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)

Black Friday Best Bets: Irish, Heels to Light Up the Scoreboard?

Ah, the day after Thanksgiving, a wonderful day where you can spend the day on the couch feasting on Thanksgiving Day leftovers while avoiding getting stampeded for discounted electronics.

The college football is typically pretty good too, even during the broken year that is 2020.

Friday’s slate boasts nine matchups in all, but we’ve unearthed the three Best Bets of the day.  If you want to make a little extra dough today while trying to get that new PS5, we got you covered.

#2 Notre Dame at #19 North Carolina

Spread: Notre Dame -5.5
Total: O/U 68.5
Time/TV: 3:30 PM ET, ABC

The first CFP ranking is out and the Irish are sitting as the #2 team in the country.  Today, however, Notre Dame faces its biggest road test of the season with a trip to Chapel Hill to meet Mack Brown’s 19th ranked North Carolina Tar Heels.

Let’s get into the nitty-gritty of this matchup. 

The Notre Dame offense has come to life in recent weeks, posting 40+ points in three of the last four games including a wild 47-40 2OT win over Clemson.  QB Ian Book is playing the best football of his collegiate football career and the Irish have put up over 500 yards of offense in their last two games.

Analytics has the Irish as a Top 10 offense.  Old fashioned statistics back up that assessment.  Notre Dame is playing its best football of the season and gets a great matchup today against a North Carolina defense that is giving up over 410 yards of offense per game and nearly six yards per play.

While the ‘Heels defense leaves a lot to be desired, their offense is one of the best in the country.  North Carolina boasts the 4th overall offense in the country, averaging an eye-popping 563 yards per contest and 43 points per game.

To me, this has all the makings of a possible upset and an even more probable shootout.  The recent trends back up the shootout as well as Notre Dame has gone over the total in five of the last six games off a Notre Dame bye week, while UNC is 7-3-1 to the over in their last 11 games as the underdog.

Both defenses could be in for a long day, making that 5.5-point spread a riskier play.  I will avoid picking a side in this contest and root for the scoreboard to light up.  Take the over in this one and don’t look back.

Best Bet: OVER 68.5 (Play up to 69.5)

#15 Oregon at Oregon State

Spread: Oregon -12.5
Total:
O/U 66.5
Time/TV:
7:30 PM ET, ESPN

The 124th installment of Oregon vs. Oregon State kicks off later this evening from Corvallis with the Ducks looking to improve their CFP standing with another victory.

The rivalry formerly known as the ‘Civil War’ has been dominated by the Ducks over the last decade with Oregon going 9-1 overall in the L10 matchups between these two schools.  Against the spread, however, has been a different story as the two sides have split it right down the middle going 5-5 ATS over the same time frame.

The Ducks are led by sophomore quarterback Tyler Shough this season and Shough has done a great job out of the gates in replacing the likely NFL Rookie of the Year Justin Herbert.  Oregon is averaging just under 500 yards of total offense through their first three games of the season and Shough leads the conference in touchdown passes.  The Ducks are not the same offensive powerhouse that they were under Chip Kelly many years ago, but they’re still a very potent group.

Oregon State, however, has shown to be better than advertised thus far to start the season.  While the Beavs are sitting at 1-2 to start the year, they’ve been competitive in all three contests including a 27-21 loss to Washington that was scheduled at the very last minute due to COVID-19 cancellations.

The Beavers’ focal point on offense comes with running back Jermar Jefferson.  Jefferson averages over 166 yards of total offense per game and has notched five rushing touchdowns.  The Beavers offense as a whole averages about 360 yards of offense, so you can see how much they lean on their junior running back.

Each defense comes into this game showing signs of weakness, most notably Oregon’s rushing defense which has been gouged for nearly 190 yards a game.  

Despite the unorthodox Pac-12 season, this is still a rivalry game and these are still two teams that do not like each other.  Oregon should come away with another win in this series, but I like the Beavers to keep it close by running the ball and keeping the Ducks explosive offense on the sideline.

Best Bet: Oregon State +12.5

Central Michigan at Eastern Michigan

Spread: Central Michigan -7
Total: O/U 59.5
Time/TV: 4:00 PM ET, CBS Sports Network

Of course, I couldn’t resist that sweet, sweet MACtion.

You may have noticed the Tuesday and Wednesday MACtion goodness was absent this week.  Unfortunately, we’re now at the point of the schedule where we will no longer have our mid-week fix of Mid-American Conference football, but Friday MACtion is just as juicy.

Today’s offering is an in-state rivalry amongst Michigan universities when Central Michigan heads to Ypsilanti to meet Eastern Michigan.

