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Group of Five Rundown: Another Test for AAC Powerhouse Cincinnati

Once again, there will be multiple games involving American Athletic Conference teams that bear watching.

For many years, when Cincinnati and UCF get together, the inside track to the regular season title is on the line. However, UCF is coming off a loss to East Carolina and can’t afford another conference loss.

Ben Bryant #6 of the Cincinnati Bearcats hands the ball off to Charles McClelland #10 in the first quarter against the Indiana Hoosiers
Dylan Buell - Getty Images - AFP

East Carolina will have a tough non-conference test against Brigham Young and future NFL quarterback Jaren Hall.

It will be fun to see how Syracuse bounces back from its first-season loss against a talented Notre Dame team. Seeing Coastal Carolina listed by the sportsbook as the underdog against Marshall is rather interesting.

Those are just some games involving teams that aren’t part of the Power-5 Conferences.

Let’s check the latest NCAAF picks, stats, injury reports, and NCAAF predictions. We’ve plenty of NCAAF expert picks for you to consider.

Game of the Week

Cincinnati Bearcats vs UCF Knights

  • Date, time (TV): Saturday, Oct. 29th, 3:30 p.m. (ESPN)
  • Line: Cincinnati/Central Florida PK

Two of the top three defenses in the American Athletic Conference square off.

Cincinnati (6-1, 3-0 in the American Athletic Conference) leads the way giving up only 305.4 yards per game and 4.1 yards per play. UCF (5-2, 2-1) is allowing 354.7 yards per contest. The Knights have allowed just four rushing touchdowns in five home games this season.

Cincinnati’s Ivan Pace Jr. leads the conference with eight sacks.

UCF quarterback John Rhys Plumlee is fourth in the AAC with 72.3 rushing yards per game. One of the players ahead of him is Cincinnati’s Charles McClelland, who is putting up 90.1 yards per contest. Cincinnati has won the last three matchups against UCF and covered against the college football odds in two of those games.

The Bearcats have won their last two games by a total of six points, and this could be another tough test.

Cincinnati moved up a spot to No. 20 in the Associated Press Top 25 poll and remained 19th in the American Football Coaches Association poll.

Other Games to Watch

East Carolina Pirates vs Brigham Young Cougars

  • Date, time (TV): Friday, Oct. 28th, 8:00 p.m. (ESPN)
  • Line: Brigham Young -3

East Carolina ranks 10th out of 11 American Athletic Conference teams in passing defense, allowing 280.5 yards per game. That defense will be tested by BYU’s Jaren Hall, one of the top quarterback prospects for the 2023 NFL Draft.

The Pirates (5-3) are coming off one of its best defensive efforts of the season in holding UCF without a touchdown pass while intercepting three passes in a 34-13 win.

Malik Fleming, Jireh Wilson, and Julius Wood each have two interceptions for the Pirates.

Hall has thrown for 2,101 yards with 19 touchdowns and three interceptions for the 4-4 Cougars. He opened the season by completing 25 of 32 passes for 261 yards in a win over South Florida.

East Carolina’s Holton Ahler has thrown for 2,435 yards with 18 TDs and five interceptions.

BYU is 117th out of 131 FBS teams in rushing defense, allowing 201.3 yards per game, so facing East Carolina’s Keaton Mitchell (687 yards, 6.8 yards per carry) will be quite the challenge.

This is the first meeting between the teams since East Carolina’s 33-17 win in 2017, when the sportsbook listed the Pirates as a 5½-point underdog at home.

Notre Dame Fighting Irish vs Syracuse Orange

  • Date, time (TV): Saturday, Oct. 29th, 12:00 noon (ABC)
  • Line: Syracuse -3

Notre Dame (4-3) has split its two games against teams currently ranked this season, falling to Ohio State 21-10 in the season opener before topping North Carolina 45-32.

Syracuse (6-1) only dropped two spots in the national polls after narrowly missing an upset over ACC favorite Clemson.

Quarterback Garrett Shrader and running back Sean Tucker will look to exploit a Notre Dame defense that allowed 146 rushing yards and 5.2 yards per carry to UNLV the last time out.

Notre Dame quarterback Drew Pyne is just 27 of 55 passing over the last two games. Tight end Michael Mayer is coming off a 115-yard effort against UNLV.

When the teams met in 2020, Notre Dame was listed by the college football betting lines as a 34-point favorite; The Fighting Irish didn’t cover but did win 45-21.

Toledo Rockets vs Eastern Michigan Eagles

  • Date, time (TV): Saturday, Oct. 29th, 12:00 noon (ESPNU)
  • Line: Toledo -7

Eastern Michigan (5-3, 2-2 in the MAC) is one of three teams that trails Toledo (5-3, 3-1) by a game in the Mid-American West Division race.

Toledo leads the MAC in passing defense, allowing 200.8 yards per game and a defensive passing efficiency mark of 118.1.

Eastern Michigan is third with 217 passing yards allowed per game.

Both the Rockets and Eagles have 15 giveaways this season.

Toledo’s Quinyon Mitchell is second in the MAC with four interceptions and is tied for the national lead with two interceptions returned for touchdowns.

Toledo had won 11 games in a row in the series. However, the teams have split the last four matchups. Four of the last five meetings have been decided by five points or less.

Jerjuan Newton #1 of the Toledo Rockets celebrates his third quarter touchdown with teammate Devin Maddox #8 of the Toledo Rockets
Ben Jackson – Getty Images – AFP

Coastal Carolina Chanticleers vs Marshall Thundering Herd

  • Date, time (TV): Saturday, Oct. 29th, 7:00 p.m. ET (NFL Network)
  • Line: Marshall -2

Coastal Carolina (6-1, 3-1 in the Sun Belt) had an extra week to recover from its first season loss when they allowed 10 yards per carry and 323 rushing yards in a loss to Old Dominion.

They will be facing the leading rusher in the Sun Belt, as Khalan Laborn has run for 1,002 yards and 12 touchdowns.

Marshall (4-3, 1-2) has the top-rated defense in the conference, allowing just 284.4 yards per game, while Coastal Carolina leads the Sun Belt with an average of 6.7 yards per play.

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