Our best bet, including Cincinnati vs. Arkansas and Florida Atlantic vs. Ohio

Each week, to coincide with the release of the “Group of Five Deep Dive” under the Big Bets On Campus podcast banner, I’ll be sharing my Group of Five Parlay for the week.

Last week, Mike Ianniello and got off to a 4-0 start, thanks in large part to the North Texas-UTEP game going exactly as we expected.

This week it was a tougher task to whittle down a massive slate to just three games that we both held strongly to, but we’re featuring a three-legged bet that bets on a few teams in the group of five getting ‘dump trucked’ “. as Ianniello likes to say.

So, without further ado, we head to Rocky Top, then to Fayetteville before a long hike on I-70 takes us to Athens, Ohio.

Reported odds and specific betting recommendations are from sportsbooks offering preferred odds at the time of writing.

Always buy at the best price using our NCAAF Ratings page, which automatically displays the best lines for each game.

Ball State vs. Tennessee

The buzz has been building in Knoxville because the Vols are positioned to field a top-five offense this season.

Hendon Hooker spent the back half of his 2021 campaign playing at the All-American level. His 17:2 touchdown to interception ratio in the last six games included three games against ranked opponents.

His rise coincided with that of wide receiver Cedric Tillman, who went from a forgettable perimeter weapon to an All-SEC-level threat in the final seven games of the season with 48 receptions, 871 yards and 10 touchdowns.

Sprinkle in a veteran offensive line that fires four starters, and there’s not even anything to nitpick on this side of the ball.

But when you land a huge number like this, it takes two to tango. Can Ball State fight back defensively? In short, no.

Ball State’s defense came down to earth after a strong 2020. This unit was solid against the run and helped the Cardinals finish ninth nationally in rotational margins during their 7-1 season.

Last season, they couldn’t generate pressure to speak of (80th in TFL, 90th in sacks) and struggled against the pass (94th in passes defended, 85th in pass defense).

And the new empire on the eve of their 2022 campaign. In terms of return production on the defensive side of the ball, the Fightin’ David Lettermans rank 127th.

Seven of their top eight tackles were seniors last season, and they’re bringing in three new starters in the secondary. That includes the heart and soul of their secondary, Bryce Cosby, who coined Ball State’s 2020 mantra, “Detroit or bust.”

Hendon Hooker and company are going to have a field day against a super green MAC secondary.

Offensively, career replacement John Paddock is trying to lead the Cards. The undersized elder should be under constant strain in this game. Tennessee’s defense had plenty of flaws last year, but it was very disruptive.

The Vols finished second in the SEC and eighth nationally in the TFL. Defensive end Byron Young and linebacker Jeremy Bank teamed up for 23 TFLs last year, and they’re both back. Paddock will feel their impact from his very first dropback.

That number went up from 32.5, but I would play it up to 37.5.

Cincinnati vs. Arkansas

Many people in the college football community have questioned Sam Pittman’s hire. There was a belief that he would never be able to muster the kind of talent to compete in SEC West.

In Year 3, it’s clear Arkansas has the horsepower to field a top-15 team.

KJ Jefferson, a dual-threat quarterback, has a slew of playmakers at his disposal this season. Jadon Haselwood, Warren Thompson, Ketron Jackson Jr., Matt Landers and Trey Knox make up its receiving corps. This band averaged a four-star rating from 247Sports.

Launch Rocket Sanders behind an offensive line on the Joe Moore Award watch and ranked fifth by PFFand it’s easy to see the Hogs intimidating a Cincinnati defense that bursts in eight new starters.

Cincinnati ranks 115th in returning defensive production and will likely struggle with Arkansas’ high perimeter weapons.

The loss of Coby Bryant and Sauce Gardner cannot be overstated. They were a generational corner tandem. And for all of UC’s success over the past two seasons, they haven’t faced many dual-threat quarterbacks — certainly none at Jefferson’s level.

When you spice up the dreaded “OU” designation at their QB1 position (Ben Bryant and Evan Prater potentially sharing snaps), I predict the Bearcats will fall behind early and not be able to get off the mat in front of a raucous Razorback crowd.

Florida Atlantic vs. Ohio

We’re back to our G5 roots with this game. Throughout preseason we’ve watched every Group of Five program and in the case of the Bobcats, I’m sure they wished we’d spent less time on it.

Ohio seems to be in freefall in the post-Frank Solich era, after a disappointing 3-9 campaign. It was Ohio’s first losing season since 2008.

The Bobs return 75% of their defensive production (36th), but their eight returning starters contributed to a defense that finished 104th in total defense and 106th against the run.

Offensively, Kurtis Rourke was very limited as a passer, and he will welcome any new skill position players this season – not a recipe for a quick turnaround.

Florida Atlantic, meanwhile, got some positive momentum entering Willie Taggart’s third season at Boca Raton. Any optimism from his fans at the start of the season was generously rewarded with a 43-13 defeat by Charlotte in Week 0.

Without Johnny Ford, who sat out for personal reasons, the Owls put on a balanced offense that scored 33 points in the first 35 minutes of their opener. After that, Taggart recalled everything and kept his starters for this match in Athens.

With Ford likely as the Owls’ starting running back, I’m optimistic we could see another offensive explosion. N’Kosi Perry and LaJohntay Wester were a dynamic connection last season, and they look set to tear up a mediocre Bobcat secondary on Saturday.

You’re going to want to grab this quickly as the sharps are all over the owls, taking the number from -1 at the open to -4.5 at the time of writing.

College Football Week 1 Group of Five Parlay (+600)