Central Michigan is coming off of their first loss of the season, a 52-44 defeat at the hands of Western Michigan, and now looks to keep their MAC West division hopes alive with a road victory today.

Eastern Michigan has been a tough foe for their MAC brethren to face, however.  Take these trends into consideration today:

• EMU is 15-4 ATS after failing to cover in its previous game (EMU did not cover in 45-28 loss to Toledo)
• EMU is 24-8 ATS in their last 32 games overall as an underdog
• EMU is 18-8 ATS the last 26 games against teams with a winning record
• EMU is 19-7 ATS following a straight-up loss in their last 26 games

While Central Michigan has covered the last three match-ups in this series, I still like Eastern Michigan’s chances to keep this game within a touchdown today.  EMU has been miserable in running the football this season (115th overall in the country), but they’ve been respectable throwing the ball (52nd overall) and they face a Chippewas defense that just got lit up in the passing game a little over a week ago.

Look for CMU to win, but EMU to cover in another MAC thriller.  I love the seven here but would buy the hook if you have the opportunity.

Best Bet: Eastern Michigan +7 (Would buy up to +7.5)

Oklahoma State Cowboys at Oklahoma Sooners Betting Preview

Saturday, November 21, 2020, Gaylor Family-Oklahoma Memorial Stadium, Norman, Oklahoma, 7:30 p.m. ET

Cowboys at Sooners Betting Preview: Cowboys (+6.5), Sooners (-6.5)

Oklahoma State Cowboys Betting Preview

The No. 14 Cowboys (5-1, 4-1 Big 12) are in a rare position in this meeting compared to recent years.

Usually, for them to win the Big 12, the Cowboys would probably have to knock off the Sooners twice — in the regular season and again in the conference championship game. But Oklahoma’s early losses to Kansas State and Iowa State have changed that.

Oklahoma State likely would need to beat the Sooners just once to have a shot at their first conference title since 2011 and their second in more than 40 years.

A win would not only put the Cowboys in the driver’s seat for their first Big 12 Championship Game berth, it also would virtually knock the Sooners out of contention, ending their five-year run of conference titles with two regular-season games remaining.

The Cowboys’ offense has struggled with consistency and is coming off a 256-yard performance in a win over Kansas State. Oklahoma State hadn’t had that few yards in a game since 2014.

While the Cowboys’ Chuba Hubbard and Tylan Wallace, at running back and receiver, are still capable of game-breaking plays at any moment, both have been banged up recently and three Oklahoma State offensive linemen are injured, two replaced by freshmen.

Quarterback Spencer Sanders will be making his first appearance against Oklahoma after after missing last year’s Bedlam due to injury.

Even without that big-game experience, Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy feels comfortable with the progress of his sophomore, especially when it comes to Sanders handling adversity.

“He’s turned (180 degrees) from where he was at this time last year,” Gundy said. “We needed him to adjust his composure sometimes when things don’t go well.”

Oklahoma Sooners Betting Preview

Spencer Rattler was sitting out last year as a redshirt for Oklahoma when the Sooners and Cowboys met in the annual Bedlam game, but he picked up some valuable big game experience this fall when rallying the Sooners (5-2, 4-2 Big 12) to a comeback win over Texas after two early turnovers got him benched in the second quarter.

Rattler’s maturity has showed as the No. 18 Sooners go into this game on a four-game winning streak.

“Spencer’s pretty level-headed,” Oklahoma H-back Jeremiah Hall said of Rattler. “He reminds me of Kyler (Murray). Kyler was never too high or too low, and Spencer typically has that same mindset.

“Obviously, he celebrates the touchdowns and is happy when we make a play and things like that, but it’s never over the top and never somewhat nervous or anything like that.”

It figures that Rattler needs to play a solid game for the Sooners against the Cowboys, who have one of the top defenses in the country. Oklahoma State has allowed an average of just 311.5 yards per game. The Sooners have averaged 515.

Back-to-back losses to start conference play put the Sooners in a difficult position, but they have responded climbed back into contention.

“Should be a lot of fun here in Norman on Saturday night,” Sooners coach Lincoln Riley said. “Can’t wait to play.”

Cowboys at Sooners Betting Pick for November 21, 2020

The Sooners are going for their sixth consecutive win in the Bedlam series after winning last year’s game 34-16 in Stillwater. The Cowboys’ last win in Norman was 38-35 in overtime in 2014, and they also took the Sooners to overtime in 2012 before losing 51-48.

