With the football season right around the corner, some of you might not be as familiar with the Group of Five as say the SEC or ACC.
The G5 is a ton of fun and I will be giving you a conference by conference breakdown of what to watch for this coming season.
American Athletic Conference
Dana Holgorsen and Houston
Dana Holgorsen left the Big XII and West Virginia to take over a Houston team that returns eight starters on offense. This offense will be extremely explosive, led by arguably the best QB in the conference in D’Eriq King, but the defense is one giant question mark.
They had a lot of injuries last season which caused the worst statistical season in school history on the defensive side of the ball. This year could be worse after losing Ed Oliver to the draft and returning five starters.
This team will be very interesting to watch because they might score 60 points per game but give up 61.
UCF and the QB Battle
Head coach Josh Heupel has named Notre Dame transfer Brandon Wimbush the starter heading into the season, but that doesn’t make true freshman Dillon Gabriel, redshirt freshman Quadry Jones, or (once he’s healthy) sophomore Darriel Mack any less capable.
Having four strong QB’s can be seen as a good problem to have but the Knights could have some trouble if Wimbush struggles and a suitable replacement can’t be found before Mack is back to game speed.
Tulane, The Dark Horse in the West
The Green Wave is growing into one of the top teams in the conference. Willie Fritz has been building this team up and this year has the potential to be the breakout year.
They return a lot of talent on both sides of the ball, including QB Justin McMillan and RB Darius Bradwell.
This season won’t be easy with non-conference road games against both Auburn and Army in non-conference play and then having to play Houston, Memphis, and UCF in AAC play, but if they can win two of those three games they’ll be in great shape to win the division.
We might have a dark horse Heisman candidate in C-USA. The senior for North Texas is the best QB in the G5 and one of the tops in the country. Last season he threw for 3,793 yards, 27 touchdowns, and only 5 interceptions. This dude can BALL.
Neither he nor his best receiver were healthy for the full season, and they still produced great numbers. Having everyone but your #2 wide receiver and two linemen return makes them a lock to start the season as the offense with the most potential.
Rice and UTEP
It’s odd to see one conference have arguably the two worst teams in football for another year, but C-USA does. Both teams are looking to improve upon rough seasons and even with a drastic change, they could still be near the bottom of the country.
Progress takes time, and these two schools were both so far behind everyone else when Mike Bloomgren and Dana Dimel took over their respective programs that there is a lot of room for improvement before it starts showing up in the win column.
But hey, they aren’t UConn, right?
Quarterbacks, Quarterbacks, Quarterbacks
While the MAC doesn’t have a ton of well-known guys, Nathan Rourke, Kato Nelson, Woody Barrett, and Jon Wassink are really fun guys to watch.
Kato is a dual-threat guy who averaged five YPC last season. Rourke is the best QB in the conference and leads an Ohio team that is the favorite in the MAC.
NIU Gets a New Coach
Thomas Hammock takes the reigns in his first-ever head coaching job. Hammock will have to find a way to replace a top-tier talent in Sutton Smith on defense. On the offensive side of the ball, Marcus Childers will lead them under center once again.
Tuesday college football? Sign me up. The best part about the MAC is the weekday games, they have football Tuesday-Saturday. It’s the greatest thing ever.
Mountain West Conference
Fresno State Will Be Tested
The Bulldogs will face USC and Minnesota in the first two games of the season if they can get off to a good start, they avoid Boise State in the regular season and could run the table even with only two starters coming back on offense.
Boise State is Still King
Even though the Broncos lost in the championship game last season, they are in prime position to take their throne back and maybe even get to a New Year Six Bowl game.
A new QB could make the first game against Florida State rough, but if they can beat them; running the table is definitely possible.
Air Force Looks to Bounce Back
The Falcons don’t know who their QB will be yet but both perspective QB’s have game experience. Donald Hammond III and Isaiah Sanders are both guys who can lead this Air Force team back to the promised land.
They host Army this year and will look to beat the Black Knights for the first time in three years. If they can get past Navy then a win over Army would bring the Commander-in-Chiefs Trophy back to Colorado Springs.
Stay Up to Watch Hawaii
If staying up until 3 am to watch college football doesn’t sound fun to you, why are you here in the first place? The Rainbow Warriors have a stud at QB in Cole McDonald and an offense that scored 30 points per game last season.
Now you don’t have an excuse not to watch them either, seven of their games are going to be streamed on Facebook, two will be on CBS Sports Network (starting tonight!) and two more will be on ESPN networks.
App State, Georgia Southern, Troy, and the Wild Wild East (That’s a thing… right?)
These three will be fighting it out in the East division. Zac Thomas looks to lead the Mountaineers to another Sun Belt East title, but it won’t come easy because he will have two teams right on his tail.
Troy has a new coach after Neil Brown left for West Virginia. Chip Lindsey takes over after leaving Kansas, where he was the offensive coordinator. Lindsey inherits a great situation; the Trojans have seven starters coming back on offense and six on defense. If anyone de-thrones App State, it’ll be Troy.
Georgia Southern and QB Shai Werts will be a big threat to App State’s title defense. The Eagles option attack will be really hard to stop but with all new starters around Werts, it could be a little difficult.
Running Backs Galore in Louisana
The Ragin Cajuns have the best set of running backs in the conference with a three-headed monster in Trey Ragas, Elijah Mitchell, and Raymond Calais. They averaged 5.7, 6.7, and 9.3 YPC respectfully.
These three are going to be running all over the Sun Belt this year and could run their way into the Sun Belt title game.
Jake Spavital Looks to Turn Texas State Around
The former West Virginia offensive coordinator looks to turn Texas State into a winner. They have a shot at a five-win season, and maybe with an upset or two, they can go to a bowl game.
That may not sound like much, but for a program that seemingly lucked into a couple of bowl-eligible seasons under Dennis Franchione and has cratered since then, just remaining in contention for a bowl all season would be an achievement.
Spavital brought in Bob Stitt in to be the OC which should make the offense interesting to watch.
Can Army Go Undefeated?
The Black Knights have sky-high expectations and a dark-horse Heisman candidate in Kelvin Hopkins Jr.
They travel to Michigan for a big week two matchup. That is the only game where they should be the underdog. All of their games are winnable. Going undefeated could put the Black Knights in a New Years Six Bowl game.
Well, there you have it, your guide to the 2019 Group of Five football season.