Friday College Football Best Bets: Our Top Picks for Coastal Carolina vs. Kansas, Boise State vs. UTEP, 2 More Friday Games (Sept. 10)
Loren Orr/Getty Images. Pictured: Brandon Hawkins.
- Friday night college football: It doesn't get any better than this.
- Tonight's college football slate features four fantastic matchups to bet, headlined by Kansas vs. Coastal Carolina and UTEP vs. Boise State.
- Our betting staff offers their picks for all four matchups, even including North Carolina A&T vs. Duke and North Dakota vs. Utah State. Check out their betting recommendations:
Friday Night Lights.
After incredible weeknight action on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday last week, we have to settle for just Friday in Week 2.
But we’ll take as much football as we can get here at The Action Network, and we’re more than happy with college football under the lights on a beautiful Friday night.
The action opens with Coastal Carolina vs. Kansas at 7:30 p.m. ET, which should be interesting from a betting perspective. After entering Lawrence as underdogs last season, the Chants will go into this matchup as favorites of more than three touchdowns.
After that matchup, we’ll be lucky enough to see Duke vs. North Carolina A&T and Utah State vs. North Dakota grace our television screens.
Finally, Boise State vs. UTEP at 9:30 p.m. ET will have bettors across the country salivating as they prepare for the final appetizer before a full Saturday slate.
So, buckle up and get ready for all the college football you can handle. We’ll prepare right beside you.
Week 2 College Football Picks for Friday, Sept. 10
Click the team logos for one of the matchups below to navigate to a specific betting preview for Friday evening’s Week 2 college football slate.
Specific bet recommendations come from the sportsbook offering preferred odds as of writing.
Always shop for the best price using our NCAAF Odds page, which automatically surfaces the best lines for every game.
Photos via Getty Images.
7:30 p.m. ET
Just one year ago, Coastal Carolina was an underdog going into Lawrence before kicking off its undefeated regular season.
A lot can change in a year, as the Chanticleers are now sitting as a favorite of more than three touchdowns against the same team.
To start 2021, both teams opened with FCS opponents with very different results. Coastal Carolina wiped its opponent off the field, while Kansas trailed South Dakota, 14-10, with under two minutes left and needed late-game heroics to survive.
Most FBS teams would be livid with that result, but the Kansas fans stormed the field after the nail-biter if that tells you anything of where the program is currently at.
We’re not getting any discounts on Coastal this time around, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t find betting value in this Friday night matchup.
Lance Leipold’s offense at Buffalo last year was one of the most efficient in the country last season, so 3.7 yards per play last week against South Dakota probably wasn’t what he was looking for in his first game at Kansas.
The offense was dreadful in 2020, and that continued against a very soft opponent to open 2021.
Kansas’ offense was a rare type of bad last season, ranking second-worst in Rushing Success Rate and third-worst in Passing Success Rate. The offensive line was a major reason for the team’s struggles, with a laughable 18.2 pass-blocking grade and 48.7 run-blocking grade, per PFF, which were both bottom-10 in the country.
The unit gained some transfers from Buffalo after Leipold took the job, but Coastal’s pass rush, which ranked 26th in Sack Rate last season, should get home a few times against this group.
Kansas has a new quarterback in Jason Bean from North Texas, and he secured a mediocre 68.0 passing grade against South Dakota and attempted just one pass of more than 20 yards down the field. He’s likely an upgrade over what Kansas had last season, but that is a very low bar to clear. He’ll have a big test against this Chanticleer pass rush.
Coastal’s biggest weakness last season was run defense, but after averaging 2.1 yards per carry against South Dakota, you probably shouldn’t hold your breath waiting for the Jayhawks to get the ground game going here.
Even worse, Kansas’ running backs combined for just 30 yards on 25 carries, as Bean’s 15 carries for 54 yards carried the ground game by far.
Even though Coastal Carolina’s run defense is exploitable, it still has an advantage against this Kansas rushing “attack.”
I’m probably not telling you anything you don’t already know when I say that this is incredibly lopsided.
