No offense to Week 0, but college football season really kicks off this weekend. It’s a slate loaded with games, especially at the Group of 5 level.
Using college football betting odds as a guide, let’s take a look at the top five games from Week 1 involving at least one Group 5 schedule. There was no shortage of games to choose from this week.
5. Army on the Carolina coast, Saturday, 7 pm ET
The Army’s ground-and-pound triple-option attack goes against the high-flying extended offensive off the Carolina coast. Army, an Independent, won nine games a season ago, and the Knights have a manageable schedule in 2022. If Army (+2.5) gets past Coastal Carolina, he could be on his way to a breakout season. For Coastal Carolina, a win here sets the tone for a potential 10-win season and continued national relevance. A loss could signal a small step backwards for the program, which has been on fire in recent years.
4. Virginia Tech at Old Dominion, Friday, 7 p.m. ET
Virginia Tech opens the Brent Pry era on the road against an improving ODU program. The Monarchs won six games a season ago, and head coach Ricky Rahne appears to have them headed in the right direction, despite low preseason expectations this year. ODU defeated Virginia Tech at Norfolk in 2019. Can the Monarchs (+8.5) pull off another upset this year?
3. No. 24 Houston at UTSA, Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET
While not number 1 on the list, this game excites me. Houston (-4) is the favorite to win the AAC title, while UTSA is the favorite in C-USA, making it a matchup of two elite Group of 5 squads. Like good quarterbacks? Houston’s Clayton Tune and UTSA’s Frank Harris are among the best in the Group of 5. With a points total of 61.5, expect some fireworks.
2. North Carolina at Appalachian State, Saturday, noon ET
What about ACC teams going on the road to play Sun Belt teams? I love it, but it’s a recipe for disaster for Power 5 squads. Expect a sold-out crowd and raucous atmosphere for this state matchup, which is basically pick ’em. North Carolina is already 1-0 on the season, moving the ball with ease against an undermanned Florida A&M squad, but the defense looked suspect.
1. No. 23 Cincinnati vs. No. 19 Arkansas, Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET
Last year’s Group of 5 powerhouse Cincinnati is aiming to reload after losing many NFL contributors. Arkansas wants to be a factor in the SEC West under Sam Pittman, and winning this game would be a step in the right direction to gain national relevance. This is one of the games of the week nationally, in my opinion, though I doubt Cincinnati (+6) will beat an SEC-ranked team in Week 1 after such huge personnel losses.
Honorable mentions: NC State in East Carolina, Boise State in Oregon State, Liberty in Southern Miss, Florida Atlantic in Ohio, SMU in North Texas, and BYU in South Florida.
Of this group, NC State-ECU and Boise State-Oregon State stand out, but I’m more interested in SMU playing North Texas. The Mustangs could be AAC contenders, while North Texas played well in a 31-13 Week 0 victory over UTEP. If North Texas looks competitive, it should be taken seriously as a threat to the C-USA title.
Bennett Conlin is a college football contributor for HERO Sports, working full time covering sports betting industry news and legislation for sports handle Y USA Bets.