Believe it or not, bowl season kicks off Friday with two games that should be competitive Group of Five matchups.
Miami (OH) and UAB are playing in the Bahamas Bowl while C-USA champion UTSA and Sun Belt champion Troy meet in the Cure Bowl. This has the potential to be the best bowl game featuring G5 programs.
The No. 25-ranked Roadrunners finished the season 11-2 and on a 10-game win streak. The No. 24-ranked Trojans also finished 11-2 and on a 10-game win streak. What a way to get started.
Hopefully this game meets expectations, and as of Thursday morning, college football odds list this as a pick’em.
While this is certainly a game to watch this weekend, there are a handful of games Saturday that deserve some attention and provide other storylines. Cincinnati and Louisville with their coaching fiasco in the Fenway Bowl is among those, and so is the New Mexico Bowl between SMU and BYU.
With a total sitting at 64.5, this game has the opportunity to produce some fireworks, even without some premier offensive players. We already covered that dynamic SMU receiver Rashee Rice won’t be taking the field for this one. Rice led the AAC with 1,355 yards while his 96 receptions and 10 touchdowns ranked second in the league.
On the other side of the ball, it’s looking more and more like NFL Draft prospect and BYU quarterback Jaren Hall won’t be available for this game:
The junior suffered an ankle injury against Stanford in the Cougars’ regular-season finale.
Now, we won’t get to see SMU QB Tanner Mordecai try to keep pace with Hall. Or would it be Hall trying to keep pace with Mordecai? Either way, these are two gunslingers who guided electric offenses this season. With each eclipsing 3,000 passing yards and passing for 31 touchdowns, this QB matchup would have been an entertaining one.
We still get to see Mordecai in action, however. It’ll be the senior’s final collegiate game as he plans to enter the Draft. His 300.55 passing YPG rank 10th in the country. He’ll surely miss his favorite target in Rice, but Mordecai should still be able to slice up a Cougars defense that allows 235.7 YPG through the air.
That will be key here — whose defense plays better?
SMU ranks in the bottom half in nearly every defensive category in the AAC while BYU allows 30 points and over 400 total YPG. Most of its defensive staff has been let go and won’t be coaching in this one. There’s a reason this is the highest total in this weekend’s games, and would be even higher if Hall or Rice were suiting up. The Cougars might lean on the run game and try to take advantage of the Mustangs run defense that allows 203 YPG, keeping Mordecai and Co. off the field.
The Mustangs opened as 1.5-point underdogs and quickly became the favorites. As of Thursday morning, they’re listed at -3.5. There’s a lot surrounding the Cougars entering this game, and the offseason. It’ll be their final game as an Independent before joining the Big 12. The Cougars are going through a defensive coaching overhaul, and are likely focused on the future and preparing for what the Power Five landscape will bring.
I think this is a spot where I’d back the Mustangs. With the distractions the Cougars are dealing with, their subpar defense, and Mordecai looking to boost his draft stock, I’ll roll with SMU to cover in this one.