Friday College Football Odds, Picks, Predictions: Our 3 Top Bets, Including Maryland vs. Iowa, Utah State vs. BYU & More (October 1)
Chris Gardner/Getty Images. Pictured: The BYU Cougars.
- Friday Night Lights are upon us, as there are three big college football games tonight.
- Our writers explain their top three picks for Houston vs. Tulsa, Maryland vs. Iowa, and Utah State vs. BYU below.
- Check out each pick, along with a full betting breakdown for all three games, below.
Friday Night Lights. It’s officially October, which means it’s time for football to ramp up.
Here at The Action Network, we’ll take as much football as we can get whenever we can get it, whether that comes on a Saturday, Tuesday, Thursday, or Friday. So, we’re more than happy with college football under the lights on a beautiful Friday night in October.
The action opens with Houston vs. Tulsa at 7:30 p.m. ET. After that matchup, we’ll be lucky enough to see a battle between Big Ten unbeatens in Iowa vs. Maryland and BYU vs. Utah State grace our television screens.
So, start getting ready for a big college football weekend. Because it’s already starting.
Week 5 College Football Picks for Friday, Oct. 1
Click the team logos for one of the matchups below to navigate to a specific betting preview for Friday evening’s Week 5 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
The Cougars will head into Tulsa on Friday night and try to extend their three-game winning streak.
In their last game, they were able to pull off a comeback win against Navy, while Tulsa pulled out a win over Arkansas State. Houston has won the last two meetings between these teams, a series in which they lead, 25-19, all-time.
Will Houston be able to add another win to this conference series as an underdog on the road? Or will Tulsa get its second win of the season after a rough 0-3 start?
The Cougars are currently averaging 34.5 points per game while accumulating 362.5 yards per game. Last week they made a second-half comeback down 17-7 at halftime to beat Navy, 28-20.
The Houston offense has been steady but mostly against inferior teams, while the offensive line has struggled to keep defenses out of the backfield. The Cougars haven’t been very explosive during that time either.
So far this season, Houston ranks outside the top 100 offensively in; first downs, sacks allowed, yards per play, points, and turnovers.
Quarterback Clayton Tune is completing 71.4% of his passes but has thrown five interceptions to go with his five touchdowns this season. If Houston wants to win this game, it will need to take advantage of a Tulsa defense that allows 30.5 points per game.
The Houston defense has been impressive so far this season, currently ranked fifth nationally in total defense.
Through four games, the Cougars are allowing only 246 yards and 16.3 points per game. They currently rank eighth in Passing Success and 16th in Rushing Success, while coming in at 45th in defensive red zone efficiency.
This Houston defense looks great statically, and I can’t take anything away from the fact it’s been good, allowing less than 100 pass yards in each of its last three games.
It hasn’t faced an offense like the one being led by Davis Brin, who’s currently averaging 300 yards per game and has thrown five touchdown passes in the last two games.
Friday night will be an important test for this defense, and it will prove whether it’s genuinely a good defense or has benefited from playing teams without a threatening pass offense.
The Tulsa offense has been solid so far this season, averaging 25.3 points per game while accumulating 489 yards per game. It ranks 45th in Passing Success but has struggled to score in the red zone and convert third downs, ranking 122nd nationally in both categories.
Brin has averaged more than 300 yards per game, but just like the quarterback opposite him, he has five interceptions to go with his five touchdowns. This Golden Hurricane offense also ranks outside the top 100 in Finishing Drives.
The term “bend don’t break” could not be more important for the Houston defense if it wants to stop Tulsa.
This team will put together drives and find passing success, but if Houston can continue to stop it in the red zone like previous opponents, that may be the demise of the Golden Hurricane.
Last year, Tulsa had one of the better defensive units in college football, but the thing about last year? It’s not last year anymore.
Tulsa gives up 30.5 points per game while allowing 394 yards per game. It also ranks outside the top 100 in Finishing Drives. And while it played Ohio State and Oklahoma State, this team also gave up 399 yards and lost to UC Davis.
