Thursday Night College Football Best Bets: Back the Mean Green, Falcons Rushing Attacks

Thanks to COVID-19, we don’t have a Thursday Night Football game from the NFL to watch and wager on, but we do have a pair of college football matchups that can whet the appetite somewhat.

Louisiana Tech and North Texas will do battle in Conference USA action, while Air Force and Utah State will face off in Mountain West Conference action to close out the night.

Who has the edge tonight and what bets should you be circling?  Let’s dive in.

Louisiana Tech at North Texas

Spread: Louisiana Tech +1
Total:
O/U 66.5
Time/TV:
6:00 PM ET, CBS Sports Network

The first game of the day comes from Denton, Texas when Louisiana Tech (4-3, 3-2 CUSA) hits the road to visit North Texas (3-4, 2-3 CUSA).

Ever since the resumption of college football, Louisiana Tech has been one of the programs hit the hardest by the pandemic. 

Their season opener against Baylor was canceled after the team had 38 players test positive for COVID-19, and most recently for the Bulldogs, two games set for November (against Louisiana-Monroe and Florida International) were canceled with their dates against Rice, and this North Texas team, rescheduled.

That means the Bulldogs have not been in action for over a month now, with their last game being a 37-34 win over UAB on Halloween.

North Texas has also run into numerous issues with COVID-19 since its season began in September.  The Mean Green had a month layoff of their own thanks to postponements and a cancelation of their matchup with UAB, but the Mean Green have been able to play two straight games without any interruption, though they’re coming off of a 49-17 blowout at the hands of Texas-San Antonio last Saturday.

On paper, these two teams appear to be very evenly matched.  Louisiana Tech has been terribly inconsistent on offense, likely in large part due to the fact their season has been met with so many stoppages, and North Texas has been consistently terrible on defense.

It’s an old fashioned, “Something’s Gotta Give!” contest.

The Bulldogs enter today’s game with one of the worst rushing attacks in all of college football.  LA Tech only ranks above rushing powerhouses Mississippi State and UMass in yards per attempt (2.4) and rank 123rd in rushing offense with 92 yards per game. 

Sometimes such a stat can be an indicator a team just throws the ball a ton and is much more potent in that respect, but the stats don’t back that up for the Bulldogs either as they rank 53rd in passing.  While that’s far from the worst ranking in college football, it’s pretty pedestrian considering how paltry the rushing stats look by comparison.

Louisiana Tech probably couldn’t have asked for a better opponent to end a month-long break from playing, however, as North Texas has been nothing short of a disaster on the defensive side of the ball this season.

North Texas has the 121st ranked rushing defense in the country, surrendering 244 yards a game on the ground.  They also have the 118th ranked passing defense in the country, surrendering over 291 yards through the air per game. 

To account for their leaky defense, the Mean Green like to play keep away from their opponent as best as they can, and they feature the 16th best rushing attack in football (228 yards per game) while getting 5.5 yards per carry (15th overall in NCAA). 

Louisiana Tech-North Texas Prediction & Best Bet

As of this writing, betting sharps have already indicated they are leaning heavily on taking North Texas, as only about 25% of the tickets are on North Texas, but well over 81% of the money is backing the Mean Green. 

Considering Louisiana Tech’s long layoff and abysmal offense, I’m going to follow the money here and back North Texas to land a conference win in a back and forth affair.

Prediction:  North Texas 38, Louisiana Tech 34
Best Bet: North Texas ML (-108)

Air Force at Utah State

Spread: Air Force -11.5
Total: O/U 51
Time/TV: 9:30 PM ET, CBS Sports Network

Like Louisiana Tech and North Texas before them, Air Force (2-2, 1-2 MWC) has also had their schedule upended by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Three of the Falcons’ last four games have been canceled or postponed due to the raging pandemic, but they should finally be able to get a game in this evening when they head to Logan, Utah to meet Utah State (1-4, 1-4 MWC).

When Air Force has got to play, they’ve been their usual self on the football field.  The famed Air Force triple-option attack is once again carving up the Falcons’ competition as Air Force leads all of college football with over 336 yards rushing per game.

That does not bode well for a Utah State team that has struggled mightily this season, particularly on the defensive side of the football where the Aggies boast the 120th overall defense in the country, including a rushing defense that’s giving up over 200 yards on the ground per contest.

If you’ve never watched Air Force’s offense in action, you’re in for a treat tonight.  Very few offenses run as crisp and error-free like the Falcons’ triple-option attack does.  They will seldom put the ball in the air, as evidenced by their 38 pass attempts in four games, but that’s because they really don’t need to.  Their rushing attack is that good.

On the other hand, Utah State’s offense has looked anything but crisp and error-free.  The Aggies do have a respectable ground attack, as they run for 4.4 yards per carry and gain a little more than 140 yards rushing per game as a team, but their passing attack has been nothing short of hideous in their quest to replace the departed Jordan Love.

The Aggies have the 118th ranked passing offense (138.4 yards per game) in the country, and those numbers were boosted following their 41-27 victory over New Mexico where sophomore signal-caller Andrew Peasley would throw for 239 yards and three touchdowns in the win.

Unfortunately for Utah State, Air Force played New Mexico as well, but Air Force shut them out 28-0 and ran for 356 yards in the process.

Air Force-Utah State Prediction & Best Bet

Where a team like Air Force can run into problems is if they fall behind by a couple of scores early, as the team is simply not built to erase a large deficit.  That issue will not rear its head tonight, as Utah State is one of the worst teams in college football this season.

Look for Air Force to roll.  The line at present writing is -11.5 and I think it could (and will) get higher than that as kickoff nears.

Prediction: Air Force 37, Utah State 13
Best Bet: Air Force -11.5 (Take AFA all the way up to -13.5)
If You’re Feelin’ Frisky: Air Force -20 Alt Line (+200)

No. 21 Liberty Flames at North Carolina State Wolfpack Betting Preview

Saturday, November 21, 2020, Carter-Finley Stadium, Raleigh, North Carolina, 7:30 p.m. ET

Flames at Wolfpack Betting Preview: Flames (+3.5), Wolfpack (-3.5)

No. 21 Liberty Flames Betting Preview

The No. 21 Flames (8-0) will take a crack at an Atlantic Coast Conference sweep Saturday night when they meet North Carolina State at Carter-Finley Stadium in Raleigh.

Liberty is off to its best start in program history and already has defeated ACC members Syracuse and Virginia Tech.

“I told somebody I’m afraid that our people will expect us to win every ACC game we ever play now,” Liberty coach Hugh Freeze said. “That’s not real realistic, I don’t think. We’ll keep taking them as they come.”

The Flames have been dazzling behind quarterback Malik Willis, who transferred from Auburn and sat out the 2019 season before making highlights this season.

Willis has thrown for 15 touchdowns with just one interception. He also has a team-high 700 rushing yards and scored nine of the team’s 20 rushing touchdowns. 

“Obviously this whole thing is going to be about being able to get Willis off track because nobody has been able to do that,” NC State coach Dave Doeren said.

Willis has been effective even with the Flames without a full stable of receivers because of injuries.

Defeating Virginia Tech, 38-35, on the road two weeks ago on Alex Barbir’s last-second, 51-yard field goal provided another chapter in the storybook season.

“How long that lasts, I don’t know, but we’re going to have great memories from this year from what’s been done to this point,” Freeze said.

Liberty, with three games remaining, holds a 10-game winning streak, one shy of the school record set from Oct. 20, 2007, to Oct. 11, 2008 when it competed at the FCS level.

North Carolina State Wolfpack Betting Preview

The Wolfpack (5-3) snapped a mild two-game losing streak with last week’s 38-22 victory against visiting Florida State.

Bailey Hockman, who was in his second game as the starter at quarterback since returning to that role, had a solid outing for the Wolfpack. He passed for 265 yards with 24 completions in 34 attempts with three touchdowns against a lone interception.

“Anytime your quarterback is playing well, I don’t care what level of football you’re playing, you’ve got a chance to be really good,” Doeren said. “He’s played at a high level for two weeks, so we’re very excited.”

For the season, Hockman is 84 of 132 passing for 545 yards with eight touchdowns. But he also has eight interceptions.

Part of Hockman’s success against Florida State was related to redshirt junior receiver Thayer Thomas’ career-high 11 catches and 135 yards. Thomas also scored twice.

“I feel like this year I’ve had a lot of different opportunities, and I feel like I’ve made the most of every opportunity I’ve been given, regardless of the circumstances,” Thomas said.

