The usual suspects from the Group of Five have fallen. Miniature juggernauts in Boise State and UCF have each lost their first games of the season. While the former can still claw their way back despite the misfortune, UCF will probably have to settle for their postseason coming before Christmas.
Who will rise to take their place?
1. SMU (7-0, AAC)
Remove one head from the AAC New Year's spoiler hydra and another will take its place. This time it's the Mustangs, who have wowed the nation with offensive heroics to the tune of 44.3 points and 421 yards per game. At the forefront of the cause is quarterback Shane Buechele. Things didn't work out in Austin, but the senior has found redemption in Dallas. Buechele currently tops the AAC and ranks seventh in the nation with 2,122 passing yards so far.
2, Appalachian State (6-0, Sun Belt)
Remember these guys? A balanced attack has paved a way back to the national spotlight, and they lead their conference with an average of just under 43 points a game. While their Sun Belt status could prove detrimental (no SBC team has ever made it to a New Year's Six/BCS bowl game), ASU has something their competition doesn't: a late opportunity. On November 9, they'll take on South Carolina in Columbia. While the Gamecocks' 3-4 mark is troubling, a win over any SEC team is still major for such a program, and this particular opponent did manage to top highly-regarded Georgia earlier this year.
3. Navy (6-1, AAC)
The Midshipmen have lost their status as the king of the service academies, but they're slowly winning it back during a stellar 2019. Focus is centered on dual-threat quarterback Malcolm Perry (1,281 yards, 17 total TD's), but the defense has been the true driving force. Slated to struggle with the departure of several starters, new defensive coordinator Brian Newberry has created a new pressure system that has stifled enemy attacks. Navy currently leads the AAC in all major defensive categories and has allowed less than 100 total points this season. They do face some major challenges moving forward, as matchups with Tulane, Notre Dame, SMU, and, of course, Army await.
4. UAB (6-1, Conference USA)
The Blazers could take their mere existence as an accomplishment and run with it. But since the program returned from the literal dead in 2017-- as in, they had not existed for two full seasons-- UAB has won 25 games and that number only figures to get higher. You can chalk their success up to a stifling defense that has allowed just under 249 yards a game, a mark good for third in the nation. Like the Mountaineers, UAB is trapped in a conference that has never been represented in a major bowl. But, in another parallel, the Blazers also have a big chance against an SEC opponent to prove themselves, taking on Tennessee at the start of November.
5. San Diego State (6-1, Mountain West)
With the downfall of the Broncos, perhaps the time is finally right for the Aztecs to break through. The program has been one of general consistency; their sixth win granted them their tenth straight year of bowl eligibility. But true national recognition has yet to come their way. Finishing their year at 12-1 and with a conference title on their belts would be a great way to impress voters, especially those on the edge about inviting a mid-major squad.