Cowboys at Sooners Betting Pick:

 Sooners 38, Cowboys 24

Cowboys at Sooners Best Bet for November 21, 2020

The Sooners have averaged 52.5 points a game during its current four-game winning streak. The Cowboys have averaged just 28 points a game for the season and are coming off a 20-18 win over Kansas State.

Cowboys at Sooners Best Bet: OVER 58.5

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

No. 4 Clemson Tigers at Florida State Seminoles Betting Preview

Saturday, November 21, 2020, Doak Campbell Stadium, Tallahassee, Florida, noon. ET

Tigers at Seminoles Betting Preview: Tigers (+-34), Seminoles (+34)

Clemson Tigers Betting Preview

Clemson coach Dabo Swinney is preparing his No. 4 Tigers (7-1, 6-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) for the Florida State team that handled North Carolina its only loss of the season, not the bunch that has lost to Louisville, Pittsburgh, and North Carolina State the last three games.

“I know their record is not what they want it to be, but they are improving greatly,” Swinney said. “They are figuring out their personnel. They’ve got a lot of young guys playing and they are competing. Those guys continue to lay it on the line.”

Coming off a bye week following its 47-40 double-overtime loss at Notre Dame on Nov. 7, the Tigers haven’t lost back-to-back games since November 2011.

The loss at Notre Dame ended the Tigers’ 28-game winning streak against ACC opponents, but Swinney said the Tigers are ready for a reset, particularly with standout quarterback Trevor Lawrence back in the fold.

Lawrence missed the Tigers’ last two games after testing positive for COVID-19 but is set to return Saturday.

“He’s chomping at the bit to play,” Swinney said. “He’s Trevor. He’s well-prepared and focused and really locked in. You know what you’re going to get from (No.) 16, there’s no doubt about that.”

Freshman D.J. Uiagalelei played well in Lawrence’s stead, passing for 781 yards and four touchdowns in his two starts, but Lawrence adds another level. It starts with his maturity and confidence.

“He is a special talent,” Norvell said. “He’s a fun player to watch — not only the physical tools, but really the charisma that he brings and the leader that he is.”

Though Lawrence returns, the Tigers still won’t have top linebacker James Skalski for a fourth straight game. He remains out with a groin injury. Swinney is hopeful that multiple players who missed the Notre Dame game may return, including starting defensive tackle Tyler Davis and starting linebacker Mike Jones Jr.

“We had a much-needed break and we took good advantage of it, studying ourselves and getting some guys healthy,” Swinney said, “It has been a weekly challenge, just having consistency and continuity from week to week. The guys are eager to get back going. We’ve got 18 days left in our season. Anything you get after that you’ve got to earn.”

Florida State Seminoles Betting Preview

The Seminoles (2-6, 1-6 ACC) are very much aware of how this series has gone in recent years. Clemson has won five in a row and 10 of the last 15 against the Seminoles, and the last time the Tigers visited Tallahassee, in 2018, they dealt the Seminoles their worst home loss in school history 59-10.

“Our guys, they know the challenge that’s ahead,” first-year Florida State coach Mike Norvell said of his players. “They know the football team that’s coming in here is an exceptional team in all aspects. They’ve got dynamic players all over the field.”

The Seminoles, who have been depleted by the early departures of wide receiver Tamorrion Terry and defensive tackle Marvin Wilson, will counter with sophomore quarterback Jordan Travis, who is a dual-threat player who has had some bright moments.

“He’s a problem,” Swinney said. “We’ve not done a great job of containing the quarterback and getting him on the ground when have opportunities, and this guy is as good as we’re going to see.”

In his four starts, Travis has guided the Seminoles to over 405 yards of total offense three times. He has rushed for at least one touchdown in five consecutive games, the longest such streak in program history. His 88-yard touchdown run against Pitt put him one-up on Charlie Ward and Christian Ponder in the FSU record book.

Defensively, Asante Samuel is fourth in the nation in takeaways with three interceptions and two fumble recoveries. He has been credited with nine passes defended, which ranks seventh nationally.

Tigers at Seminoles Betting Pick

The Tigers have won 11 of the last 17 meetings, including the last five in a row and the last two meetings in Tallahassee. Lawrence was 17 of 25 for 170 yards in Clemson’s 45-14 win last year and was 20 of 37 for 314 yards and four touchdowns in the Tigers’ 59-10 win in 2018, their last meeting in Tallahassee.

Tigers at Seminoles Betting Pick:

Tigers 49, Seminoles 20

Tigers at Seminoles Best Bet

The Tigers have had a week to get over their double-overtime loss at Notre Dame while the Seminoles dropped their third in a row 38-22 last week at North Carolina State. The Seminoles have scored at a 22.0 clip while giving up 36.1 points a game while the Tigers hold a 45.4 to 19.5 scoring advantage over their opponents.

