College Football Picks, Futures: Group of Five Win Total Bets for Rice, Fresno State & San Diego State

College Football Picks, Futures: Group of Five Win Total Bets for Rice, Fresno State & San Diego State article feature image

Zach Bolinger/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: Fresno State quarterback Mikey Keene.

Although the Power Four has consolidated with the collapse of the Pac-12, the distance between those conferences and the Group of Five continues to grow.

The Big Ten, Big 12, SEC and ACC consistently raid the best players in the MAC, American, Mountian West, Sun Belt and Conference USA through the transfer portal.

A new College Football Playoff format will guarantee a Group of Five team the opportunity to compete for the National Championship, but the uphill climb has turned into Mount Everest from a talent perspective.

Group of Five win totals were released on FanDuel for the American and Mountain West conferences.

While the AAC has not undergone any drastic changes, the Mountain West now has a relationship with Washington State and Oregon State.

Legacy Mountain West teams will play just seven conference games and one game against either the Beavers or Cougars. However, Mountain West games against Oregon State and Washington State will not count when it comes to crowning a conference champion.

This article will look at a few teams that were the first to receive win total wagers upon the release of Group of Five odds. Also, be sure to check out our initial scrape of Power Four win totals before we hit Game of the Year lines next.

Rice Owls

Over 6.5 Wins

Head coach Mike Bloomgren enters his seventh season at Rice after bringing a bruising fullback style of football to Texas.

The physical offense struggled to put quick scores on the board in a geographical area where so many philosophies relied on the Air Raid.

Offensive coordinator Marques Tuiasosopo was brought in in 2021 with the radical idea of changing the offense, highlighting the ability to throw deep during his introduction.

Fast forward through the JT Daniels era, and Rice finished top-25 in standard downs explosives in 2023.

🚨NEWS: Temple QB E.J. Warner plans to enter the NCAA Transfer Portal.

Son of Kurt Warner, threw for 6.104 yards and 41 TDs in 2 seasons with the Owls👀

— On3 (@On3sports) November 28, 2023

The portal helped Rice over the offseason, finding the quarterback of the future in Temple all-time leading passer E.J. Warner. Bloomgren has been ecstatic about the new addition to the roster, as Warner brings 41 career touchdowns to an offensive scheme that looks for targets deep and over the middle.

The junior will breathe a sigh of relief with Rice bringing back more than 80% of offensive line snaps. Not only did Warner experience 23 drops last year at Temple, but the quarterback also dealt with pressure on 147 of his 445 dropbacks.

Meanwhile, Rice's starting defense returned nearly every name to the two-deep depth chart, shutting down the offense's first three drives in the spring game.

Linebacker Josh Pearcy returns after leading the team in pressures, hits and hurries.

Defensive coordinator Brian Smith will continue to use a 3-3-5 scheme to prevent big plays. Luckily for the Owls, he still has plenty of talent at his disposal despite the departure of Tre'Shon Devones.

The schedule has a soft start with games against Sam Houston and Texas Southern at home. The Owls will also be heavy favorites over Charlotte, UConn and Navy.

The schedule indicates seven wins heading into the final two weekends against UAB and South Florida. Both games project within a field goal, providing two spots to hedge the season-long wager.

With a projection of 7.4, swallow the juice on the current posted total or look for plus-money on a total of seven.

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San Diego State Aztecs

Under 5.5 Wins

Listeners of the "Big Bets on Campus" podcast know that a weekend doesn't go by without some action on San Diego State.

There's a new sheriff in town this year, as former Kent State head coach and Colorado offensive coordinator Sean Lewis enters the picture to lead the program.

Snapdragon Stadium will now be home to "Aztec Fast," with Lewis planning to bring the fastest tempo in the nation to the Mountain West.

The biggest question is which player will win quarterback duties to run the old Kent State offense. The offense returns just 39% of experience, per TARP, with less than 50% of the offensive line and zero passing yards coming back from the 2023 team.

Injuries surrounded the center position last season, while the battle for left tackle will likely last through fall camp.

