G5 and Independents "Odds" - 2019 preview
Well, we’re very near the end of our 2019 Preseason previews. We’ve already given you what to expect from the “even” teams we posted (including a couple of “unhappy” Notre Dame fans enquiring if I were on some illicit substances when I wrote it). I was not, but regardless, here are the “odds” of your Independent/G5 2019 preview.
1.UCF – 12-1 (AAC Champions) – What team has fewer losses that either Clemson or Alabama over the last two years? OK, it’s not much of a trivia question when you’re reading the preview of the team that did it. Still UCF (25-1) is the only team in the country with fewer losses than either ‘Bama (27-2) or Clemson (also 27-2). Rather impressive when you consider that they were 6-19 in the two seasons preceding AND they changed head coaches midstream. One thing we don’t know (as of this article’s writing) is who will be under center when the Golden Knights take the field. With last year’s starter McKenzie Milton out due to a knee injury that nearly cost him his leg, UCF will look to Notre Dame graduate transfer Brandon Wimbush or Darriel Mack Jr who replaced Milton for the remainder of the season following his injury. Whoever is playing QB for the Knights will have talent to work with. Running backs Greg McCrae (Jr) and Adrian Killins Jr (Sr) were both potent last season with each gaining more than 1000 total yards. At receiver, the Knights return three of lasts season’s Top 4 threats. On defense there’s a lot of rebuilding going on, but look for junior Richie Grant (Safety) to be the anchor for the team (and to play on Sundays next year).
If everything goes right – UCF is rolling into the postseason with another undefeated regular season that includes wins over a pair of P5 opponents (Stanford and @Pittsburgh) and a trio of likely-to-be-ranked AAC foes (@Cincinnati, Houston, and South Florida).
If everything goes wrong – The Knights are coming into the conference schedule with a pair of losses to Stanford and Pitt, they never recover and drop a pair of winnable games causing the P5 schools to breathe easy, another wanna-be done for.
Prediction – Either Stanford (probably) or Pitt (maybe) will beat UCF, but from there out they are undefeated, and still a (sort of) thorn in the collective P5 side.
3.Boise State – 10-3 (Won Division in Mountain West) – Despite a 2018 season that saw the Broncos hobbled by injuries, the “Smurf Turf” residents still managed to capture the Mountain Division title. This year, those players are back, and they want more. With little to indicate who will be the starting QB when the season starts it still looks like a two horse race (no pun intended) between Chase Cord (sophomore, healing from torn ACL) and 4-star freshman Hank Bachmeier. Whoever wins this race will have an intact offensive line to block for them, led by the Ezra Cleveland (Rs-So, LT) and John Molchon (Rs-Sr, LG), both on the preseason Outland Trophy list. At the skill positions, only John Bates (Rs-Jr, TE) returns, but that doesn’t mean that the players don’t have experience. On defense, senior DT David Moa and junior OLB Riley Whimpey are returning from season ending ACL injuries but look to be ready for the season along with the other 5 returning defensive starters. They’ll all be learning from a new DC as last year’s coordinator (Andy Avalos) left for the same job at Oregon. He’ll be replaced by the tandem of Jeff Schmedding and Spencer Danielson.
If everything goes right – The Broncos enter conference play with a pair of win over Florida State and Marshall to pad their SOS.
If everything goes wrong – Boise Drops the Florida State game and the late season game @Utah State with at least one other loss to deny the Broncos a chance at another Mountain West Championship.
Prediction – Boise state wins their division and brings home a fourth Mountain West Championship.
5.BYU – 7-6 – Within last year’s recovery to 7-6 from the previous year’s 4-9, the Cougars found a gem at QB in Zach Wilson. Taking over in the seventh game he put together a 4-3 record that included him giving BYU a 27-7 lead in the “Holy War” against Utah before the Cougar defense collapsed. Including Wilson, BYU returns 3 of 5 offensive linemen and all of his receiving targets. Look for Wilson and company to make a jump from last year to this year. On defense the cougars return seven starters including an athletic, senior-laden secondary led by Dayan Ghanwoloku. The D-line returns three starters as well and NT Khyiris Tongo will likely be a player we see playing on Sundays, attracting double teams and still making stops.
If everything goes right – They get out of their first four games with a record better than 0-4 or 1-3. After that, the schedule softens considerably with rivalry games against Boise St and Utah St sandwiched around a bye week.
If everything goes wrong – The season starts 0-4 and goes downhill from there. Games at Toledo and South Florida are hardly cupcakes and being right before Boise, it could very well end up being a trap game.
Prediction – BYU has set themselves up for failure with the season starting with three PAC12 opponents and going to Knoxville to play the Vols. With that said the last four games shouldn’t be difficult and if they can squeeze out two wins from somewhere on the rest of the schedule they should go bowling.
7.Appalachian State – 11-2 (Won Sun Belt Championship) – With a combined 15 of 22 starters returning for a Mountaineers team that both greedy (37.3 pts/game offense) and stingy (15.5 Pts/game allowed) App State is in a great position to do what they did last season. Dominate. They will have a new coach this seaon as 36-year old Eliah Drinkwitz takes over for Scott Satterfield who left to take over the Petrino mess at Louisville. The offense returns all but one skill player and while junior WR Malik Williams may not have been a starter last season he still contributed (23 REC, 11.2 YPC, 3 TD), so look for more from him this season. On defense the ‘Eers lose some talent to graduation and the NFL, but with 2018 leading tackler Akeem Davis-Gaither back and All-Sunbelt picks Jordan Fehr (senior, ILB) and Desmond Franklin (senior, FS) still in the fold, App State should still be able to do a better than decent job on defense.
If everything goes right - The Mountaineers run through their conference on the way to back-to-back Sun Belt Championships. Along the way they upset one of the “Big Boys” they play, either @North Carolina or @South Carolina.
If everything goes wrong – App state sees things go sideways with a loss @UNC then two weeks later @Louisiana followed by Louisiana-Monroe. A few weeks later South Carolina finishes things off.
Prediction – Yeah, they likely lose one of the UNC/USCe games, but they also likely win one too. Look for the ‘Eers to be in the Sun Belt CG again this year and probably win.
9. FIU – 9-4 (T-2nd in the West Division) – It shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone that the Panthers have gotten good in a hurry since the hire of Butch Davis. In the three years before Davis the Panthers averaged a little over 4 wins a season, in the two years since, they’ve doubled that (8.5 wins). Now that they’re playing better, they’ll need to deal with expectations and with 11 starters (plus several players with spot starting experience) back between offense/defense that should be easy. On offense the Panthers return James Morgan (C-USA’s Newcomer of the year 2018) at QB along with TE Sterling Palmer (C-USA All-Freshman team) and deep threat WR Austin Maloney. On defense the Panthers need to come together to improve after last season’s atrocious performance against the run (192.2 YPG/allowed). Senior MLB Sage Lewis anchors the defense and finished 2018 with a school record 132 tackles.
If everything goes right – Butch Davis and the panthers not only win the East, they win the 2019 C-USA CG giving the school its first 10 win season.
If everything goes wrong – the season finale against @Marshall doesn’t mean a thing as early losses to Tulane, Western Kentucky, and Louisiana Tech derail the Panther express.
Prediction – FIU may lose one of their non-con games but they should still be the class of the East in C-USA.