Several of the nation’s top Group of Five teams will be in action this weekend on CBS Sports Network, starting Friday night when Conference USA’s West Division leader UAB plays host to Louisiana — a program on the rise under third-year coach Billy Napier. Saturday features four games, starting with Army vs. Mercer and Navy vs. Houston before the Mountain West kicks into gear at night.
Army will be looking to improve to 6-1 this season, but Mercer’s defense could be up to the test after the Bears allowed just 3.2 yards per carry against Jacksonville State in their season opener. The Houston at Navy game carries major AAC implications and could feature plenty of fireworks after the Midshipmen bested the Cougars 56-41 last season. Houston leads the series 3-2 since the two became AAC foes, but Navy will hope to even it up and continue its solid start to league play.
The evening brings the beginning of the Mountain West season as a pair of bowl teams from last season square off with Nevada hosting Wyoming in the 7 p.m. ET slot. Then San Diego State hosts UNLV in the nightcap as the Aztecs play their first game of Brady Hoke’s second tenure as coach.
UAB vs. Louisiana
Storylines: The magic finally ran out for the Ragin’ Cajuns last week against Coastal Carolina in a 30-27 loss. But Louisiana is still 3-1 with a chance to put together a solid year on the heels of last season’s 11-3 breakthrough. UAB constitutes a stiff nonconference test, however. The Blazers are 4-1 with their only loss coming against No. 11 Miami. It’s the first meeting between these two teams since 2002, and it should be a good one considering that UAB is a one-point home favorite.
Army vs. Mercer
Storylines: Army may have faded from the national radar after cracking the AP Top 25 poll at No. 22 and subsequently losing to Cincinnati, but the Knights have won three straight and have a chance to surpass last season’s win total this week. Doing so will require beating a Mercer team playing its second game of the season. The Bears, who compete at the FCS level, dropped a 34-28 game against perennial FCS power Jacksonville State two weeks ago.
Navy vs. Houston
Date: Saturday, Oct. 24 | Time: 3:30 p.m. ET
Location: Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium — Annapolis, Maryland
TV: CBS Sports Network [Channel finder]
Live stream: CBSSports.com | Mobile: CBS Sports App
Storylines: A game between No. 9 Cincinnati and No. 16 SMU may be the headliner of the day in the AAC, but Houston and Navy is an excellent undercard matchup. The Midshipmen are off to a 3-0 start in the league while Houston sits at 1-0 in the conference. The Cougars didn’t start their season until Oct. 8 but have look much-improved so far in Dana Holgorsen’s second season. Navy has been living on the edge with a combined nine-point margin of victory in its three AAC games so far.
Nevada vs. Wyoming
Storylines: Wyoming finished second in the Mountain West in team defense last season but struggled offensively. If the Cowboys are going to meet lofty expectations this year, they will need more from quarterback Sean Chambers. The sophomore completed just 43% of his passes last season, but the entire offensive line back. That will come in handy against a Nevada defense deploying one of the top players in the conference on its defensive line in Dom Peterson. The junior has 12 career sacks and is on several preseason watch lists.
San Diego State vs. UNLV
Storylines: A decade after leading the Aztecs to a 9-4 record in his second season as coach and then jetting for Michigan, Hoke is back at the helm for San Diego State. Hoke spent last season as an assistant under Rocky Long, who replaced Hoke and went 81-38 in nine seasons before resigning in January. The Aztecs are among the favorites to win the Mountain West’s West Division and shouldn’t have too much trouble with a UNLV team that last posted a winning record in 2013. The Rebels are led by a first-year coach Marcus Arroyo, who spent the past three seasons as a top offensive assistant at Oregon.