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25 Predictions for the 2017 College Football Season: 20 Through 16

Quinton Flowers (#9 above) and South Florida might run away with the AAC East Division. (Jason Behnken/Getty Images North America)

25 Predictions for the 2017 College Football Season: 20 Through 16

The 2017 College Football season is right around the corner and that means it is prediction season. We will do something different than last year. In 2016, we made 5 predictions for each conference for a total of 55 predictions. The final total was 30.5 predictions correct for 55.5% hit rate.

This year we will make a total of 25 predictions with five each week until August 23. The predictions will range from conference winners to team win totals or bowl games to individual player performances. We will start with the mid-major conferences (predictions 25-16) before ending with the predictions for the Power 5 conferences (predictions 15-1).

This edition is the second and we once again will focus on the mid-majors conferences. Below is the schedule for the 25 predictions.

Predictions 25-21: July 26 (Sun Belt, C-USA, Independents)

Predictions 20-16: August 2 (MAC, MWC, AAC)

Predictions 15-11: August 9 (Big 12, Pac-12)

Predictions 10-6: August 16 (Pac-12, ACC, SEC)

Predictions 5-1: August 23 (SEC, Big 10)

Predictions 20 Through 16

20. (MAC) Akron will win the MAC EastTerry Bowden will be in his 6th year at Akron and this team looks poised for a big season. 8 starters are back from an offense that put up 27.4 points and 387 yards per game. The 2016 offense had only 3 starters back and now the top quarterback and running backs return. The offense has to contend with the loss of the top 2 receivers, but do have talent to replace them.

The defense has 7 starters back from a group that allowed 33.6 points and 466 yards per game. The 2016 version had four starters back while 2017 will see much more experience and add in Miami (FL) transfer James King. The defense should be closer to 2014 numbers of 23.1 points and 371 yards per game allowed.

Akron has a potentially difficult conference schedule with all 8 games packed into 8 weeks. They start with Bowling Green (away) and Ball State (home) before back-to-back road games at MAC West contenders Western Michigan and Toledo. Even a split of those two games would be huge for the Zips. Akron ends the conference season Buffalo (home), Miami (away), Ohio (home), and Kent State (home). The run in is favorable for them to steal the MAC East from Miami and Ohio.

19. (MWC) Boise State will lose at least three games – This does not seem like much of a prediction, but let’s provide some historical context. Since the Broncos have moved from the FCS to FBS, they have only 1 stretch of three or more seasons when they lost at least three games: 1996-1999. That coincided with their move to the top level of collegiate football. Boise State has shown a great pattern of bouncing back when they have a multi-loss season.

The 2017 Boise State team has five starters back on offense and four on defense, which will hurt the Broncos. The duo of Jeremy McNichols (RB) and Thomas Sperbeck (WR) depart for veteran quarterback Brett Rypien, but Rypien still has a lot of talent around him. They will need to step up to help him and the team. The defense loses the top four tacklers and six of the top seven from 2016. Again, there is talent on both sides of the ball to help absorb some of the departures, but that lone does not mean success.

The schedule is difficult for Boise State. They take on Troy (home), Washington State (away), Virginia (home), and BYU (away) in the non-conference portion. In the Mountain West, they have to play San Diego State (away), Wyoming (home), Nevada (home), Colorado State (away), and pesky Air Force (home). The Falcons have beaten Boise State three straight seasons although they look weaker this season.

There is no doubt Boise State is talented enough to win double digit games and even the Mountain West, but it looks like they will see a third straight 3+ loss season for the first time in nearly two decades. That is still impressive given their relatively short history in the FBS.

18. (MWC) Air Force will reach a bowl game – In 10 seasons under Troy Calhoun, the Falcons have only failed to reach a bowl game once. The non-bowl season was in 2013 when they went 2-10 going winless in conference play.

A 10th bowl game in 11 seasons is not a slam dunk for Air Force. They have six starters back on offense led by experienced quarterbacks Arion Worthman and Nate Romine. Top receiver Jalen Robinette has moved on, which may lead to more rushing plays. That will put extra pressure on Worthman and Romine as well as Tim McVey, who is the top returning running back by a wide margin. The pieces are there for Air Force to do well on offense.

The real worry on paper is the defense, which returns just one starter and loses 12 of the top 13 tacklers. Grant Ross is back at linebacker and he was the third leading tackler in 2016. The defense allowed 26.2 points and 365 yards per game in 2016 with 9 starters back so on paper it looks like they will take sizable a step back. The last time Air Force had only a few starters back on defense was in 2012 when they had 2. That group did well enough to allow only 29 points and 409 yards per game, which represented marginal increases of .6 points and 23 yards from the 2011 numbers.