If Tulsa wants to keep it close or have any chance to win this game, it will need the defense to step up massively this week against the solid passing attack of Houston.
Houston vs. Tulsa Betting Pick
Houston is 19-7-1 as a road underdog in its last 27 games, while Tulsa is 0-2 ATS as a favorite (2-0 as an underdog) this season.
The under on the total is also 5-2 in Tulsa’s last seven Friday games, 6-1 in the previous seven meetings between these foes, and 6-3 in Houston’s last nine games overall.
I believe this Houston offense will overpower Tulsa’s defense, while the Cougars defense will be able to prove it’s not a result of the inferior teams it has played thus far.
With thunderstorms and rain in the forecast, I liked the under at 57 points in this game, but most books have made adjustments by now, dipping down to 55 or lower at most shops.
Because of that, I will be taking Houston at +3 or better and placing a small bet on the Houston ML at +150 odds or better as well.
Pick: Houston +3 or better
8 p.m. ET
Undefeated Iowa travels on the road Friday night for a big test against fellow undefeated Big Ten foe Maryland.
Iowa has already notched wins over Indiana and Iowa State with unbelievable defensive performances, holding the Hoosiers and Cyclones to a total of 23 points and 4.26 yards per play.
While the defense has been one of the best in college football, the offense has been underperforming quite a bit with Spencer Petras under center.
Additionally, this is a huge lookahead spot with Penn State coming to Kinnick Stadium next week for a potential top-10 showdown.
The Terrapins have been really impressive through their first four games, beating West Virginia and Illinois. Taulia Tagovailoa has been maybe the best quarterback in the country early on this season and has led the Terrapin offense to gain 6.7 yards per play, which ranks 19th in the country.
However, he will now have a big test going up against one of the best defenses in the country.
Despite being undefeated, the Iowa offense has really struggled up to this point in the season, ranking outside the top 100 in both Rushing and Passing Success Rate.
On paper, Petras’ numbers aren’t up there with the top quarterbacks, but he’s actually been really efficient. He has an 83.6 passing grade with eight big-time throws and only one turnover-worthy play in his first four games, per PFF, which is a massive improvement from last season when his passing grade was 56.9 with only six big-time throws total.
— PFF College (@PFF_College) September 11, 2021
However, Petras is not the focus of the Iowa offense because the Hawks are running the ball 55.13% of the time this season.
The rushing offense in total hasn’t really been up to par, gaining 3.3 yards per carry. But that doesn’t tell the whole story.
Lead back Tyler Goodson has been incredible gaining 4.6 yards per carry behind one of the best run-blocking offensive lines in college football (12th this season, per PFF).
Iowa will have to establish the run against Maryland because the front seven for the Terrapins has been average at best this season, ranking 51st in Rushing Success Rate Allowed.
Iowa may have the best defense in college football through the first four games. Yes, it’s had a lot of turnover luck with nine takeaways so far this season, but this Iowa defense is doing what it’s known for — not giving up explosive plays.
The Hawks rank top-10 in the country in both rushing and passing explosive plays allowed, and opposing quarterbacks have not been able to throw on their secondary.
Iowa boasts two of the best cornerbacks in college football in Riley Moss and Matt Hankins, who both are graded as top-10 corners in terms of coverage, per PFF.
Oh, and they also already have combined for four interceptions on the season. So, Taulia Tagovailoa is in for a rude awakening on Friday night.
— Hawkeye Football (@HawkeyeFootball) September 5, 2021
The front seven has also been much better than it was projected to be coming into the season. Iowa has allowed only 2.3 yards per carry and ranks inside the top 25 in Rushing Success Rate Allowed and Defensive Line Yards.
So, for Maryland to beat Iowa, it’s going to have sustain long drives against one of the best defenses in the country at preventing explosive plays and limiting offenses to low Success Rates. I don’t like the Terps’ chances.
If you haven’t heard, Tagovailoa has been maybe the best quarterback in the country through the first four games. He’s throwing for 9.1 yards per attempt and owns the second-best passing grade, per PFF.
