Big Ten Opener Highlights Three-Game Slate
By, Brent Booher
Football bettors rejoice! Weeknight college football betting is back, and we have three college football games on the slate for this evening, including the 2020 Big Ten Conference opener between Illinois and #14 Wisconsin.
Looking for some action on this nice Fall evening? Perhaps maybe a game or two you want to parlay with your World Series pick? Look no further, here are our favorite bets from each of the three games on the docket tonight.
Tulsa at South Florida
Spread: Tulsa -11
Total: O/U 50.5
Time/TV: 7:30PM ET/ESPN
Thanks to their scheduled game against Cincinnati being postponed from COVID-19, we haven’t seen the Tulsa Golden Hurricane (1-1, 1-0 AAC) in action since October 3rd where they pulled a shocking road upset in Orlando over then-ranked #11 Central Florida.
Tulsa now heads back to the state of Florida to meet a struggling South Florida (1-4, 1-3 AAC) team that has lost four straight after a season-opening 27-6 win over The Citadel, and they head to Tampa with one of the best defensive units in the entire country, albeit probably boosted slightly by only playing in two games.
Linebacker Zaven Collins has been the early catalyst for the Tulsa defense, providing the team with three sacks, three hurries, and averaging nearly four tackles for a loss per game. Collins and the Tulsa defense likely will present a whole host of challenges for a South Florida team that hasn’t done a great deal of things right through the first six weeks of the season.
Under new head coach Jeff Scott, the Bulls have struggled protecting the football, as they have already committed 10 turnovers on the season and rank at the bottom of college football in how often they lose yards on a play. That does not bode well against a Tulsa defense that does a very good job at forcing turnovers and setting up long yardage situations on later downs.
South Florida has shown glimpses of turning it around and playing a complete game on offense, but turnovers and negative plays have put them in unforgiving situations all season.
Fortunately, the Bulls will not face an explosive offensive team this Friday, as Tulsa ranks 60th overall in total offense this season, which normally would be middle of the pack but this season with only 77 teams playing so far, you see that’s a really bad stat to hang on an offense. If there’s a week for South Florida to potentially play a clean game and pull off an upset, it could be this one, particularly after the long layoff from the Golden Hurricane.
I think Tulsa ultimately wins this matchup, but the 11-point spread is not something I’m excited to take, so I will lean on the Tulsa defense to get stops while their offense continues to struggle.
Pick: Tulsa 23, South Florida 20
Best Bet: UNDER 50.5
Louisiana at UAB
Spread: Louisiana -2.5
Total: O/U 50
Time/TV: 8:00PM ET, CBS Sports Network
If you’re a fan of non-Power 5 schools, you are in store for a dandy of a matchup this evening from Birmingham when the Ragin’ Cajuns of Louisiana (3-1) visit to meet the (4-1) UAB Blazers.
The Ragin’ Cajuns enter tonight’s game with a potent rushing attack that ranks 29th in college football and 10th in college football with nearly six yards per carry. Elijah Mitchell and Trey Ragas bring a dynamic dual-headed monster at tailback while quarterback Levi Lewis is also a threat in running the football.
For as impressive as the Cajuns running game is though, UAB’s is every bit as dangerous thus far this season. The Blazers have notched more than 200 yards rushing as a team in three games thus far this season, with an 190 yard day against South Alabama mixed in for good measure.
While the Cajuns like to play at a quick pace and put points on the scoreboard in a hurry, UAB has a more methodical approach to their offense, and that deliberate slower pace and grinding the football will only limit the opportunities for Louisiana to score.
UAB’s defense, however, was absolutely shellacked in one outing this season — a blowout loss at the hands of Miami where the Canes would gain 337 yards on the ground. The Cajuns’ rushing attack is the most potent rushing attack the Blazers have seen since then, so that is also something to keep in mind for this game.
This has all the makings of a back and forth type contest with each team trying to force their preferred style of play on the other. The Cajuns have already played in several tight matchups, with three of their four games this season decided by three points or less, this figures to be their latest close game.
While I love what Levi Lewis and the Cajuns’ run attack brings, I will go with UAB to extend their home winning streak to 22 games and for Bill Clark (21-11-1 ATS as a favorite) to notch the school’s biggest win of the season to date with a narrow home win over the Cajuns as home underdogs.
Pick: UAB 30, Louisiana 28
Best Bet: UAB (+2.5) or UAB Moneyline (+110)
Illinois at (14) Wisconsin
Spread: Wisconsin -20.5
Total: O/U 51.5
Time/TV: 8:00PM ET, Big Ten Network
Well, it’s finally here. After the COVID-19 originally pushed the conference season into Spring 2021, we’ve arrived at the formal kickoff of the 2020 season, with the first Big Ten matchup coming from Camp Randall in Madison as Lovie Smith and the Illini face off against 14th ranked Wisconsin.
Illinois enters the 2020 season coming off their best season of the Lovie Smith era that ended with Illinois finishing 6-7 and with a 35-20 loss in the Redbox Bowl to Cal.
However, one of those six wins from a season ago for the Illini came at the hands of the Wisconsin Badgers when Illinois stunned them with a 24-23 upset in Champaign. Wisconsin was ranked 6th in the country at the time with aspirations to potentially wedge their way into the playoff, but Brandon Peters and Illinois had other ideas that day.
Since that upset loss nearly one year ago to the day, Wisconsin has seen some roster churn, most notably with Jonathan Taylor’s departure to the draft and the injury of quarterback Jack Cohn. The Badgers now have an entirely new backfield and will look towards freshman quarterback Graham Mertz to run the offense.
Where the Badgers remain very strong, however, comes along the defensive side of the ball where Wisconsin will return 18 of the top 20 tacklers from a year ago. Wisconsin’s defensive line also figures to be among the best in not only the Big Ten, but all of college football. Something that will definitely inhibit the Illinois offense from clicking out of the gate.
Nonetheless, one has to wonder just how much rust each of these schools will have out of the gate, as the offseason has been nothing less than chaotic this year. Expect the Badgers to take their time to warm up before finally pulling away in the 2nd half. Taking Illinois to cover in the first half would not be the worst strategy entering this.
However, we will stick with the full game and take the Illini to narrowly cover but for the Badgers to prevail with the victory. As far as a best bet goes, this one just has under written all over it.
Pick: Wisconsin 30, Illinois 10
Best Bet: UNDER 51.5