Air Force will need a few upsets to reach 6 wins and a bowl game, but the path is there. Air Force takes on VMI (home), Michigan (away), Navy (away), and Army (home) in a non-conference schedule sprinkled throughout the first 9 weeks. From the West division they will play San Diego State (home), UNLV (home), and Nevada (away). Their best chances are the latter two though a porous defense will hurt their opportunity to reach 6 wins.

The Falcons have to deal with a contentious Mountain division of New Mexico (away), Colorado State (away), Wyoming (home), Boise State (away), and Utah State (home). The Falcons could win 3 of those games, which would give them a great chance to get to a bowl.

17. (AAC) 9 teams will make a bowl game – The American Athletic Conference has been on an upward swing since the start of the chaotic conference realignment that began 7 years ago. 2013 was the first season of AAC football and they sent 5 of their 10 members to a bowl game.

2014 saw 5 of 11 teams go to bowl game followed by their best season when 8 of 12 teams went to a bowl game. 2016 finished with 7 teams going to a bowl game and a lot of preseason hype around Houston.

This year looks like a great opportunity for the AAC to put 75% of its members into a bowl game. The AAC has 7 bowl tie ins and the oversupply of bowl games make it easier for teams to participate than ever before. (Side note: there is actually one less bowl game than 2016 with the cessation of the Poinsettia Bowl).

In 2017, South Florida is the clear favorite for the East division, but Temple (10-4 in 2016, but a new coach this year) and Central Florida (6-7 in 2016) also look likely to get back to a bowl game. The bottom half of the East looks like a conundrum between Cincinnati, Connecticut, and East Carolina. The Bearcats underachieved in 2016 and now have Luke Fickell in his first season. They could improve enough to get a bowl bid.

Connecticut welcomes Randy Edsall back to Storrs after a six year absence. Edsall made a bowl game in each of his last four seasons and has 7 starters on both offense and defense to work with. He could steal a bowl bid though the offense will need a lot more than 14.8 points per game. East Carolina is the weakest team in the East and they will be in year two of Scottie Montgomery’s reign. They have a tough schedule out of conference (West Virginia, Virginia Tech, BYU) and will probably struggle to top the 3 win total they put up in 2016.

The West looks very competitive between Houston, Tulsa, Memphis, and Navy. Any of those four could win the division and even SMU and Tulane look capable of getting a bowl bid.

SMU will be in year three with Chad Morris and he has 9 starters back on offense and 5 on defense. They should open 4-1 to give them great confidence to grab the last 2 needed wins. Tulane has a bit more work to do in the second season of Willie Fritz. He has 8 starters on both offense and defense, which looks like a good thing. The offense improved 4.4 points on offense and 8.6 on defense in his first season. Another improvement like that in 2017 and Tulane will be bowling.

To summarize, we like South Florida, Temple, Central Florida, and Cincinnati from the East division to make a bowl game. From the West, we like Houston, Tulsa, Memphis, Navy, and SMU to make a bowl game. Those are the 9 we like to make a bowl, but any 9 will do for this prediction.

16. (AAC) – South Florida and Memphis will play in the AAC Championship GameSouth Florida is in year one under Charlie Strong and has a great situation on his hands. He walks into 7 returning starters on offense and 9 on defense. Quinton Flowers will lead the offense that put up 43.8 points. Flowers led the team in both passing and rushing last year and could have an even better year.

The 2016 defense actually allowed quite a few points at 31.6 per game and 482 yards per game. Now 9 starters are back for Charlie Strong, which should mean a big improvement on that side of the ball. Their toughest games all come at home against Temple, Houston, and Tulsa.

The West division is wide open and we will go with Memphis to win it. All the pieces are back on offense for Mike Norvell between quarterback Riley Ferguson, running back Doroland Dorceus, and receivers Phil Mayhue and Anthony Miller. An offense that put up 38.8 points per game in 2016 now has 9 starters back and looks set to put up over 40 points per game.

The defense for Memphis has 6 starters back from a group that allowed 28.8 points and 455 yards per game. The top two tacklers, Jonathan Cook (88) and Genard Avery (81), are both back as are 5 of the front 7. The main concern is the secondary, but they do have 2 Oklahoma transfers in the mix.

Memphis will have tough road games at Central Florida, Houston, and Tulsa, but winning two of those games would put them in a great position to make their first AAC Championship Game.

That concludes the second set of five predictions for the 2017 college football season. Check back next week for predictions 15 through 11.