Flames at Wolfpack Betting Pick

The Flames will be trying to go 3-0 against Atlantic Coast Conference opponents after posting earlier wins over Syracuse and Virginia Tech with all three games on the road. NC State won the only previous meeting over the Flames, 43-31 back in 2011.

Flames at Wolfpack Betting Pick:

Flames 41, Wolfpack 31

Flames at Wolfpack Best Bet

The Flames have averaged 46 points a game over their last five outings since posting a 28-7 win over North Alabama back on October 3. The Wolfpack have scored 79 points their last two games, though 41 came in a 3-point loss to Miami.

Flames at Wolfpack Best Bet:  67.5

–Field Level Media

Kentucky Wildcats at No. 1 Alabama Crimson Tide Betting Preview

Saturday, November 21, 2020, Bryant-Denny Stadium, Tuscaloosa, Alabama, 4 p.m. ET

Wildcats at Crimson Tide Betting Preview: Wildcats (+30.5), Crimson Tide (-30.5)

Kentucky Wildcats Betting Preview

The Wildcats (3-4, 3-4 Southeastern Conference) are coming off a 38-35 win over Vanderbilt last weekend. Chris Rodriguez rushed for a career high 149 yards on 13 carries, including two scores, but the Wildcats struggled to put away the Commodores.

Vandy rallied from two second-half deficits of 17 points to make it a tight game. The defensive effort didn’t sit well with Wildcats coach Mark Stoops.

“Defensively, terribly inconsistent,” Stoops said. “We have a lot of work to do. There’s no excuse. They want somebody else to make the play, they want some miraculous call to stop the play.”

Stoops is still waiting to see a good effort on both sides of the ball in the same game.

“We’re terribly inconsistent on one side or the other. We’ve not put it all together. It’s frustrating. I can promise you this, it’s not for lack of effort,” he said. “The sense of urgency needs to be greater, the attention to detail throughout an entire game needs to be greater.”

Rodriguez and his 568 rushing yards lead the Wildcats, and Josh Ali’s 34 catches and 343 yard lead the receivers. Senior quarterback Terry Wilson averages 119 passing yards and 56 rushing yards per game.

Crimson Tide Betting Preview

No. 1 Alabama hasn’t played since Halloween after last week’s scheduled meeting with LSU was postponed due to an outbreak of COVID-19 among the Tigers. The Crimson Tide (6-0, 6-0 Southeastern Conference) had a scheduled open date on Nov. 7.

The Tide’s high-powered offense is averaging 46.5 points per game at home, with an average of 555 yards per game over six contests. On defense, Alabama shut out Mississippi State 41-0 in Tuscaloosa the last time out.

“We fully intend to be able to play this game and we certainly have enough players that are healthy enough to do that,” Alabama coach Nick Saban said. “Physically we’ve been able to take care of our players, psychologically is the real challenge for them to be able to stay focused on the things that they need to do continue to improve and play at a high level, especially when we’re halfway through the season.”

Next week, Alabama is planning its usual holiday fare: the Iron Bowl, Nov. 28 against Auburn.

Running back Najee Harris has 718 rushing yards and 14 rushing touchdowns, and senior wide receiver DeVonta Smith is the leading receiver with 56 catches for 759 yards and eight touchdowns.

Smith caught all four of quarterback Mac Jones’ touchdown passes against the Bulldogs. Jones has thrown for 2,196 yards and 16 touchdowns this season. His passing yards are the most by any Alabama quarterback through the first six games of a season in program history.

The Tide have scored 35 or more points in 19 straight games, the longest streak in major college football history, and have 29 straight wins over SEC East opponents.

Wildcats at Crimson Tide Betting Pick

The Tide lead the series 37-2-1 and have won all 11 meetings in Tuscaloosa and six in a row overall. The two teams have played five common opponents this year with Alabama owning wins over Missouri 38-19, Ole Miss 63-48, Georgia 41-24, Tennessee 48-17, and Mississippi State 41-8 and Kentucky losing to Missouri 20-10, Ole Miss 42-41 in overtime, and Georgia 14-3, and beating Mississippi State 24-2 and Tennessee 34-7.

Wildcats at Crimson Tide Betting Pick:

Crimson Tide 45, Wildcats 17

Wildcats at Crimson Tide Best Bet

Alabama quarterback Mac Jones needs one more 400-yard passing game to tie the SEC record currently shared by LSU’s Joe Burrow (2019), Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel (213), and Kentucky’s Tim Couch (1998). The Wildcats have allowed only one foe (Ole Miss with 325) to top the 300-yard mark this season.

Wildcats at Crimson Tide Best Bet: OVER 57.5

–Field Level Media

Kansas State Wildcats at No. 17 Iowa State Cyclones Betting Preview

Saturday, November 21, 2020, Jack Trice Stadium, Ames, Iowa, 4 p.m. ET

Wildcats at Cyclones Betting Preview: Wildcats (+11), Cyclones (-11)

Kansas State Wildcats Betting Preview

Kansas State is dealing with personnel issues as the Wildcats (4-3, 4-2 Big 12) head to Iowa State. Coach Chris Kleiman said he is hopeful that his players can get through COVID-19 tests without losing more before the game.

“We’re not the only ones in the country dealing with this,” he said. “We’re just down so many guys in certain spots that we can’t even move people. So I’m just knocking on wood that we get good results the rest of this week.”

The Wildcats lost their last two games after reaching No. 16 in the polls. They lost 37-10 at West Virginia, then fell 20-18 against No. 14 Oklahoma State at home prior to last weekend’s bye.

Quarterback Will Howard passed for just 184 yards against the Mountaineers and 143 against the Cowboys, a season low since he became the starter when Skylar Thompson was injured.

A win over Iowa State keeps K-State’s title hopes very much alive. The Wildcats would hold the tiebreaker over the Cyclones and Oklahoma, with whom they are currently tied for third place. They still have to play Texas, which also has two conference losses.

A loss to the Cyclones, however, puts a serious dent in the Wildcats’ chances.

Iowa State Cyclones Betting Preview

With their only league loss to Oklahoma State, the No. 17 Cyclones (5-2, 5-1 Big 12) control their own fate in the conference race. They are a half-game up on Oklahoma State at the top of the standings, and even a setback Saturday would still have them no worse than tied for the second spot.

The Cyclones also don’t have the COVID-19 issues that K-State does.

“Right now we’re 100 percent healthy,” Iowa State coach Matt Campbell said. “Is it a concern (that the game won’t be played)? Absolutely. It’s not just now. It’s literally been this way for the whole season.”

The Cyclones have their eyes set on the Big 12 title game, but Campbell won’t allow himself to look past the Wildcats.

“For me, the starting point is that attitude, the effort, the intensity that continues to reside as a fabric of what makes Kansas State such a great football program,” Campbell said. “Then you supply that with some really good football players, on offense and defense and the success they’ve had on special teams. It’s exactly what you’d expect from a K-State team. I’m really impressed with this team.”

Iowa State is third in the Big 12 in scoring offense (32.9 points a game) and fifth in scoring defense (26.7).

Running back Breece Hall leads the nation in rushing with 1,034 yards and has been in triple digits in all seven games this season.

Wildcats at Cyclones Betting Pick

Brock Purdy has his only sub-200-yard game passing last year against Kansas State, completing just half of his 30 attempts for 185 yards in Iowa State’s 27-17 loss to the Wildcats. Iowa State leads the series 50-49-1, but the Wildcats have 25 wins in the last 31 years of the series.

Wildcats at Cyclones Betting Pick:

Cyclones 31, Wildcats 20

Wildcats at Cyclones Best Bet

The Wildcats have scored only 28 points in losses to West Virginia and Oklahoma State their last two games after the 55-14 pasting they gave Kansas back on Oct. 24. Iowa State has scored 90 points its last two outings with a 52-22 thumping of Kansas and a come-from-behind 38-31 win over Baylor

Wildcats at Cyclones Best Bet: OVER 46.5

–Field Level Media

No. 9 Indiana Hoosiers at No. 3 Ohio State Buckeyes Betting Preview

Saturday, November 21, 2020, Ohio Stadium, Columbus, Ohio, noon. ET

Hoosiers at Buckeyes Betting Preview: Hoosiers (+20.5), Buckeyes (-20.5)

No. 9 Indiana Hoosiers Betting Preview

For the first time in program history, the No. 9 Hoosiers (4-0, 4-0 Big Ten) will be included in a regular-season, Top-10 matchup when they play No. 3 Ohio State (3-0, 3-0 Big Ten) with first place at stake in the East Division of the conference.

Indiana has its highest ranking since it was No. 4 on Nov. 27, 1967, the season the Hoosiers got a share of the league title and made their only Rose Bowl appearance.

