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Old Dominion: What is this year's must-win game of 2016?

Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Every team has a "must-win game." Sometimes its a rivalry game, sometimes its a division foe or maybe even a non-conference opponent. No matter the case, every team has a game that they absolutely must win in order to accomplish their goals.

Old Dominion has transitioned into the FBS pretty seamlessly but has yet to breakthrough and earn their first bowl bid. After going 5-7 last season, this season the Monarchs hope to reach their first bowl game and finish with their first winning record in conference play as a Conference USA member. Here are three options that qualify as must-win games for the Monarchs this year.

Sept. 24 - vs UTSA

It's the conference opener for ODU and the game against the Roadrunners starts a critical three-game stretch in which the Monarchs face three opponents ranked 115th and worse according to S&P projections.

The Monarchs will likely enter this game 1-2 and if they lose to UTSA in Frank Wilson's first year as the head coach it will be a clear indicator that UTSA and ODU are trending in the opposites direction.

S&P gives ODU a 61% chance of winning against UTSA.

Oct. 1 - At Charlotte

Right after hosting UTSA, ODU travels to Charlotte. Last year Charlotte almost pulled off one of the biggest upsets in CUSA as the 49ers came within a field goal of winning their first conference game on the road in Foreman Field.

This is another winnable game in which ODU needs to have if they are to go to a bowl game. A loss here would be a devastating blow to any bowl hopes.

Oct. 8 - vs UMASS

The final game of a critical three game stretch for ODU's bowl hopes is a non-conference game against UMass. The Minutemen are ranked 126th by S&P. Once again this is another game ODU can not afford to lose if they are to make it to a bowl game. A win here could put ODU 4-2 entering a bye week before a road game against Western Kentucky.

Verdict

The three most winnable games on the ODU's schedule (aside from the opener against Hampton) are scheduled in the first half of the season and take place back-to-back-to-back. A three game winning streak entering a bye week would do a ton for ODU as they will have a lot of momentum before a road contest against Western Kentucky.

During CUSA Media Days Bobby Wilder was upset that ODU was picked to finish sixth in CUSA and vowed that the Monarchs were going to prove the media members wrong.

The contest against WKU would going a long way to proving his point but before he gets there they must beat a rejuvenated UTSA program. Losing the conference home opener to UTSA would signify that the Monarchs could be on their way to another 5-7 season therefore the matchup against UTSA earns my vote.

Previously

FAU

FIU

MTSU

WKU