Tigers at Seminoles Best Bet: OVER 66.5

–Field Level Media

No. 7 Cincinnati Bearcats at UCF Knights Betting Preview

Saturday, November 21, 2020, Bounce House, Orlando, Florida 3:30 p.m. ET

Bearcats at Knights Betting Preview: Bearcats (-5.5), Knights (+5.5)

Unbeaten Cincinnati is facing a three-game road stretch that will determine the No. 7 Bearcats’ conference, bowl and even potential playoff fate, starting with Saturday’s game in Orlando against unranked but dangerous UCF.

Games at struggling Temple (Nov. 28) and current American Athletic Conference co-leader Tulsa (Dec. 4) wind up the 10-game 2020 card for the Bearcats (7-0, 5-0 AAC).

“It’s going to be huge,” Bearcats coach Luke Fickell said. “We’re going to find out what we’re really made of. … That is going to be quite a stretch with the bull’s-eye on our back and a lot of things that we want to be able to do. You know we’ve got to kind of focus in and be hungry and be humble in what we’re doing and find a way to continue to grow.”

After comfortable but routine wins over Army (24-10) and South Florida (28-7) in the second and third games of the season, the Bearcats have upped the pace offensively their past four outings, averaging a scoring margin of 46-13 in wins over SMU, Memphis, Houston and East Carolina.

Quarterback Desmond Ridder has posted two triple-digit rushing games in running for 398 yards and nine touchdowns in that four-game span and completed 71.4 percent of his 105 pass attempts for 886 yards and eight touchdowns against only two interceptions.

But those wins came over teams that are a combined 15-13 for the season, with SMU and Memphis accounting for 11 of the wins. Cincinnati’s final three opponents are a combined 10-8, and that includes a 1-5 Temple team.

UCF Knights Betting Preview

UCF (5-2, 4-2 AAC) has won three in a row since dropping back-to-back outings to Tulsa and Memphis and has averaged 44.3 points a game in its winning streak.

After passing for 601 yards in a 50-49 loss at Memphis, quarterback Dillon Gabriel has completed 57 of 95 attempts for 1,018 yards and nine touchdowns with no interceptions in wins over Tulane, Houston, and Temple.

For the season, the sophomore lefty has completed 63.3 percent of his passes for an average of 396.3 yards a game (No. 1 nationally) with 23 touchdowns against only two interceptions.

The Knights lead the nation in total offense per game with an average 619.1 yards per game, which is close to the record 624.9 yards per game set by Houston in 1989. They will be up against a Cincinnati defense that has held opponents to just 12.4 points (No. 3 nationally) and 300.9 yards a game (No. 10).

“We need to be at our best,” UCF coach Josh Heupel said. “Nothing extraordinary, but we’ve got to be able to do the ordinary things at a really high level. Our football team has had great focus, great preparation here these last few weeks. I think it is absolutely critical that we get ourselves ready and in a position to play our best football.”

With two conference losses, the Knights will need help to win the conference, but a win over the Bearcats would improve their position. Heupel doesn’t his players to get caught up in that speculation, however.

“I think everybody can see the end result as far as things in play,” he said. “For our players and coaches inside this program all that matters is this Saturday.”

Bearcats at Knights Betting Pick

The Bearcats snapped a three-game losing streak in the series with their 27-24 win over the Knights in Cincinnati last year. Ridder passed for only 149 yards, but two of his 17 completions went for touchdowns for Cincinnati while Gabriel passed for 297 yards and a touchdown but also was picked off three times in 46 attempts.

Bearcats at Knights Betting Pick:

Bearcats 28, Knights 24

Bearcats at Knights Best Bet

The Bearcats have scored at least 38 points in each of their last four games, all wins, and topped the 50 mark for the second time this season with a 55-17 romp past East Carolina their last outing. The Knights also have been on a role offensively their last three games, scoring at least 38 points in each outing.

Bearcats at Knights Best Bet: UNDER 62.5

–Field Level Media

Central Arkansas Bears at No. 24 Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns Betting Preview

Saturday, November 21, 2020, Cajun Field, Lafayette, Louisiana, 2 p.m. ET

Bears at Ragin’ Cajuns Betting Preview: Bears (+24.5), Ragin’ Cajuns (-24.5)

Central Arkansas Bears Betting Preview

Central Arkansas (5-4) surrendered 144 points during a 1-3 stretch but turned it around to outscore the opposition 89-35 en route to winning its last two games.

