No offense to Week 0, but the college football season truly begins this weekend. It’s a loaded slate of games, especially at the Group of 5 level.
Using college football betting odds as a guide, let’s take a look at the five best games of Week 1 involving at least one Group of 5 program. There was no shortage of games to choose from this week.
5. Army at Coastal Carolina, Saturday, 7 p.m. ET
The ground-and-pound triple-option attack of Army goes against the high-flying spread offense of Coastal Carolina. Army, an Independent, won nine games a season ago, and the Knights have a manageable schedule in 2022. If Army (+2.5) gets by Coastal Carolina, it could be on its way to a special season. For Coastal Carolina, a win here sets the tone for a potential 10-win season and continued national relevance. A loss could signal a minor step back for the program, which has been on fire in recent years.
4. Virginia Tech at Old Dominion, Friday, 7 p.m. ET
Virginia Tech opens the Brent Pry era on the road against an improving ODU program. The Monarchs won six games a season ago, and head coach Ricky Rahne seems to have them trending in the right direction, despite minimal preseason expectations this year. ODU upset Virginia Tech in Norfolk in 2019. Can the Monarchs (+8.5) pull another upset this year?
3. No. 24 Houston at UTSA, Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET
While not No. 1 on the list, this game gets me amped. Houston (-4) is the favorite to win the AAC title, while UTSA is the favorite in C-USA, making this a showdown of two elite Group of 5 squads. Like good quarterbacks? Houston’s Clayton Tune and UTSA’s Frank Harris are among the best in the Group of 5. With a point total of 61.5, some fireworks should be expected.
2. North Carolina at Appalachian State, Saturday, noon ET
What’s with ACC teams going on the road to play Sun Belt teams? I love it, but it’s a recipe for disaster for the Power 5 squads. Expect a sold-out crowd and a raucous atmosphere for this in-state showdown, which is basically a pick ‘em. North Carolina is already 1-0 on the season, moving the ball with ease against an undermanned Florida A&M squad, but the defense looked suspect.
1. No. 23 Cincinnati at No. 19 Arkansas, Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET
Last year’s Group of 5 powerhouse, Cincinnati aims to reload after losing plenty of contributors to the NFL. Arkansas wants to be a factor in the SEC West under Sam Pittman, and winning this game would be a step in the right direction to gaining national relevance. This is one of the games of the week nationally, in my opinion, although I have doubts about Cincinnati (+6) beating a ranked SEC team in Week 1 after such heavy personnel losses.
Honorable mentions: NC State at East Carolina, Boise State at Oregon State, Liberty at Southern Miss, Florida Atlantic at Ohio, SMU at North Texas, and BYU at South Florida.
Of this group, NC State-ECU and Boise State-Oregon State stand out, but I’m most interested in SMU playing against North Texas. The Mustangs could be an AAC contender, while North Texas played well in a 31-13 Week 0 win over UTEP. If North Texas looks competitive, it needs to be taken seriously as a C-USA title threat.