College football schedules are driven by revenue and there are schools that need revenue badly. The first few weeks of the season are loaded with power conference programs paying mid-major FBS schools to serve as target practice. Such is life in the “Group of 5” (AAC, CUSA, MAC, Mountain West, and Sun Belt). Welcome to the “Budget Games” slackers, where the odds are never in your favor.
Georgia Southern at NC State, Aug 30.
The Eagles are entering year one as a FBS school and that costs money. Money North Carolina State is willing to provide to the tune of $700,000 for a home game. NC State went a dismal 3-9 last year and were uncompetitive against the likes of Boston College, East Carolina and Maryland. The Eagles beat Florida last year so taking down a FBS school like NC State is nothing new.
Georgia Southern has an opportunity here to get paid and score a win. I give the Eagles a 40% chance of pulling off the upset. That will be a happy Thanksgiving, merry Christmas, and a happy New Year all over again.
Temple at Vanderbilt, Aug 28
The American Athletic Conference is now on the same level as the MAC and Conference USA. This means Temple is back to collecting cash and Vanderbilt is its first supplier. The Owls went 2-10 in 2013 but had decent showings in their final six games. While Vanderbilt has a new head coach in Derek Mason, it seems hard to believe they’ll drop a Thursday night game to a team like Temple. The pressure will be on running back Jerron Seymour to carry Vandy’s offense as the passing attack is inexperienced. I place Temple’s chances of an upset at 25 percent.
Appalachian State at Michigan Aug 30
Michigan is paying Appalachian State 1 million dollars to get a chance at revenge. Why else would Michigan schedule them? MAC schools surround the Wolverines so importing a Sun Belt program from North Carolina is a little obvious.
The Mountaineers are now in the FBS and their upset over Michigan in 2007 had plenty to do with that. App State went 4-8 last season but returns their starting QB, RB and offensive line. That could make things interesting. If Akron scared Michigan last year then you know Appalachian State has a shot. I give them a 20 percent chance.
Utah State vs. Tennessee, Aug 31
Utah State of the Mountain West will take its crack at a SEC school on a Sunday game. The Aggies have potential too coming off a 9-5 year. The Volunteers have not scared anyone in years and Utah State is coming to win. Utah State quarterback Chuckie Keeton is better than anyone Tennessee has under center.
I view this as a coin-flip as Tennessee may panic at home if this is close late. I give the Aggies a 49 percent chance. Better bring your best game Tennessee.
FAU vs. Nebraska, Aug 30
Florida Atlantic opens the season at Nebraska and at Alabama. Now that’s an athletic department in need of funds. Bo Pelini is taking heat from Nebraska fans and a loss to a Sun Belt team in the opener will cause a revolt. Wyoming almost knocked off Nebraska in Lincoln last season and Florida Atlantic is not too far off in talent from Wyoming. The Owls also won their last four games in 2013 but I can only give them a 20 percent chance. The Cornhuskers would have to turn the ball over a lot to choke this one, but did I mention Nebraska was -11 in turnover margin last year. Whoops.
Rice vs. Notre Dame, Aug 30
Our third Owl team on the list and this is the best of them. Rice won Conference USA last season and will receive a 1.1 million dollar check to play Notre Dame. Rice lost their top QB, RB and its two best tacklers on defense to graduation so that’s a big mountain to climb in the first week. I give Rice a five percent chance of winning.
Idaho vs. Florida, Aug 30
Idaho is trying hard to recruit in Sun Belt territory and raise funds in the process. The solution is to play Florida for $975,000. The Vandals will be better than their 1-11 team from last season but Florida will be better too. If Idaho can’t stay close to Washington State in 2013 (42-0) then Florida should hold its own here. I give the Vandals a five percent chance to pull the upset.