Bears quarterback Luke Hales made the most of his first start since 2018. The junior threw for 324 yards and two touchdowns to help the team rebound after squandering a 24-point lead and post a 37-25 victory over Eastern Kentucky last week.

“I think they do have poise. I think they’ve been in situations that are tough and tight many, many times,” Central Arkansas coach Nathan Brown said of his Bears. “And I thought they responded in a really positive manner.”

Tyler Hudson reeled in eight receptions for 154 yards, highlighted by a 69-yard touchdown in the first quarter. Lujuan Winningham, who had five catches for 77 yards, had a 12-yard scoring catch in the fourth quarter to seal the win.

Running back Kierre Crossley found the end zone in two of his last three games for the Bears.

Louisiana booked Central Arkansas to its slate on the heels of seeing previously scheduled games against New Mexico State and Missouri canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

No. 24 Ragin’ Cajuns Betting Preview

Louisiana aims to continue its torrid streak Saturday afternoon when it completes a run of three consecutive home games with a nonconference meeting against Central Arkansas in Lafayette.

The 24th-ranked Ragin’ Cajuns (7-1) enter the matinee in a flow, with a four-game winning streak that has powered the team to its third consecutive Sun Belt Conference West Division title.

Louisiana punched its ticket to the conference title game next month with a 38-10 romp over South Alabama last week. 

Levi Lewis led the way with three touchdown passes on a day in which he connected with 12 different receivers. 

A potent ground attack rolled up 254 yards, a total only eclipsed by the 282 accumulated by the Ragin’ Cajuns in their 44-34 victory over Texas State on Oct. 31.

“We played with balance and I thought we were kind of mixing the tempo,” Louisiana coach Billy Napier said. “I thought Levi was sharp early, and certainly in the first possession we were able to rush the ball.”

Chris Smith highlighted his 99-yard rushing performance with a 22-yard touchdown run in the first quarter. Trey Ragas, who capped the scoring with a 25-yard touchdown reception in the fourth quarter, had 78 yards on the ground and Elijah Mitchell added 61 rushing yards to boot.

“We’ve been talking about it since Week 1 and (on Saturday) we finally put it together,” Smith said. “The O-line, they were working together, working hard, being confident. We had faith in them. Our running back, receivers, quarterback — we all believed in them.”

There’s plenty to believe in the ground game, considering Mitchell (563 rushing yards), Ragas (522), Smith (290) and Lewis (178) all are averaging at least 5.6 yards per carry.

Bears at Ragin’ Cajuns Betting Pick

The Bears and Ragin’ Cajuns are meeting for the first time. An FCS program, the Bears are coming off a 37-25 win in the second meeting with Eastern Kentucky, which won the first in Richmond, Kentucky 31-28.

Bears at Ragin’ Cajuns Betting Pick:

 Ragin’ Cajuns 42, Bears 14

Bears at Ragin’ Cajuns Best Bet

The Cajuns have been off and on offensively but will be coming into the game on an emotional high after clinching the Sun Belt West Division with their 38-10 win over South Alabama last week. The Bears lost to another Sun Belt team, Arkansas State, 50-27, on October 10.

Bears at Ragin’ Cajuns Best Bet: UNDER 59.5

Appalachian State Mountaineers at No. 15 Coastal Carolina Chanticleers Betting Preview

Saturday, November 21, 2020, Brooks Stadium, Conway, South Carolina, noon ET

Mountaineers at Chanticleers Betting Preview: Mountaineers (+5.5), Chanticleers (-5.5)

Appalachian State Mountaineers Betting Preview

Appalachian State (6-1, 4-0 Sun Belt) owns a 183-81 scoring advantage in winning five straight games since a 17-7 loss at Marshall on Sept. 19.

But it is uncertain if star quarterback Zac Thomas (1,285 passing yards, 12 touchdowns, five interceptions; 275 rushing yards) will be available Saturday. He suffered apparent whiplash in last weekend’s 17-13 comeback win over Georgia State.

“Zac was back in the building (on Sunday) and looked good,” Mountaineers coach Shawn Clark said. “It’s going to be day-to-day.”

If Thomas is unable to play, senior backup Jacob Huesman, who guided the Mountaineers to a go-ahead and eventual game-winning touchdown in the fourth quarter against Georgia State, would likely get the start.

“Jacob Huesman has been a backup here his entire career,” Clark said, “and he’s practiced like a starter every single practice.

“He was ready when his number was called.”

Thomas went 19-of-23 for 246 yards with two touchdowns and an interception during the Mountaineers’ 56-37 home win over Coastal Carolina last season. Coastal’s CJ Marable (370 rushing yards, five touchdowns) ran for 95 yards and a touchdown on 16 carries in last season’s game versus Appalachian State.

