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Group of Five Rundown: MAC Heavyweights Ready to Rumble

There are 20 games involving teams from the Group of Five conferences that feature college football betting lines of seven points or les,s so obviously teams from the ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12 and SEC don’t have all the fun.

Three of the best matchups come from the American Athletic Conference. However, there are also first-place showdowns in the Sun Belt West Division, a matchup of Mid-American Conference division leaders and a battle for first place in Conference USA.

Group of Five Rundown: MAC Heavyweights Ready to Rumble
Ben Jackson/Getty Images/AFP

BYU has another test as quarterback Jaren Hall, who is priced at +4000 in the odds to be the top pick in the 2023 NFL Draft, leads the Cougars against a one-loss Liberty team that has limited opposing passers to a passer rating of 109.9 – one of the top 15 marks in the country.

No. 21 Cincinnati and No. 25 Tulane are the only teams from the Group of Five conferences in the Associated Press Top 25 poll heading into Week 8.

Here’s a look at the top games involving teams outside 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

Toledo vs Buffalo

  • Date, time (TV): Saturday, Oct. 22, 1 p.m. (ESPN+)
  • Line: Toledo -7

People think of high-flying offenses when it comes to the Mid-American Conference, but both of these teams have the potential to stop people.

Toledo (5-2, 3-0) is second in the MAC with an average of 359 yards allowed per game. Its 5.03 yards per play allowed is the best in the conference.

Buffalo (4-3, 3-0) has allowed just eight touchdown passes, the fewest in the MAC, and is one of two teams in the conference to keep opponents to a completion percentage under 60.

— UB Football (@UBFootball) October 16, 2022

Buffalo’s Shaun Dolac is tied for sixth nationally with 73 tackles. When looking at the Group of Five matchups, this is the Week 8 game that could top all the others.

Other Games to Watch

Trojans vs South Alabama

  • Date, time (TV): Thursday, Oct. 20, 7:30 p.m. (ESPNU)
  • Line: South Alabama -3

It will be strength against strength in this Sun Belt matchup.

Troy’s defense ranks second in the Sun Belt by allowing 4.76 yards per play while South Alabama’s offense is third in the conference with 462.2 yards per game.

The Jaguars (5-1, 2-0) are averaging nearly 100 more yards per game than they did a season ago. Toledo transfer Carter Bradley is completing 64% of his passes for 1,676 yards with 13 touchdowns and four interceptions for South Alabama. Caullin Lacy, Jalen Wayne and Devin Voisin have more than 25 receptions and have combined for nine TD catches.

T.J. Jackson and Richard Jibunor have 5.5 and 4.0 sacks to lead the defense for Troy (5-2, 3-1). Trojans quarterback Gunnar Watson does have more interceptions than TD passes, but he has thrown for 1,691 yards.

Troy has won the last four games against South Alabama and covered against the college football odds in each of those matchups.

Bearcats vs SMU

Group of Five Rundown: MAC Heavyweights Ready to Rumble
Dylan Buell/Getty Images/AFP
  • Date, time (TV): Saturday, Oct. 22, Noon (ESPN)
  • Line: -3

Cincinnati’s offense has taken a hit following the departures of key playmakers to the NFL. However, the defense is still among the best in the American Athletic Conference.

The Bearcats (5-1, 2-0) have won 17 straight games against AAC teams. Is that streak going to be in jeopardy against an SMU team that leads the conference with an average of 351.8 passing yards per game?

SMU quarterback Tanner Mordecai was held to 66 passing yards and 2.5 yards per completion in last year’s loss to Cincinnati and will look to bounce back in this matchup.

Expect to see plenty of receiver Rashee Rice, who ranks in the top three with 8.2 catches per game and 126.8 receiving yards per contest for the Mustangs (3-3, 1-1).

The issue for SMU is on the other side of the ball. The Mustangs allow 432.3 yards per game.

Cincinnati has outscored SMU 90-27 in the last two games.

Memphis vs Tulane

  • Date, time (TV): Saturday, Oct. 22, 3:30 p.m. (ESPN2)
  • Line: Tulane -7

There were plenty of teams given a chance to challenge for the American Athletic Conference title. However, Tulane wasn’t among them after winning just one conference game a season ago.

Tulane has gone from ranking 10th in the conference in total defense, giving up nearly 430 yards per game and 5.8 yards per play, to seeing those numbers drop to 299.1 yards and 4.68 yards per play.

The top five tacklers are seniors with Dorian Williams, Nick Anderson and Larry Brooks, who rank seventh, eighth and 11th in the conference in tackles.

The Green Wave will look to slow down Memphis quarterback Seth Henigan, who is third in the conference with 1,924 passing yards.

Quindell Johnson has a conference-best three interceptions for the Tigers (4-3, 2-2).

Memphis has won 13 of the last 15 games against Tulane. Something to consider for those who bet online: An average of 65.4 points have been scored in the last five meetings.

UCF vs East Carolina

  • Date, time (TV): Saturday, Oct. 22, 7:30 p.m. (ESPNU)
  • Line: UCF -5

Two of the top three rushers in the American Athletic Conference will be headliners in this showdown, and that alone is one to watch when looking at the NCAA football’s Group of Five odds.

East Carolina’s Keaton Mitchell has 582 yards on 6.9 yards per carry while UCF quarterback John Rhys Plumlee has 468 yards to go with seven TD runs.

East Carolina (4-3, 2-2) ranks second and UCF (5-1, 2-0) is fourth in the AAC in rushing defense.

Both teams can also throw the ball as they have combined for 28 TD passes and eight interceptions.

UCF has won six games in a row in the series. However, East Carolina has covered in each of the last three meetings.

BYU vs Liberty

  • Date, time (TV): Saturday, Oct. 22, 3:30 p.m. (ESPNU)
  • Line: Brigham Young -6½

BYU (4-3) and Liberty (6-1) combine for nearly 64 passing attempts per game. Plenty of eyes will be on BYU’s Jaren Hall, one of the top quarterback prospects in the 2023 NFL Draft. He has thrown for 1,914 yards while completing 67% of his passes with 19 touchdown passes and just three interceptions.

For Liberty, Kaidon Salter and Johnathan Bennett have struggled with consistency in their first season replacing Malik Willis. The Flames are 100th nationally with a passer rating of 123.9. Demario Douglas (34 catches, 546 yards) is the top receiver for Liberty.

BYU hasn’t fared well defending either the pass or the run. Facing a schedule with games against Baylor, Oregon, Notre Dame and Arkansas might have something to do with that.

Other than a matchup with Wake Forest, the Liberty schedule hasn’t been quite as challenging. Liberty has held opponents to less than five yards per play in four of the last five games.

Boise State vs Air Force

Group of Five Rundown: MAC Heavyweights Ready to Rumble
Ethan Miller/Getty Images/AFP
  • Date, time (TV): Saturday, Oct. 22, 7 p.m. (CBS Sports Network)
  • Line: Air Force -3

The running games will control this Mountain West showdown. Air Force (5-2, 2-2 MWC) leads the country with an average of 359.9 rushing yards per game. Boise State (4-2, 3-0) is second in the conference with 185.5 yards a game on the ground.

Air Force running back Brad Roberts is fourth nationally with 853 rushing yards. He ran for 138 yards and two touchdowns in last year’s meeting.

The Broncos have the best rushing defense in the Mountain West, giving up only 101.3 yards per contest. Linebacker DJ Schramm leads the defense with 49 tackles.

Air Force snapped a four-game losing streak to Boise State with a 24-17 win on the road in 2021. The sportsbook listed the Falcons as a three-point underdog.

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