Taulia Tagovailoa from a clean pocket this season:
— PFF College (@PFF_College) September 30, 2021
He’s led the Terps to a rank inside the top 10 in Passing Success Rate, which is a testament to both him and their offensive line, which ranks eighth in terms of pass blocking, per PFF.
Here’s the problem, though: He has not played an elite defense yet, and if we go back to last season, the best defense he faced was Indiana, which in 2020 was elite. Tagovailoa struggled, going 17-of-36 for 241 yards and three interceptions.
This season, he has 11 big-time throws and zero turnover-worthy plays, but last season he recorded only five big-time throws and nine turnover-worthy plays.
The rushing attack has been really effective for Maryland this season, ranking 32nd in Rushing Success Rate. Lead back Tayon Fleet-Davis is averaging a whopping 7.1 yards per carry.
However, this is the best rush defense the Terps have faced to date, so we will see if Fleet-Davis can have the same kind of impact he’s already had this season.
Coming into the season, Maryland was projected to be an average Big Ten defense, but it has outperformed those projections so far this season, allowing only 4.9 yards per play and ranking 29th in Success Rate Allowed.
However, there are some concerning aspects of this game for the Terrapins, especially up front.
Maryland ranks outside the top 50 in terms of run defense and pass rushing, per PFF, which is a problem because the way to stop Iowa’s offense is to stop the run, put pressure on Petras, and force him to beat you.
Petras’ passing grade is 90.7 when the pocket is clean but only 53.8 when he’s under pressure, per PFF.
Basically, Maryland is going to have to stop Goodson and make him ineffective in both the rushing and passing game. Goodson is incredibly elusive, and that’s a problem for Maryland because it ranks 78th in tackling, per PFF.
Iowa vs. Maryland Betting Pick
While the Iowa offense hasn’t been that great through its first four games on paper, Petras and Goodson have been efficient.
If Iowa’s offensive line — which is now finally fully healthy — can continue to establish the run, it’s going to be tough for Tagovailoa to see much of the ball since Iowa is 113th in plays per minute.
This will be a very interesting game for Tagovailoa. He’s been amazing through the first four games, but it’s concerning that he hasn’t faced a defense even close to Iowa’s, and the game against Indiana last season is really telling of how he performs against elite defenses.
Also, the question is can Maryland sustain long drives without explosive plays? The Hawkeyes do not allow big plays, so it’ll be important to see if Tagovailoa stays patient enough or if he starts forcing things like he did last season when he had nine turnover-worthy plays in only four games.
I have Iowa projected as a -8.20 favorite, so I think there’s some value on the Hawkeyes to give the Terrapins their first loss of the season on Friday night .
This line has been moving up and down all week long, but the best line on Iowa as of writing is -3 (-114) at BetRivers.
Pick: Iowa -3
9 p.m. ET
CBS Sports Network
Despite losing the No. 2 overall pick at quarterback, one of the top offensive linemen in the nation, the team’s leading receiver and several key pieces on defense after 2020, BYU comes into this game sitting at 4-0 with three victories over Pac-12 teams.
The Cougars allowed less than 20 points in all three of those Pac-12 wins and won the matchups by an average of nine points per game.
The offense hasn’t been able to reach the ridiculous efficiency it had last season, but BYU has racked up some solid wins early on.
On the other side, Utah State is coming off a 27-3 loss to Boise State that was nowhere near as lopsided as the final score would suggest. Utah State came out on the lucky end of a victory in a shootout against Air Force the week prior, though, so its luck reversed in a hurry.
Utah State seems to have taken a step forward after a forgettable 2020 season, but BYU comes in with multiple quality wins under its belt already after four weeks.
Will the Cougars continue their undefeated season as they enter October, or will the Aggies get back into the win column after being handed their first loss last week?
Despite all the losses on this side of the ball, the Cougars’ offense has impressed after a month of play.
Jaren Hall had big shoes to fill at the quarterback position, but he’s been able to lead an efficient offense so far.
