Army | Others receiving votes: Akron (2), Eastern Michigan (2), Georgia Southern (2), Central Florida (1), Ohio (1), Old Dominion (1), Wyoming (1)|
It's been a little over a year since the Boise State Broncos had at least a share of #1, but their dominant win against New Mexico, combined with Houston's loss, opened the door for the Mountain West's best team. As you can see, however, opinions are split as to how much ground the Cougars deserved to lose -- Ken Niumatololo's team is, after all, a very talented group -- but now that the game has changed, what does Boise do to stay on top?
It will help, for starters, if the Brett Rypien that eviscerated the Lobos secondary continues to show up. After a 3-game stretch in which he completed just 55.7% of his passes, the sophomore put up a 21-28-391-5-0 line against UNM and reminded everyone why he's the class of the conference at the game's most important position. If the defensive line can continue to play at a high level, too, the Broncos should be able to counter the MWC's dearth of talented running backs.
They've been led by veterans on each level of their retooled defense, actually: Sam McCaskill is third among Group of 5 defenders with 9.5 tackles for loss, while the linebackers -- Ben Weaver, Tanner Vallejo and Darren Lee -- have been steady contributors. In the secondary, cornerback Jonathan Moxey has quietly put together a quality campaign, too, and they've all answered the team's primary preseason concerns to date.
The Broncos are once again a tough out. Who knew?
Underdogs of the Week
Carlos Henderson, WR, Louisiana Tech - eight catches, 232 receiving yards, three touchdowns in a 55-52 win vs. Western Kentucky
Nick Holley, QB, Kent State - 7-of-13, 89 yards passing; 24 carries, 224 rushing yards, four touchdowns in a 44-20 at Buffalo
Will Worth, QB, Navy - 3-of 5, 76 passing yards; 32 carries, 115 rushing yards; three total touchdowns (2 pass, 1 rush) in a 46-40 win vs. Houston
Other performances of note: Ron Cooper, FIU interim coach; Taysom Hill, BYU; Hasaan Klugh, Charlotte; Jalen Rhodes, UTSA; Cedric Wilson, Boise State
Top Underdogs Games of Week 7 (all times PT)
Georgia Southern vs. Georgia Tech, 9:30 AM, October 15 (ACC Network) - If you like the triple option, this is the game for which you wait all week. It may be more even than you'd suspect at first glance, too: The Eagles and Yellow Jackets both rank in the top ten in rushing attempts, but the difference in yards per carry is roughly a tenth of a yard in GT's favor.
What's interesting is that Georgia Southern's attack hasn't been quite as lethal as it was in 2015, and senior running back Matt Breida has had a relatively quiet half-season (279 yards, one TD). To be fair, the Eagles now have five guys with at least 200 yards on the ground, but will they be efficient enough to take down another Power 5 foe?
Western Kentucky vs. Middle Tennessee, 11:30 AM, October 15 (ESPN3) - The Hilltoppers can't linger on last week's loss to Louisiana Tech, since the East division in Conference USA might be decided by their Saturday tilt with the Blue Raiders.
Winning in Murfreesboro, though, probably means stopping sophomore star Brent Stockstill. WKU held Stockstill in check, for the most part, in last year's matchup, but they've largely been a bend-don't-break secondary in 2016: They've allowed 291.2 passing yards per game, 114th in the FBS ranks, but they've allowed just 10 passing touchdowns (tied for 82nd) and 7.7 yards per attempt (tied for 86th). It might come down to whether Leverick Johnson and DeAndre Simmons, who've combined for nine pass breakups, can turn one of those into an interception or two.
#24 Western Michigan vs. Akron, 12:30 PM, October 15 (CBS Sports Network) - Akron has survived an injury to star quarterback Thomas Woodson and scored at least 30 points in each of their last four games. They're averaging nearly two full touchdowns more per game than in 2015... but the defense has been pushed for 33.5 points per game, as well, and Tra'Von Chapman, Woodson's replacement, will be hard-pressed to keep up with Zach Terrell.
No quarterback in the nation has thrown more passes without an interception (143), and his overall QB rating is third behind Washington's Jake Browning and Toledo's Logan Woodside. He's actually raised his game in MACtion, as well, with a 210.10 rating in wins over Central Michigan and Northern Illinois. The Zips secondary will be pushed, so keep an eye on rangy free safety Zach Guiser, who's collected 44 tackles this season, and cornerback Larry Hope, who has just one INT but five passes defended.
Other games of note: Mississippi State vs. BYU, Eastern Michigan vs. Ohio, Tulsa vs. #13 Houston, Colorado State vs. #15 Boise State