Central Arkansas vs. Austin Peay Odds, Picks & Predictions: How to Bet FCS Opener (August 29)

Credit:

Scott Cunningham/Getty Images. Pictured: Jeremiah Oatsvall

  • In the first college football action of the season, Austin Peay will take on Central Arkansas.
  • Collin Wilson believes Austin Peay should be favored over Central Arkansas.
  • Check out Wilson's full betting preview below for updated odds, picks, and comprehensive analysis for Austin Peay vs. Central Arkansas.

Central Arkansas vs. Austin Peay Odds

Central Arkansas Odds -4.5 [BET NOW]
Austin Peay Odds +4.5 [BET NOW]
Over/Under 45.5 [BET NOW]
Time 9 p.m. ET
TV ESPN

Odds as of Saturday afternoon and via DraftKings. Get up to a $1,000 sign-up bonus at DraftKings today or see more offers and reviews for the best online sportsbooks.


The college football season officially kicks off in Montgomery, Ala. with an FCS showdown on Saturday night.

Central Arkansas and Austin Peay will play the 2020 Guardian Credit Union FCS Kickoff game at the Cramton Bowl. For those unfamiliar with the name, this is the setting for the Camellia Bowl where Arkansas State most recently beat Florida International.

Per The Action Network Power Ratings, which now include FCS teams, Austin Peay should be favored by 3.5 over Central Arkansas. According to Sagarin, the Governors would be favored by 9.5 at the conclusion of the 2019 season.

Early markets have opened on this game with Central Arkansas as the favorite.

Lets take a look at both teams and their respective offseason to see if the betting market is justified.

Assessing Central Arkansas

UCA coach Nathan Brown said that his offense was off to a slow start while the defense dominated the final scrimmage. The Central Arkansas offense is known for explosive passing with a dreadful success rate in the rushing department.

The Purple Bears were 118th (out of 124 FCS teams) in rushing offense during the 2019 season, but the dynamic passing attack led by quarterback Breylin Smith led Central Arkansas to nine wins.

We think of Smith as a pocket passer, as he ranked fifth in FCS with 3,704 yards last year. The junior did have a 32/16 touchdown to interception ratio in 2019 with 34 sacks over 490 attempts.

Normally we’d equate those numbers to a quarterback who may try to do too much.

We can expect more high risk-high reward play calling from Central Arkansas, who had no issue passing on first down in last year’s victory against Austin Peay.

Wide receivers Tyler Hudson and Lujuan Winningham return after collecting 105 catches and almost 1,800 yards in 2019.

The Bears defense was pedestrian in 2019, ranking just 51st in sacks and 69th in third down conversions. Central Arkansas ranked 67th in red zone defense, specifically giving up plenty more touchdowns (20) than field goals (7) when opponents scored.

Nine defensive starters return, but there must be improvement from a roster that was pushed all over the field.

Hudspeth-less Austin Peay

The narrative that will dominate this game is the resignation of Mark Hudspeth in July after leading Austin Peay to an Ohio Valley Conference co-championship and a run to the FCS Quarterfinals.

In different circumstances, Urban Meyer was suspended from Ohio State head coach duties a few seasons ago, and we docked the Buckeyes two points against the spread.

Defensive line and associate head coach Marquase Lovings stays on as interim head coach for Austin Peay, while offensive coordinator Tim Zetts remains in place. Austin Peay does bring back 14 starters, so there’s not as much continuity in place for the Governors.

One of the Governors returning players is quarterback Jeremiah Oatsvall, who missed almost all of the 2019 season after getting injured against UCA in early September. Oatsvall has been around for Austin Peay since 2017, when the Governors gave Central Florida a first half scare.

Assessing the Governors’ offense from 2019 isn’t fair since it didn’t feature Oatsvall, but the defense should be just as fierce.

Austin Peay limited Central Arkansas to just 32 rushing yards in last year’s contest, but fell victim to two late touchdown throws. On the 2019 season, Austin Peay ranked 25th in third-down percentage and 16th in interceptions.

Interceptions are just one of the variables that make up havoc, along with tackles for loss. All-American candidate Josephus Smith ranked 41st in tackles for loss during the 2019 season and returns for his senior season at Austin Peay.

Between returning starters and Penn State transfers, the Governors front seven is loaded in talent. Expect Central Arkansas to have minimal yards on the ground.

Weather in Montgomery

As Marco makes landfall earlier this week, Hurricane Laura is ravaging the south. The Louisiana-Texas coast dealt with 150 mph winds, as Laura will hook and head towards Tennessee and Alabama on Saturday.

The current forecast for Montgomery calls for scattered thunderstorms late Saturday. The weather is subject to change, but any rain or wind in the forecast can only improve Austin Peay’s chances for a win.

Central Arkansas is reliant on a deep passing game as Smith is content to take a handful of sacks. That will not bode well in weather against an Austin Peay front seven that is no stranger to havoc.

Keep tabs on Hurricane Laura as the system passes through the Delta. Rain and wind in Montgomery will tamper Central Arkansas’s offense.

How to Bet

The opening point spread on this game does not make much sense. Austin Peay would have been the favorite at the conclusion of the 2019 season per any rating system covering the FCS. But two narratives will drive this point spread in favor of the Central Arkansas.

Central Arkansas did win this game last September, but had just 10 points through three quarters as Austin Peay quarterback Oatsvall went down with an injury. The Bears needed two explosive touchdowns in the fourth quarter to win the game. Austin Peay would go on to win the Ohio Valley and make the FCS Quarterfinals.

The loss of head coach Mark Hudspeth is also a driving factor in public noise, although reports from camp state there are happier times in Clarksville. The Governors were saddled with 11 COVID-19 positive tests the same time of Hudspeth’s departure.

Considering full health and no weather factors, I would buy Austin Peay at +4 and bet them at anything up to -3 in this neutral site kickoff.

Two important elements to track leading up to kickoff are weather and coronavirus testing. Both teams are set to test for COVID 72 hours in advance, as Wednesday evening tests may not be revealed until Saturday. As for Hurricane Laura, the more Montgomery becomes a target for rain the more it favors the Governors and an under.

In last years game, of 15 total drives Central Arkansas reached the red zone just twice, with one of the attempts starting at the Austin Peay 21-yard line.

The return of Jeremiah Oatsvall is not only big to Austin Peay’s chances, his dual-threat capability may be handy in burning clock if bad weather persists.

The Bet: Austin Peay +4

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