The Mountaineers have dropped seven straight games against ranked opponents since their historic 34-32 upset of No. 5 Michigan on Sept. 1, 2007 in Ann Arbor.

No. 15 Coastal Carolina Chanticleers Betting Preview

It has been a historic season for No. 15 Coastal Carolina (7-0, 5-0 Sun Belt) in just its fourth as a full-time FBS program. The Chanticleers have secured their first winning season at that level, and a win here would make them the first Sun Belt team to start 8-0.

Coastal, however, must shake off any rust that might have built up after last weekend’s scheduled game with Troy was postponed due to COVID-19 issues within the Trojans’ program. That game was rescheduled for next month.

“It’s unfortunate that we (could not play Troy),” said coach Jamey Chadwell, who is reportedly to be under consideration for the recently vacated South Carolina coaching job.

“Our team has really worked hard all season long and we (were) ready to play. Now, we turn our attention on (Appalachian State).”

Coastal has been outscored 246-118 while losing its six all-time meetings with the Mountaineers, who are one-half game back of the Chanticleers in the East Division. Coastal Carolina is allowing just 16.3 points per contest and gave up six over the last two games – all coming during a 23-6 win over South Alabama on Nov. 7 – and has not yielded a touchdown in 10 consecutive quarters.

The Chanticleers also boast perhaps the league’s top player in quarterback Grayson McCall (1,393 passing yards, 16 touchdowns, one interception). He threw for 209 yards and ran for 72 against South Alabama in the 23-6 win over South Alabama in the Chanticleers’ most recent contest.

Mountaineers at Chanticleers Betting Pick

The Mountaineers have won all six meetings in the series, winning last year 56-37 in Boone. Both teams have wins over Arkansas State (Coastal Carolina 52-23 and Appalachian State 45-17); Georgia State (Coastal Carolina 51-0 and Appalachian State 17-13); and Campbell (Coast Carolina 43-21 and Appalachian State 52-21).

Mountaineers at Chanticleers Betting Pick:

 Chanticleers 28, Mountaineers 17

Mountaineers at Chanticleers Best Bet

The Chanticleers are coming off their lowest scoring game of the season, a 23-6 win over South Alabama after their game against Troy was postponed last week. The Mountaineers got by Georgia State 17-13 in their closest game since a 17-7 loss at Marshall on Sept. 19.

Mountaineers at Chanticleers Best Bet: UNDER 48.5

–Field Level Media

OddsUSA College Football Best Bet of the Week for Week 8: Michigan at Minnesota

  • Spread: Michigan -3.5
  • Moneyline: Michigan -155; Minnesota +125
  • Over/Under: 54.5

*Odds via DraftKings.com

If you are thinking it is taking the Big Ten forever to get started, well—you are not wrong. But starting with Illinois-Wisconsin Friday night, the Big Ten season will finally get underway. While Ohio State is likely going to be the team everyone wants to see most, the better storylines are elsewhere.

Yes, every game Ohio State plays in will have national title implications, including their season opener. But does anyone really think they are going to have much trouble against Nebraska? Anyone outside of the state of Nebraska? Probably not.

However, the outcome between No. 18 Michigan and No. 21 Minnesota is not as cut and dry. The emergence of the Golden Gophers surprised everyone last season, but Jim Harbaugh’s team always has high expectations. Both are expected to be among the conference’s best this season.

But only one can start the season 1-0.

Michigan Wolverines Betting Preview

The Wolverines have had to do one thing every season during the Jim Harbaugh Era to contend for the Big Ten title—find a quarterback. This season will be no different. With Dylan McCaffrey sitting out and planning on transferring, that means the job will be going to Joe Milton.

However, while Milton has the size and athleticism you like to see in a quarterback, he lacks experience. So, he will have to learn as he goes. He will not have much experience at wide receiver to help him out with Donovan People-Jones in the NFL, Tarik Black at Texas, and Nico Collins sitting out.

In case things were not challenging enough, he will not benefit from a veteran offensive line either. With Jaylen Mayfield opting back in, they will need to find four new offensive line starters—not an ideal situation for a new starting quarterback.

While there is no standout running back, Milton is expected to have a talented group joining him in the Michigan backfield.

But it looks like the offensive may have time to gel with most of their top-ranked defense coming back. The Michigan defense lost three of their top tacklers from last year’s 11th ranked defense, but defensive depth has not been an issue under Harbaugh.

The Wolverines will need their defense to slow down Minnesota’s offense if they are going to have a chance to win this week.

