UCF – over 9 (-140) – 1*
12-0 is probably unlikely without McKenzie Milton, but it’s likely that the Knights are still one of the best teams in the Group of 5.
Milton isn’t the only injured QB as his backup Darriel Mack has also been hampered with a broken ankle. The third option is still a pretty good one: Notre Dame transfer Brandon Wimbush, who had mixed results during his time in South Bend.
Wimbush will have plenty of toys to play with. Adrian Killins and Greg McRae make up a ridiculous backfield. Gabriel Davis, Tre Nixon, and Otis Anderson are all back at receiver.
Last year’s defense was even better than the 13-0 team, but they do lose some of their best guys. The replacements are littered with Power 5 transfers, so I wouldn’t expect much of a talent drop-off.
Overall, the schedule is a little tougher this year. They avoid Memphis, but now are going on the road to Pitt, Cincinnati, Temple, and FAU this year. They also add a home game with Stanford.
Cincinnati – over 7.5 (-145) – 2*
The Bearcats quietly achieved one of the most ridiculous feats last year: they went from four wins to 11 wins starting a freshman quarterback. Obviously Desmond Ridder is back this year and so is a whole stable of quality running backs.
The defense was awesome last year and should be again, given that six of the back seven are returning. They do however lose three all-conference linemen. This will still be one of the best defenses at the Group of 5 level.
The schedule is where things might hit a snag. They have road games with Ohio State, Memphis, Houston, Marshall, and USF. The OSU game is the only one they don’t have a realistic shot at, however. They also have home games with UCF, UCLA, and Temple. UCF and Temple were the two teams to beat them last year.
South Florida – under 6.5 (-120) – 1*
It’s hard to feel great about where the Bull program is headed. They went 10-2 in Charlie Strong’s first year and were then 7-0 last year and then the wheels came off and USF careened into the wall and exploded on impact. They lost their last six games by nearly 20 PPG. It was ugly and looking back now, those first seven games were against a super-soft schedule.
The Bulls have a lot coming back on offense and an exciting new coordinator, but it’s scary to believe in much with this team after the self-destruction last year.
Temple – over 6.5 (-140) – 3*
Rod Carey seems like a perfect for Temple, both good and bad. The defense will no doubt be strong, but you have to worry about the direction of the offense. It was kind of dreadful at NIU and the emphasis was much more on the run game.
What Temple’s got on O is much better suited to throw with Anthony Russo coming back and some of his top receivers. They lose stud RB Ryquell Armstead.
The front seven of the defense should be one of the best in the league. The secondary was great last year, but they lose big-time players in Rock Ya-sin and Delvon Randall.
The schedule sets up pretty well to at least get over the total. They’ll probably be favored in their first five games. They have to play Memphis out of the West, but at least it’s at home, as is their game with UCF. Tulane and UConn both visit Philly towards the end of the year.
East Carolina – under 4.5 (+175) – 1*
The over on this one has been beyond steamed and I get where the optimism is coming from. The Pirates are finally free from the Scottie Montgomery era and they’ve actually got halfway decent talent.
Mike Houston won a national championship at James Madison and he’s been successful at all three of his lower-level coaching jobs, but there is a lot of ground to make up defensively still.
UConn – under 2.5 (-115) – 3*
It’s such a low number, but my goodness, man. They gave up over 50 PPG last year and it was debatable if it was possibly the worst FBS defense in the history of modern football.
That defense was extremely young last year, and they have nowhere to go but up, but they could give up two touchdowns less a game and still be terrible.
The offense wasn’t the worst of all-time, but wasn’t without its problems. Now they lose QB David Pindell, who not only did all the passing, but also was the leading rusher. Four of the top five pass-catchers are also gone, but four starters do return to the O-line.
The Huskies should at least beat Wagner to open the season, but they’ll be underdogs in the other 11 and will be three-touchdown dogs in maybe nine of those. Even the UMass game is on the road. Home games with Navy and ECU are possibilities, but both of them are also expected to be improved this year.