Throughout a plethora of uncertainty during these past few months, we able to confidently say that college football is back! OK, so it doesn't look exactly like what we're used to seeing in Week. 1. And the games on opening weekend don't come with the same marquee appeal. But still, it's college football. Some college football is better than no college football.
One of the more intriguing games on the first weekend is Army and Middle Tennessee on CBS Sports Network. The Black Knights will host the Blue Raiders in a colorful matchup at Michie Stadium. It will be the first time the two schools have played one another in football, but nothing about Army's 2020 schedule is going to look normal.
Army is currently scheduled to play a full 12-game slate in 2020, but only two of the 12 teams on the schedule were there before the pandemic completely altered the 2020 season. Those two teams are Tulane and Navy. Such is the life of an Independent in a pandemic. As for Middle Tennessee, the Blue Raiders' home Conference USA is continuing with the season, though it did lose one school. Old Dominion opted to skip a fall football season this year.
Army: So was 2019 a bump in the road or a sign of things to come? After finishing 10-2 in 1996, Army had managed only one winning season and bowl appearance from 1997 to 2015, and that was a 7-6 campaign in 2010. Then, in Jeff Monken's third season of 2016, the Knights improved from 2-10 to 8-5. That was followed by a mark of 21-5 over the 2017 and 2018 seasons. But last year, the Knights fell to 5-8 and saw their three-season bowl streak snapped. As is always the case with option teams, QB play will be important, and Army must replace Kelvin Hopkins Jr. Both Jabari Laws and Christian Anderson saw time last season and will battle for the starting job in 2020.
Middle Tennessee: Like Army, Middle Tennessee saw a recent run of success come to an end in 2019. Since joining Conference USA in 2013, Middle Tennessee managed six straight seasons without a losing record. The worst year the Raiders had was a 6-6 season in 2014 that saw them left out of a bowl game. They made up for it by appearing in four straight bowls from 2015 to 2018. That run ended with a 4-8 season last year. The offense moved the ball well enough but finishing drives proved to be a problem. Asher O'Hara returns at QB after throwing for over 2,500 yards and rushing for over 1,000 yards last year. The only other FBS player to do that in 2019 was Oklahoma's Jalen Hurts. If O'Hara can improve on those numbers, odds are Middle Tennessee will improve upon its 26.3 points per game last season.
Date: Saturday, Sept. 5 | Time: 1:30 p.m. ET
Location: Michie Stadium -- West Point, New York
Game prediction, picks
Listen, it's difficult to handicap football games in a normal situation. In the opening weekend of 2020, after spring practices were canceled, and we weren't even sure there'd be a season at all? Well, good luck. I'm not finding much help in trends, either. Army has gone 10-15-1 ATS as a home favorite under Monken, but Middle Tennessee is only 24-33 ATS as a road underdog under Brent Stockstill. So what do I do? I rely on my principles! I make a habit of betting option teams like Army when they're underdogs, and fading them when they're favored. And that's precisely what I'm doing here. Pick: Middle Tennessee (+3)