“We are not focused on the hype or the rankings. We are just trying to control what we can control,” Indiana quarterback Michael Penix Jr. said. “We need to go out and play Indiana football, tough, physical football, and that is what we are going to do each and every week.”

While Indiana was winning 24-0 at Michigan State last week, the Buckeyes only practiced because their game at Maryland was canceled following a COVID-19 outbreak in the Terrapins’ program.

“Indiana had an opportunity to play and now they’ve played for four straight weeks and they got a little bit of rhythm going,” Ohio State head coach Ryan Day said. “We didn’t. When you miss out on preseason, you miss out on the spring, it certainly hurts when you’re not playing games.”

Penix will test Ohio State’s inexperienced secondary. He has completed 60.1 percent of his passes for 267.5 yards a game and is 9-1 in his past 10 starts. His favorite target is Ty Fryfogle, who had 11 catches for 200 yards and two touchdowns vs. Michigan State.

Fryfogle has 24 receptions for 424 yards and four touchdowns for the season.

The Hoosiers haven’t beaten the Buckeyes since 1988 but did earn a tie in 1990. Coach Tom Allen doesn’t want that history to overwhelm his players.

“To me that is the key,” he said. “We need to learn how to handle that and manage that if we want to be a top-10 football program.”

No. 3 Ohio State Buckeyes Betting Preview

Buckeyes’ quarterback Justin Fields has put himself in the forefront of Heisman talk in completing 86.8 percent of his 83 pass attempts for 908 yards. He has the same number of touchdowns (11) as incompletions and has not thrown an interception but figures to be tested by Indiana’s defense.

The Hoosiers are is tied for seventh nationally with 10 interceptions, which leads the Big Ten. Jaylin Williams has three of those interceptions and Tiawan Mullen has two.

Fields has relied heavily on Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave as targets. The two are the only Buckets in double figures in receptions and have combined for 42 receptions for 632 yards and six of Fields’ touchdown tosses.

Master Teague III leads the Buckeyes in rushing with 220 yards and four touchdowns.

The Hoosiers are 4-0 in Big Ten play for the first time since 1987 in notching wins over Penn State, Rutgers, Michigan, and Michigan State. The win over Michigan ended a 24-game losing streak to the Wolverines.

“I think their ability to play all four quarters really stood out to me,” Ohio State defensive end Tyler Friday said. “Indiana, every year, every week is getting better. Their record speaks for itself.”

Hoosiers at Buckeyes Betting Pick

The Buckeyes have won 76 of the 93 meetings, the Hoosiers 12, and five have ended in ties. The Buckeyes have won 25 consecutive meetings since a 27-27 tie in 1990, and Indiana’s last win in the series was 41-7 in 1988. The Hoosiers’ last win in Columbus was 31-10 in 1987.

Hoosiers at Buckeyes Betting Pick:

Buckeyes 38, Hoosiers 20

Hoosiers at Buckeyes Best Bet

The Hoosiers are coming off their season scoring low after a 24-0 win at Michigan State. The Buckeyes have averaged 46.3 points a game with their season low a 38-25 win at Penn State, a team Indiana edged 36-35 in overtime to open the season.

Hoosiers at Buckeyes Best Bet: UNDER 64.5

–Field Level Media

No. 6 Florida Gators at Vanderbilt Commodores Betting Preview

Saturday, November 21, 2020, Vanderbilt Stadium, Nashville, Tennessee, noon ET

Gators at Commodores Betting Preview: Gators (-31.5), Commodores (+31.5)

Florida Gators Betting Preview

No. 6 Florida hopes to keep its College Football Playoff hopes alive when it visits Vanderbilt.

The Gators (5-1, 5-1 Southeastern Conference) have been on a roll since their 41-38 loss to Texas A&M on Oct. 10, thanks to an offense that averages 45.8 points and 511.7 yards per game and 7.4 yards per play.

Gators quarterback Kyle Trask has 2,171 passing yards with 28 touchdowns and three interceptions to establish himself as a Heisman Trophy contender. 

Trask has plenty of help. Eight Gators have logged at least 100 receiving yards with tight end Kyle Pitts leading the way with 24 receptions for 414 yards and eight touchdowns.

The defense is doing its part as well. Zach Carter was named the SEC’s defensive lineman of the week for the second time this season after last week’s three-tackle, one-sack performance that included a 35-yard touchdown on a fumble return in a 63-35 victory over Arkansas.

Trask said the Gators won’t take the Commodores lightly, even after a 56-0 home victory over them last season.

“Some people even said (Arkansas) was a trap game, but we did a great job of ignoring all the outside noise and focusing on our job and what we can do and just practicing to our full potential every single day,” Trask said. “… We’re not playing (just) to win every game. We’re playing to play to our full potential every game, which obviously, hopefully, includes winning.”

Vanderbilt Commodores Betting Preview

Vanderbilt has struggled on defense, ranking 12th in the SEC in scoring defense (35.8 points) and 11th in total defense (443 yards). The Commodores (0-6, 0-6 SEC) have allowed 7 yards per play, which ranks 12th in the league, and they are last in the SEC in turnover margin at minus-7. 

But the Commodores have at least found a bright spot with a young offense that is guided by first-year coordinator Todd Fitch. The Commodores exceeded 400 yards total offense in each of the last three games.  

A pair of true freshman quarterbacks have been a reason for excitement. 

Ken Seals has hit 66.8 percent of his passes for 1,291 yards and eight touchdowns. There have also been eight interceptions, but Seals showed growth against Kentucky by not turning over the ball.

Backup quarterback Mike Wright also accounted for a rushing and passing scores when inserted in a pair of goal-to-go situations last week.  

There might be opportunity to move the ball against the Gators, who give up 411.3 yards and 30 points per game.

Vanderbilt coach Derek Mason secured his seventh losing season at Vanderbilt in as many tries with a 38-35 loss at Kentucky last week. Speculation has only grown as to whether Mason will return to for an eighth year.

“I haven’t had any conversations with anybody,” Mason said when asked if he has spoken with school officials about his future.

Gators at Commodores Betting Pick

The Gators have won the last six meetings with the Commodores with Vandy’s last win coming by a 34-17 score in 2013 in Gainesville. The Gators raced to a 56-0 romp over the Commodores last year with Trask passing for 363 yards and three touchdowns. The Gators had 560 yards of total offense to 128 for the Commodores.

Gators at Commodores Betting Pick:

Gators 52, Commodores 20

Gators at Commodores Best Bet

The Gators have scored at least 35 points in eight consecutive games, which is tied for the longest streak in school history (2008 and 1996). Vandy has given up at least 38 points in four of its six games, the last a 38-35 loss at Kentucky last week.

Gators at Commodores Best Bet: OVER 68.5

–Field Level Media

Midweek MACtion: Best Bets for Wednesday’s Tripleheader

Glorious #MACtion is back in action on Wednesday night with a tripleheader of games set to kick-off at 7:00 PM ET. 

Compared to the Tuesday slate, tonight’s action should be much more competitive as two of the three games carry with them a point spread of less than a touchdown, while all three games have a total hovering around the 60-point mark.

In other words:  Bettors, prepare for a fun evening.

To try to ensure it’s also a profitable evening, let’s pop the hood and take a gander at each matchup while finding the Best Bet in each contest.   

Northern Illinois at Ball State

Spread: Ball State -14
Total:
O/U 60.5
Time/TV:
7:00 PM ET, ESPN News

The 2020 MAC season is an abbreviated one with just six-games on the schedule in total, making this third game one of extreme importance to a Northern Illinois (0-2 MAC) team that has looked nothing short of abysmal out of the gates.

The Huskies have opened the season with losses in their first two games, while their defense has just been completely picked apart in blowout losses to Buffalo and Central Michigan.  Defensively they have surrendered nearly 45 points per contest. 

Offensively they have also sputtered, ranking at the bottom of college football in rushing yards and yards per attempt, while throwing for just over 170 yards a game.  Huskies’ QB Ross Bowers has only completed 55% of his passes and is averaging a paltry 5.7 yards per pass attempt.  There is a possibility that NIU makes a quarterback change should he continue to struggle this evening.

Those offense numbers are especially concerning in college football, but particularly in the MAC where offense reigns supreme. 

If there is an opportunity for a “get right” game for NIU however, it would be in tonight’s contest against a Ball State (1-1 MAC) team that has a versatile, big-play offense but also struggles mightily on the defensive side of the ball.

