Group of Five 2019 Fall Camp Preview: Five Key Storylines for August

UCF has reigned over the Group of Five for two straight seasons, but McKenzie Milton's injury could leave an opening for the Knights to be usurped in 2019.
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As the calendar flips to August, it can only mean one thing: college football is here. Fall camps are opening or getting ready to open all across the country, and the first game of the season—the big Florida vs. Miami showdown in Orlando—is less than four weeks away. But there's plenty of work to be done before the first snaps that count are taken. This week, we've previewed August practice for each major conference, plus the Group of Five. Catch up with our others here: SEC, ACC, Big 12, Pac-12, Big Ten).

Top August Story

Can another team topple UCF this fall as the Group of Five’s best? It’s hard to mention the Group of Five without mentioning the Knights, who went a combined 25–1 over the past two seasons, but now, other teams should see an opening. Sure, UCF’s transition from coach Scott Frost to Josh Heupel was close to seamless a year ago, and now the team will have to move on from quarterback McKenzie Milton, at least for a season. That could create an opening for another program to claim supremacy among the FBS’s non-Power 5 ranks; Boise State and Army are good candidates to fill that void—or edge the still very-good Knights out.

Positional Battle to Watch

UCF finds itself in an interesting position this fall; its quarterback job is essentially being held open until McKenzie Milton can return from his knee injury in 2020. The candidates to fill that role are Darriel Mack, the redshirt sophomore who took over for 2.5 games after Milton’s injury last year, and Brandon Wimbush, who is immediately eligible as a graduate transfer from Notre Dame. Wimbush will almost certainly get the job to start the year after Mack broke his ankle in July, but just because the younger player will miss training camp doesn’t mean he won’t get starter’s reps once he’s healthy. Wimbush was 13–3 as a starter at Notre Dame, but he lost his job thanks to a proclivity for turnovers, which may not bode well as he assimilates into Heupel’s fast-paced offense.

Positional Group Under Pressure

Alexander Mattison was Boise State’s leading rusher last year, racking up 1,415 yards and 17 touchdowns. He also accounted for nearly 60% of the team’s rushing attempts, carrying the ball 302 times. That’s a ton of production to replace, and as the Broncos assimilate to quarterback Brett Rypien’s successor—coach Bryan Harsin will pick from a crop of five candidates—they’ll gain a ton from a consistent running game. That might be done by committee, given the current state of the roster, but regardless, Boise State will need to piece together its rushing attack if it wants to compete for a New Year’s Six bowl.

New Coach Spotlight

Dana Holgorsen was a high-profile hire for Houston when he made the rare Power 5-to-Group of Five jump last winter. The coach has deep ties to Texas, even after spending the past eight years at West Virginia, and this will be his first head coaching job in the state where he’s spent nine of his 26 years on the sideline. Holgorsen can recruit the region, and he’s used to competing for top players; at West Virginia, he often had to go out-of-state for top talent and steal recruits away from suitors with more regional draw. After Tom Herman proved it’s possible to win at Houston—and win quickly—expectations will be through the roof, especially leading into the Cougars’ Week 1 matchup at Oklahoma.

Week 1 Game to Circle

Utah State travels to Wake Forest in Week 1, giving the Aggies an early test against a Power 5 team, albeit one that’s not quite a powerhouse. The game will be a good gauge of how much the program lost when coach Matt Wells departed for Texas Tech; Utah State also said goodbye to a fair amount of offensive talent last offseason, but it retains quarterback Jordan Love, who was one of the best, most underappreciated players at his position last year. In 2018, the Aggies opened with a close loss to Michigan State, 38–31, and they were defeated just one more time, on Nov. 24 at Boise State. A win over an ACC team to open 2019 would be a loud statement for a team that’s largely been written off after last year’s success.