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Underdog Poll Ballot: Week 1

After one week there are major changes to the official Down The Drive ballot.

Rob Carr

  1. Marshall
  2. BYU
  3. ECU
  4. UTSA
  5. Toledo
  6. Colorado State
  7. Western Kentucky
  8. Temple
  9. UTEP
  10. San Jose State
  11. Louisiana Monroe
  12. UCF
  13. Navy
  14. UAB
  15. Memphis

A word on methodology: My preseason ballot (which I never got around to publishing here as intended)* looked markedly different than this one. But that was a projection of how the group of five would look like at the end of the year, which brings a lot of factors into play, namely the schedules of the teams involved. Marshall got my vote, and the votes of a lot of people because they have a good team, and the easiest schedule among the teams competing for the access bowl spot. From here on out the poll will be a weekly measure of the teams based on what they have done thus far. That is why the Bearcats are omitted from my ballot this week. I think UC will spend most of the year battling the Herd and the Cougars for that access bowl spot, but until the Bearcats play a game that is still just speculation. Results matter, and everyone else getting to play this week while the Bearcats sat means they are out this week.

Week one was all about the near misses for me, UCF battling back against Penn State before subcoming in the end. Navy gave Ohio State team all they wanted and more, but they faded down the stretch as the Buckeyes ended up winning. Sure there were some P5 teams that went down to the group of five; Vanderbilt to Temple, Wake Forest to Louisiana Monroe, Colorado to Colorado State. But I happen to think that those three are among the worst Power 5 teams around. Those wins give all of them a bump, but only Colorado State seems like a team that will have staying power. They are a well coached team that has a chance to be this years Fresno State or Utah State. I don't think they have the firepower that the Bulldogs had, but their ground attack (watch Dee Hart, seriously watch him) can make up for a lot of their deficiencies in the passing game. The Rams are just solid from front to back, the only question is will they be able to survive the inevitable shootout's that come with playing in the Mountain West? We will find out.

That same question could be asked of the top team in the poll as well. Marshall has a wonderful offense with Rakeem Cato pulling the strings. They will score many, many points very, very often. But they are going to need to, because their defense has issues. The Herd allowed 418 yards against the Miami RedHawks, a team that had a really dreadful offense a year ago*. To be fair Marshall jumped out to a 21 point lead in the first quarter and sort of shut it down from there. But their inability to end that game early meant that to took a fourth quarter touchdown run from Cato to officially put the game to bed. That is a problem for them, the offense is really fun to watch, but the defense could wind up costing them a game at some point.

*To put this in perspective it took Miami about 10 quarters to gain that much yardage through the first three games of 2013

Moving down the poll it was a pair for shock wins from UTSA and Western Kentucky that saw both teams jump into my ballot this week. Lets start with the Hilltoppers who are moving on from the one year Bobby Petrino experience* and doing so emphatically. In a match up with Bowling Green, one of the MAC favorites, the Toppers blasted the Falcons from the onset, and continued to do so through the whistle. In all they rolled up 708 yards, with well over 500 yards passing from Brandon Doughty. Time will tell if that is sustainable for the season, but it was nearly flawless debut for Brohm and co.

* Though not that far, the new coach in Bowling Green is Jeff Brohm, a longtime Petrino disciple and brother of eternal Bearcat tormenter Brian Brohm

Moving down to Texas it was Larry Coker and the UTSA Roadrunners who spoiled the opening of Houston's new stadium winning 27-7. The game was not a work of art by any stretch,* but it served as a clarion call that UTSA can play a little bit. They certainly can on defense, particularly up front where they dominated the Cougars in every respect. I don't think the Roadrunners have the staying power that Western Kentucky does, but this is one of the more impressive results from the opening week of the season, which is why Coker finds himself in my top four this week. The next two weeks against Arizona and Oklahoma State will tell us much more about these Roadrunners

*The Roadrunners and the Cougars combined to produce just 10 more yards, 4 more points than Bowling Green did in losing by four touchdowns