My, oh my, what a week for the Group of Five (especially the Sun Belt)! Marshall took down Notre Dame, Appalachian State upset Texas A&M, and Georgia Southern ended Scott Frost’s Nebraska tenure. Impressively, none of those five games appeared on last week’s list of five must-watch G5 games. Go figure.
Still, I’m counting last week’s viewing guide as a success, as all five suggested games to watch were decided by one possession. The winner of my top game of the week (Oregon State at Fresno State) was determined on the final play, and games two (Houston at Texas Tech) and three (UTSA at Army) each went to overtime. If you aren’t watching G5 football, you’re simply missing out.
As a reminder, I use college football betting odds to help guide my viewing suggestions.
5. Old Dominion at Virginia
Both teams are coming off disappointing losses, with UVA’s being significantly more demoralizing. Old Dominion fell to East Carolina 39-21 after a nice win over Virginia Tech, but the Pirates are really darn good. UVA only scored three points against Illinois, as its supposedly high-powered offense fell flat. Can the Cavaliers rebound or will ODU (+10.5) take down Virginia Tech and UVA in the first month of the season?
4. Troy at Appalachian State
I’m not sold on how competitive this game will be, but it makes the list as the host location for ESPN’s “College GameDay.” Expect an incredible atmosphere in Boone, and it’s worth tuning in for the crowd and the team that just stunned Texas A&M. Appalachian State, and the entire Sun Belt East, is a joy to watch.
3. UTSA at Texas
Texas nearly took down Alabama last week, showing defensive prowess I didn’t expect. UTSA’s Frank Harris is one of the best quarterbacks in C-USA and should test the Longhorns defense. With the possibility of an emotional hangover for Texas (-10) – and quarterback Quinn Ewers unavailable – this game has sneaky upset potential.
2. Fresno State at USC
Fresno State and Oregon State played a thriller last week, and Oregon State ultimately prevailed 35-32. Even with that defeat, Fresno State (+12.5) is one of the best teams at the G5 level, and the Bulldogs will help show fans how good USC actually is (or isn’t) this season. The Trojans defense might have trouble slowing down Fresno State quarterback Jake Haener, which could lead to a shootout between Haener and Caleb Williams. Sign me up for that.
1. SMU at Maryland
Speaking of shootouts, this game could be an offensive showcase. SMU is averaging 46.5 points per game, while the Terrapins are putting up 43.5 per game. I’m expecting plenty of points, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see the Mustangs leave College Park with a win. While I’m not expecting SMU to make the College Football Playoff, it could enter the national picture with games against Maryland and TCU in consecutive weeks. Two wins all but guarantee a spot in the AP top 25.
Cincinnati at Miami Ohio, Vanderbilt at Northern Illinois, Western Kentucky at Indiana
Cincinnati at Miami Ohio (+21.5) figures to have a tremendous atmosphere, with the MAC squad hosting a team that made the College Football Playoff a season ago. Northern Illinois stands a great chance of beating Vanderbilt, which would be a nice win for the MAC, and Western Kentucky (+6.5) is talented enough offensively to hang with Indiana.