The Cardinals have also been lit up on the scoreboard to start the season, surrendering nearly 35 points per contest and 450 yards of offense per game.  Ball State has struggled in particular in defending the pass, where they currently have the 103rd ranked passing defense, with only Miami (Ohio) ranking lower than them in conference play.

The defensive woes are not as concerning though when taking a look at the potential of the Cardinals’ offense.  Ball State is led offensively by their senior quarterback Drew Plitt (541 yards passing, 2 TD, 2 INT), the leading rusher in the MAC in Caleb Huntley (334 yards, 5 TD, 6.1 ypc), and a stable of wide receivers in Antwan Davis, Justin Hall, and Yo’Heinz Tyler – each of whom has caught at least 11 passes for over 100 yards and a touchdown.

The Ball State offense is probably the last unit a struggling Northern Illinois defense would prefer to face right now, but there will be opportunities for the Huskies to get their offense out of a funk, making this a potentially high-scoring back and forth affair.

Northern Illinois is simply a desperate side looking to stop the bleeding and avoid going 0-3 in a six-game season.  I don’t think that will be enough for them to pull off the road upset, but it will be enough for them to cover the spread.  I also like the over in this game a great deal.

Prediction: Ball State 41, Northern Illinois 31
Best Bet: Northern Illinois +14; OVER 60.5

Toledo at Eastern Michigan

Spread: Toledo -6.5
Total:
O/U 62
Time/TV:
7:00 PM ET, CBS Sports Network

Toledo (1-1 MAC) heads to the road tonight following one of the most painful losses in recent memory that saw the Rockets blow a 38-28 lead with 2:54 remaining in the game before giving up two touchdowns in the final minute, the last one coming straight out of a Dan Marino highlight reel on YouTube.

The Rockets will need to shake off their painful defeat in a hurry though, as they are facing a scrappy Eastern Michigan team that is 0-2 to start the season but looked very good in each defeat to Kent State and Ball State.

On paper, this matchup could be a bit of a mismatch between the two sides.  Toledo’s offense has been sensational to start the season as they are averaging over 512 yards of offense per game, including 553 yards passing and five touchdowns from starting QB Eli Peters. 

Eastern Michigan, on the other hand, boasts one of the worst defensive teams in not only the MAC but in all of college football, as they’ve surrendered over 483 yards per contest.  They’ve been especially bad against the run, surrendering over 250 yards per game thus far.

But for all of those defensive struggles, the Eagles have still played teams relatively tight dating back to last season.  EMU has gone 4-1 ATS in their last five MAC games and lost 37-34 in overtime to this same Toledo team a season ago. 

To go even further, since head coach Chris Creighton took over at EMU, his teams are a very respectable 22-10-1 ATS as an underdog.  His teams are not flashy, especially by MAC standards, but they’ve been getting the job done.

This game will likely come down to how well Toledo can bounce back following such a heartbreaking loss to Western Michigan.  From a talent perspective, the Rockets have the edge about everywhere you look on the roster, but don’t discount the Eastern Michigan Eagles who have shown a tendency to play teams very tough throughout (12 of their last 17 matchups have been decided by eight points or less).

I like Toledo up to -7 tonight, as I think this is a touchdown game in the making.  Should EMU trail early, I would also look at taking them live with (ideally) a double-digit Toledo spread to work with.

Prediction: Toledo 31, Eastern Michigan 24
Best Bet: Toledo -6.5 (would play up to -7)

Western Michigan at Central Michigan

Spread: Central Michigan -1
Total:
O/U 58.5
Time/TV:
7:00 PM ET, ESPN2

In the game of the evening, a battle of regional proximities in the state of Michigan will commence when Western Michigan takes the quick trip to Mount Pleasant to meet Central Michigan.

Each school finds themselves sitting at 2-0 on the season, with Western Michigan taking the craziest route imaginable to get their second win of the season a week ago over Toledo.  Central Michigan has also been a very steady team out of the gates as Jim McElwain’s Chippewas have picked up where they left off a season ago.

Western Michigan comes into tonight’s game with the best offense in the MAC after the first two weeks of the season.  They are tops in scoring at just under 50-points per game and have averaged a blistering eight yards per play.  The Broncos may have got a modest boost to those numbers by virtue of facing Akron in the season opener, but this is still a group to take seriously.

The Broncos are led by redshirt sophomore signal-caller Kaleb Eleby and Eleby has been nothing short of spectacular so far this season as he’s racked up 546 yards passing and six touchdowns already.  Eleby’s favorite target in the passing game so far has been D’Wayne Eskridge, who has 10 grabs for 245 yards and three touchdowns this season.

Tonight, however, Western Michigan faces a significantly better defense than they have seen thus far.  McElwain’s Chippewas boast the top defense in the MAC, as they are holding teams to just under five yards per play and just a hair over 18 points per game.  They’ve only given up one play longer than 30 yards and have allowed roughly 203 yards passing per game.  They are a very solid defense and in a conference like the MAC, this is a major luxury to have as defense is not exactly what the term “MACtion” was born from.

Offensively, CMU is no slouches either, though they’re not quite at the level of WMU.  While they’re averaging 35 points per game, they’ve been fairly conservative as a group.  McElwain prefers for his teams to be balanced, and that has been apparent with the Chips averaging a near 50/50 split in rushing offense and passing offense. 

While they will be less likely to sling the ball around as WMU would, they’re still efficient enough throwing the ball that you have to account for it.  Nonetheless, the Chippewas ideal offensive strategy tonight would be to pound the rock with rushers Kobe Lewis and Lew Nichols III.

The team that can best play to their strengths will be the likely victor in this toss-up matchup.  This has all the makings of another classic edition of ‘Midweek MACtion’, but I will side with the home side fielding the better defense tonight and take the Chippewas to win.

Prediction: Central Michigan 30, Western Michigan 28
Best Bet: Central Michigan -1

Tuesday Night MACtion: Blowouts in the Forecast?

The 2020 MAC season rolls on tonight with a Tuesday evening doubleheader.  Originally there were three games on the schedule but the Ohio-Miami (OH) game was canceled due to COVID-19 complications.

We are now left with just a pair of matchups.  The first game of the night will be between Buffalo (2-0 MAC) and Bowling Green (0-2 MAC) with Akron (0-2 MAC) and Kent State (2-0 MAC) finishing out the evening.

On paper, each of these matchups looks to be heavily one-sided towards the undefeated teams, but from a gambling perspective what should you be looking for tonight?  Let’s dive into tonight’s action:

Buffalo at Bowling Green

Spread: Buffalo -31
Total: O/U 58
Time/TV: 7:00 PM ET, CBS Sports Network

A theme for Tuesday’s MACtion could be seeing what the top contenders in the MAC can do against the teams in the basement of the conference. 

The first game of the night will provide precisely that as conference favorite Buffalo goes on the road to face a Bowling Green team that is arguably the worst in college football.

The Bulls are coming off a thorough 42-10 beat down of 2019 MAC Champion Miami-Ohio and tonight get to square off against a Bowling Green Falcons squad that has been outscored 100-27 in the first two weeks of MAC play and has shown no signs of being competitive thus far.

Once again the focal point of the Buffalo attack will come from the two-headed monster at running back with the duo of Jaret Patterson and Kevin Marks Jr.  The tandem helped the Bulls boast the 10th best running attack in 2019, and while there has been a slight dip in production through the first two weeks of the season, Buffalo has still shown that their rushing attack is still quite dangerous.

To complicate matters for what figures to already be an overwhelmed Bowling Green defense, a week ago the Bulls leaned a bit more on the passing game than they typically do as quarterback Kyle Vantrease had the best game of his career with a 353-yard, five-touchdown night last week in the aforementioned win over Miami-Ohio.

When Vantrease has thrown the ball he has leaned on the talented Antonio Nunn for the most production.  The senior wide receiver (who is likely to play on Sunday’s in the coming years) leads the team with 11 receptions, 239 yards, and two touchdowns.  His straight-line speed will give the Falcons secondary a lot of problems and he should be in line for another great game tonight.

On the other hand, when dissecting the Bowling Green Falcons, there are not a whole lot of positives to hang your hat on. 

Bowling Green has been miserable out of the gates, averaging just 13.5 points per game and 316 total yards.  That would rank them 122nd and 116th, respectively, amongst the 126 FBS teams that are now playing college football in this strange season.

When you’re posting those anemic numbers in the MAC, that’s a cause for concern.

The biggest issue with the Bowling Green offense, and believe me there are many issues to address, comes with their passing offense which is nothing short of putrid.  If Matt Nagy’s playcalling was a quarterback it might be Bowling Green’s Matt McDonald who boasts this gaudy stat line through two weeks of the season:

14/50 passing, 28% completion percentage, 233 yards, 0 TD, 2 INT, QB rating of 59.1.