Under The Radar Games For College Football Week 12

Bill Snyder (left) is one win away from leading Kansas State to their 7th straight bowl game. (David Purdy/Getty Images North America)
Bill Snyder (left) is one win away from leading Kansas State to their 7th straight bowl game. (David Purdy/Getty Images North America)

Under The Radar Games For College Football Week 12

Week 11 saw the numbers two, three, and four all lose to shake up College Football Playoff rankings. Week 12 has some big games with #3 Louisville at Houston, #20 Washington State at #12 Colorado, #13 Oklahoma State at TCU, #21 Florida at #16 LSU, and #8 Oklahoma at #10 West Virginia.

We will focus on games that may not appear to offer much at first glance. These games might not have a national impact, but they could affect a team’s bowl chances or a conference title race. Note that these games are listed in order of when they will be played and all times listed are Eastern.

1. Kansas State at Baylor (11/19 at 12 PM) – This game is a tale of two teams going in opposite directions. Kansas State has gone 2-1 since their crushing defeat to Oklahoma including a 6 point loss to Oklahoma State on November 5. At 5-4, a win for Kansas State will put them in a bowl game.

Baylor is 6-3 and have been thoroughly dismantled the last two weeks by a combined score of 46 to 107. They have lost three in a row and also  lost Seth Russell to a gruesome injury against the Sooners. They do not have to worry about missing a bowl game, but this is a game where they can try to stem the terrible streak they are currently on.

2. Duke at Pittsburgh (11/19 at 3 PM) – Two teams enter this contest off of massive and surprising victories. Duke defeated then #17 North Carolina at home 28-27 to keep their bowl hopes alive. The Blue Devils are 4-6 overall and need to defeat both Pitt and Miami (FL) to reach a bowl.

Pittsburgh comes off the last second shock victory over #2 Clemson. The win put them at 6 victories to reach bowl eligibility, but this was a team that just struggled closing out games, especially on the road. They got it done versus the Tigers and this game will be interesting to see how each team plays off their big upset.

3. San Diego State at Wyoming (11/19 at 3:30 PM) – The Mountain West has two division leaders meeting here. San Diego State has already clinched the West Division and now just awaits to see which team from the Mountain Division they will play.

Wyoming was in the perfect spot to win the Mountain Division until last week’s triple overtime loss to UNLV 69-66 on the road. They had defeated Boise State 30-28 on October 29, but the loss erases their cushion. They are tied at 5-1 in MWC play with both Boise State and New Mexico. The Cowboys do control their own destiny as long as they win out against the Aztecs and New Mexico.

4. Northwestern at Minnesota (11/19 at 3:30 PM) – Northwestern’s season has been strange to say the least. They started 1-3 including losses to Western Michigan and Illinois State. They responded with three straight wins before losing to both highly ranked Ohio State and Wisconsin. They crushed Purdue last week to move to 5-5 and the Wildcats have a chance to secure a winning season with wins over Minnesota and Illinois to end the season. That did not seem remotely possible after September.

Minnesota has been quietly good this year. They sit at 7-3 overall and their 3 losses have all been by 7 points or less. The Gophers have an outside chance of winning 10 games but must defeat both Northwestern (home) and Wisconsin (road) as well as win their bowl game. That is a tall order, but this team will be a nuisance to end the year.

5. South Florida at SMU (11/19 at 7 PM) – South Florida is still in contention to win the AAC East Division, but they need another loss from Temple to do so. The Bulls lost 46-30 to the Owls on October 21. Their final two games are against SMU and Central Florida (home). They will certainly have a legitimate chance to go 7-1 in AAC play, but that may not be enough.

SMU is still alive for a bowl game at 5-5 overall, but their final two games are not easy. They play both South Florida and Navy at home, but those are two of the best teams in the conference. Should they win a game, the Mustangs would play in their first bowl game since the 2012 season.

6. Ole Miss at Vanderbilt (11/19 at 8 PM) – This is a big game for both teams. Ole Miss is coming off their surprising win at Texas A&M last week without Chad Kelly. The Rebels are 5-5 overall and still need to win one of their final two games to make a bowl game (the face Mississippi State next week at home).

Vanderbilt has a faint hope of making a bowl game, but will need a lot to go their way. They need to defeat both Ole Miss this week and Tennessee next week. Vandy’s defense will keep them in this game, but it is the offense that will need to come through to give the Commodores the shot at upsetting Tennessee and making a bowl game.

7. Tulsa at Central Florida (11/19 at 8 PM) – Both teams have already hit the 6 win mark and thus will be in a bowl game this year. Tulsa is not likely to win the AAC West (would need both Navy and Houston to lose out in conference play), but at 7-3 could win 10 games for the first time since 2012. Tulsa needs to win out against UCF and Cincinnati along with the bowl game to reach 10 wins.

