CFB Group of 5 conference championships betting preview
It's not quite at the level of "College Football Playoff berth on the line," like it was last year for Cincinnati, but there's still plenty to play for in the Group of 5, as a conference championship is the goal for teams in college football's second tier.
Over a month ago in the "Saturday 7," we backed North Texas at UTSA, getting +10 on a Mean Green team that's been under the radar all season, in part due to a rough non-conference slate in September. They were a somewhat miraculous UTSA drive from winning that game outright.
The Roadrunners should run through North Texas as they did in that Week 8 matchup to the tune of 257 yards on the ground. The Mean Green still hung in there, though, thanks to Austin Aune throwing for 10.5 yards per attempt. UTSA has won nine straight and will probably make it 10, but its most convincing win was against Middle Tennessee, with all others against good teams coming by one score.
Pick: North Texas +8.5
The moving parts at the quarterback position make this a tough handicap. Dequan Finn started the season impressively for Toledo, but an injury kept him out of the penultimate regular-season game against Bowling Green and may have facilitated his benching against Western Michigan in the finale. Both losses put a question mark on Toledo's value in the MAC championship, and a line move from Rockets -4.5 down through a field goal indicates concern.
It's no easier on the Ohio side, where Canadian quarterback Kurtis Rourke suffered a season-ending knee injury in their second-last game. CJ Harris did just enough to help the Bobcats punch their ticket to Ford Field, but he's more of a running threat. With all the uncertainty, Ohio is the only way I would bet due to its defense, but only if a full field goal is available.
Pick: Bet Ohio only at +3
Troy opened at -8, and it didn't make sense at the time. If Coastal Carolina quarterback Grayson McCall's foot injury subsides, the line should be under a touchdown. The move to -10.5 suggests that he's unlikely to go, at which point it might not be high enough. Since Troy took the lead in the West with a win at South Alabama in Week 8, the Trojans haven't looked back, outgaining their last two conference opponents by 267 yards in blowout wins.
McCall's status will be the thing to watch, as the Chanticleers' offense has been a shadow of its former self. With Coastal only in this game due to James Madison's ineligibility, and Troy as good as it's been in years, this could turn into a rout.
Pick: Troy -10.5 if McCall ruled out
The two preseason favorites meet up in the Mountain West championship, but it was quite a road for both after they struggled in September's non-conference games.
Boise State found a fit at quarterback in a comeback win over San Diego State, with Taylen Green helping the Broncos go undefeated in-conference. The one big break in the schedule occurred when they got to host Fresno State with Jake Haener sidelined. The Broncos took advantage of that spot, giving them home field in this game - which is why they're favored.
Fresno's competition wasn't stiff, but the Bulldogs have averaged 39 points per game since they got their pro prospect back five games ago. This line was Boise -4.5 early, and I agree with it getting tighter; Fresno is capable of getting revenge with Haener at the helm.
Pick: Fresno State +3.5
We took several swings (and misses) on long shots in our G5 season preview, but the future we did best with was pretty chalky UCF (+300). That the two shorter favorites - Cincinnati and Houston - didn't make the championship is the impressive part about the pick. Surprisingly, UCF isn't the favorite in this game, nor should it be.
Despite UCF winning at Tulane three weeks ago, the Knights' complete inability to stop 1-10 South Florida with their season on the line on Saturday night was as telling as a loss to Navy the week before. If you watched either game, you had to wonder if UCF should have beaten Tulane or USF based on how the game played out. This is likely why we've seen the line move from Tulane -1 to -3.5.
John Rhys Plumlee was the difference on the ground in that game, running for 176 yards and two touchdowns. He missed the second half last week with a leg injury. Even if he plays, expect Tulane to be ready for his rushing ability.
Pick: Tulane -3
If you have a UCF +300 ticket in pocket, we can use that to come over the top in betting on the Tulane (-165) moneyline. Here's how:
- Let's say you had put $100 on UCF at +300. If you like them this week, there's nothing for you to do, and if they win, you get your wager back plus $300.
- Let's use that $300 and a little extra to bet on Tulane to win this game, putting $330 to win $200.
- If Tulane wins, you net $100 ($200 minus your initial bet on UCF), and if they lose, you lose $30. Essentially, you're creating a synthetic bet on Tulane at +333.
Matt Russell is a betting writer for theScore. If there's a bad beat to be had, Matt will find it. Find him on Twitter @mrussauthentic.