That’s just a big ball of yikes.

If you felt Bowling Green’s issues were constrained to just the offensive side of the football, well, you’d be wrong there too.  Defensively Bowling Green (to borrow from the philosophic views from one Bart Scott) couldn’t stop a nose bleed. 

So far during the first two games of the MAC season, the Falcons have surrendered an FBS-worst 50 points per game, while getting downright skewered to the tune of nearly 600 yards per game with over 302 of those yards coming on the ground.

There is no earthly reason to back Bowling Green right now, or at any point in this season.  I sure can’t do it, so I’ll be backing the best team in the conference thus far with hopes they aren’t just going through the motions against a Bowling Green team that would lose to several FCS schools right now.

Trends of Note
• Buffalo is 8-1 ATS in their L9 Mid-American Conference games
• The OVER is 7-3 in Buffalo’s L10 Mid-American Conference Games
• The OVER is 7-3 in Bowling Green’s L10 home conference games
• Bowling Green is just 2-8 ATS in their L10 Mid-American Conference games
• Bowling Green is just 2-8 ATS in their L10 home conference games

Prediction: Buffalo 52, Bowling Green 10
Best Bet: Buffalo -31

Akron at Kent State

Spread: Kent State -27
Total: O/U 58.5
Time/TV: 8:00 PM ET, ESPN

In the second game of the evening from the MAC, the lowly Akron Zips will take their 19-game losing streak on the road when they meet 2-0 Kent State.

The Golden Flashes are coming off of a 62-24 blowout of the aforementioned Bowling Green Falcons in which they racked up 667 yards of offense, including a great performance from starting QB Dustin Crum that saw him go 18-of-27 for 271 yards and four touchdowns.  Kent State would pile on another 295 yards rushing and outscored Bowling Green 52-14 after being tied at 10 following the first quarter.

Meanwhile, the Zips have continued to struggle mightily, but have shown glimpses of progress as last week the Akron defense played a very good game against Ohio in a 24-10 loss. 

The Zips may have found a building block on offense to start to turn things around as well, as junior college transfer Teon Dollard had 165 yards on 22 carries last week and is now second in the conference in rushing with 232 yards in his first two games.

Beyond Dollard, however, the Akron offense has looked downright awful at times.  Through the first two games of the season, Akron’s passing offense is the second-worst group in the conference, only ahead of Bowling Green.  

They are averaging just over 170 yards per game with two touchdowns and three interceptions.  Bear in mind once again, these numbers are coming in the MAC, not exactly a conference known for defensive struggles.  The fact is, Akron’s offense is still among the worst in the country even with the gem they’ve potentially unearthed at running back.

That paltry offense is a big reason why the Akron defense could be in for a long evening against the potent Kent State offense.  

The Golden Flashes have the best quarterback in the conference with future NFL prospect Dustin Crum and Crum should not have much issue moving the ball against an Akron defense that looked good a week ago but also got lit up in the opener by Western Michigan.

Unlike Bowling Green, Akron does appear to be moving somewhat in the right direction.  That won’t be seen tonight as Kent State is simply just a much better team.  This will be ugly, just not as ugly as the other game. 

Trends of Note
• Akron is 2-8 ATS in their L10 Mid-American Conference Games
• Kent State is 8-2 ATS in their L10 Mid-American Conference Games
• Akron has not scored 17 or more points in nine straight MAC games
• The UNDER is 8-2 in the L10 games between these two schools

Prediction: Kent State 42, Akron 13
Best Bet: Kent State -27

The OddsUSA College Football Best Bet of the Week: Indiana at Ohio State

Indiana at The Ohio State University Betting Breakdown

  • Spread: Ohio State -20.5
  • Moneyline: Ohio State -1115; Indiana +650
  • Over/Under: 64.5

*Odds via DraftKings.com

Prior to the start of the Big Ten season, there is no way anyone would have said Ohio State-Indiana would be the must-see game of the year. But no one would have guessed Indiana would be 4-0 and ranked No. 9 in the nation, either.

The Hoosiers have been surprisingly good, though. Ohio State, on the other hand, has been as good as expected—which does not bode well for Indiana.

Despite the success Indiana has had this season, the expectation for them heading into this game is still the same—Ohio State will blow them out of the water. But with how well they have played this season, it is not hard to wonder if the Hoosiers can do it.

Can they pull off the upset of the century and beat Ohio State in the Horseshoe?

Indiana Hoosiers Betting Preview

After getting off to a 3-0 start that included wins over Penn State and Michigan, the stage was set for Indiana to have a let-down game last week against Michigan State. If they came out flat and/or struggled to get on track, the Spartans appeared good enough to steal a win from the Hoosiers.

But Indiana took care of business, forcing three turnovers (that led to points) in the first half and cruised to a 24-0 win. So, they did not have a let-down game, after all—but that doesn’t mean they are ready for the Buckeyes.

The press has been nice to Indiana, but few (if any) have tried to compare Indiana to Ohio State. No, the expectations have remained largely the same. They are not just underdogs; they are big underdogs. So big that even diehard fans are probably choosing Ohio State.

Consequently, the team could fall into a common underdog trap. They may buy into what people say and go into the game expecting to lose. But if they can use those low expectations as fuel to fire the game of their lives, an upset could be possible.

Ohio State’s defense is good this year, but not the great unit the team often fields. Their weakness happens to be what the Indiana offense does best—pass (224.3 yards/game; 51st). Indiana is averaging 267.5 yards/game but will likely need another 300+-yard day from Michael Penix Jr. as they got out of him last week.

The key, however, will be on defense. Indiana has done well against the pass and run so far this season. But they have yet to face an offensive attack as potent as Ohio State.   

Ohio State Buckeyes Betting Preview

As usual, the expectations were high for Ohio State once the season started. So far, they have lived up to them. Justin Fields is playing like a Heisman frontrunner, they have won all three games by double-digits, and the defense is getting the job done.

It is hard to find a flaw. On paper, there does not appear to be anything the Hoosiers will be able to exploit.  Ohio State is running for over 200 a game and passing for over 300. Defensively, they are only allowing 356 total yards/game and 23 points.

Anyone who will beat them will need to score more than 23 points (Indiana is averaging 33).

However, there is a glimmer of hope. Nebraska was able to run through the Ohio State defense to the tune of 200+ yards. While the Ohio State defense has done a good job this year, they have played three terrible offensive teams.

So, maybe they are not as good as they look?

Indiana at Ohio State Betting Prediction

There is not a football fan in the country outside of Ohio that wants to see the Buckeyes win this game. Everyone loves a good underdog story; should Indiana win, it would be a great one. But it is hard to see how the Hoosiers are going to pull it off.

Like the Buckeyes, the Hoosiers defense has looked good against some bad teams. Facing one with the offensive firepower like Ohio State is going to be a rude wake-up call. At the same time, the Buckeyes have yet to encounter an offense as good as Indiana’s.

But to try to say the offenses are comparable—well, they are not. Michael Penix Jr. is good, but Justin Fields is better. 

So—how should you bet?

Take Ohio State to win but look for Indiana to keep it competitive and win against the spread. As for the over/under— take the over. Both teams are going to put on an offensive show.

Heisman Trophy Odds for Week 12: Entrance of the Mac

A few questions about the Heisman Trophy have gone unanswered this season—until recently, that is. With every conference getting off to a late start this season, the original trophy presentation date just did not make sense. As more conferences returned to play and pushed the end of the regular season a couple of weeks beyond that date, one thing was clear.

The date was going to have to change—and now it has.

Over the weekend, the Heisman Trust announced that trophy presentation would be virtual on January 5th, with votes due by December 21st. The three finalists will be announced on Christmas Eve.

Okay! So, now we know the when and the how, but one question remains—who. Who will win the Heisman this year?

For most of the season, popular opinion has had the race down to two or three guys. But it appears that a case for a fourth candidate is starting to gain steam.

Heisman Trophy Odds: And the Plot Thickens…

The Heisman was widely considered Trevor Lawrence’s to lose for most of the season. While Clemson’s quarterback has played well this season, he has not had the kind of game that could lock the award down for him. He could have had such a game against Notre Dame, but the coronavirus had him sidelined.

He has not played poorly; he just hasn’t ‘wowed’ us this year. But he is still in consideration, of course, and is one of four co-favorites (+250 odds via FanDuel).

Lawrence did not play last weekend, and neither did one of the other favorites, the guy that has been hot on his tail all season long—Alabama’s Mac Jones. While he does not have the name recognition of Lawrence or Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields, the results speak for themselves.

