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Group of Five Rundown: Surprising Tulane Welcomes Red-Hot UCF To the Big Easy

It has been quite the run for the American Athletic Conference in recent years. No conference outside of the Power 5 provides more high-profile matchups than the American. With the Big 12 taking some of the AAC’s top programs, enjoy the final few weeks of the conference as we have come to know it.

Two of the top matchups outside of the Power 5 come from the conference, with Tulane having a chance to take a major step toward its first appearance in the AAC Championship Game.

Mikey Keene #13 of the UCF Knights looks to pass the ball in the third quarter against the Cincinnati Bearcats
Mikey Keene / Julio Aguilar - Getty Images - AFP

Defending champion Cincinnati needs to keep on winning to have a chance to play for the AAC title for the fourth year in a row.

Cincinnati (+185), Tulane (+185) and UCF (+200) lead the way in the odds to win the American Athletic Conference title.

When it comes to the Group of Five showdowns that those who bet online might want to monitor, there won’t be much waiting around. First place in the Mid-American Conference’s West Division on the line on Tuesday night when Toledo plays host to Ball State.

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

UCF vs Tulane

  • Date, time (TV): Saturday, Nov. 12th, 3:30 p.m. ET (ESPN2)
  • Line: Tulane -2

It will be strength against strength in this huge American Athletic Conference matchup.

Tulane (8-1, 5-0 AAC) welcomes UCF (7-2, 4-1) to the Big Easy.

The Green Wave leads the conference in total defense, allowing 307 yards per game, while UCF is averaging a conference-leading 501 yards per contest.

UCF (7-2, 4-1) is coming off hard-earned wins over Cincinnati and Memphis, and the Knights are looking to make it to the conference title game for the first time since 2018.

Five teams came into the season with better odds to win the conference. However, Tulane is currently leading the way with Tyjae Spears and veteran quarterback Michael Pratt the stars of a physical offense.

Dorian Williams is the reigning American Athletic Conference Defensive Player of the Week after coming up with 13 tackles and two sacks in a win over Tulsa.

UCF has won the last four games against Tulane. However, Tulane has covered against the college football odds in each of the last three meetings.

Other Games to Watch

Ball State vs Toledo

  • Date, time (TV): Tuesday, Nov. 8th, 8 p.m. ET (ESPN)
  • Line: Toledo -11

A win on Saturday would give Toledo (6-3. 4-1 MAC) a two-game lead over Ball State (5-4, 3-2) in the MAC’s West Division with two games left to play.

Toledo’s Quinyon Mitchell is second in the conference with four interceptions and two of them have been returned for touchdowns.

Ball State quarterback John Paddock has thrown for 2,227 yards. However, he leads the conference with 10 interceptions, one more than Toledo’s Dequan Finn.

The Cardinals’ Carson Steele leads the MAC with 1,082 rushing yards. He has four straight 100-yard games and is coming off a season-high 192 yards in a win over Kent State.

The visiting team has won four of the last seven matchups in the series.

East Carolina vs Cincinnati

  • Date, time (TV): Friday, Nov. 11th, 8 p.m. ET (ESPN2)
  • Line: Cincinnati -4½

Cincinnati faces another huge test against an improved East Carolina team.

The Bearcats (7-2, 4-1 AAC) are just a game behind Tulane

Cincinnati will need to try to slow down the AAC’s top rusher, Keaton Mitchell, who has run for 430 yards and six touchdowns during the three-game winning streak for the Pirates (6-3, 5-2).

Cincinnati’s Ivan Pace leads the American Athletic Conference with 19 tackles for loss and 97 total tackles while Bearcats quarterback Ben Bryant has no interceptions over his last three games.

Four of the last five games in the series went over the Las Vegas odds total.

Rice vs Western Kentucky

  • Date, time (TV): Saturday, Nov. 12th, 2 p.m. ET (ESPN+)
  • Line: Western Kentucky -13

When Rice (5-4, 3-2 Conference USA) travels to meet Western Kentucky (6-4, 4-2), the loser will pretty much be out of contention for the C-USA title game.

Western Kentucky’s Austin Reed leads the conference with 3,171 passing yards and 28 TD passes. Malachi Corley is the conference leader with 64 catches.

The Hilltoppers lead the conference with 13 interceptions and are tied for first with 11 fumble recoveries.

Rice is second in Conference USA with 201.2 passing yards per game

Western Kentucky has won the last three games with an average margin of victory of 30.7 points.

San Jose State vs San Diego State

  • Date, time (TV): Saturday, Nov. 12th, 10:30 p.m. ET (FS1)
  • Line: San Jose State -2½

San Jose State quarterback Chevan Cordeiro might be the best-kept secret in the Mountain West as he leads the conference with 2,224 passing yards and has thrown just two interceptions in 294 attempts.

He will be facing the worst passing defense in the conference, as opponents are completing 62% of their passes with 16 TDs and 240 yards per game.

San Jose State running back Kairee Robinson has four scoring runs over the last two games, even though he has averaged just 11 rushing attempts over the last four contests.

San Jose (6-2, 4-1 Mountain West), which is currently tied with Fresno State for first place in the West Division, is just 1-2 on the road.

This is a must win for San Diego State (5-4, 3-2) if the Aztecs want to be in the running for a division title.

Each of the last four games have been decided by 10 points or less.

Quarterback Chevan Cordeiro #2 of the San Jose State Spartans looks the hand the ball
Quarterback Chevan Cordeiro #2/ Michael Chang – Getty Images – AFP

Southern Miss vs Coastal Carolina

  • Date, time (TV): Saturday, Nov. 12th, 7:30 p.m. ET (ESPNU)
  • Line: Coastal Carolina -8

Coastal Carolina (8-1, 5-1 Sun Belt) can take another step towards wrapping up the Sun Belt East Division title on Saturday.

It could be a good day for the offenses as Coastal Carolina is one of two Sun Belt teams to allow more than six yards per play in league contests.

Neither team airs it out. Coastal Carolina and Southern Mississippi are 11th and 13th in the Sun Belt in passing attempts per game.

Southern Miss (5-4, 3-2) still has a chance in the West Division. However, a loss to division-leading Troy puts the Golden Eagles in the position of likely needing to win out.

One of the main differences between the teams is ball security as Coastal Carolina leads the Sun Belt with a turnover margin of +11 while Southern Miss is at -6.

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