Coastal’s offense is as loaded as anyone in the Group of Five and should be able to consistently move the ball on the ground and through the air against this weak defense.
Coastal’s offense starts on the ground with its unique hybrid option offense, as it ran the ball at the 10th-highest rate in the country in 2020.
It had three running backs who were featured in the offense last season, all with similar efficiency on the year, and two of them return. Quarterback Grayson McCall is also a major part of the ground game, as he averaged 10 carries per game in 2020 and totaled 569 yards and seven rushing touchdowns on the year.
One of the best ground attacks from 2020 looks like it will be a big problem for opposing defenses yet again as the Chants get into the meat of their schedule.
In this matchup, Kansas may have a long day defending the rush after ranking 113th in Expected Points Added Allowed in that department in 2020.
The Jayhawks do have a new defensive coordinator in Brian Borland, who came with head coach Lance Leipold from Buffalo and could improve the performance in the run game.
Buffalo’s defense had a respectable ranking of 43rd in Rushing Success Rate last season in its 4-3 scheme. Kansas mostly utilized a 3-4 look last season under coordinator D.J. Eliot, so a different look up front could help improve this unit.
It may take some time to see significant improvement, considering Kansas’ personnel at the moment, but there is much more reason to be optimistic in the long term.
Even though Coastal Carolina leaned on the ground game for the most part last year, the passing game was incredibly efficient, with ranks of sixth in Success Rate and fifth in Expected Points Added.
In tight end Isaiah Likely and receiver Jaivon Heiligh, the Chants have two of the very top players at their respective positions in the Group of Five. In fact, each graded out as top-five players in the nation at their positions, per PFF.
With those two, plus quarterback McCall’s 92.6 passing grade from last season, the Coastal Carolina passing game has a big edge against this Kansas coverage unit.
With a coverage unit that ranked 122nd out of 127 teams last season, Kansas does not match up well against this passing attack.
Additionally, Kansas lost its top two cornerbacks to the transfer portal, and both landed with Power Five teams. The Jayhawks’ starting outside cornerbacks combined for only 291 snaps last season and could be in for a rude awakening against these Chanticleer pass-catchers.
Kansas vs. Coastal Carolina Betting Pick
This line opened at Coastal -27 on Sunday, quickly steamed up to 28, but has dropped all the way to 24.5 or 25 across the board.
My projection of -28.9 was right there with the opener, and my projection of 54.2 doesn’t show an edge on the total. Although the difference between my projection and the spread is about four points, four points of difference on a spread in the 20s is still quite small in terms of win probability.
However, there may be a live opportunity on Coastal, and not in a traditional sense.
If it runs up a lead on Kansas going into halftime, the second half spread could be worth keeping an eye on. I’m very skeptical about this Kansas offense’s ability to come back, even with facing a big deficit, and this Coastal ground game should continue to consistently move the chains and keep the ball away from the Kansas offense.
A live bet depends on score differential and game state. For example, if Coastal is up by 17 or so, which is what the first-half line, is I would expect the second-half spread to be close to a pick’em. If that’s the case, I would play it up to -125.
If the second half spread meets that threshold, look for a live second half bet from me in the Action App. However, at these current prices, I cannot recommend a pregame bet.
Pick: Wait For a Second-Half Play
North Carolina A&T
8 p.m. ET
North Carolina vs. Duke. A rivalry for the ages. Countless legends coming from the storied programs. Instant classics every time they play. Wait… this is North Carolina A&T?
With both teams coming off losses last weekend, the Blue Devils and the Aggies both look to turn things around in a showdown at Wallace Wade Stadium. Last facing off on Sept. 7, 2019, Duke routed the Aggies by a score of 45-13.
Will North Carolina A&T be able to contain Duke’s offense this time around? Let’s find out.
In 2019, North Carolina A&T pulled off an upset when it beat East Carolina. It will be looking to pick up an early-season upset again as it travels to Durham as an underdog.
This will come with challenges as the Aggies struggled last week against the Furman Paladins, losing 18-29.
Struggling with the run game last week, the Aggies look to reestablish the run against a weak Duke front seven. The Aggies possess weapons all over on the offensive end, looking to exploit Duke’s defense.
