In a week where there are not a lot of big time match ups in the Group of 5 Conferences, besides USF vs UH, there are still some notable games that could affect bowl match ups and conference standings. While there are some interesting Mid-Week games, we are just going to be breaking down the top few games being played on Saturday. This week the Mountain West Conference holds the majority of this week’s top games.
Early: South Florida at Houston
Time: 3:30pm (ET)
**Yes, I know 3:30pm (ET) is normally considered a mid-day game, but this is the earliest game to make our Games of The Week list. **
The Bulls have a record of 7-0 heading into this game and are one of only five schools that are still undefeated in the FBS. However, only one of those wins comes against a school with a winning record. What school is that you may ask? It is Elon, an FCS school that is 5-2 at the moment. Nonetheless, USF has still defeated two Power 5 schools (Georgia Tech and Illinois) and are undefeated in conference. There conference wins include UCONN by 8, Tulsa by 1, and ECU by 7. None are convincing wins against arguably the three worst schools in the American Conference. Another somewhat troubling stat is that they have been losing after the first quarter in every game besides the games against Elon and UMass. They have been able to overcome their slow starts in each game, but Houston is a much different opponent than the previous 7. If you have a slow start with Houston, it will be tough to catch back up. USF QB Blake Barnett has a total of 17tds and has shown the ability to get it done through the air as well as on the ground. They have two good backs as well as four wide receivers with over 300yds receiving. Even though their 7 wins are against below average opponents, they still deserve credit for being undefeated and have a shot at winning the American. UH is one of the most underrated teams out of the Group of 5 Conferences, and I feel they deserve a spot in the top 25. UH comes into the game with a 6-1 record, with their only loss being against Texas Tech, who happens to have one of the most explosive offenses in the Big12. They have won their six games in convincing fashion. Yes, their defense has struggled and needs to improve, but each of their wins have been by at-least 13 points or more. UH QB D’Eriq King has been unreal, at some point he will start getting more recognition. He has a total of 32tds and has a TD to INT ratio of better than 7:1. UH has three different running backs they rely on and have four wide receivers with at least 4tds. While Houston’s defense has struggled giving up close to 30 points per game and 489yds per game, they are better than the stats suggest. The game against Texas Tech raises those numbers higher than what they probably really are.
My Opinion: UH is the favorite by 7.5 at the moment. I like UH in this game and would expect them to cover the spread. I think USF will score their share of points, but won’t be able to keep up with the pace of UH’s offense.
Mid: Boise State at Air Force
Time: 7:00pm (ET)
**Yes, a night game, but the middle game for this list.**
While this game might not look like an important game at first glance, Boise State has never won at Air Force. These two schools are 3-3 against each other and Air Force seems to always play Boise well, as shown by their three victories. Boise won the game last year at home, 44-19, which was the largest margin of victory for Boise against Air Force. Boise comes with a 5-2 record and are led by Senior QB Rypien, who is one of the top quarterbacks in all of the G5 Conferences. Boise has scored at least 31 points in each of their 5 wins, while failing to score more than 21 points in their two losses. Meanwhile, Air Forces comes in with a record of 3-4, but is a much better team than their record suggests. Their losses have been by 6,10,3, and 4. Air Force is also led by their QB Isaiah Sanders, who leads the team in rushing touchdowns with 5. Sanders is coming off his best passing performance of the year and arguably his best overall performance of the year against UNLV this past week. He completed 9 passes out of his 11 attempts, passing for over 200yds and 1td. He also rushed for 173yds and 3tds. Air Force will try to control time of possession and keep that clock ticking, while keeping it out of the hands of the Boise State offense. If they are able to do that, this game has a chance to come down to the wire.
My Opinion: Boise State is the favorite by 9 at the moment. My gut tells me this could be another tricky game, but I will take my chances with Rypien finally getting a win in at Falcon Stadium as a senior. However, I think the score is close and Boise doesn’t cover.
Late: Hawaii at Fresno State
Time: 10:30pm (ET)
This game may be the most important game in the Mountain West so far this season. Both teams are already bowl eligible. Fresno comes in with a 6-1 record (3-0 in conference), and Hawaii boasts a 6-3 record (3-1 in conference). The winner of this game has a very realistic shot of finishing first in The West. Fresno’s only loss this year was to Minnesota by 7 points. All six of their wins have been by at least 18 points or more. Fresno has a very valid argument to be ranked in the top 25. Fresno QB Marcus McMaryion has had a huge year so far with 21 total tds and only 2ints. As good as Fresno’s offense has been, their defense has been just as impressive, if not more. They have only given up more than 14 points once this entire year. There past three games combined they have just given up 13 points. The surprise of the Mountain West this season has been the improved play of Hawaii and the QB play of Cole McDonald. They started the season on fire scoring at least 42 points in five of their first six games. They are coming back down to reality a bit with back to back losses to BYU and Nevada, where they lost by double digits in each game. Their defense is giving up close to 33 points per game which ranks them 103rd in points given up, so if they want to stay in this game they will need their offense to find some explosive plays and put up some points.
My Opinion: Fresno is the favorite by 24.5 at the moment. While I think the first half will be close and may even be close into the 4th quarter, I see Fresno pulling away. Fresno will cover the spread here with their stout defense and solid offense. However, there is always a chance with Hawaii’s offense that it could be closer.
San Diego State at Nevada
Time: 10:30pm (ET)
This is another important game in the Mountain West, specifically in the West division. San Diego State comes in with a 6-1 record (3-0 in conference). They have a legit shot to win the West division where it may come down to the last few weeks to determine who wins the West. San Diego State hasn’t lost since Week 1, where they played Stanford close, but Stanford eventually ended up pulling away. San Diego plays solid defense, only giving up 18.4 points per game, and they try to establish the run game and wear down the opposing teams defense. San Diego State has only played two games on the road so far this season, winning one and losing one. Not sure if that will play a role or not in the outcome of the game, but something to point out nonetheless. Nevada comes into the game with a 4-4 record (2-2 in conference). Technically they still have a shot to win the West, but will need to win out and get a lot of help. They need to win two of their final four games to make a bowl. Beating San Diego State this weekend would go a long way in getting them back to a bowl game. Nevada is led by Senior QB Ty Gangi, who ended up missing one game earlier on in the year with a leg injury, but has been gutting it out the past few weeks. Nevada will always have a fighting change with Gangi behind center. Nevada’s defense is also coming off one of its best performance of the year holding Hawaii’s explosive offense to 22 points. They will load the box and try to force the Aztecs to beat them through the air.
My Opinion: San Diego State is the favorite by 2.5 points at the moment. I am going to go out on a limb here and say Nevada pulls off the win with Gangi leading the way and Nevada’s defense slowing down The Aztecs run game just enough. The game will come down to the wire.
**Side note, the Mountain West may have the best overall QB play of any G5 Conference, we will save that for another article.**