Thursday College Football Betting: Odds & Picks for Syracuse-NC State, ULM-Texas State

Thursday College Football Betting: Odds & Picks for Syracuse-NC State, ULM-Texas State article feature image

Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Taj Harris

We all expected a thriller from Wednesday night’s college football game, and we got a dud.

So if we expect some duds on Thursday, will we get a few thrillers?

Syracuse and N.C. State meet in Raleigh on Thursday night (8 p.m., ESPN) while UL-Monroe heads to San Marcos to take on Texas State in the later game (9:15 p.m., ESPNU).

How are we betting each game? Let’s break it down.

Thursday College Football Odds & Picks

Odds as of Thursday morning and via PointsBet, where Action Network users get an exclusive 200% deposit match (deposit $50, bet with $150).

Syracuse vs. N.C. State Odds

  • Odds: N.C. State -4.5
  • Over/Under: 56
  • Time: 8 p.m. ET
  • TV: ESPN
  • Location: Raleigh, N.C.

Syracuse has been walloped by its Power 5 opponents this season — 63-20 by a Maryland team that’s since been exposed, and 41-6 to Clemson.

North Carolina State is in a similar boat, albeit they’ve done it a little more quietly. The Wolfpack got beat handily by both West Virginia and Florida State, and will be looking for their first Power 5 win of the season.

Can N.C. State get it done with a new quarterback and shuffling offensive line? Let’s dive in.

Market Moves for Syracuse-N.C. State

After opening this game at a flat field goal (NC State -3), oddsmakers are up to -4.5 across most of the market, and some shops are even posting a -5. Given the importance of the number 3 in football betting (and 4, to a lesser extent), that move is a significant one in any case.

It’s made even more significant here, though, because of how bettors have been approaching this game.

Despite the line moving in its favor, NC State has generated just 45% of bettors. Those bettors, however, have accounted for a slightly higher 53% of actual money.

As for the total, it’s gone on a bit of an up-and-down ride since opening. The earliest books to market released the number around 56.5, and that was nudged up to around 58 before dropping all the way back down to 54.

Since that point, though, it’s come back up again, now resting at a consensus 56. The over has drawn 73% of money on just 49% of bets. Danny Donahue

Does New QB Spell Trouble for N.C. State?

The strength of the Syracuse team is its defensive line, which ranks 8th in passing down sack rate. (Although it does miss the interior presence of McKinley Williams, who remains sidelined with an injury).

That could spell trouble for an NC State team that will have a QB in Bailey Hockman making his first career start. Matthew McKay heads to the bench due to his ineffectiveness.

And not only that, the Wolfpack will be without starting RT Justin Witt, who’s one of the most experienced starters on the OL. His loss is even more important considering Hockman is a lefty, so the right tackle protects his blindside.

Consequently, they’ll be shifting Emanuel McGirt over to RT and inserting Ikem Ekwonu at LT for his first career start. Not ideal.

Hockman also looked very inaccurate when he came in against Florida State last game.Stuckey

N.C. State’s Pass Rush Can Hang, Too

Both of these teams actually rank in the top 20 in sacks on the year and in the top 25 in Passing Down Sack Rate. The N.C. State defensive line is one of its strengths as well, which should bode well against a struggling Syracuse offensive line, which was one of the Orange’s biggest question marks coming into the season and has proven true.

Syracuse had to replace three starters along the OL and then lost starting center Sam Heckel in Week 1. That’s not ideal when you have a pocket passer in Tommy DeVito, who has had bouts of inaccuracy as well (Cuse ranks outside the top 100 with a 68.8% on target percentage, per Sports Info Solutions).

And to be fair, the opposing pressure doesn’t help DeVito. This team really misses Eric Dungey’s ability to create with his legs. Stuckey

This All Leads Me to the Under…

Both offensive lines have major question marks against more than capable defensive fronts. And with a first time starter under center, I think we’ll see the Wolfpack run the ball a ton and utilize a short passing attack to avoid mistakes and exploit Syracuse’s weak linebackers.

The Orange have been gashed in the run game by every FBS opponent they’ve faced this year. N.C. State should have more success moving the ball on the ground, but that will also keep the clock moving.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the ball, I can’t see Syracuse doing much of anything on the offensive end. It hasn’t been able to run the ball and will be going up against an N.C. State defense that ranks in the top 10 nationally in yards per rush.

That will put them in passing down situations where the Wolfpack pressure should win out more times than not against a suspect Syracuse OL on the road.

So I expect plenty of punts from Syracuse. Fortunately for the Orange, when it does punt, it has one of the best in the nation in Sterling Hofrichter, who ranks second in net punting. An elite punter is an under’s best friend when you think the offense may struggle.. (Also, NC State has a punter with a big leg as well.)

I like the under here and played under 56 earlier in the week on the Action Network app. I still like it some at 54, which it touched Wednesday before jumping back to 56, but not much lower. You do have the potential for turnovers with two inaccurate QBs who should be under pressure, and both teams have very good kickers, plus Syracuse plays super fast.