The Blue Devil defense looked less than stellar last week, which could potentially lead to a large upset.
Last week, the Aggies dropped their game against Furman.
The Aggies had to rely on redshirt junior quarterback Jalen Fowler to keep them within striking distance. Fowler completed 14-of-29 passes for 268 yards and two touchdowns.
Wide receiver Ron Hunt caught 146 of those yards with five catches and two touchdowns. Korey Banks also did some damage, hauling in five catches for 66 yards.
A successful passing attack is what hurt Duke last week, as Charlotte quarterback Chris Reynolds torched the Blue Devils secondary all game. If the Aggies want to stay in this game, they will have the opportunity to do so by beating Duke’s secondary.
I haven’t even mentioned North Carolina A&T’s best player. The Aggies return star running back Jah-Maine Martin, who finished the 2019 season with 1,446 yards and 23 touchdowns.
A constant threat every time he has the ball in his hands, he was tamed last week. Furman held Martin to just 33 yards on 12 carries last week. Not good.
Martin will have to get it going against a more athletic defense in Duke this week. If Reynolds can continue his passing success, this will give Martin more opportunities for explosive plays as the Blue Devils defense will be scrambling.
For North Carolina A&T to stay in what is expected to be an offensive game, it will need to do a much better job of limiting the passing attack.
Furman quarterback Hamp Sisson torched the Aggies all game for 362 yards and three touchdowns. Wide receiver Ryan Miller had 124 of those yards along with one touchdown.
The Aggies rushing defense had a modest outing, limiting Furman’s lead rusher to 4.2 yards per carry. No Furman running backs found pay dirt, as all touchdowns came through the air.
Linebacker Joseph Stuckey posted a solid outing. He registered 12 tackles while flying around the field. He will have his hands full as he needs to contain Mataeo Durant’s rushing ability.
Virginia Tech transfer defensive end Robert Porcher generated some pressure, tallying a sack. The Aggies will need more of this, as they have to disrupt Duke’s offense to ease the burden on their secondary.
Opening the season with a win total of 3.5, the Duke Blue Devils had low hopes going into the season. They didn’t help any of those hopes as they dropped the season opener to the Charlotte 49ers in the final seconds, 31-28.
Not all is lost, though, as Duke showed success on the ground and could move the chains with its passing game.
The defense was the problem. If the Blue Davils want to avoid an 0-2 start, the front line will need to show improvement that ranked on the wrong end of Rushing Success Rate and Stuff Rate — especially with 1,000-yard rusher Martin looking to bounce back.
Blue Devils Offense
Whatever Durant did before his game last week against Charlotte, he better do it again. The running back was a man possessed, as he torched the 49ers defense all game, finishing with 255 yards and three touchdowns.
Averaging 8.8 yards per carry, the bulk of his rushing success came on two explosive plays — one for 55 yards and another for 59 yards, both resulting in touchdowns.
He wasn’t the only one who found success on the Blue Devils offense. Quarterback Gunnar Holmberg ended the game throwing for 228 yards and one touchdown.
Wide receiver Jake Bobo hauled in seven catches and 88 yards while Jordan Waters had the lone receiving touchdown on top of 40 yards. Durant added 37 receiving yards to go along with his rushing success.
With Holmberg gaining more experience at the quarterback position, the game plan will be to ride Durant’s rushing success. The Aggies did have success limiting the Furman rushing attack, but this is a step up in talent and experience.
If Duke can get the run game going again. then this offense will be tough to stop for the Aggies.
Holmberg plays it relatively safe with his throws, barely stretching the field. He won’t have to if his pass-catchers can eat up small yards on top of Durant running wild.
Blue Devils Defense
While the Blue Devil offense found success all game, the defense was a different story. Charlotte kept pace with the explosive offensive game, narrowly pulling out the win at the very end.
Reynolds threw for 324 yards, and three touchdowns on 19-of-30 passing. Duke’s secondary had no answers to stop Charlotte’s passing game.
