It doesn’t matter how good a Group of Five program is, fans of Power Five teams are never, ever okay with losing to the perceived little guys.
Like when Virginia Tech gives up 49 points in a loss to Old Dominion, or when North Carolina gets hammered 41-19 by East Carolina, or when an Arkansas gets whacked around 44-17 by North Texas, or…
They’re killers for the Power Fivers. It’s bad enough to try getting through a tough conference schedule, but lose a Non-conference game against a non-Power Five team can be a season buster.
Here are the five dangerous ones to watch out for.
5. Houston vs. Washington State (In Houston) Sept. 13
Washington State has been able to shake the issues in non-conference play over the past few years, including a fun 47-44 win over Boise State in 2017. But the Cougars lost to the Broncos in 2016 after starting outage season with a loss to Eastern Washington, and lost the 2015 opener to Portland State.
This year, the Cougars get two tune up games, New Mexico State and Northern Colorado, to get the pieces in place before having to travel to NRG Stadium to face Dana Holgorsen’s Houston team.
The American Athletic Conference Cougars will have already dealt with a road game at Oklahoma, but they’ll have a nice scrimmage against Prairie View A&M to get ready for what should be a wild and crazy shootout.
Houston has a loaded receiving corps, should be better defensively, and has the ability to compete in any sort of shootout.
Whatever the over is, take it.
4. Cincinnati at Ohio State, Sept. 7
The two have only played seven times, with the first being a 46-0 Ohio State win in 1919, and the last one a 50-28 walloping in 2014, and the Buckeyes have won them all.
This would be a horrible, horrible time for that to change.
Ryan Day shouldn’t have too much of an issue getting off to a good start with Florida Atlantic coming to Columbus to kick things off, but the follow up date with Cincinnati should be just dangerous enough to be a problem.
To start, it’s former Ohio State assistant and head coach Luke Fickell coming back with a team good enough to win the American Athletic Conference.
The defense is terrific in the back seven, the offense is loaded at the skill spots, and the talent is there to pull off the upset if the O-Line is okay early on.
The Bearcats will be coming off an opener against an improved UCLA, but this is the one they want.
With the BIG Ten opener at Indiana to follow, this is one the Buckeyes can’t look past.
3. Fresno State at USC, Aug. 31
There have only been four meetings, but they’ve all been interesting.
The Bulldogs shocked USC 24-7 in the 1992 Freedom Bowl, but the Trojans took home the 2013 Las Vegas Bowl in a 45-20 blowout and the 2014 opener 52-13.
The historic showdown was Reggie Bush Heisman -clincher- and he did win the Heisman – in a wild 50-42 firefight late in 2005. The 2019 meeting won’t be that, but it has the potential to be a big deal if it goes the wrong way for the Trojans.
Things aren’t exactly smooth at the moment for USC head man Clay Helton coming off a losing season, and the last thing he needs with Stanford, at BYU, Utah, at Washington and at Notre Dame to follow the opener is a Week 1 loss to the defending MWC Champions
There’s a whole lot of reworking to be done by the Bulldogs, losing most of their offensive line and having to replace the key parts of their linebacking corps, but head man Jeff Tedford has had tougher problems to handle, including USC several times during the 2000’s.
Fresno State is reloading now. It’s not rebuilding.
USC better be reloaded.
2. Stanford at UCF, Sept. 14
The last Stanford non-conference road game against an FBS team was at Notre Dame last year. Loss
Before that? San Diego State in early 2017. Loss
The Cardinal won at Notre Dame in 2016, but they lost the 2015 season opener at Northwestern and lost the 2014 trip to Notre Dame to go 1-4 in their last five regular season games outside of the PAC-12 on the road.
This one will be every bit as hard as any of those, especially after starting out the season at Northwestern and at USC, and with Oregon to follow.
This isn’t your 2015 UCF team that Stanford managed to whack around 31-7. That Knight team went 0-12. This one is good enough to make it three years in a row getting to 12-0.
Josh Heupel’s team gets Florida A&M and a trip to Florida Atlantic to tune-up, and then the Cardinal come to the Bounce House in Orlando in the most impressive regular season game in the recent run of greatness.
Win this, beat Pitt on the road to follow, and UCF’s chest will get all puffy again in a hurry.
1. Boise State v. Florida State (In Jacksonville), Aug. 31
There’s pressure for a head coach to get off to a hot start – see Clay Helton – and then there’s what Willie Taggart needs to do.
Florida State lost it’s last two season openers by a combined score of 48-10, and last year missed out on a bowl game for the first time since 1981.
There’s a trip to Virginia to kick off the ACC season in mid-September, and NC State and Clemson are on the slate over the first half of the campaign, but it all kicks off against a loaded Boise State team that should be one of the favorites to get the Group of Five’s New Year’s Six spot.
It’s not like this is it for the Broncos – there’s still a trip to BYU, and going to Utah State won’t be a breeze – but… this is it. Beat Florida State in Jacksonville to open up their year, and nothing less than an 11-win regular season will do.
QB Brett Rypien has to be replaced, but all five starters are back on the O-Line, the skill players are strong, and the defense should have the Mountain West’s best defensive back seven – or close to it.
And the pressure will be all on the ACC side of the field.