Far too often, fans look at their favorite teams upcoming schedule and etch a “W” next to all of the Group of Five opponents. After so many unpredictable upsets in college football every year, you’d think people would stop doing that.

While athletic directors, head coaches and fans always hope those games would be guaranteed wins — improving each team’s chances of bowl eligibility — it doesn’t always work out that way. Just look at the B1G’s 12-year losing streak to a MAC school.

It’s almost inevitable that a B1G team will drop at least one game to a Group of 5 opponent in 2019, if there aren’t multiple upsets. But which teams have the best shot at shocking the college football world? Here are six candidates with the best chance:

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Aug. 30: vs. Purdue

The talent level favors Purdue in this matchup, but the fact that it’s the season-opener in Reno with a kickoff time of 9:30 p.m. ET, the Wolf Pack have an excellent chance to pull off an upset. Nevada also saw dramatic improvement from Year 1 to Year 2 under Jay Norvell, jumping from three wins in 2017 to an 8-5 mark last fall. The Boilermakers are more than a touchdown favorite, but Nevada has a good shot at getting a big home win to start the season.

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Aug. 30: vs. Wisconsin

Under normal circumstances, you’d go ahead and pencil in the Badgers at 1-0 to start the 2019 campaign. But Wisconsin is undergoing nearly a wholesale change on the offensive line, is ushering in a new starting quarterback (Jack Coan or Graham Mertz) and lost a good chunk of its production on defense. The good news for Wisconsin is that Jonathan Taylor still occupies the backfield and USF was awful defensively last fall. Still, with quarterback Blake Barnett and running back Jordan Cronkrite returning, the Bulls have some weapons to challenge the Badgers.

Fresno State

Sept. 7: vs. Minnesota

A game that went down to the wire a season ago could see a similar result in early September. The Bulldogs probably won’t be as talented as 2018. Fresno State is replacing 13 starters and offensive coordinator Kalen DeBoer left the program to run the show at Indiana. Still Jeff Tedford has won 22 games in two years. This is late-night, West Coast kickoff that could catch the Golden Gophers off guard.

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Sept. 7: at Ohio State

It’s been an eternity since an in-state opponent has defeated Ohio State, but this could be the best year for that drought to end. Not only are the Buckeyes going through a coaching change from Urban Meyer to Ryan Day, but the Bearcats are led by Luke Fickell, who knows the program inside and out. That, along with Cincinnati’s rise to prominence in the AAC, could provide Ohio State with a tough test early in the season. This may quietly be one of the best non-conference matchups featuring a B1G team this year.

Eastern Michigan

Sept. 14: at Illinois

Eastern Michigan has defeated a B1G team each of the last two years — knocking off Rutgers in 2017 and Purdue in 2018. Both games were on the road. The Eagles could potentially make it three straight in mid-September, when they travel to Champaign to take on the Illini. Perhaps the matchup that makes this most interesting is Illinois’ passing game against Eastern Michigan’s secondary. The Illini have an unproven passing game (even though Brandon Peters transferred in) and EMU is considered to have the top secondary in the MAC. It may not be a game circled on the calendar for the Illini, but it’ll be a test for Lovie Smith and company.


Sept. 14: vs. Maryland

A year ago, Temple waltzed into College Park and pounded the Terrapins 35-14. A good chunk of last year’s 8-5 squad returns. Four offensive lineman and starting quarterback Anthony Russo is back. Six defensive starters also return. Both programs underwent offseason coaching changes (Mike Locksley at Maryland; Rod Carey at Temple), so it will be somewhat of a level playing field from that standpoint. Right now, the talent matches up pretty evenly, as well. Temple getting the game at home is certainly a benefit.