Central Florida is a great story this year. After going 0-12 in 2015, they brought in Scott Frost and he paid immediate dividends by getting them back to a bowl game (UCF is currently 6-4). They could guarantee a winning season with a win against Tulsa or South Florida next week.

Check back next week for the week 13 edition of Under The Radar Games. In addition, you can find the previous columns below.

Week 1

Week 2

Week 3

Week 4

Week 5

Week 6

Week 7

Week 8

Week 9

Week 10

Week 11

Under The Radar Games For College Football Week 11

Despite three straight losses in SEC play, Tennessee is still alive in the SEC East division. Their opponent in week 11, Kentucky, is also still alive to win the SEC East. (Tyler Lecka/Getty Images North America)
Despite three straight losses in SEC play, Tennessee is still alive in the SEC East division. Their opponent in week 11, Kentucky, is also still alive to win the SEC East. (Tyler Lecka/Getty Images North America)

Under The Radar Games For College Football Week 11

We are closing in on the end of the season with about a month until we find out the four teams that will comprise the College Football Playoff. Week 11 is not the best week for games with the best ones being #25 Baylor at #9 Oklahoma, #11 West Virginia at Texas, Pittsburgh at #3 Clemson, #19 LSU at Arkansas, Minnesota at #21 Nebraska, and USC at #4 Washington.

We will focus on games that may not appear to offer much at first glance. These games might not have a national impact, but they could affect a team’s bowl chances or a conference title race. Note that these games are listed in order of when they will be played and all times listed are Eastern.

1. Eastern Michigan at Ball State (11/8 at 7 PM) – Some Tuesday MACtion kicks off the week and this column. This game is all about bowl implications with both teams still looking for 6 wins.

Eastern Michigan is sitting at 5-4 and have lost 3 of their last 4 games after starting a strong 4-1. The Eagles will want to win this game because their next two are against the suddenly hot Northern Illinois Huskies and Central Michigan. Both of those games are at home, but the pressure will build the longer the season goes. In addition, both of those teams are still alive for a bowl berth.

Ball State is currently 4-5 and their road (literally) is just as tough. After this game they face both Toledo and Miami (OH) on the road. Miami (OH) is still alive for a bowl berth at 4-6 while Toledo has a chance at winning the MAC West. This game is big for both schools in terms of a bowl bid.

2. Kentucky at Tennessee (11/12 at 12 PM) – The SEC East is still wide open, which is why this game is crucial. Kentucky still has a glimmer of hope, but needs a lot to go their way to win this division. They own losses to Florida and Georgia, but a win here would put them at 5-3 in conference, in a bowl game, and two Florida SEC losses from a conference title game. Imagine that.

Tennessee’s path is clearer and they just need Florida to lose once in SEC play while the Vols need to win out. The Vols end the season with Missouri (home) and Vanderbilt (away) with the latter being the tougher of the two.

For as crazy as the SEC East has been this year, are there still a few twists left in the plot?

3. Cincinnati at Central Florida (11/12 at 12 PM) – Bowl hopes are on the line here and both teams are facing a must win. Cincinnati is 4-5 with losses in 4 of their last 5 games while their final two games are against good AAC West foes in Memphis (home) and Tulsa (away).

Central Florida, against the backdrop of a horrendous 0-12 season in 2015, sit just one win away from a bowl. They are 5-4, but their final two games are just as difficult as Cincinnati’s. They face Tulsa (home) and AAC East contender South Florida (away).

This game is big, but there is the possibility Cincinnati wins this game and both teams lose their final 2 games to finish 5-7. That would be a disaster for the American Athletic Conference.

 4. Tulsa at Navy (11/12 at 12 PM) – There is not much on the line here except the outright lead in the AAC West. Both teams have already hit the six win mark with Tulsa at 7-2 and Navy at 6-2. Both teams control their destiny in this division with identical records of 4-1 and Navy could hold a commanding lead with a win over Tulsa.

Outside of getting blasted by Ohio State, Tulsa has played well in every game. They lost by a touchdown to Houston, but also went to overtime against Fresno State and SMU. Since that 38-31 loss at Houston, Tulsa has won their last three games by an average of 24.3 points per game. That loss to Houston also means they need to win out against Central Florida and Cincinnati or get another loss from Houston in addition to two more losses by Navy.

Navy is coming off their 28-27 win against Notre Dame and they have already beaten Houston this year. Navy needs a win this week and one win in their final two AAC games against East Carolina and SMU to clinch the AAC West Division.  Both of those games will be on the road, which may be a little cause for concern because that is where they had their two losses this season (at Air Force and at South Florida).

This could be a high scoring affair as both teams have been putting up points. Then again, Navy could just do what they did against Notre Dame and allow only 2 possessions for Tulsa in the final 30 minutes. This should be a good game.

