Houston's D'Eriq King is one QB from the Group of 5 ranks to watch this fall
If you want to go down in college football lore with a massive upset that gets everybody talking, you better have a special quarterback leading the way. That is even more true at the Group of 5 level, where talent levels across the board aren't quite as even as their Power 5 peers but something that can be neutralized with an incredible signal-caller making big plays.
There are a number of those in college football this season across the Group of 5. With some big-time matchups upcoming, here's a look at some of the best matchups behind center:
1. D'Eriq King (Houston) at Jalen Hurts (Oklahoma) — Sept. 1
The last time the Cougars and Sooners met, Baker Mayfield and Greg Ward Jr. were throwing the ball around in a fun shootout. The latest edition might be even more fun with two extremely accomplished signal-callers in tow. This will be Hurts' first chance to show what he can do under Lincoln Riley's tutelage while the dynamic King is coming off a 50-touchdown campaign and is well suited to Dana Holgorsen's offense.
2. Mason Fine (North Texas) vs. D'Eriq King (Houston) — Sept. 28
King's has another fun non-conference road test when he heads north to face off against Fine, who leads all active quarterbacks in yards and is the reigning Conference USA Offensive Player of the Year many times over. Expect a shootout of epic proportions given the talent involved in this Texas two-step.
3. Desmond Ridder (Cincinnati) at Justin Fields (Ohio State) — Sept. 7
Ridder was a revelation for the Bearcats in their resurgent campaign last year and his accuracy with the football was particularly impressive for a freshman. He'll have raised expectations for 2019 but faces a difficult task of going head-to-head with Fields, who was once the top QB recruit in the country and has a chance to be special in Ryan Day's offense.
4. Cole McDonald (Hawaii) vs. Khalil Tate (Arizona) — Aug. 24
This is quite the fun season opener in college football as both guys can pile up the yards in a hurry. When healthy, Tate is one of the most explosive players in the country and is so dynamic with the way he can beat you with his arm as much as he can take off and head to the house with his legs. McDonald can sling the ball all over the field and has a knack for delivering a big shot downfield.
5. Jordan Love (Utah State) at Joe Burrow (LSU) — Oct. 5
Love was one of the best in the nation at the position last year and while he will be adjusting to a new coaching staff, he'll still have the ability to beat you over the top and seems to automatically pass for at least 300 yards each time he steps on the field. He nearly took down a Power 5 opponent already so Burrow and the Tigers will need to bring their best game against the Group of 5 stud.
6. Brandon Wimbush (UCF) vs. D'Eriq King (Houston) — Nov. 2
It's a shame we didn't see King face off against McKenzie Milton last season but this quarterback battle remains an intriguing one in AAC play that could determine a lot in the conference. While King is electric with the ball in his hands and a scoring machine, Wimbush has a chance to impress in UCF's offensive system after spending time guiding Notre Dame.
7. Desmond Ridder (Cincinnati) vs. Dorian Thompson-Robinson (UCLA) — Aug. 29
Ridder and DTR both saw action against each other as freshmen last season, with the Bearcats signal-caller emerging from the Rose Bowl with a surprise win and the starting job he didn't want to relinquish. Both dual-threats have a chance to be special as sophomores and you can bet that the visiting Thompson-Robinson wants to make a big jump in Year 2 under Chip Kelly.
8. Zac Thomas (Appalachian State) at Jake Bentley (South Carolina) — Nov. 9
The Mountaineers have pushed big programs on the field before and have a chance to pull off the upset when they travel down to Columbia. Thomas had a great 2018 taking over as a starter and could be even better under new head coach Eli Drinkwitz by the time this one rolls around. Bentley is one of the SEC's most established signal-callers and will be battle-tested when Appalachian State visits for a tough November outing.
9. Cole McDonald (Hawaii) at Jacob Eason (Washington) — Sept. 14
The former five-star prospect out of the Seattle area is hoping to make his on-field debut with the Huskies a memorable one after transferring over from Georgia, where he started as a true freshman. His strong arm can add a new element to the Washington offense and he'll need it when the Rainbow Warriors come to town given the way McDonald throws it around.
10. Shane Buechele (SMU) vs. Mason Fine (North Texas) — Sept. 7
Buechele is on his second stop at a Texas school after playing fairly well for the Longhorns in limited action. His likely home debut in Dallas is a good one as the Conference USA star comes to town in a battle of Air Raid offenses. Expect plenty of points and yards given the QBs and skill position talent involved in this battle.
Best of the rest:
Jordan Love (Utah State) at Jamie Newman/Sam Harman (Wake Forest) — Aug. 30
Nathan Rourke (Ohio) at Kenny Pickett (Pitt) — Sept. 7
D'Eriq King (Houston) vs. Brady White (Memphis) — Nov. 16
Desmond Ridder (Cincinnati) vs. Brandon Wimbush (UCF) — Oct. 4
Jordan Love (Utah State) vs. Zach Wilson (BYU) — Nov. 2
Armani Rogers (UNLV) at Hunter Johnson (Northwestern) — Sept. 14
Blake Barnett (USF) vs. Zach Wilson (BYU) — Oct. 12
Anthony Russo (Temple) vs. Josh Jackson (Maryland) — Sept. 14
James Morgan (FIU) at N'Kosi Perry (Miami) — Nov. 23
Zac Thomas (Appalachian State) vs. Shai Werts (Georgia Southern) — Oct. 31
— Written by Bryan Fischer, an award-winning college football columnist and member of the Athlon Contributor Network. You can follow him from coast-to-coast on Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat at @BryanDFischer.
(Top photo courtesy of Houston Athletics)