Fields almost got grandfathered into frontrunner status. After being a finalist last year, he was expected to win this year before the Big Ten decided to cancel its season. As soon as they announced they were indeed going to play, he was reinstalled as a favorite. His play has been exceptional, but he will not play as many games as Lawrence or Jones.

Can Kyle Trask Claw His Way Back into the Heisman Trophy Race?

The competition in the Big Ten is not as tough as it was expected to be. But the competition isn’t exactly tough in the ACC, either. That has allowed a fourth contender to sneak into the race: Florida quarterback Kyle Trask.

Trask has remained on the outskirts of the Heisman conversation all season. But he has joined the big three as a favorite after torching Arkansas over the weekend. He had as many touchdowns (six) as incompletions in the game (23-29 for 356 yards), giving him 28 on the season.

The only downside to him is the loss to Texas A&M, but even in that game, he threw for 312 yards and four touchdowns. He has had at least four touchdown passes in every game this season. If he can keep that level of production up in Florida’s last four games (Vanderbilt, Kentucky, Tennessee, and LSU), voters will have to notice him.

If he does it against Alabama in the SEC title game as well, he just might win.

Most books have cut their lists of players with odds short at this point in the season. While many of the guys still getting odds have had great seasons, most have had at least one bad game or don’t play anyone.

Outside of the top four, BYU’s Zach Wilson has the best odds at +3000. But his most formidable opponent was Boise State.  

Had the Pac-12 started sooner, it might be worth including a few guys in the conversation like Kedon Slovis or CJ Verdel. But for the Pac-12, it is too little, too late.

But while it appears to be at least a four-person race right now, that could all change by the end of next weekend. The odds are going to be heavily against Michael Penix Jr. and Indiana when they face Ohio State. But if the Hoosiers pull off the upset, Penix will most certainly jump right into the thick of the Heisman race. 

Pac-12 Championship Odds for Week 12: So Wait… Who Wins What and How Now?

It may have taken the Pac-12 a couple of weeks to get one game under almost everyone’s belt, but they did it. Their season is underway, and while it may be short, a season is better than no season. If all goes well, maybe Utah will get to play their first game of the season soon.

Of course, with such a late start, games could not be postponed if a team had coronavirus issues. They would have to be canceled—and several already have. While it is understandable why they had to be canceled, doing so created a problem.

If one team goes 4-0 but had two games canceled, would they make it to the conference championship game over a team that was 5-1?

To that end, the Pac-12 decided on the following criteria for eligibility:

“…teams must play no less than one fewer conference game than the average number of conference games played by all conference teams…”

“If any team(s) has not played six (6) Conference games (due to not being able to reschedule a postponed Conference game) and any team(s) is within one Conference win from the team(s) with the highest conference winning percentage AND has an equal number of losses, those teams shall be declared tied.” 

In the case of a tie, the conference has eight different tiebreakers beginning with the head-to-head result and ending with a coin toss. But with how the Pac-12 is looking so far, that is probably not something fans will have to worry about.

Pac-12 Championship Odds: Anyone Make A Good First Impression?

If you had ever wondered why teams schedule soft, non-conference opponents to start the season, the reason has become abundantly clear this year. Everyone, from the big dogs down to the perennial losers, has kinks to work out.

Doing so against a soft opponent means you can work through issues without fear of losing the game. But since everyone is playing a conference-only schedule this year, most teams did not get that opportunity.

That is why USC (+150; odds via DraftKings) did not look as good as fans hoped they would against Arizona State (+4000) and Arizona (+4000). But in the end, they got it together in time to win both games. So, as far as the South division race goes, they are in great shape.  

They will need to be more consistent from now on if they are going to control their destiny. USC is scheduled to face Utah this weekend and Colorado (who is also 2-0) next week.

Not much was expected of Colorado (+2000) coming into the season, but the offense has been surprisingly good at putting points on the board. That is good since the defense has not been too good at stopping anyone yet.

They will need to beat USC in a couple of weeks if they want a legitimate shot at making the title game.

Why the Pac-12 Champ May Come From the North

Utah, while they have yet to play, is still in the hunt (+1200). They can make a bold statement with a win over USC this weekend (if they play).

UCLA’s (+1600) offense looked good in their first game (a loss to Colorado), but their defense did not. Against Cal, they looked good on both sides of the ball. But they will have to earn their spot in the title game with wins over Oregon and USC this year.

In the North Division, Oregon (+150) is running the show as expected. They cruised by Stanford in their season opener. Washington State made it tough on them last weekend, but the Ducks still won by 14. Of their four remaining games, their most formidable opponent left is UCLA, who they face this week.

Of the rest of the division, Washington (+700) is undefeated (1-0), but they struggled against a bad Oregon State (+50000) team. Washington State (+2200) may have the best chance of challenging Oregon, but since the Ducks have already beaten them, the Cougars will have to win out and get some help.

As expected, it looks like USC and Oregon are going to meet in the conference title game. But anything can happen over the next few weeks. Just because someone has looked good after one or two games does not mean anything.

Right, Mississippi State?

Who’s Your MAC Daddy? Previewing Opening Night in the MAC

With all eyes in the United States on the upper Midwest tonight, what better time for the Mid-American Conference to make its 2020 debut?

That’s right, MACtion makes its return to the gridiron tonight with the first of six games for each of the 12 members of the conference.  If you’re wanting a cherry on the MAC sundae, for the first three weeks of the season all games will come on a Tuesday or a Wednesday, leaving us with some combination of college and NFL games coming on every day during the week for all of November.

If that’s not a nice reward after Election Day 2020, I don’t know what is.

If you have no clue what teams to back or what players to watch, let this opening guide be your crash course introduction into the beauty that is the MAC.  Let’s jump right on into tonight’s slate of games.

Eastern Michigan at Kent State

Spread: Kent State -4.5 (-108)
Total:
O/U 65 (-113/-108)
Time/TV:
6:00 PM ET, ESPN+

The Eastern Michigan Eagles (6-7, 3-5 MAC in 2019) kickoff the 2020 MAC season with a road date against the Kent State Golden Flashes (7-6, 5-3 MAC in 2019). 

Eastern Michigan enters this contest in what could amount to a rebuilding season for the program as Eagles coach Chris Creighton will need to replace his starting QB Mike Glass (3,169 yards, 24 TD, 11 INT) along with the top four rushers from 2019 and the top pass-catcher from a season ago in Arthur Jackson III. 

That’s a lot of talent for any team to replace but even more so for an Eastern Michigan program that has needed several seasons to rise from the ashes of being one of the worst college football programs in the country, but if anyone has shown the ability to make chicken salad out of, well, you know, it’s Chris Creighton, as the Eagles coach has posted winning seasons in two of the last four years after EMU went without a winning season for nearly 20 years.

Replacing QB Mike Glass for Creighton’s Eagles’ will be junior Preston Hutchinson who has one start in his career, a fantastic 31-of-36 for 357 yards, and three touchdowns in a win over Western Michigan.  Hutchinson will also be playing under a new offensive coordinator as Aaron Keen left the team to become the new head coach at Washington University in St. Louis.  Chris Creighton will assume the play-calling duties for EMU this year, and with all the new starters throughout the Eagles offense rust could enter the equation at the early onset of the season.

Meanwhile, Kent State will begin their season with a little more continuity on the offensive side of the ball, in particular, due to the return of senior quarterback Dustin Crum (2,622 yards passing, 20 TD, two interceptions).  Crum is a legitimate NFL prospect and also Kent State’s leading rusher (707 yards, six touchdowns in 2019) and Kent State’s success ultimately will depend on his arm and legs.

Crum will have the added luxury of the return of leading receiver Isaiah McKoy, however, the Golden Flashes will need to replace their remaining top-three receivers from a season ago in addition to Kent State’s best running back from a season ago in Will Matthews.  Beyond that, Kent State does at least return four starters to their offensive line, however, the lone starter that will not return to the team this season is that of center Nate Warnock who was widely considered as the Golden Flashes best offensive lineman from a season ago.  With Kent State’s high tempo offense, this could be something to keep an eye on early.

Defensively both units face many challenges, as is often expected in the Mid-American Conference.  Neither side has much to boast about at all on that side of the ball, and both defenses enter the 2020 season where they lost their best talent to graduation. 

Currently, oddsmakers slightly favor the home side Kent State at -4.5 and with each team facing a whole myriad of questions entering the game, I am going to lean on the side of experience here and back the Golden Flashes to cover behind the play of arguably the best QB in the conference in Dustin Crum. 