5. North Carolina State at Syracuse (11/12 at 12:30 PM) – Here are two 4-5 teams that will still need quite a lot to go their way if they win. A win will push one team to 5-5 and the other 4-6, but both teams’ final two games will be hard to win.

NC State started 4-1 this year, but have lost four in a row including three games by a touchdown or less (Clemson, Boston College, and Florida State). They end with Miami (FL) at home and North Carolina away. If they can get enough offense, they may be able to sneak into an upset, but they must beat Syracuse first.

For Syracuse, they have had an up and down season. The offense has looked good at times, though last week against Clemson was terrible. The defense has not been great, but has shown some improvement at times. Both sides will need to be in sync with games against Florida State (home) and Pittsburgh (away) to end the season.

6. UT-San Antonio at Louisiana Tech (11/12 at 3:30 PM) – The C-USA West Division will be on the line here. UTSA is 5-4 overall and 4-2 in C-USA while Louisiana Tech is 7-3 overall and 5-1 in C-USA.

UTSA is playing really well the last five games with a 4-1 record and their lone loss was a 52-49 to UTEP that went to five overtimes. Their win against Middle Tennessee last week was impressive as they won by 20 points on the road and considering UTSA has struggled away from home this year. A win here puts them in their first bowl game in their short history and in first place of the C-USA West.

Louisiana Tech has been on fire the last six weeks, which have all been wins. Five of those games have been blowouts and the close game of those was a 55-52 win over Western Kentucky. Even their 1-3 start is deceiving because they lost 21-20 at Arkansas, demolished FCS South Carolina State, lost 59-45 at Texas Tech, and lost 38-34 at Middle Tennessee. A win here does not completely clinch the C-USA West because Southern Miss has only 2 losses in conference play.

7. Appalachian State at Troy (11/12 at 3:30 PM) – What a game we have here in the Fun Belt. 7-2 Appalachian State (5-0 in SBC) and 7-1 Troy (4-0 in SBC) meet in one of the biggest conference games of the year.

Appalachian State has a strong defense and they will be put to the test against Troy’s offense that averages 39.4 points per game and have scored at least 31 points in six of their eight games (6-0 in those games). Appalachian State’s defense has given up 19.6 points per game and just 8.4 points per game in Sun Belt games.

A win for Appalachian State would pretty much put them in position to win the Sun Belt or at worst tie for the title. Their final two games are against UL-Monroe (home) and New Mexico State (away).

Troy’s final four games are daunting. They face Appalachian State, fellow Sun Belt undefeated Arkansas State (home), Texas State (away), and Georgia Southern (away). Keep an eye on this game to see which side can gain the upper hand.

8. South Florida at Memphis (11/12 at 7 PM) – The third AAC game to make an appearance this week and this one also has possible conference title game implications. South Florida is 7-2 overall while Memphis is 6-3 overall.

South Florida, which already holds a loss to Temple, is 4-1 in the AAC East and needs Temple (5-1 in the AAC) to lose another game while winning out to win the AAC East. They face SMU (away) and Central Florida (home) in their final two games so their last three games in total will not be easy wins.

Memphis is 3-2 in the AAC and are a long shot to win the AAC West division having lost to both Navy and Tulsa already this year. Still, this is a solid team that could ruin South Florida’s AAC hopes if they are at their best. Memphis also faces Cincinnati (away) and Houston (home) to end the year so this could be a chance to build momentum heading into the bowl season.

Check back next week for the week 12 edition of Under The Radar Games. In addition, you can find the previous columns below.

Week 1

Week 2

Week 3

Week 4

Week 5

Week 6

Week 7

Week 8

Week 9

Week 10

Under The Radar Games For College Football Week 6

Jamaal Williams (in white) and BYU will face Michigan State this week. Williams ran for 286 yards and 5 touchdowns against Toledo in week five. (George Frey/Getty Images North America)
Jamaal Williams (in white) and BYU will face Michigan State this week. Williams ran for 286 yards and 5 touchdowns against Toledo in week five. (George Frey/Getty Images North America)

Under The Radar Games For College Football Week 6

Week five provided three games featuring matchups between top ten teams and two of them were excellent with Louisville and Clemson topping off the action in an instant classic that the Tigers won 42-36. There are not as many big time games this week, but there are still some good ones to watch.

Let’s take a look at some of the under the radar games for week six. Note, these games are listed in order of when they will be played and all times listed are Eastern.

Edit: Tulane at Central Florida has been postponed until November 5 due to Hurricane Matthew.

