The Best Non-Power 5 Teams in College Football


marshall thundering herd mascot

With the SEC and Big Ten starting late this season and the Pac-12 sitting out until very late in the fall, there’s a little more room for teams from outside the power conferences to make some noise. As usual, there are at least a handful of teams from smaller conferences that look like they could go toe-to-toe with almost any team in the country.


With a win over Army, the Bearcats made it clear that they are once again one of the top teams in the country from outside the power conferences. Luke Fickell always has a quality defense, and this season is no different. The question is whether they can replace running back Michael Warren and get more consistent passing from quarterback Desmond Ridder. Of course, Ridder’s athleticism should be enough to give Cincinnati a viable offense that will be good enough to complement a top-notch defense.

Cincinnati Bearcats cheerleaders


After convincing wins over Georgia Tech and East Carolina, the Knights look like they have the same high-powered offense we’ve come to expect. Quarterback Dillon Gabriel put up impressive numbers last year and there have been no signs of a sophomore slump early in 2020. UCF is averaging 50 points per game and has been a big-play machine. We’re almost getting to the point of the Knights replacing Florida State as one of the Big Three programs in the Sunshine State. 


With a win over last year’s Group of Five darling Appalachian State, the Thundering Herd earned a spot among this season’s top programs from outside the power leagues. Freshman quarterback Grant Wells looks like he has the arm talent to be something special, especially since the Herd has a steady rushing attack behind Brenden Knox. The Marshall defense also looks to be of high quality after holding Appalachian State to just seven points. To be fair, there is no shortage of competition inside Conference USA, but the Thundering Herd look like the early favorites.

marshall thundering herd


Few teams have looked more impressive early in the season than BYU. The Cougars have absolutely annihilated Navy and Troy, both solid teams. They have outscored those teams by a combined score of 103-10. Quarterback Zach Wilson looks like he’s taking the next step in his development and the BYU rushing attack has been much improved since last season. Also, the BYU defense looks as good as advertised before the season. The only caveat is that the Cougars don’t play a challenging schedule. However, they look the part of a top-20 team. 



The Ragin’ Cajuns are going to get a lot of mileage out of their upset over Iowa State. That win catapulted the Sun Belt favorites into the top-25. In fairness, wins over Georgia State and Georgia Southern have been a little too close for comfort. Louisiana also has a few more challenging games left on its schedule. But the win over Iowa State was no fluke, and the Ragin’ Cajuns have the talent to go through the regular season undefeated.

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