The college football season rolls on into Week 7, and the Group of Five has two prominent leaders who are on a shared path to eventually meet in the American Athletic Conference. SMU and Cincinnati are both unbeaten. Cincinnati has the inside track to a berth in the College Football Playoff. Every game the Bearcats play is a game they must win, and a game which possesses a mixture of pressure and opportunity. Let’s look at Cincinnati’s game and the other big Group of Five games for Week 7.
UCF Knights at Cincinnati Bearcats
Odds: Cincinnati -21
The Cincinnati Bearcats had a very tough time against UCF last year in Orlando, but they won that road game and managed to remain unbeaten throughout the regular season. This year’s UCF game figures to be a lot more manageable on several levels. No. 3 Cincinnati is playing this game at home. The Bearcats have already gone through the experience of trying to maintain a perfect record in 2020, so this second go-round won’t be so terrifying or paralyzing.
UCF is not as good as it was last year. The Knights lost on the road to Louisville and Navy, two teams that have struggled for most of the season. The Knights have been a bad fourth-quarter team and have not been able to depend on their defense.
This should be a matchup Cincinnati takes control of, but UCF still has quarterback Dillon Gabriel, a very talented passer with the ability to run and make plays outside the pocket. Cincinnati should be a strong favorite, but UCF is a genuinely dangerous team when its offense is humming. The Bearcats have to take charge of this game early and not give Gabriel a chance to do something special in a late-game situation.
Louisiana Tech Bulldogs at UTEP Miners
Odds: Louisiana Tech -6½
This is one of the more fascinating games you will see all year for a number of reasons. First of all, UTEP is 5-1 and a complete surprise. The Miners were not expected to be this successful through the first half of the 12-game season. That itself is an eye-opener.
The other really noticeable aspect of this game is that, as you can see, Louisiana Tech is a 6½-point favorite. The Bulldogs, you might be surprised to learn, are 2-3. You will therefore ask, rightly, why is a 2-3 team favored by a touchdown over a 5-1 team on the road? The answer is not as complicated as you might think.
Louisiana Tech has lost games to 6-0 SMU by a whisker – the Mustangs won on a game-ending Hail Mary pass – and to North Carolina State, a team that defeated Clemson. Those are two high-end losses that should indeed affect perceptions of how good the Bulldogs actually are.
If they had played UTEP’s schedule, they probably would be 5-1 as well. Don’t look at the surface records here: look at how well teams have played and how they have fared against various levels of competition. This is a game you will want to study and pay attention to for future reference, if you ever want to evaluate a game involving either one of these teams in late October, November, or during bowl season in December.
Rice Owls at Texas-San Antonio Roadrunners
Odds: Texas-San Antonio -18½
The Texas-San Antonio Roadrunners (6-0) are still unbeaten after beating Western Kentucky in a wild 52-46 shootout. The Roadrunners aren’t crushing their opponents, but they are consistently finding winning plays in the most crucial moments of games. Cincinnati and SMU are the two best teams in the Group of Five this year, but UTSA is making a strong argument that it is number three.
If the Roadrunners keep winning, head coach Jeff Traylor will become more and more of a head coaching target in the upcoming coaching carousel, in which bigger jobs at more prestigious programs will open up. This is a game which marks an opportunity for UTSA players and coaches to further establish a positive reputation within Conference USA and in the national college football community.
Air Force Falcons at Boise State Broncos
Odds: Boise State -4
The Air Force Falcons have been strong on defense in each of its last three games, allowing no more than 14 points in each of those contests. They allowed 49 points in a loss to Utah State in September and those who bet online have seen that they have since been able to fix their defensive flaws. They’ve addressed the inconsistencies that held them back and prevented them from performing at their best.
Air Force will definitely need to play at its best against Mountain West Conference Mountain Division rival Boise State, which just went into Provo, Utah, and upset highly-ranked BYU on the road. This is the game which will determine if Air Force has a realistic chance of winning the Mountain Division and advancing to the Mountain West Championship Game at the end of the regular season.
Boise State had been struggling before the BYU game but definitely raised its level of play against BYU, specifically on the offensive and defensive lines. Air Force will need to answer that physical challenge posed by Boise State. If the Falcons win, it could become the most important moment of their whole season.
San Diego State Aztecs at San Jose State Spartans (Friday): The San Diego State Aztecs are playing like the best team in the Mountain West. They play the San Jose State Spartans, who won the Mountain West championship last season and have frankly been terrible this season. San Diego State should win, but San Jose State will treat this game as its own personal Super Bowl and could become a very dangerous opponent. This is a tricky game for the Aztecs to handle. Careful betting them with your college football picks.
Fresno State Bulldogs at Wyoming Cowboys: The Fresno State Bulldogs lost to Hawaii and fell out of the Group of Five championship race, but they are still in a position where they can compete for division and conference championships, which are still very significant goals. They will try to get back on the beam at Wyoming, which is coming off a loss to Air Force.
Toledo Rockets at Central Michigan Chippewas: The Toledo Rockets just lost at home to Northern Illinois as a double-digit favorite. They desperately need to bounce back against Central Michigan if they want to win the MAC West Division.