Prediction: Kent State 34, Eastern Michigan 24
Best Bet:
Kent State -4.5 (-108)

Western Michigan at Akron

Spread: Western Michigan -20.5 (-110)
Total:
O/U 53 (-109/-112)
Time/TV:
6:00 PM ET, ESPN3

Western Michigan looks to build off a successful 2019 campaign that saw the Broncos post a winning season (7-6 overall, 5-3 MAC) and reach a bowl game for the fifth time in six years, unfortunately falling 23-20 to Western Kentucky in the First Responder Bowl.  The loss was WMU’s eighth bowl loss in nine tries, so while the Broncos have figured out how to have success inside the MAC, they’ve yet to have that success replicate during bowl season.

Western Michigan enters the 2020 season facing quite the challenge in filling the shoes of 2019 MAC Offensive Player of the Year RB LeVante Bellamy (1,472 yards rushing, 23 TD) along with the graduation of starting QB Jon Wassink (3,097 yards passing, 20 TD, 8 INT).  The Broncos led the MAC in 2019 with 13 players receiving All-Conference honors, including a conference-high six first-team selections. 

WMU will need to replace four of those players, and also saw other roster losses on the defensive side of the ball as well. 

If there’s a team for Western Michigan to get settled into the 2020 season with their many personnel changes, they couldn’t have asked for a betting opponent than the Akron Zips.  Akron enters the abbreviated MAC season on a 17-game losing streak dating back to 2018, and they finished the 2019 season at a woeful 0-12 overall while covering a spread just a single time all season (1-11 ATS).  Akron became the first college football team to ever begin a season 0-10 ATS.  Quite frankly, if you weren’t auto fading the Zips last season you were leaving a lot of profit on the table.

In the free-scoring Mid-American Conference, the Zips hit levels of ineptitude few schools have reached in college football.  Akron averaged only 10.5 points per game a season ago while failing to score more than seven points in seven of 12 games.  They averaged 1.8 yards per carry.  They couldn’t block.  They couldn’t do much of anything right.

Defensively, the Zips were actually a fairly respectable unit, especially considering how woeful their offense was.  However, the team does lose their lone two All-Conference selections from the 2019 season in LB John Lako and DB Alvin Davis, along with five of their top eight tacklers from a season ago.  To say the cupboard in Akron is bare would be kind, this is a very bad football team in the making once again.

While many schools would be annoyed at their college football schedule being cut in half from 12 games to 6, the MAC is probably doing Akron a favor here.  The MAC featured six schools in 2019 that finished with a winning record.  Five of those teams are on Akron’s schedule in 2020.  The likelihood the Zips go two straight seasons without a win is very high, and the Zips’ struggles begin this evening in kind.

Western Michigan rolls and covers the big number.

Prediction: Western Michigan 41, Akron 13
Best Bet:
Western Michigan -20.5

Ball State at Miami (OH)

Spread: Ball State -0.5 (-108)
Total:
O/U 56 (-110/-100)
Time/TV:
7:00 PM ET, CBS Sports Network

In what looks to be the biggest toss-up of the evening, Ball State goes on the road to meet 2019 MAC Champion Miami-Ohio. 

Ball State comes into the 2020 MAC season with the potential to be a real sleeper to win the conference as they return 17 seniors and add five grad transfers to a team that finished 5-7 a season ago but had three conference losses come by a combined eight points. 

The Cardinals are led by their senior signal-caller Drew Plitt (2,918 yards, 24 TD, 7 INT in 2019) who was instrumental in Ball State leading the conference in scoring in 2019.  The offensive line boasts four senior starters with only their right tackle Danny Pinter (Colts 5th round pick in 2020) not returning to the team this season. 

Ball State will start senior Caleb Huntley (1,275 yards, 12 TD) at running back while getting back three of their top four wide receivers from a season ago.  If there’s a team well-equipped to hit the ground running in an abbreviated six-game season, it could very well be the boys from Muncie.

Meanwhile, the Miami-Ohio RedHawks begin their MAC title defense also returning multiple starters to each side of the ball.  The RedHawks, however, were almost a polar-opposite from the Cardinals as they were actually on the bottom end of the conference offensively. 

Freshman quarterback Brett Gabbert looked like a freshman in his rookie season as he threw for just over 2,400 yards with 11 touchdowns and eight interceptions a season ago, and much of the RedHawks success in 2019 was attributed more to the play of their stingy defense than anything tied to offensive accolades.  That being said, Gabbert was uniquely clutch in close games a season ago, as Miami-Ohio would go 5-0 in games decided by one possession or less. 

With Miami-Ohio starting four true freshmen on offense a season ago, one would assume there’s only one way to go up from there, but if the RedHawks offense is as stagnant this season as it was a year ago, we could very well see those one-possession games begin to go the other way.

In looking over this matchup, I think a senior-laden roster coming off a run of unfortunate luck (three losses by a combined eight points) is more likely to start the season off well than one still accruing experience playing college football.   I am predicting Ball State will use the best offense in the conference to score a big opening road win.

Prediction: Ball State 37, Miami-Ohio 23
Best Bet:
Ball State -0.5
Bonus Bet: Ball State -6.5 Alt Line (+180)

Ohio at Central Michigan

Spread: Ohio -3 (-107)
Total:
O/U 54.5 (-113/-108)
Time/TV:
7:00 PM ET, ESPN2

Believe it or not, Frank Solich enters his 16th season at Ohio University when the 2020 season begins Wednesday night, and his Ohio Bobcats (7-6 overall, 5-3 MAC in 2019) could be in a position to play for a Mid-American Conference title by the time this six-game abbreviated schedule is in the books.

Ohio will start their season on the road against Central Michigan, who was one of the best stories of the 2019 College Football season.  The Chippewas (8-6 overall, 6-2 MAC) had one of the best single-season turnarounds in college football history when they would win the MAC’s Western Division and qualify for a spot in the MAC Championship game after finishing the 2018 season with a 1-11 record.

First-year coach Jim McElwain along with offensive coordinator, and former MAC star, Charlie Frye revitalized a lifeless offense and took the MAC by storm in their first year behind a pair of 1,000-yard rushers in Jonathan Ward and Kobe Lewis.  Ward has since graduated from the program, leaving Lewis as the starter in 2020.

Both teams enter tonight’s game with a lot of questions at quarterback.  Ohio enters the 2020 season losing three-year starter Nathan Rourke to graduation, leaving UNLV transfer Armani Rogers and Rourke’s younger brother Kurtis as the two options under center for the Bobcats.

Meanwhile, for McElwain’s Chips, JUCO transfer David Moore started the first four games for CMU a season ago before being suspended for the rest of the season for a banned substance, leaving McElwain to turn to former Vols transfer Quinten Dormady.  Dormady played well in relief of the suspended Moore, but like Nathan Rourke, graduated from the program in 2019.  With David Moore’s status still up in the air as the NCAA has yet to clear him, McElwain will need to turn to true freshman Daniel Richardson to run Frye’s pro-style offense.

While the offenses try to work things out with their various personnel changes, the advantage in this game could come down to what defense can get more stops and win the turnover battle.  Every indication entering this game is that Central Michigan has the edge here.

Ohio’s rush defense left a lot to be desired a year ago for Solich and company, as the Bobcats gave up nearly five yards per carry and ranked 94th against the run in 2019.  Central Michigan, on the other hand, was one of the best units in college football against the run a year ago.  The Chippewas defensive line even led the nation in tackles for a loss.  They’re the real deal. It just so happens that most of this unit returns in 2020.

While each offense goes through the pain of shaking off months of rust and replacing talent that’s since graduating from the team, each defense should be further along in getting back up to game speed.  I think the under is a very solid play here considering the state of each team’s roster and will avoid trying to pick a side here.

Prediction: Ohio 24, Central Michigan 23
Best Bet:
UNDER 54.5

Buffalo at Northern Illinois

Spread: Buffalo -14 (-108)
Total:
O/U 52.5 (-109/-112)
Time/TV:
7:00 PM ET, ESPN2

The Buffalo Bulls (8-5 overall, 5-3 MAC in 2019) are your consensus favorite to win the 2020 MAC Championship as we head into tonight’s season opener and they hit the road to start their season as two-touchdown road favs when they meet Northern Illinois (5-7 overall, 4-4 MAC) on Wednesday. 

The Bulls are your short-favorites for good reason, they enter 2020 coming off their first bowl win in school history – a 31-9 Bahamas Bowl blowout of Charlotte – and closed out the 2019 season winning six of their last seven games, all of which came by 19 points or more.

