Friday College Football Betting Guide: Analysis for All 3 Games

Friday College Football Betting Guide: Analysis for All 3 Games article feature image

USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: McKenzie Milton and Trace McSorley

  • There are three intriguing college football games, all for their own reasons, on Friday night, including Penn State-Illinois, UCF-Florida Atlantic and USC-Washington State.
  • Bettors are hammering the over in all three.
  • Get our full breakdown, analysis and picks for every game below.

Big Ten football on a Friday night? What is this brave new world we’re entering?

Here at The Action Network, we’re just fine with it. There are three semi-intriguing college football games on tap Friday night, starting with UCF against Florida Atlantic, the two best teams in Florida (kidding, but that’s way closer to truth than it should be).

Let’s dive in.

>> All odds as of Thursday afternoon. Download The Action Network App to get real-time odds and track your bets

Florida Atlantic at UCF Betting

  • Betting odds: UCF -13.5
  • Total: 76
  • Time: 7 p.m., ESPN

Market Moves

By Danny Donahue

UCF has been the more popular bet all week. The Knights have drawn 75% of bettors, making them the most popular of any team playing Friday. This line, however, sits at the same -13.5 number where it opened, as UCF’s bettors account for only 68% of dollars wagered.

The total has shot up from its opener, moving from 67 to 77 behind 69% of bets and 77% of dollars.

Clean Pockets, Efficient Offense

By Steve Petrella

UCF hasn’t allowed a sack in two games this year, and was in the top 10 in sack rate last season. It’s part talent, part offensive design and part excellent mobile quarterback.

That has also allowed UCF to rank in the top five in success rate (how efficient an offense is at gaining the necessary yards to move the chains, depending on the down) again this season. The Knights rarely have negative plays.

Trends to Know

By John Ewing

UCF’s Week 3 game against North Carolina was canceled due to Hurricane Florence. As a result, the Knights have had 13 days between games.

Since 2005, ranked home favorites with more than 10 days’ rest have gone 110-82-4 (57%) ATS.

By Evan Abrams

This scenario doesn’t happen very often. When a team on at least 10 days between games faces a team on less than a full week of rest, the team on extended rest is just a few games below .500.

Where the opportunity presents itself is in the first half. The team on extended rest is 24-33-1 against the first-half spread, possibly due to rust.

And when that team is listed as the favorite, it is 10-21 ATS (-11.8 units), failing to cover the first-half spread by an average of more than four points.

Bet to Watch

By Ken Barkley

I believe UCF is still receiving a lot of goodwill for last season’s success, and I’m not sure it’s justified. Much like Washington State, which we’ll get to, UCF still falls into a category of “mystery team” that has been completely untested, yet has good results.

UCF had to replace a lot of its stars, especially on defense, and has a new coach and coaching staff. Playing UConn in Week 1 and South Carolina State in Week 2 isn’t going to tell us anything about how the Knights should be rated.

The talent difference between UCF and FAU is negligible, and the coaching staffs on each team are full of new hires.

With so much uncertainty, how can there be a decided difference between the teams? When removing home-field advantage, I don’t believe UCF is actually 10 to 10.5 points better than FAU on a neutral field, and the “brand name” effect of the school from last year is contributing to this inflation.

I like FAU at 13.5, but hope I can get a 14 somewhere before Friday night.

Want to make sure you don’t miss FAU at +14? Sign up for a free trial at Sports Insights to set a line alert. As soon as the spread gets to +14, you’ll be alerted.

By Collin Wilson

I’m going with the under 77 here, which is completely against everything we know about Florida Atlantic and Central Florida. My own total projections put this at 71.5, which is a combination of yards per play, plays per game, adjusted pace, and efficiency.

Florida Atlantic’s offense hasn’t been the picture of efficiency, ranking just 85th in success rate. Explosiveness has been another issue, specifically ranking 55th in passing. If Central Florida gets a lead, you can expect plenty of passing from the Owls.

The Central Florida offense is going to do its thing, but defensively it ranks fifth in the nation in defending explosiveness. That was certainly unexpected with the loss of Shaquem Griffin. The Knights currently rank 20th in adjusted sack rate defensively.

There might be just enough defense in this game to get under the high total.

Penn State at Illinois Betting

  • Betting odds: Penn State -27.5
  • Total: 60
  • Time: 9 p.m., Fox Sports 1

Market Moves

By Danny Donahue

Bettors are split evenly on this game. Still, the Nittany Lions have moved one point on the spread to become a four-touchdown favorite.

The total has been bumped up a bit — from 57.5 to 60 — behind 64% of of bets and 72% of dollars.

The most interesting line move in this game actually came in the summer, when it was bet down from -28 to -24 at Westgate in its “Game of the Year” lines. Since then, bettors and oddsmakers have seen enough poor play from the Illini to put this line back to where it opened.

Trends to Know

By John Ewing

Ranked teams and favorites are often overvalued by casual bettors. On non-Saturdays and in prime-time games, these teams often receive a disproportionate number of spread tickets.

This has been costly for public bettors, as ranked favorites on non-Saturdays have gone 149-178-2 (46%) ATS since 2005.