Quarterback is the biggest mystery, with converted defensive back Jaylen Mayden seeing his college clock expire.

Javance Tupou’ata-Johnson, AJ Duffy, Kyle Crum and Danny O'Neil all saw action during the "Aztec FAST Showcase" spring game, but none of them made a case to be the starter.

Some (unofficial) stats out of SDSU's AztecFast Showcase today in terms of QB position 👇

AJ Duffy: 7/11, 112 yds, 2 TD's
Javance Tupou’ata-Johnson: 6/11, 69 yds, 1 TD
Kyle Crum: 5/7, 36 yds, 1 TD
Danny O'Neil: 2/6, 15 yds, 1 INT

Today fans get a first glimpse! 🎥:

— Bri Savant (@BriSavant) April 21, 2024

On the other side, the defense struggled to replace production with just 51% returning to the Aztecs.

San Diego State finished 129th in Defensive Success Rate, leaving plenty of room for improvement for defensive coordinator Eric Schmidt. A former linebackers coach with Washington, Schmidt is expected to run a light box with 2-4-5 and 3-3-5 schemes.

That personnel relies on a defensive line that can create pressure, so it's not a great sign that San Diego State couldn't generate traction in the transfer portal to build a defensive line. Look for the front six to be supported by JUCO transfers, potentially making this a Year 0 type of situation for the defense.

The Aztecs are projected for 3.9 wins, far below their total of 5.5 in the market.

San Diego State will play just three conference games in Snapdragon this season, a consequence of drawing Washington State at home off a bye week. Unfortunately for Lewis, both Oregon State and Washington State come to San Diego.

The Aztecs also draw an improved Hawaii team at home with the Rainbow Warriors coming off a bye week. A winnable road game comes with a coin-flip at Central Michigan, but head coach Jim McElwain's team drummed Kent State in 2021.

The Aztecs will be clear favorites over New Mexico and Texas A&M-Commerce, with coin-flips against Central Michigan, Hawai'i and Air Force. Reaching a bowl game with this schedule will require every factor to break the Aztecs' way.

Fresno State Bulldogs

Over 7.5 Wins

Head coach Jeff Tedford returns to the Bulldogs after a health scare at the end of the 2023 season.

The California State alum was all smiles after an impressive spring football game for Fresno State. The defense was just as nasty as the 2023 version and returns 84% of experience from carryover players as well as additions from the portal.

Leading tackler linebacker Levelle Bailey neutralized the offense in an aggressive 4-2-5 scheme from defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle.

The Bulldogs defense finished 2023 ranked 31st in Finishing Drives thanks to a secondary that acted like a no-fly zone. Per Sports Info Solutions, Fresno State finished sixth in on-target balls allowed — a statistic that measures balls caught in stride by the target.

The defense consistently ranks as one of the best in the Mountian West, but the questions on offense may start with who's under center.

run the rock 💪

— Fresno State Football (@FresnoStateFB) April 27, 2024

Former UCF transfer Mikey Keene is scheduled to be the starting quarterback again for Fresno State, but sophomore Jayden Mandal had the best spring game of any player. The second team scored 10 points against the first-team defense, as Mandal provided solid play with his mobility and passing in RPO snaps.

The biggest factor from the spring game was the offensive line's ability to keep both quarterbacks from sacks against a fierce defensive line.

Fresno State will start the season with defending national champion Michigan. The remaining schedule is ripe for the Bulldogs to rack up victories, as they received one of the easiest road schedules in the Mountain West.

Fresno will be favorites at New Mexico, UNLV, Nevada and Air Force, which now has a depleted roster. It also plays favorable home games against Sacramento State, New Mexico State, San Jose State, Hawai'i and Colorado State.

Look for Tedford to field the best defense in the conference with premium depth at quarterback and on the offensive line. Fresno State is sure to contend for the Mountain West with a projected conference win total of 6.1.

The Bulldogs dodge the toughest competition in the league with Boise State and Wyoming left off the schedule. We project Fresno State at 9.3 wins, with every game being winnable after the opener in Ann Arbor.

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