Buffalo returns their potent tandem at running back with Jaret Patterson (1,799 yards rushing, 19 touchdowns) and Kevin Marks Jr. (1,035 yards rushing, 8 touchdowns) along with starting quarterback Kyle Vantrease, though the Bulls are a run-first, second and third team. 

While the Bulls do not throw the ball often when they do throw the ball their offensive line is outstanding at keeping their quarterback’s jersey clean as they boasted the lowest sack rate in 2019.

Defensively Buffalo may have the best front seven in the entire conference, highlighted by their bookend rushing duo of Taylor Riggins and Malcolm Koonce.  Expect every quarterback on Buffalo’s schedule to be under duress early and often in 2020.

Northern Illinois on the other hand enters the new season going through a rebuilding period of sorts.  The Huskies went 5-7 a season ago but will have 11 new starters on a roster that finished in the bottom 25 in both total offense and defense in 2019.  66 underclassmen in all will make up the Huskies roster, giving them one of the youngest teams in the conference.  

Defensively NIU will return only five starters from a season ago, though they return two senior linebackers in Lance Deveaux and Kyle Pugh.  They will be beyond busy this evening in trying to keep up with the relentless Buffalo rushing attack.

In a normal 12-game season, NIU is a team that would have potential to grow as the season went on, becoming more dangerous with each passing week, in a six-game season though, the lack of experience is going to pose a very real challenge to the Huskies this season.

Look for the Bulls to cruise in their season-opener and never truly be tested all throughout.

Prediction: Buffalo 41, Northern Illinois 17
Best Bet:
Buffalo -14

Bowling Green at Toledo

Spread: Toledo -24 (-113)
Total:
O/U 63(-112/-109)
Time/TV:
8:00 PM ET, ESPNU

The last game of the night incidentally also has the largest point spread of the evening, as Toledo (6-6 overall, 3-5 MAC in 2019) plays host to Bowling Green (3-9 overall, 2-6 MAC) as 24-point home favorites.

If you’re wondering why a 6-6 Toledo team is favored by 24, it’s because Bowling Green is really bad at football.  How bad were they exactly?  In 2019, out of 130 possible schools, the Falcons ranked 128th overall offensively and 124th defensively.  Quite frankly, the fact they won three games a season ago is a miracle in itself, though games against Morgan State and Akron certainly helped.

Ironically enough though, their other win of the 2019 season came against this very Toledo team last October when Bowling Green would hand them a stunning 20-7 loss after being outscored 201-27 the previous four games.

As a result, revenge could be on the menu from the Glass City tonight.  After nine consecutive winning seasons, the Rockets failed to climb above .500 a season ago despite having the 19th best rushing attack in the country.  Toledo gets their dual-headed monster at running back with the return of Bryant Koback (1,187 yards, 12 TD) and Shakif Seymour (741 yards, five touchdowns), and that could be all the Rockets really need tonight against a freshman-laden team that didn’t add much of anything to an already talent-deprived roster as it is.

I think Bowling Green has potential to be the worst team in college football this season.  There is simply nothing on this roster to get excited about, and a terrible loss a season ago will provide all the motivation Toledo needs to put this game out of reach early.

Prediction: Toledo 52, Bowling Green 20
Best Bet: Toledo -24 (Would buy down to -23.5)

Revisited SEC Championship Odds Preview

By: Travis Pulver 

SEC Championship Odds Revisited: Has Anything Really Changed?

With the Big Ten and PAC-12 potentially rethinking their stance on the 2020 college football season, it is hard to say what the national title picture could look like. However, at the conference level, that is not the case. Schedules include more conference games than usual, like in the SEC, but fans will not mind. 

However, the question most are wondering about is this: how will the additional conference games impact the SEC Championship picture? 

The SEC had a chance to make the schedule more competitive, but instead, it looks like they tried to ensure Alabama returns to the top, LSU remains competitive, and the bottom-feeders remain on the bottom. 

But just because Alabama got handed the golden ticket does not mean they will get the chance to cash it in.  Maybe Florida ascends to the top like LSU did last season, or perhaps the investment in Jimbo Fisher pays off, and the Aggies do. 

Or maybe a team no one is paying attention to emerges out of nowhere and shocks the world… 

SEC Championship Odds Revisited: Still Alabama’s Conference to Lose?

After last season’s 11-2 downer of a season, Nick Saban will be looking to get his Alabama Crimson Tide (-143) back on top. The oddsmakers at DraftKings expected them to back when the early odds were released, which have only gotten better as the season draws near. 

With their roster of talent and the losses other teams have suffered, it is not hard to see why. 

LSU (+1000) had pretty good odds early on to repeat as champions despite losing a ton of starters to graduation and the NFL. But with several of the remaining starters opting out due to the coronavirus, the Tigers will only have five returning starters. 

If they still had three non-conference games to work the kinks out, they might still have been competitive. But without them, it is going to be a lot harder to get the offense or defense clicking on track. However, since expectations are low or their two additional opponents (Missouri, Vanderbilt), they may be just fine.   

Even though Jamie Newman, who was expected to start at quarterback this year, opted out, the Georgia Bulldogs have seen their odds improve. They now have the second-best odds in the conference at +300. That is despite the late change at quarterback and other changes on the offensive side of the ball. 

Yes, their defense is going to be one of the best in the nation. But, for now, they have a ton of questions surrounding the offense. 

NCAA Football Betting: Is it Worth Taking a Chomp at the Gators SEC Odds?

Florida (+400) has seen their odds take a nice jump from earlier in the year. However, while they were fortunate with the teams added to their schedule (Arkansas, Texas A&M), the Aggies may be good enough to derail their title hopes. 

When it comes to Texas A&M (+1400), reviews about them are mixed. Some see the potential for great things, but many more do not. Before they had two additional SEC teams added to their schedule, they were a dark horse candidate at best. But with Florida and Tennessee added, well—the schedule makers didn’t do them any favors. 

After ending the season last year with six wins, Tennessee has some buzz (+2500). But with the holes in their roster and the two games that got added (Texas A&M, Auburn), they have a tough road ahead. 

Auburn (+3300) could be the best dark horse candidate in the conference. Last year’s 9-4 should see better production out of quarterback Bo Nix now that he has some experience. But while he has some good skill position guys coming back, he only has one starting offensive lineman returning. The defense will miss linebacker Chandler Wooten (coronavirus opt-out). 

As for the rest of the conference, Kentucky (+10000) will be better this season. But it may be asking too much to think they will improve enough to compete with Alabama. Will Muschamp will have his hands full at South Carolina (+12500) looking for new starters. 

Mike Leach will make Mississippi State (+15000) better as will Lane Kiffin for Ole Miss (+15000), but both will need more than one recruiting class to get the job done. Missouri (+15000) had a tough road before LSU and Alabama were added to their schedule. 

If you really want to bet on Vanderbilt (+30000) or Arkansas (+50000), but there are better ways to waste your money. 

Who should you bet for? This is the SEC we are talking about. We all know who will likely be in the race, but we don’t know who could be this year’s LSU and come out of nowhere.

PAC-12 And Big Ten Cancel Non-Conference Games For 2020 Fall Sports

Big Ten announced schedule change Thursday, PAC-12 on Friday

It looks like the ongoing COVID-19 Pandemic will have an impact on the upcoming college football season. On Thursday, the Big Ten Conference announced it will not allow teams to participate in non-conference games in football as well as several other Fall sports. Yesterday, the PAC-12 followed suit and voted to move to a conference-only schedule for all Fall sports this year as well. The organizations hope that limiting travel will reduce the risk of spreading or potentially catching COVID-19.

Big Ten Commissioner Kevin Warren said it is “much easier if we’re just working with our Big Ten institutions…” Warren is uncertain about the future of this upcoming football season. He told the Big Ten Network, “We may not have sports in the fall… We may not have a college football season in the Big Ten.”

“We may not have sports in the fall… We may not have a college football season in the Big Ten.”

Big Ten Commissioner Kevin Warren to the Big Ten Network

Yesterday, the PAC-12 followed the Big Ten’s example and also switched over to a conference-only schedule for all Fall sports. The decision was made during a virtual meeting held on Friday between PAC-12 athletic directors, university presidents, and conference officials. ESPN is reporting that the decision will delay the start of Fall sports, including football. USC was scheduled to open its season against Alabama at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.

Schools and Collegiate Conferences are still figuring out ways to deal with the ongoing COVID-19 Pandemic. This now makes three D-I Conferences that have had to make changes to their Fall Sports schedule due to Coronavirus. On Wednesday, the Ivy League became the first Division I Conference to suspend all Fall Sports due to the ongoing health crisis.