1. Tulane at Central Florida (10/7 at 8 PM) – Tulane comes into this game on a two game winning streak while their two losses have been by a combined 10 points. The running game has nearly 2.5 times as many yards on offense than the passing game. Dontrell Hilliard (384 yards and 5 touchdowns), Josh Rounds (266 yards and 4 touchdowns), Johnathan Brantley (156 yards), Lazedrick Thompson (153 yards and 3 touchdowns), and Glen Cuiellette (125 yards) have all had a big part in the rushing attack. Terren Encalade has come alive in the receiving corps the last two games with 14 catches for 228 yards and 4 touchdowns.

Central Florida has also won two in a row and the offense has come alive with an average of 50 points per game in those two contests. The Golden Knights have a more balanced offense, but starting quarterback job is still up for grabs between McKenzie Milton and Justin Holman. Eight different players have recorded a rushing touchdown though Dontravious Wilson has the lion’s share with 7.

The offenses have come alive for both teams in the previous two games, which could lead to quite a few points. Both teams enter this contest at 3-2 and a win here would help both teams in their quest to make a bowl game. UCF went 0-12 last year while Tulane has only been to a bowl game twice in the last 15 years (2002 and 2013).

2. Iowa at Minnesota (10/8 at 12 PM) – Despite this being a nationally televised on contest (will be on ESPN2, if their schedule is correct), this probably does not strike a lot of people a major game this weekend. Iowa has not been very good in their last three games, which includes losses to North Dakota State and Northwestern and an ugly 14-7 win over Rutgers. The loss to Northwestern last week was probably most surprising (yes, even more so than the loss to NDSU) because they gave up 38 points to a Northwestern team that was very lethargic the first four weeks on offense.

Minnesota opened 3-0 and lost a heartbreaker against Penn State last week in overtime. The Gophers took a 23-20 in the final minute of the game only to see Penn State hit a 40 yard field goal to tie the game and send it into overtime. The duo of running backs Rodney Smith and Shannon Brooks (both had 100+ yards against PSU) along with quarterback Mitch Leidner will be looking to move the sticks against an Iowa team that has given up an average of 210 yards per game on the ground in the last three contests.

This game is big for both teams if they want to have a chance at winning the Big Ten West. Both already have a loss in conference play and still have to face Wisconsin and Nebraska later this year. This is basically an elimination game.

3. Air Force at Wyoming (10/8 at 3:30 PM) – Air Force comes into this game 4-0 with a win over Navy at home. Wyoming is 3-2 with losses on the road against Nebraska and Eastern Michigan, but the Cowboys are a much improved team since last year. Air Force has won four of the last five games on the road in this series as well.

Brian Hill has been a monster running the ball for Wyoming with 629 yards and 7 touchdowns this year (5.4 average per carry), but the key will be Josh Allen. In Wyoming’s two losses this year, Allen has 2 touchdowns against 6 interceptions, but in the three wins has thrown 6 touchdowns and no interceptions. He will need to be wary of throwing anywhere near Weston Steelhammer, who has 2 interceptions this year and led Air Force with 5 last season.

Both teams sit at 1-0 in the Mountain West with each team still having to go up against Boise State and in Wyoming’s case, they have to face San Diego State this year too. This could be a good game to watch.

4. Army at Duke (10/8 at 3:30 PM) – Army is 3-1 after an overtime loss on the road to Buffalo in week four while Duke could not back up their huge victory over Notre Dame on the road in week four. They lost last week to Virginia at home 34-20 and a bowl game looks out of reach for the Blue Devils now.

This is more focused on Army because a win here and they could open 7-1 going into the game against Air Force on November 5. After Duke, Army faces Lafayette and North Texas at home before a road game at Wake Forest on October 29. It will not be easy to go 7-1, but they can get closer with a win over Duke.

5. BYU at Michigan State (10/8 at 3:30 PM) – This game features two teams that are .500 or worse, which probably was not expected before the season. BYU sits at 2-3, but they have faced a tough gauntlet: Arizona, Utah, UCLA, West Virginia, and Toledo. All of those teams were in a bowl game last season and the Cougars have been competitive in each of those games. Not a single one of their first five games has been decided by more than a field goal.

Michigan State started with a sluggish opening win over Furman before what was considered an impressive road victory against Notre Dame. The last two games for the Spartans have been disastrous with a big loss at home to Wisconsin 30-6 and then last week’s overtime loss at Indiana. BYU’s duo of Taysom Hill and Jamaal Williams will have to like their chances after viewing the tape of the Michigan State-Indiana game.

6. Texas Tech at Kansas State (10/8 at 7 PM) – There are a lot of questions concerning this game. Will Texas Tech have Patrick Mahomes back? Can Kansas State shut down the Texas Tech offense, regardless of who is at quarterback? If Kansas State is leading late in the game again, can they close the game out?