The 49ers wide receiver duo of Victor Tucker and Grant DuBose feasted all game. Tucker hauled in eight passes for 133 yards, while DuBose had 118 yards and two touchdowns.
If the Blue Devils want to avoid the upset, they will have to shore up the secondary. Fowler proved he is capable of leading a passing attack and will look to exploit the defense.
One thing that the Blue Devils did show last week was the ability to stuff the run. They limited all Charlotte running backs to under 50 yards. This is still a very weak front seven.
They will need to keep this success up as Martin looks to bounce back after his disappointing opener.
North Carolina A&T vs. Duke Betting Pick
Expecting a run-heavy attack from both ends, the clock should keep on ticking all game.
Durant had a solid outing and will look to build on his successful start, while the A&T’s Martin looks to hit the ground running after last week’s disappointment.
If Martin can’t pick up where he left off in the 2019 season, the Aggies are more than capable of airing it out on this weak Duke secondary.
This gives me some insurance on taking the Aggies at a spread of three scores, as they would rely on the passing game if they fall behind early.
Pick: North Carolina A&T +21 (1 unit) | Under 58 (0.5 units)
9 p.m. ET
CBS Sports Network
Utah State looks to avoid a letdown game against North Dakota after its first road victory over a Power Five program in nearly 50 years.
The Aggies upset Washington State as 17.5-point underdogs in their season opener, as quarterback Logan Bonner tossed a seven-yard touchdown pass with 11 seconds remaining to secure the 26-23 victory.
The Fighting Hawks finished 4-1 in their first season in the Missouri Valley Conference during the spring and found their first Division I playoff win.
North Dakota won and covered as 10.5-point favorites in Week 1, beating Idaho State, 35-14.
It was a historic opening week that saw six FCS teams upset FBS teams. The Aggies need to avoid overlooking their opponent, or they could be added to the list.
North Dakota was successful in its first season in the Missouri Valley Football Conference after two seasons as an FCS Independent.
It finished 5-2 with two losses coming to FCS powerhouses North Dakota State and James Madison.
The Fighting Hawks are a talented bunch that boasts eight players on the MVFC preseason first or second team.
Fighting Hawks Offense
North Dakota owns a well-balanced offense that kept the ball on the ground 55% of the time, accounting for 47% of the total offensive yards.
In Week 1, we saw that number fluctuate, as they ran the ball on 71% of the plays. But they had success throwing the ball, averaging 10.2 yards per pass attempt in that game.
Tommy Schuster tossed 10 touchdowns and five interceptions last season, averaging 7.2 yards per pass attempt. He was efficient against Idaho State, completing 10-of-18 passes for 183 yards and a touchdown.
Running back Otis Weah is the workhorse for the Fighting Hawks. He punched in three touchdowns after amassing 114 yards on the ground on his 22 carries Week 1.
He will have a tougher challenge against a Utah State rush defense that has looked stout thus far.
Fighting Hawks Defense
The North Dakota defense took a step back from a normally reliable defense last season.
It has relied on turnovers to be successful, forcing 15 in its seven games in the spring. The trend continued in Week 1 against Idaho State, when they forced three interceptions.
The Fighting Hawks stabilized the passing attack of Idaho State, allowing only 5.3 yards per attempt on 43 pass attempts.
But Idaho State moved the chains consistently and tallied four more first downs than North Dakota.
Utah State has already tied its season win total from 2020 after one game.
Rest assured, this is a different program from last season.
Blake Anderson came over from Arkansas State and brought some of the top talent from that program with him. Among that group is quarterback Bonner, who produced two touchdown drives in the fourth quarter, including the game-winner.
In 2020 Utah State averaged 4.8 yards per pass attempt and 4.4 yards per rush. It ranked 124th in the country, averaging just 15.5 points per game.
If Week 1 told us anything, it’s that this offense has evolved under Anderson.
Anderson played both incumbent starting quarterback Andrew Peasley, along with Bonner from Arkansas State.
Peasley passed for 76 yards on his 12 attempts and added 43 yards on the ground on four carries. It was Bonner who stole the show in the fourth quarter, though, leading the offense to two touchdown drives. He was the more efficient of the two, averaging 6.0 yards per pass attempt on his 24 passes.
