The Best Group of Five Skill Position Units Bettors Need to Know to Identify Mismatches
Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Elijah Mitchell
- Which teams in the Group of Five have the best supporting casts for their quarterbacks?
- Use Kyle Miller's analysis to find unit mismatches throughout the college football season.
While quarterbacks are clearly the most important position on any football field, they still need quality skills players around him to form a great offense.
Good running backs keep the time of possession battle on your side while wearing down the opposing defense and opening up holes for the passing game.
Star receivers are a quarterback’s best friend and can lead to both efficient and explosive offenses.
Below are the best skill position groups in the Group of Five along with some individual standouts to keep in mind when betting this season.
Louisiana Running Backs
The Ragin’ Cajuns had not one, not two, but three running backs with more than 750 rushing yards in 2018. Trey Regas, Elijah Mitchell, and Raymond Calais all return to Lafayette for another season after averaging at least 5.7 yards per carry. Mitchell was even more explosive in the passing game, averaging 17.5 yards per catch.
Behind these backs and an excellent offensive line, Louisiana had the No. 22 rushing offense and 10th most explosive offense last season, per S&P+.
I can’t wait to watch this trio run wild on the Sun Belt in 2019, and potentially on a revamped but still super-talented Mississippi State defense in Week 1. ULL is a 21-point underdog.
Elijah Mitchell TD. He’s pretty happy.
48-31 Ragin’ Cajuns 🔥🌶 pic.twitter.com/IUVcHtvoc6
— The Vermilion Sports (@VermilionSports) November 18, 2018
Year 1 of the Sonny Dykes era was certainly not what the pass-happy head coach was looking for as SMU finished 106th in S&P+ passing offense.
Upperclassmen wide receivers James Proche and Reggie Roberson Jr. still managed to put up excellent numbers for the Mustangs and they return this year to catch passes from former Texas quarterback Shane Buechele.
Proche caught 93 balls for 1,199 yards and 12 touchdowns while Roberson was the big play guy and averaged 15.4 yards per catch. Throw in wideout Tyler Page (19.5 yards per catch) and red zone target Ryan Becker at tight end and you have the best G5 receiver corps in the nation.
Look for the Mustangs to improve dramatically on offense this season, though they face a tough Arkansas State defense in Week 1.
— #FlashSZN (@ftbeard_17) November 17, 2018
Houston has plenty of options on the receiving end of star quarterback D’Eriq King’s passes, but wideout Marquez Stevenson is his favorite. He took care of the efficiency, catching 75 passes for more than 1,000 yards and 9 touchdowns, while Keith Corbin (17.3 yards per catch) handled the explosiveness.
New head coach Dana Holgerson has had some electric offenses in his career, but this one may be his best yet. Behind Stevenson, Corbin, and senior Courtney Lark, the Cougars receivers will be lighting up scoreboards all over the country.
Marquez Stevenson refuses to go down.pic.twitter.com/mGP32pYQvB
— Sporting News (@sportingnews) September 8, 2018
UCF Running Backs
The Knights will need to lean on their running game a lot more in 2019 with the losses of quarterbacks McKenzie Milton and Darriel Mack Jr.
Luckily for UCF fans and bettors, they have a couple of studs to carry the load. Adrian Killins received more carries in 2018 but Greg McCrae averaged an insane 8.9 yards per carry last year, putting him over 1,000 yards with 10 touchdowns.
If UCF is going to have it’s third straight top-15 offense, those two undersized backs will have a huge say in it.
— American Football (@American_FB) July 26, 2019
North Texas Receivers
Quarterback Mason Fine is absolutely the most important North Texas player, but his receiving corps deserves a lot of credit for making this offense go.
Senior wide receiver Rico Bussey Jr. led the way with over 1,000 yards receiving and 12 touchdowns while 2018’s third leading receiver Jaelon Darden pitched in 575 yards and four touchdowns. Wideout Michael Lawrence and tight end Kelvin Smith round out the best receiving corps in the C-USA.
— Conference USA (@ConferenceUSA) October 21, 2018
USF Running Backs
In Willie Taggart’s final season in Tampa, the Bulls ranked second in offensive S&P+. In the two seasons since hiring Charlie Strong to replace him, they’ve finished 47th and 69th.
Now, USF will look to get back to its old ways behind two big play running backs and a new offensive coordinator.
Kerwin Bell — whose Division II Valdosta State team went 14-0 while averaging 7.2 yards per carry last season — wants to go as fast as possible which will fit well with explosive backs Jordan Cronkrite and Johnny Ford. They combined for 1,908 yards and 17 touchdowns in 2018 and are poised to build on those numbers in 2019.
The Bulls are 13.5-point home dogs to Wisconsin in Week 1, with the total at 57.
📈 with this 76 yard TD run, his 3rd today, Jordan Cronkrite officially owns the USF Single Game Rushing Record previously tied by @Marlon_Mack25 back in 2014 (275)!!!
🏈 @JCronkk pic.twitter.com/zdPXfs0hUl
— 𝗦𝗼𝗙𝗹𝗼𝗕𝘂𝗹𝗹𝘀 (@SoFloBulls) October 6, 2018
Quarterback Cole McDonald deservedly gets the headlines for the Warriors, but he’s got a very good receiving corps at his disposal. The Hawaii Run-and-Shoot offense loses its top 2018 receiver in John Ursua but still has plenty to work with.
Senior wide receivers Cedric Byrd II and JoJo Ward combined for 130 catches, 1,835 yards, and 18 touchdowns. Ward was particularly explosive, averaging 17 yards per catch. The two seniors, along with Cal transfer Melquise Stovall, form the best receiving corps in the Mountain West.
Hawaii is an 11-point home dog to Arizona, which didn’t get after the quarterback at or defend the pass all that well last season, in Week 1. The total has already jumped from 70 to 74.
— Mountain West (@MountainWest) September 2, 2018
Buffalo Running Backs
Buffalo has a lot to replace on offense after losing long-time starter and NFL quarterback Tyree Jackson, along with leading receivers Anthony Johnson and K.J. Osborn.
Jaret Patterson earned second team All-MAC honors by rushing for 1,013 yards and 14 touchdowns and Kevin Marks was a great compliment, rushing for 845 yards and scoring 13 touchdowns of his own.
The Bulls will need sophomore runners Patterson and Marks to at least replicate what they did in 2018 if they’re to make back-to-back bowl games for the first time in school history.
— Ted Goldberg (@TedGoldbergTV) November 7, 2018
Cincinnati Running Backs
First team All-AAC running back Michael Warren II joined quarterback Desmond Ridder in leading the Bearcat offense in 2018. Warren rushed for over 1,300 yards and finished fourth in the nation with 19 rushing touchdowns.
His backups, Tavion Thomas and Charles McClelland, combined for nearly 1,000 yards and 10 scores. This is one of the deepest and most talented running back rooms in the entire country.
UCLA is the Week 1 opponent for Cincy, and the Bruins defense ranked bottom 20 nationally in adjusted line yards and stuff rate, two numbers indicative of how that team controls the trenches.
— Greg Brandt (@devywarehouse) October 6, 2018