Texas Tech is 3-1 with their lone blemish being the wild shootout in the desert where they lost 68-55 to Arizona State. They crushed an overmatched Kansas team last week with two different quarterbacks throwing four touchdowns apiece. As noted above, will Mahomes be back or will Nic Shimonek take over? It may not matter based on what we saw against Kansas.

The Wildcats are 2-2 with losses at Stanford and West Virginia. The game against the Mountaineers was particularly heart-wrenching because the Wildcats held a 16-3 lead after three quarters. They were stopping the West Virginia offense from getting any points time and time again only to see them score a touchdown. The Wildcats still had a chance to win, but Matthew McCrane missed a 43 yard field goal.

Kansas State will have the home field crowd behind them, but they will need to have another stellar defensive outing against a high powered offense.

7. UNLV at San Diego State (10/8 at 10:30 PM) – The Aztecs looked like a tough team to beat after three weeks, but last week sent them coming back to earth. They went on the road and got soundly defeated by South Alabama 42-24 with the offense converting just two of ten third downs.

UNLV sits at 2-3 with wins over Jackson State and Fresno State. Their losses have been to UCLA, Central Michigan, and Idaho. This game will be an excellent measuring stick for the Rebels to see how far they have come and how far they need to go. For San Diego State, they need to just continue giving the ball to Donnel Pumphrey, who has 750 yards and 8 touchdowns on 98 carries (7.7 yards per carry average). In addition, they need to work on their pass defense as they have struggled against the pass at times this year.

Check back next week for the week seven edition of Under The Radar Games. In addition, you can find the previous columns below.

Week 1

Week 2

Week 3

Week 4

Week 5

Five Predictions For The American Athletic Conference In 2016

SMU head coach Chad Morris (right) talks with TCU head coach Gary Patterson. Morris has SMU going the right way. (Ron Jenkins/Getty Images North America)
SMU head coach Chad Morris (right) talks with TCU head coach Gary Patterson. Morris has SMU going the right way. (Ron Jenkins/Getty Images North America)

Five Predictions For The American Athletic Conference In 2016

The 2016 College Football season is right around the corner and that means prediction time. Below are five predictions for American Athletic Conference for the 2016 season. Some predictions will be right, some predictions will be wrong, and some will be spectacularly awful (or correct) by the end of the season.

There are no changes to the American Athletic Conference as the twelve teams remain the same. The East division is composed of Central Florida, Cincinnati, Connecticut, East Carolina, South Florida, and Temple. The West division is made up of Houston, Memphis, Navy, SMU, Tulane, and Tulsa.

Here are five predictions for the American Athletic Conference in 2016:

1. SMU will win at least four games in 2016 – The Mustangs were hit hard in 2014 when they tumbled to 1-11 while losing June Jones early in the season as he left the programChad Morris came in for 2015 and he worked wonders with an offense that put up only 11.1 points and 269 yards per game in 2014. Last year, the offense went up to 27.8 points and 383 yards per contest. There are nine starters back from that side of the ball and there is no reason that the offense cannot continue the upward trend.

The defense needs a lot of work as they gave up 45.7 points and 502 yards per game last year. They have seven starters back, but the second year of schemes should improve those numbers. SMU will face the duo of North Texas and Liberty in the first three weeks. They also have toss-up games (but still winnable) against Tulane, Tulsa, and East Carolina with all three of those on the road. Any type of improvement on defense in 2016 should result in more than two wins for the Mustangs.

2. South Florida will win the East Division – This will not be an easy task for USF, but they can certainly do it. They have seven starters back on both offense and defense that saw solid gains from 2014 to 2015. The offense went from 17.2 points and 305 yards per game to 33.6 and 442 in 2015. The defense went from 27 points and 403 yards per game in 2014 to 22.9 and 380 yards in 2015. Both sides of the ball will be tested early in the season as the Bulls face Northern Illinois at home, Syracuse on the road, and Florida State at home in weeks two through four.

In conference, they also have a tough schedule as they will play Cincinnati, Temple, and Memphis all on the road. The return of their dual quarterback Quinton Flowers (2,296 yards passing and 991 yards rushing), running back Marlon Mack (1,381 yards and 8 touchdowns), the top receiver Rodney Adams (45 catches for 822 yards and 9 touchdowns), and five of their top 6 tacklers from 2015 will help navigate the team through their tough schedule.

3. Houston will win the West Division and Conference title – This is not going out on much of a limb. The Cougars exploded last year under the first year of Tom Herman’s offensive schemes to the tune of 40.4 points and 484 yards per game. The defense was just as impressive giving up 20.7 points and 384 yards per game. In 2016, the offense returns six starters including Greg Ward at quarterback, which is good news because he led the team in rushing with 1,108 yards and 21 touchdowns.

