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.
Look who's back with a vengeance.
Since puzzling our voters with a second straight loss to middling South Alabama, the San Diego State Aztecs have found their footing once more in what they do best: Running the football on offense, creating big plays on defense. No surprise they led the MWC's West division once more, but the magnitude to which they've dominated in conference play with their strengths may make them, not Boise, the primary challenger to the new number one from Kalamazoo.
|1||Western Michigan (10)||100||2|
|3||San Diego State||70||5|
|15||Middle Tennessee State||2||15|
|Dropped out: Memphis | Others receiving votes: none|
The obvious standout, of course, is senior running back Donnel Pumphrey, whose total rushing yards (1,459) this year would rank 56th among FBS teams. He may not win the Heisman Trophy at season's end -- it is likely Lamar Jackson's to lose, at the moment -- but it would be criminal if he didn't at least earn an invite to New York for the ceremony because you'd be hard-pressed to name another player who's been as productive even accounting for the level of competition.
Even sophomore quarterback Christian Chapman, the team's biggest preseason question mark, has been remarkably efficient despite an overall lack of volume. He's taken care of the football (just three INTs in 148 pass attempts), he's completed 62.8% of his passes, and his quarterback rating, just outside the top 30 nationally, would be the best from an Aztec QB since 2010.
On defense, the Aztecs have surpassed even the wildest expectations of many SDSU fans. You might have expected their absurd turnover margin to regress to the mean after leading the nation with a +22 figure in 2015, and while the fumble luck hasn't quite been there (they've recovered just two of six), the veteran-laden secondary has picked off 12 passes and currently ranks fifth in Bill Connelly's Havoc Rate as a unit.
And again, even after accounting for subpar division opponents, SDSU is the only team in the country to have allowed less than seven points per game in conference play and they rank behind just Michigan in yards per play allowed (3.65). There's a chance they get challenged by surprising Hawaii or surging Wyoming, but it's more likely they continue to run the table in a fashion unparalleled in Mountain West history.
Underdogs of the Week
James Flanders, RB, Tulsa - 33 carries, 249 rushing yards, five touchdowns in a 59-30 win at Memphis
Josh "Jerky Jerk-Face" Allen, QB, Wyoming - 18-of-31, 274 passing yards, three touchdowns; 11 carries, 53 yards in a 30-28 win vs. #13 Boise State
Actually, pretty much everyone who played for the Cowboys on Saturday: Rico Gafford, Chase Appleby,
Other performances of note: D.J. Sanders, Middle Tennessee; Quinton Flowers, South Florida; Jordan Johnson, Buffalo
Top Underdogs Games of Week 10 (all times PT)
#17 Western Michigan vs. Ball State, 5:00 PM, November 1 (ESPN2) - The nightcap of Tuesday's #MACtion double-header is a good one, as the Broncos head to Muncie to face a Cardinals team looking to take another step toward bowl eligibility.
Any chance at an upset will demand finishing drives, which Ball State has struggled with at times. WMU averages 6.02 points per trip inside the opponents' 40-yard line, third in the nation, while BSU sits at 4.48, which is 85th. And it may depend on finding methodical answers to the Broncos' explosiveness: Cardinals QB Riley Neal has improved his yards per attempt and completion rate in his sophomore season, but he's struggled early in games, with six of his nine INTs coming in the first half.
Temple vs. Connecticut, 4:00 PM, November 4 (ESPN2) - The American has been upended in the last couple weeks, and now the Owls have the inside track to the conference title game in the East division. To keep that division lead, they'll have to slow down one of the nation's most efficient receivers.
Noel Thomas is one of just eight receivers to have surpassed 1,000 yards, and his 83 catches rank third in the FBS. He also sports a 63% catch rate in spite of the fact the Huskies lack an obvious second receiving option. Temple shut down Cincinnati's passing game a week ago and handled SMU and Memphis, too, but the AAC's best pass defense hasn't faced a talent quite like him.
Louisiana Tech vs. North Texas, 2:30 PM, November 5 (ESPN3) - The Mean Green had mostly languished in their Conference USA tenure until this year, and now they have an opportunity to be a real factor in the West division by defending their home turf against the Bulldogs.
LaTech QB Ryan Higgins has thrown 14 touchdowns and zero interceptions in CUSA action, but UNT's pass rush could pose a unique challenge. Linebackers Brandon Garner and Joshua Wheeler have combined for eight sacks, and the secondary ranks in the top 30 in Havoc Rate, as well.
Other games of note: Toledo vs. Akron; Georgia Southern vs. Ole Miss; Marshall vs. Old Dominion; East Carolina vs. Tulsa; Utah State vs. Wyoming