Minnesota Golden Gophers Betting Preview

The Golden Gophers are in a situation similar to Michigan’s but different. Instead of needing to find several new starters on offense, their offense looks like it could be the best in the conference. Tanner Morgan is back, and he will have a future NFL wide receiver to work with once again in Rashod Bateman.

Overall, the offense has nine returning starters, which means the Golden Gophers should have the edge offensively. But that edge may not be enough with the work they need to do on defense. Four starters off last year’s top-ten defense got drafted, and the team is down nine of their top 12 tacklers, too.

While they may have size in their defensive front, it is not clear where the pass rush will come from. They may be okay at linebacker but will need Itayvion Brown to step up early. Jordan Howden will anchor the secondary, but Minnesota will struggle to replace Antoine Winfield.

The key for the Gophers will be getting the connection between Tanner Morgan and Rashod Bateman on track early. It will not be easy against Michigan. But if they can, that will make Michigan a little predictable on offense, which would, in turn, help out their young defense.

OddsUSA College Football Best Bet of the Week Betting Prediction

Neither team could have been happy when they saw the schedule. During a typical season, opening against a formidable opponent and winning is a great way to make a statement. But that is also after having the usual spring practice and training camp to prepare—which is not the case here.

Like teams from the Big 12, ACC, and SEC, both will likely struggle to start the game as it will be the first time everyone is going up against a live opponent. Winning the game will come down to whoever can get things on track first.

Minnesota will need to strike quick and get some points on the board while the Wolverines are getting things figured out on offense. Look for them to target the hole in the secondary created when Ambry Thomas decided to opt-out.

Assuming the Golden Gophers can do so and score enough to keep Michigan from leaning on their run game, they will record the upset.

So—how should you bet? Take Minnesota to win straight up and against the spread. As for the over/under, don’t expect a ton of points right out of the gate. Take the under.

Heisman Trophy Odds for Week Eight: All Hail the Long-Haired Assassin?

Nothing makes anything sports-related less entertaining than knowing the outcome long before it happens. Take the ACC. It is pretty much impossible to make a case for anyone other than Clemson to win the championship. For much of the year, it has been looking the same way for the Heisman Trophy race.

Trevor Lawrence has remained the favorite. While he has played almost flawless football, his competition has been sub-standard, and his performance has not been spectacular.  He has played very well. But there just has not been anything to make you go ‘wow.’

His Heisman competition has tried hard to make him the only viable candidate:

D’Eriq King was a co-favorite for a week but has since seen his odds drop to +3300. While beating Pitt last weekend helps, his numbers were not spectacular.

Spencer Rattler and Sam Ehlinger (+10000) are no longer in the conversation but at one time were viewed as potential contenders (+900 and +1200, respectively).

Chuba Hubbard was an early longshot at +3300, but after a slow start is an even longer one at +8000.

JT Daniels had good odds at one point (+1400) but isn’t even playing.

For some crazy reason, Kellen Mond had odds as low as +1600 once, but his are now +10000.

Stetson Bennett was looking like he might have a chance at +1000. But after losing to Alabama last weekend, his odds dropped to +3300.

A poor start has knocked Brock Purdy (no odds listed) and Myles Brennan (+20000) out of the running.

Ian Book (+8000) has been good enough to keep Notre Dame winning but has otherwise been unspectacular.

But while Trevor Lawrence’s odds (-167; odds via DraftKings) give him a 62.55 percent chance of winning the Heisman Trophy this year, a few guys are making pretty good cases for themselves.

Heisman Trophy Odds: It Doesn’t Belong to Trevor Yet

Okay, yes—Lawrence looked pretty darn good against Georgia Tech last weekend. Except for an interception, his game was as close to perfect as you can get (24-32 for 404 yards and five touchdowns), which is why his odds got shorter.

However, it would be a more impressive performance if it did not come against the 68th ranked pass defense (yards allowed).

Mac Jones (+350) had a similar performance against a better defense (Georgia’s pass defense is ranked 46th); he went 24-32 for 417 yards and four touchdowns with one interception. It’s his third 400+ yard game in a row.

Jaylen Waddle (+800) had another great game with six catches for 161 yards and a touchdown. But his candidacy will be overshadowed by Jones.

If someone else from Alabama is going to win, it is more likely Najee Harris does. Despite another solid day over the weekend (152 yards and a touchdown), his odds went from +1600 to +2500.

Kyle Trask (+1600) saw his odds take a hit when Florida lost to Texas A&M. If he is going to have a shot, he is going to need to shine the rest of the way.

