A year ago, they were footnotes to the season, expecting more than they accomplished in most cases. Combined, they posted a record of 10-44. When the regular season ended, their season ended. None of them reached bowl eligibility.
In some cases, it was time for a change. In another, the first season under a new coach gave little indication of improvement in terms of tangible evidence. In another, football was still a year away from getting started.
This year, all of them have reached the 6 win magic number.
Say hello to college football’s other Power 5 group: Fresno State, the University of Virginia, Florida Atlantic, Florida International and the University of Alabama-Birmingham.
Start with Virginia, the blue blood of the group coming from a Power Conference (ACC). In Bronco Mendenhall’s first season in Charlottesville in 2016, the Cavs were a woeful 2-10. On Saturday, the Cavs pulled out a wild 40-36 win over Georgia Tech which gave them a 6-3 record.
Move to Conference-USA, where Florida Atlantic (3-9 a year ago) squeezed past Marshall 30-25, which gave new FAU coach Lane Kiffin’s team its 6th win of the season.
Down the road in Miami, Florida International under new coach Butch Davis beat UT-San Antonio for its 6th win. A year ago the Panthers were 4-8 which is one of the reasons why it turned to Davis, the former Miami Hurricane and North Carolina head coach, the same way FAU went to Kiffin, who came from Alabama and had head coaching jobs at USC and Tennessee.
In Birmingham, the University of Alabama-Birmingham, a school which dropped football in 2014 for financial reasons and only returned to competition this season under coach Bill Clark pounded Rice 52-21 to post ITS 6th victory of the season.
And finally in Fresno, Ca. the Bulldogs under first year coach Jeff Tedford, who had an earlier stint at California and who took over a program which had posted a woeful 1-11 record a year ago, squeezed past BYU, 20-13 to improve its record to 6-3.
All impressive stuff, which is why this group of five schools is TMG’s Newsmakers of the Week.