Thanksgiving College Football Odds, Picks & Predictions: How to Bet Fresno State vs. San Jose State and Ole Miss vs. Mississippi State (Thursday, Nov. 25)
Chris McDill/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: Mississippi State flags.
- On Thanksgiving Day, we may be thankful for at least two things: San Jose State vs. Fresno State and Ole Miss vs. Mississippi State.
- Thursday college football is back on the board on Thanksgiving, featuring the San Jose State Spartans fighting for bowl eligibility and Ole Miss on the fringe of discussion for the College Football Playoff.
- Below, our college football betting analysts break down both games and offer their best bets for Thursday's CFB action. Read on to find out how you should bet Thursday afternoon's Mountain West matchup and this evening's Egg Bowl rivalry game.
Thanksgiving is for four things: Family, friends, food, and football.
Along with NFL action throughout the day, we have two in-state college football rivalry games: Fresno State vs. San Jose State at 3:30 p.m. ET and the Egg Bowl between Ole Miss and Mississippi State at 7:30 p.m. ET.
So, grab some turkey and mashed potatoes, prepare the stuffing and cranberry sauce, and sit back. We have football to bet.
Thursday College Football Best Bets
The team logos in the table below represent each of the matchups that our college football staff is targeting from today’s slate of games. Click the team logos for one of the matchups below to navigate to a specific bet discussed in this article.
|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.|
Fresno State vs. San Jose State
By Doug Ziefel
There may not be a better pairing than Thanksgiving and football — besides turkey and cranberry sauce. Who am I kidding? Nobody likes cranberry, but everybody likes Mountain West Conference football.
Fresno State takes the short 150-mile ride up north to take on the San Jose State Spartans. This is a critical game for San Jose State, as a victory would make it bowl eligible — though Fresno State has put together a fine season through solid play on both sides of the ball and is certainly a tall task.
The Spartans come stumbling into this matchup as they have dropped two straight, whereas the story is quite different for the Bulldogs. After getting routed by Boise State, Fresno State got right against lowly New Mexico.
Will the Bulldogs continue to roll? Or can the Spartans rally for one last win to extend their season?
Bulldogs Thriving Behind Jake Haener
Fresno has put together a phenomenal season, and its success all starts with quarterback Jake Haener. Haener has put together quite the senior season, as he ranks ninth nationally in passing yards and 11th in passing touchdowns.
His defining performance came against UCLA. Haener led the Bulldogs to a massive upset over the Bruins, who were receiving a lot of praise at the time. He threw for 455 yards and two touchdown passes, as he out-dueled UCLA quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson in a 40-37 shootout.
Haener’s grit showed with the game on the line. You can relive the final play here:
🚨 DOWN GOES NO. 13 UCLA 🚨
Fresno State QB Jake Haener — in some noticeable pain — leads his team 6 plays, 75 yards in 40 seconds for the go-ahead touchdown.
— The Athletic (@TheAthletic) September 19, 2021
Behind Haener, the Bulldogs have become the 12th-most pass-happy team in the country. Fortunately, he has been consistent, but the Bulldogs do live and die by his performance alone.
In this matchup, the Spartans defense will certainly have some edges that could stifle Haener and the offense. The San Jose secondary sits 23rd in coverage rating and 34th in yards per pass allowed.
The defensive line should be able to get after Haener, as it ranks 40th in pass rush and 48th in Sack Rate.
Can Spartans Offense Finally Put it Together?
Statistically, the San Jose offense has struggled to maintain offensive success this season. It ranks 112th in points per game and 114th in yards per game.
Though, a good chunk of the season was played without starting quarterback Nick Starkel. Since returning from injury, Starkel has not exactly been great. In the Spartans’ last game, posted a 24.8 QBR while throwing for 138 yards and one interception.
The ground game has not been too productive, either, this season. Even with the addition of mobile backup Nick Nash, the rushing numbers are not pretty. The Spartans rank 109th in Rushing Ruccess and 97th in rushing yards per game.
This is a bad matchup for the scuffling Spartans’ offense.
The Bulldogs’ secondary has been one of the best in the country this season, ranking eighth in Passing Success Allowed, fifth in opponent completion percentage, and ninth in coverage rating.
One last very impressive rating for this unit is its rank of fifth in Defensive Havoc.
Fresno State vs. San Jose State Betting Pick
The Spartans are in a do-or-die spot as they need a win to become bowl eligible. While I expect their best efforts, it may not be enough to compete with the Bulldogs.
Fresno’s defense should shut down the Spartans offense. Add that to San Jose State’s defensive advantages, and you have yourself a recipe for an under.
Pick: Under 52.5 (Play to 51)
Ole Miss vs. Mississippi State
The Butterfly Effect is a theory that small things can have non-linear impacts on a complex system. Quite simply, does a butterfly flapping its wings cause a typhoon elsewhere on the globe?
This theory was perfectly laid out in a key scene of the movie “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” but in our world of college football, we call this the Egg Bowl.
During the 2019 Egg Bowl, Matt Corral led the final drive of the game, resulting in a touchdown pass to Elijah Moore, who subsequently decided to urinate like a bulldog at the back of the end zone.
The excessive celebration penalty forced a longer game-tying point-after attempt that was missed. Ole Miss then fired head coach Matt Luke with a 4-8 record. Mississippi State made a bowl as a 6-6 team, keeping a 6-6 Toledo team from going to a bowl.