But while the field of contenders looks thin right now, it is about to grow with the Big Ten kicking things off finally. Everyone will be watching Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields (+600) to see what he does. Other Big Ten hopefuls include:

  • Penn State quarterback Sean Clifford (+5000)
  • Ohio State running back Trey Sermon (+8000)
  • Minnesota quarterback Tanner Morgan (+8000)
  • Nebraska quarterback Adrian Martinez (+10000)

If anyone from the Big Ten will give Trevor Lawrence a run for his money, they will have to hit the ground running in their first game this weekend. Because of their late start and shorter schedule, voters will be less forgiving if performances do not meet or exceed expectations.  

OddsUSA College Football Best Bet of the Week: Mississippi State at LSU

By: Travis Pulver

  • Spread: LSU -16.5
  • Moneyline: LSU -1250; Mississippi State +750
  • Over/Under: 56.0

*Odds via DraftKings.com

It has been a long time coming, but the defending national champions will finally take the field this weekend when the LSU Tigers host the Mississippi State Bulldogs for the 114th time. While it hasn’t always been the most competitive rivalry, it is a rivalry, nonetheless.

Fans can count on both teams bringing their ‘A’ games.

If history is any indication, though, the game may already be done and over with. Since 1985, LSU has lost to Mississippi State just five times. Only two losses have come since the turn of the millennium. But when both teams take the field Saturday, neither will be much like it was last season.

So, since they have yet to play a single game, how can you trust what they will play like? You can’t. That means fans will have to decide how to bet off what little they do know.

LSU Tigers Betting Preview

When you think about a national champion that went 15-0 taking on a team that went 6-7 last season, it is hard not to favor the defending champs. But these champs are not going to look too much like the group that won it all last season.

Last year’s team saw 14 guys get drafted, five inside the first round. Twenty former players total are now on NFL rosters. Another 15 are gone due to opt-outs, transfers, and/or dismissals. That means the roster has only a few returning starters and even less with experience of any kind.

Due to all the personnel losses, many have viewed the Tigers’ preseason rank to be a little inflated (No.6). But head coach Ed Orgeron has always been viewed as a solid recruiter. However, while fielding an almost brand-new starting offense will be a challenge, replacing passing game coordinator Joe Brady may be asking too much.

They have tasked Scott Linehan with that job. But as antiquated as he was with the Cowboys, is he going to be up to the challenge?

It doesn’t get any easier on defense, either. Defensive coordinator Dave Aranda is now the head coach at Baylor. Former Nebraska head coach, Bo Pelini, steps in as the new DC. He will need to find several new starters, as well, along with installing a new scheme.

Mississippi State Bulldogs Betting Preview

For the Bulldogs, the story is all about their new head coach—Mike Leach. With him, will, of course, be his ‘air raid,’ pass-happy offense. To guide it, he will have former Stanford quarterback and graduate transfer, K.J. Costello.

Officially, freshman Will Rogers is also listed as the starter, but he will probably only play if Costello falls flat on his face.

Costello’s best offensive weapon will be running back Kylin Hill, the SEC’s leading returning rusher. He will likely not see nearly as many carries but will probably get lots of work as a receiver out of the backfield.

His receivers do not have a ton of experience, but they will get put to work quickly in Mike Leach’s offense.

If there is a downside to the offense, it is the front line. Last year’s group as a good one, but losing Tyre Phillips (tackle) and Darryl Williams (center) will hurt. How quickly the rebuilt line can gel will be the key to whatever success the Bulldogs have on offense.  

But if there is a downside to Mississippi State, it is the defense. While there is talent in the group, it will be down five of last season’s top tacklers.  The defensive line is expected to be tough, and the linebackers will be led by a beast in Errol Thompson.

Their problem, however, will be in the secondary. While some experience does return, it will need to learn from last season and perform better this year.

OddsUSA Best Bet of the Week Betting Prediction

LSU will likely be just fine despite losing so many players from the championship squad. Programs like the Tigers tend to reload with ease because they recruit so well. That could very well be the case for the Tigers this season.

However, with new coaches on both sides of the ball to go with so many new starters, it would not be shocking to see LSU get off to a slow start. Not only does it take time to learn how to play together, but it takes time to learn how to play a new system together.

Having Scott Linehan coordinating the passing game is not encouraging.

Mississippi State will have its share of growing pains as well, but the Bulldogs may start with a slight edge since it has more returning starters. However, Ed Orgeron is the better head coach between him and Mike Leach. While his players may not look great right out of the gate, he will make the necessary in-game changes to get things on track. So—how should you bet? Take Mississippi State to win against the spread, but for LSU to win straight up. As for the over/under, with how well a Mike Leach offense can score, take the over (56).