By Evan Abrams

When two Power 5 conference foes face off on a non-Saturday, the under is hitting at a 57.6% rate (133-98-6) and profiting bettors 27.9 units.

When the game is played in October or earlier, the under is 71-41-3 (+25.8 units).

Has Penn State’s Offense Stepped Back?

By Steve Petrella

Penn State’s offense is the biggest storyline for the Nittany Lions without Joe Moorhead, their former offensive coordinator and now Mississippi State’s head coach.

Penn State has put up great raw numbers through three games — all three have gone over the betting total — but the efficiency and explosiveness haven’t quite been there.

Quarterback Trace McSorley is completing just 51.7% of his passes for 6.9 yards per attempt, both below his career averages. He has been efficient on the ground at 7.5 yards per carry and is his same, poised self, but as Penn State gets into Big Ten play, its offense will need to be a little more crisp.

Illinois Line Will Be Tested

By Steve Petrella

Penn State’s defense has 32 tackles for loss and 13 sacks in 2018, both top-three in the country. It’s getting healthier there, as well.

Illinois ranks 118th of 130 FBS teams in sack rate, allowing a sack on more than 10% of pass attempts.

Bet to Watch

By Ken Barkley

Penn State has Ohio State next week, so this may be the dreaded “look-ahead” spot. However, in the four years with James Franklin at the helm, the Nittany Lions are 3-1 ATS the week before playing Ohio State, with a couple of huge blowouts.

Any actual value on Illinois would stem from the fact that Penn State closed around -35 against Kent State, and now goes on the road in conference to play a much more talented team. (Whatever you might think of Illinois, the Illini ARE more talented.) Yet PSU is still as high as -28.5.

The problem here is that Illinois is also extremely tough to rate, as it has suspensions and injuries at key positions, as well as a misleading final score last week, where despite a close loss, the Illini were completely dominated by South Florida.

A tough game to get a truly good rating between the teams, which means you should probably pass.

Washington State at USC Betting

  • Betting odds: USC -5
  • Total: 51
  • Time: 10:30 p.m., ESPN

Market Moves

By Danny Donahue

This is unsurprisingly the most heavily bet of Friday night’s games, but like the Penn State-Illinois matchup, it has left bettors completely split. USC has drawn 75% of dollars to this point, and while this line has bounced around a bit, it currently sits at -5.

As with the other games, the over has been the more popular bet. Sixty percent of bettors are on the over but 60% of dollars are on the under, driving it down from 52.5 to 51.

Trends to Know

By Evan Abrams

Teams who have yet to cover a point spread in a season and are listed as a home favorite in a conference game are 55-81-2 ATS (40.4%), losing bettors 28.8 units.

Exploiting the Wrong Area

By Stuckey

USC’s run defense has been particularly bad (5.23 ypc, 112th in FBS), but Washington State doesn’t really run the ball (last in run rate on both standard and passing downs).

That could be playing right into USC’s strength on the backend of its defense. The under may be worth a look.

Injuries Piling Up for USC

By Steve Petrella

Just as the Trojans start to get healthy on the offensive line, guys are dropping elsewhere. Starting kicker Chase McGrath tore his ACL last week and is out for the season.

USC will also be missing its two starting safeties — Isaiah Pola-Mao (shoulder surgery) and Bubba Bolden (suspension), though his status is uncertain.

Bet to Watch

By Ken Barkley

Fellow Action Network contributor Collin Wilson posed this question to me yesterday: “Has USC hit rock bottom?”

I think so. But I’m not that confident.

Put in other terms, the look-ahead line on this game before the season in the “Game of the Year” releases was USC -15.5. USC is now 5, so what has contributed to this move, and is it justified?

USC is 0-3 ATS, has been dominated in back-to-back weeks in spotlight games by major programs and is facing a ton of injury concerns. But what has Washington State really done? Coming into the year, there were serious questions about its returning production, plus the departure of defensive coordinator Alex Grinch (who went to Ohio State).

Wazzu’s win at Wyoming now looks particularly unmemorable, because Wyoming isn’t very good. (The Cowboys struggled to beat Wofford at home last week.) Since then, the Cougars have played home games against San Jose State and Eastern Washington, which have proved nothing.

If anything, the Cougars are still a giant question mark. This is the first game they are playing where any lost production or continuity would truly come into focus, but can USC be backed in a game where the Trojans are so beat up and are likely to be outcoached?

A Trojan bounce-back will come at some point this season, I’m just not sure the spot is here. Pass.

By Collin Wilson

This line is on the move again, this time in favor of USC. BetOnline’s opener of USC -5.5 was bet down to -3.5 before popping back up late this week.

This is a tough spot for Washington State, as Friday night road travel in the Pac 12 rarely produces road winners. My projections make this USC-1.5, S&P+ has it as a PK, and ESPN FPI lists USC -4.5. No matter which power rating service you trust the most, anything at +5 or higher deserves Washington State attention.

It’s especially hard for me to back USC looking at some of these advanced stats, including 121st in defending rush explosiveness. USC also ranks 121st in finishing drives, meaning when the Trojans pass the 40-yard line, they are not converting many points.

Washington State is going to try and own the time of possession, ranking ninth in the nation in first downs. Get the best number possible on Wazzu.