He’s gotten it done with his arms and legs, but the latter has arguably been the best part of his game so far. Hall’s 8.7 yards per carry ranks fifth among quarterbacks with at least 20 rushing attempts.
At receiver, the Cougars brought back two productive players in Neil Pau’u and Gunner Romney, plus added a talented transfer in Puka Nacua from Washington.
That trio has the passing offense sitting at 12th in expected points added per pass after four games.
The offensive line has arguably been the most impressive unit on the whole team, though. It’s PFF’s third-ranked pass-blocking unit in terms of grades and ranks 11th in pressure rate allowed.
The unit also hasn’t allowed a single sack since the Week 1 game versus Arizona.
Although the offense has done a good job replacing a lot of production, the same can’t be said for the defense so far.
BYU hasn’t been great anywhere on the defensive side of the ball, with bottom-40 ranks in both Passing Success Rate and Rushing Success Rate.
The pass rush got off to a hot start — it got home four times against Arizona in the first game and three times in Week 2 against Utah — but the group has just one sack in its last two games combined.
In terms of pressure rate, BYU ranks 45th, which is probably the highlight of the defense so far.
Against USF last week, BYU entered halftime with a 22-point lead after allowing just six points. However, the Cougars definitely let their foot off the gas in the second half.
They allowed a touchdown on all three of USF’s second-half drives, including drives of 14 plays for 75 yards and 19 plays for 94 yards.
Against an aggressive Utah State offense, the Cougars will need a full-game effort from the defense in this one.
Utah State Offense
Utah State moved the ball better than its three points would suggest against Boise State, but it just could not stop shooting itself in the foot when it mattered.
The Aggies had the edge in yards per play in the game, but lost the turnover battle 3-1 and went just 0-for-4 on touchdowns in the red zone, coming away with three total points from those possessions.
Overall, Utah State will definitely need to improve in Success Rate because it’s been relying on explosive plays to move the ball early on.
The Aggies have been held below a 40% Success Rate in two straight games — even though it scored 49 in one of those contests — and currently ranks 67th overall in that department so far this season.
The Aggies got a new coach this year in Blake Anderson, who ran an aggressive passing scheme in his time at Arkansas State. So far, that scheme has continued in Utah after bringing quarterback Logan Bonner with him from Arkansas State.
The Aggies have a top-15 ranking in average depth of target this season. Receiver Deven Thompkins has been the beneficiary of this aggressiveness, as he ranks fourth in the nation in receiving yards.
Utah State Defense
The offense has definitely outpaced the defense, considering the latter ranks 110th in successful drive rate.
The defense actually wasn’t terrible against Boise State last week, but the same can’t be said for the unit’s performance the week prior. It had no answers for the Air Force triple-option offense, allowing 8.2 yards per play and 611 in total, including 182 passing yards on just 12 Air Force attempts.
As of now, there’s just not a lot to be excited about with this defense, so BYU’s offense should definitely have the advantage.
Based on how each unit has performed so far this season, BYU’s offense should have no trouble moving the ball here. The Cougars’ receivers look to have a significant edge over these Utah State cornerbacks and it’s tough to see the Aggies getting any sort of pressure against this offensive line.
I should add on that Hall — who missed last week’s game against USF — is expected to be a full go for this one.
Utah State’s offense doesn’t have much of a run game and the passing game isn’t doing a great job of consistently generating positive plays, although it has been able to hit some explosive shots through the air.
In this matchup, the key for BYU’s defense will be to do a decent job taking away that deep connection between Bonner and his receivers.
If the deep shots aren’t there, Utah State hasn’t proven that it can consistently move the ball methodically down the field.
BYU vs. Utah State Betting Pick
This number has bounced around between 7.5 and 9 all week and has currently settled at 8.5 across the board at this point.
In terms of projections, my number on this game is 13.6 in favor of the Cougars, which is one of my bigger discrepancies on the board this week.
I still have preseason projections playing a decent weight in my model because we’re still working with a small sample size of games, but BYU has still definitely played like the better team early on in 2021.
This Utah State defense is very vulnerable and the offense looks relatively one-dimensional at this point.