It looks like the Aggies will continue with that strategy against North Dakota, but expect Bonner to be the guy if things remain tight in this game.
Deven Thompkins was the go-to receiver who brought in eight catches for 94 yards, including the game-winner.
Utah State saw three players rack up double-digit carries against Washington State. The team rushed 46 times for 222 yards, good for an average of 4.8 yards per carry.
The group could be in store for a big game, as its offensive line will have a big size advantage over North Dakota’s front.
This defense was one of the worst units in the country in 2020, allowing 35 points and 485 yards per game. The group ranked 118th in Defensive Points per Drive and 119th in Defensive Touchdown Rate.
It returns the top nine tacklers and adds linebacker Justin Rice, who was the leading tackler for Arkansas State last season.
Utah State showed instant improvement in Week 1, slowing down the Washington State Run-and-Shoot offense. The Aggies allowed just 360 total yards of offense and held strong on third down, allowing the Cougars to convert on just 27% of their third-down attempts.
They should be able to mimic that performance against this North Dakota offense.
North Dakota vs. Utah State Betting Pick
Utah State fired its head coach, dismissed its starting quarterback, and finished 1-5 last season. But it never stopped competing.
Now enter Anderson, who brings a resurgence to the program along with the key pieces that the 2020 team was missing.
The Aggies are oozing with confidence after a Power Five win. They will avoid taking a step back as the seventh FBS team to lose to an FCS program this year. Utah State will gain an additional boost from the crowd — which will be dressed for a white-out — in the home opener.
This game will be won in the trenches. The Aggies offensive line controlled the line of scrimmage against Washington State, and they will have no issues opening holes against North Dakota.
The defensive line will mimic last week’s performance, constantly pressuring Schuster.
This is a different Utah State program than we saw in 2020, and it’s still being undervalued by the market.
Pick: Utah State -6
9:30 p.m. ET
Boise State looks to rebound from an opening weekend loss to UCF, when it hosts the 2-0 UTEP Miners on the Smurf Turf.
UTEP is off to a 2-0 start after beating New Mexico State and Bethune Cookman to open the season. Before this season, UTEP had won a total of only five games over the previous four seasons, so this is a massive improvement for Dana Dimel in his fourth year at the helm.
However, Boise State is a massive step up in competition, to say the least. We will see on Friday night if the Miners have turned a corner or not.
The good news for UTEP on offense is it brought back 78%, according to TARP, including starting quarterback Gavin Hardison, who has already thrown for four touchdowns and 11.07 yards per attempt — although that came against two cupcakes, so there’s not much to glean from those two performances.
However, Hardison is throwing to the best wide receiver tandem in Conference USA in Jacob Cowing and Justin Garrett, who have already combined for 300 yards and three touchdowns in their first two games.
They should be able to attack the weak point of the Boise State defense, which is its secondary.
Jacob Cowing with the NASTY grab pic.twitter.com/XgXIHO0OXw
— PFF College (@PFF_College) August 29, 2021
On account they’ve been ahead for both games, the Miners offense has been rush heavy, running the ball 68% for 5.3 yards per carry, which is a massive step up from last season when they gained only 3.7 yards per carry.
The improvement should continue since UTEP has all five starters back on an offensive line that has been graded as the No. 11 run-blocking unit, per PFF, through its first two games.
Defense is the biggest question mark for the Miners this season.
Yes, they allowed only three points to New Mexico State, but their performance against Bethune Cookman was quite concerning. The Wildcats gained 7.1 yards per play and 9.8 yards per attempt through the air, and that’s going to be UTEP’s biggest downfall this season.
During the offseason, top cornerback Duron Lowe transferred to Liberty, leaving the Miner secondary with only two starters from last season, which was not ideal to begin with.
In 2020, UTEP’s secondary allowed 8.56 yards per attempt and was the 96th-ranked team in terms of coverage, per PFF. So, it’s going to be a long night trying the shut down Hank Bachmeier and Khalil Shakur.