The defense will have five starters back and the biggest concern has to be the back five in this nickel scheme. There is only one starter returning from the secondary that allowed 275 yards passing per game and 55.6% completions. Luckily, the front six allowed just 109 yards per game and four starters are back.

Houston will have to contend with games on the road against Cincinnati, Navy, and Memphis a year after being the duo of Cincinnati and Memphis by a total of four points at home. It will not be easy to repeat, but this Houston team looks very capable of having another excellent season.

4. Connecticut will have winning season – The Huskies have quite a bit going for them in 2016. They will be in year three of Bob Diaco’s tenure, have ten starters returning on offense, six starters back on defense, and a very manageable schedule. The defense improved dramatically from 2014 to 2015. They allowed 29.8 points and 379 yards in 2014 and then 19.5 points and 355 yards in 2015. The six starters returning this year are joined by the talented Florida State transfer EJ Levenberry at linebacker.

The offense made a tiny improvement from 15.5 points and 276 yards per game in 2014 to 17.2 points and 310 yards in 2015. The team managed to improve to the record from 2-10 to 6-7 (including a bowl loss to Marshall). The offense will have to continue to improve in 2016, but having 10 starters back and the third year of recruits leaves no room for excuses.

The schedule is ripe for the Huskies to have their first winning season since 2010. They open with Maine, but also face ACC opponents Virginia, Syracuse, and Boston College through the season all of whom finished 4-8 or worse. In conference, they have games against Central Florida, East Carolina, and Tulane that are winnable. They face Navy, Houston, Cincinnati, South Florida, and Temple, but the defense should be solid enough to keep them in most games and an upset or two is definitely plausible (see their 20-17 win over Houston last year).

5. The Three “T” teams (Tulsa, Tulane, and Temple) will win at least 20 games combined – The idea that each team has to win at least 7 games (including bowls) seems pretty straight forward, but Tulsa and Tulane both play in the very strong West division. Tulsa will be in their second year under Philip Montgomery with seven starters back on offense and defense. Tulane went 3-9 in 2015, but now have a new head coach in Willie Fritz and he is changing offensive schemes (check out his Sam Houston State teams from 2010 through 2013). The defense for Tulane will be solid with eight starters back, but the offensive change is worrisome in regards to the win column.

Temple is the best of these three teams and went 10-4 last year, but had 19 starters back. There will be six starters back on both offense and defense including quarterback PJ Walker an running back Jahad Thomas. The defense will be very solid again under Matt Rhule and they have an easy schedule to open the season outside of Penn State on the road (they did win against the Nittany Lions at home in 2015) with Army, Stony Brook, and Charlotte all at home. 9 wins are probably needed by Temple to be correct. They have the defense to do it. This one will be close especially if Tulsa (or Temple) under-performs.

The Prediction Schedule

With the AAC predictions above, there are now predictions for five conferences in the books. Below are the predictions completed and which conference is next.

July 17 – FBS Independents

July 17 – Sun Belt

July 23 – C-USA

July 24 – MAC

July 30 – American Athletic

July 31 – Mountain West

August 7 – Big 12

August 13 – Atlantic Coast

August 14 – Pac-12

August 20 – Big Ten

August 27 – SEC

Georgia Tech And UCF To Play Two Game Series

George O'Leary could be facing his former team in 2017 and 2020 (Scott Halleran/Getty Images North America)
George O’Leary could be facing his former team in 2017 and 2020 (Scott Halleran/Getty Images North America)

Georgia Tech And UCF To Play Two Game Series

Georgia Tech and Central Florida announced a home-and-home series to take place in 2017 and 2020. This means that current UCF head coach George O’Leary will face off against his old team.

UCF will be the home team first in the series with Georgia Tech coming to town on September 16, 2017. Georgia Tech will then have the return trip at home on September 19, 2020.

Central Florida and Georgia Tech have faced each other three times in football with Georgia Tech winning all three matchups. Georgia Tech won 27-20 in 1996, 41-10 in 1999, and 21-17 in 2000 with all three games coming at home for the Yellow Jackets.

As for O’Leary, he previously coached at Georgia Tech from 1994 through 2001 where he compiled a 52-33 record. His 1998 team finished tied with Florida State for the ACC Championship at 7-1 in conference play (10-2 overall).

O’Leary has been at UCF since 2004 after the debacle he suffered in 2001 shortly after accepting the Notre Dame head coaching job. At UCF, O’Leary has led the Knights to an 81-60 record including their 2014 Fiesta Bowl victory over Baylor, which capped off a 12-1 season.