But assuming the game script goes according to how I described, I like my chances with the under here in a game I expect both quarterbacks to struggle and both defensive fronts to shine. Stuckey

Stuckey’s Pick: Under 56 or better

Wilson: Why I’m Backing the Wolfpack

Syracuse is spiraling downward in 2019, evident by a rank outside the top 100 in total defense and yards per play. The Orange have a yards per play differential of -0.59, indicating that both the offense and defense have taken a step back from the past two seasons.

Nevertheless, Syracuse will look to recapture that magic with their first ever all-orange uniform combination at North Carolina State.

When the sun sets, the Orange comes out.

All 🍊 under the lights on Thursday night.

— Syracuse Football (@CuseFootball) October 7, 2019

North Carolina State lost offensive coordinator Eliah Drinkwitz to Appalachian State and quarterback Ryan Finley to graduation. While the Wolfpack have been known for efficiency and not explosiveness, head coach Dave Doeren seems to be shooting par with North Carolina State’s offensive identity. The Wolfpack rank 120th in plays exceeding 20 yards, but still manage to be 14th in first downs.

Efficient, not explosive.

N.C. State is one of the leading ACC teams in rushing and passing downs success rate. The opposite could be said of Syracuse, with just 35% success on rushing attempts.

Defensively, the Orange have been one of the worst in the backfield. Syracuse has been successful in opponent passing downs less than 30% of the time, with 14% of them grading as explosive plays. Those numbers are at the bottom of the ACC and could play a factor on Thursday night.

The market has moved off the initial opener closer to the Action Network projection of NC State -5.5. Although there is not much value in the current number, the Wolfpack is the side.

Collin’s Pick: NC State -4.5

Louisiana-Monroe at Texas State Betting Odds

  • Spread: Louisiana-Monroe -3.5
  • Over/Under: 61
  • Time: 9:15 p.m. ET

Odds as of Thursday morning and via PointsBet, where Action Network users get an exclusive 200% deposit match (deposit $50, bet with $150).

Louisiana-Monroe vs. Texas State Line Movement

The ride for this spread has been a pretty boring one since opening. Bettors are split almost perfectly down the middle, as UL Monroe holds a slight edge at 52%. Oddsmakers have toyed with both sides of the key number of ULM -3, and for the most part have been bet back to that number. The most recent move to -3.5, however, has stuck for now.

As for the total, while the majority of bettors are somewhat unusually betting the under (70%), the over has generated the majority of actual money (56%). That’s helped bring the number back up to 61.5 after an initial drop from 62 to 60. — Danny Donahue

Collin Wilson: A Sweet Spot for Texas State But…

Prior to the season, Texas State did everything you could have hoped for if you invested on them in them with a future. The Bobcats returned a lot of production, hired a respected offensive coordinator and had quality quarterbacks transfer to the program.

Texas State has enjoyed a decent start to the season, though Arkansas State looks like the powerhouse in the West Division, while Louisiana-Lafayette has been competent enough to beat teams in better conferences.

The Bobcats have actually already shown some signs of progress. A victory over Georgia State was a big deal because the ‘Cats had just two conference wins since 2015.

ULM is also 1-0 in conference standings, posting a non-cover win against South Alabama.

Neither team has strong underlying numbers, but that’s because each program took on a difficult non-conference schedule. Both Texas State and ULM rank outside the top-100 in many of the advanced metrics that rank offensive and defensive line play.

The WarHawks have much better at ball protection, ranking 12th in the nation.

I think this game will come down to whether or not the Texas State defense can stop a ULM rush offense that ranks 17th yards per carry. ULM is 19th in rushing plays that exceed 20 yards, a tough task for a Texas State defense that ranks 90th in chunk yard prevention.

There are a couple of ways to play this number. The Action Network power ratings project Texas State -1, giving value to the current +3. This is a tricky spot for the Warhawks, just a few days removed from an 89-play boat race against Memphis. The Bobcats are coming off a bye week, so they should be able to hang with ULM in the beginning, but I ultimately think they will fall behind this rush attack.

Be advised that I hold plenty of Texas State futures, but my gameplan for this matchup is to try and get a livebet in on the Warhawks at PK or better.

Stuckey: A Live Bettor’s Dream

As Collin mentioned, this is a solid situational spot for Texas State. The Warhawks will need to quickly recover for a trip to San Marcos to take on Texas State’s Air Raid.

This is the Sun Belt, so it’s no surprise that neither defense is very good, so the live opportunities should be appealing for both sides. I actually think the Warhawks could wear down as the game goes on, so I’ll be looking to get on Texas State live, ideally at +7 or better, if the Bobcats go down early.

Not only is the ULM pass defense just dreadful, it also ranks dead last in the country in rushing yards allowed on average on first down.

It’s also worth noting that both teams struggle on special teams, specifically when it comes to field goal kicking and punting. Texas State extra points are even a roller coaster as the Bobs recently ended a 10-game stretch without a made field goal.

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