However, the UTEP defensive line does have some talent, and if it can control the line of scrimmage against an average-at-best Boise State offensive line, it may have a chance.
The Miners return their entire defensive line from last season, a unit that ranked inside the top 50 in Defensive Line Yards and Havoc, so they will be a key in this game if the Miners are going to cover the big spread.
Boise State got the Andy Avalos era off to a bad start, losing 36-31, to UCF in Orlando after leading 24-14 at the half. Boise State gained a total of 59 yards in the second half after look unstoppable for most of the first.
It’ll hope to turn things around against a lesser opponent, but the question isn’t whether or not it’ll win. It’s whether it can cover a 26-point spread against an inferior opponent.
Over the past 10 years, the Blue Turf has not been magical at covering big spreads.
New offensive coordinator Tim Plough did not get off to a great start against UCF, as his high-flying offense gained only 4.4 yards per play.
Plough was recently the offensive coordinator at UC Davis, where he led the FCS in passing the past three seasons.
However, Saturday’s starter might be up in the air because Bachmeier did not look great running Plough’s offense, averaging only 6.74 yards per attempt and throwing one of the worst interceptions to end the game you’ll ever see.
Boise State snaps the ball from UCF’s 35, Hank Bachmeier throws a game sealing interception from UCF’s 33 or so
No flag, not even a mention of him being fully across the line of scrimmage when he throws the ball pic.twitter.com/OEYU9NtYzS
— Bad Sports Refs (@BadSportsRefs) September 3, 2021
Waiting to get his turn in USC transfer Jack Sears, who impressed in his limited time last season, earning a 93.3 PFF grade in 33 dropbacks.
Whoever is starting, though, will need to take advantage of the UTEP secondary and they should be able to since they have one of the best receivers in the country in Shakur.
Shakur was graded as the No. 9 receiver last season, per PFF, after catching 52 balls on 76 targets for 719 yards and six touchdowns in only seven games.
The problem for Boise State in this matchup will be in the trenches and in the run game.
Against UCF, it gained only 26 yards on 20 attempts. Boise State did bring back four offensive linemen, but it doesn’t look like the rushing attack is going to get better any time soon.
The Broncos ranked 110th in Offensive Line Yards, 123rd rushing explosiveness, and gained only 3.3 yards per carry in 2020. So, going up against a good UTEP defensive line is going to be a challenge.
Boise State was top-20 nationally in terms of Passing and Rushing Success Rate allowed last season, but it got torched by Gus Malzahn’s offense Sept. 2. Dillon Gabriel threw for four touchdowns and 8.6 yards per attempt, while UCF racked up 5.3 yards per carry on the ground.
The secondary is going to be a big issue for Boise State going forward because it lost its top two corners and was the 94th-ranked team in terms of coverage last season, per PFF.
With UTEP having an experienced quarterback and two of the best receivers in Conference USA, it should be able to throw the ball consistently on Friday night.
The front seven returns a lot of the talent and was good overall against the run last season, ranking top-40 in Defensive Line Yards, Stuff Rate, and Power Success Rate Allowed.
So, it will be interesting to see whether or not UTEP’s rushing attack can actually run the ball consistently against the Broncos’ front seven.
UTEP vs. Boise State Matchup Analysis
There are a couple of paths for UTEP to cover here.
First, it needs to throw the ball consistently on Boise State’s secondary, which it should have no problem doing since the Broncos are breaking in two new corners and owned a bottom-40 secondary in college football last season.
Secondly, it has to stop Boise State’s rushing attack, which it should be able to with its entire defensive line back from last season — a group that ranked 44th in Defensive Line Yards Allowed.
If the Miners succeed in those two areas, they should be able to cover the 26-point spread.
UTEP vs. Boise State Betting Pick
Boise State opened as a -27 favorite but has quickly been bet down to -25.5 at some books.
I have Boise State projected only as a -19.05 favorite, and if you look at Collin Wilson’s PRO Projections, he has Boise State projected as a -24.3 favorite.
As of writing, there’s still a +26.5 out there at BetMGM, which I think still has a little value.