Ole Miss soon hired Lane Kiffin as head coach, and Bulldogs head coach Joe Moorhead was fired after an embarrassing loss in the Music City Bowl in which members of the roster fought with each other.
Mike Leach was then lured away from Pullman, leaving Washington State to hire Nick Rolovich out of Hawai’i, as the Rainbow Warriors dusted off the Todd Graham resume to return to coaching.
A simple hike of the leg by Elijah Moore changed the entire landscape of college football, making this one of the best Thanksgiving Day traditions.
The stakes could not be higher for Kiffin and the Rebels in their campaign to land a Sugar Bowl invite. Only road losses to Alabama and Auburn are on a schedule that had no bye weeks through the month of October and November.
The offense continued a cohesive mix of success and explosiveness against Vanderbilt, posting 24 first-half points. Corral has not taken off from the pocket nearly as many times since the Tennessee game, where 30 rushing attempts limited the quarterback’s mobility with an ankle injury.
The health status continues to improve for Corral and a stable of weapons on offense. Wide receiver Jonathan Mingo returned for a catch against Vanderbilt, while Dontario Drummond generated 10 targets and a touchdown against the Commodores.
Kiffin runs a strict 11 personnel offense that starts with zone read to a trio of electric running backs, but Corral’s mobility is what drives a rank of second in Rushing Success Rate and ninth in big-play percentage.
Give credit to co-defensive coordinators Chris Partridge and DJ Durkin for improvement of the defensive statistics.
A 3-3-5 scheme in 2020 led to bottom-10 ranks in FBS in almost every defensive category, but a scheme change to a dime secondary has made a vast improvement.
The 2-3-6 and 3-2-6 scheme has led to a top-25 rank in coverage and a mark of 12th in passing downs explosiveness. These small tweaks, including an upgrade in tackling, have led to a top-five rank in defensive pass expected points.
Ole Miss still gives up plenty of yards, but the secondary has seen massive improvement.
— Brad Logan (@BradLoganCOTE) November 21, 2021
Head coach Mike Leach has proven the Air Raid offense that once dominated Big 12 play can exist in the SEC.
Winners of three of the last four conference games, sophomore quarterback Will Rogers was a local Mississippi three-star product, who committed to the Bulldogs early in high school.
A 34:8 touchdown-to-interception ratio with a minimal 1.8% turnover-worthy play percentage has shown what a dominant Leach offense can achieve, even breaking records posted by former Bulldog Dak Prescott.
Will Rogers broke Dak Prescott’s records for passing yards and TDs in a season today 👏
— SI College Football (@si_ncaafb) November 20, 2021
Mississippi State throws out of the empty-back 10 formation set on 72% of snaps, giving extra emphasis to a top-10 rank in Passing Success Rate and pass blocking.
The Bulldogs have one of the most methodical offenses in the nation with a rank in the top 20 in 10-plus play drives, three-plus minute drives and two-plus first down drives.
After multiple years of learning the 3-3-5 from the great Rocky Long at San Diego State, defensive coordinator Zach Arnett brought the scheme to Starkville last season.
The scheme often confuses opposing quarterbacks and dominates in eliminating explosive plays. Mississippi State is 19th in big-play prevention, a measurement of 12-plus yard rushing attempts and 20-plus yard passing attempts.
If there has been a layer of vulnerability, it’s catching the Mississippi State defense off guard in early downs, as the Bulldogs own a rank of 103rd in defending explosiveness on standard downs.
Arnett rarely calls blitz with more than four defenders, which may give Heisman candidate Matt Corral just enough time to find empty pockets on the field.
Ole Miss vs. Mississippi State Betting Pick
The first meeting of these two head coaches took place on Thanksgiving weekend in 2020, with Ole Miss winning by a touchdown and posting an 83% post-game win expectancy.
A Bulldogs fumble in the first quarter gave the Rebels a touchdown drive starting at the Mississippi State 16-yard line. That play would be the difference in a contest featuring both Corral and Rogers.
There is reason to believe this game will play out much of the same, as Mississippi State elected to pass on 63-of-78 offensive plays, while the balanced Ole Miss attack doubled the national average in explosive drives.
These two offenses will attack with a different tempo — Ole Miss ranks third in plays per minute while Mississippi State sits 90th.
Each offense has the advantage in scoring opportunities over the opposing defense, but a large gap exists in the special reams department. Specifically, the punt game has been unkind to the Bulldogs, who own a rank of 102nd in punt return efficiency and 129th in punt efficiency.
The Action Network projection makes this game a pick with a total of 61, both right at the current market numbers.
There are a number of items that point to Ole Miss winning this edition of the Egg Bowl. The biggest concern on the Rebels defense is an opponent that can run the ball effectively, an area Mississippi State can’t expose.
Standard Downs Success Rate is an area that heavily favors the Rebels offense with a rank of 10th against a Bulldogs defense that is outside the top 100.
These teams also move at a different pace in terms of Success Rate during the game. Ole Miss is a top-10 team in point differential through the first half of football games, while Mississippi State has a negative point differential in the first quarter of games this season.
That 2021 full season statistic was apparent in last year’s Egg Bowl, as Ole Miss led Mississippi State, 14-0, after the first quarter.
This game will come down to the wire, but expect the Bulldogs to score on multiple possessions before the methodical Air Raid puts points on the board.