Thursday NCAAF Odds & Picks: 2 Betting Previews for Tonight’s College Football Games
Getty Images. Matt Roembke/Action Network. Pictured (clockwise from top-left): The Bethune-Cookman mascot, Miami’s Tyler Van Dyke, the Memphis Tigers and Navy’s Daba Fofana.
- Thursday's college football slate features two matchups: Navy vs. Memphis and Bethune-Cookman vs. Miami.
- Our writers broke down both games and came through with in-depth analysis and a pick for each Thursday NCAAF game.
- Read on for our top picks for Thursday's college football games.
Thursday nights are for football, and that's exactly what we have tonight.
Along with the NFL's Vikings vs. Eagles showdown, we have two college football games on the docket: Bethune-Cookman vs. Miami and Navy vs. Memphis.
Mike Calabrese and Cody Goggin provided in-depth breakdowns below and came to a conclusion on a betting pick for both games. So, let's end tonight with a couple of green dots before we head into Friday's three-game slate.
Thursday College Football Betting Previews
The team logos in the table below represent each of the matchups for Thursday's slate of college football games. Click on the team logos for any of the matchups below to navigate to a specific bet discussed in this article.
Specific betting 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.
Bethune-Cookman vs. Miami
The Miami Hurricanes just scored their first signature win of the Mario Cristobal era with a 48-33 triumph over Texas A&M.
After a painful 5-7 campaign last fall, the Canes looked like a Miami team of old, racking up 48 points and 451 total yards against a ranked SEC opponent. Now comes the hard part — an AP Top 25 ranking and expectations.
The Hurricanes have been nothing more than a mediocre ACC program for the past five years, posting a 35-28 straight-up record and a humbling 26-37 mark at the window dating back to 2018.
So, bettors should approach Miami and Cristobal with caution.
Speaking of Super Mario, he’s been anything but in spots coming off of a marquee win. Dating back to his time at Oregon, after a Cristobal-led team takes down a nationally-ranked opponent, his teams are just 2-4 against the spread in the following game.
Can Bethune-Cookman keep that trend going with new head coach Raymond Woodie Jr. leading the way, or will the Canes cover this massive number at Hard Rock Stadium on Thursday night?
Let's dive into the odds and find a pick for Bethune-Cookman vs. Miami in this Thursday night NCAAF betting preview.
Call this my FCS PSA, but it's important to note the huge difference between a nationally-ranked team at that level and everyone else. From an overall quality standpoint, a ranked FCS team is akin to a minor bowl team at the FBS level.
But once you start venturing outside the FCS Top 25, things get hairy. Enter Bethune-Cookman, an HBCU in the midst of a rebuild.
The last time the Wildcats finished a season ranked was 2015, and the program was essentially driven into the ground by former coach Terry Sims. In his final two seasons in Daytona Beach, Sims finished with a record of 4-18.
Raymond Woodie Jr. was brought in after years of FBS coaching experience. Most recently, he coached linebackers at Oregon and Florida State and was an assistant head coach at FAU.
Woodie earned this opportunity, and after a humbling 56-14 opening loss to Memphis, his Wildcats rebounded with a 31-6 home win over Savannah State.
While the Wildcats have reasons for optimism offensively, namely JUCO transfer Luke Sprague at quarterback, their defense is the pits. Against Memphis, a high-functioning FBS offense, they allowed 551 total yards and 56 points. The Tigers moved the ball at will early on, scoring points on five of their first six drives.
I will give Bethune credit for gambling in the defensive backfield, picking veteran quarterback Seth Henigan off twice. The Cats also returned one of those interceptions for touchdowns.
But overall, this defense is patchwork at best and a complete sieve at worst.
There was hope that Miami could turn things around in a hurry after it made splashy moves at both coordinator spots.
Shannon Dawson spent three years as a play-caller and two as a true offensive coordinator at Houston under Dana Holgorsen. His offenses were known as quarterback-friendly, helping Clayton Tune steadily improve from a game manager into a 40-touchdown superstar who is now on an NFL roster.
The early returns with Tyler Van Dyke indicate that Dawson is working his magic again. Last season, TVD was the definition of a JAG — just a guy — as he amassed a QBR of 51.7 to rank 82nd nationally. Through two games with Dawson, he’s already cracked the top 10 in that metric (87, eighth), and he looked completely masterful against Texas A&M with 374 yards and five touchdowns.
Suffice it to say, the offense is humming and should continue to shred opponents until Clemson and Florida State come knocking later in the season.
Defensively, the Canes also made a change at coordinator by bringing in Lance Guidry. He came over from Marshall after a wildly successful stint with the Thundering Herd.
Marshall closed last season in the top 10 in 12 different defensive categories. It took the ball away 29 times (fifth), surrendered only 15 red-zone touchdowns (seventh) and fielded the nation’s best third-down defense.
Against Miami (OH) in the opener, the Canes defense was suffocating and got off the field on 10 of the RedHawks’ 12 third-down opportunities.
Now, their performance against an A&M team with Bobby Petrino calling the shots was far less impressive as they allowed 433 yards. But like a trademark Guidry defense, they won the day with three turnovers.
Bethune-Cookman vs Miami
Betting Pick & Prediction
Games like this squarely come down to motivation.
Last season, Miami opened its season and the Cristobal era against Bethune-Cookman and creamed the Wildcats, 70-13. That game was about sending a message that there was a new sheriff in town. It also came against a 2-9 Wildcat team with a lame-duck head coach.
The Wildcats' roster is better offensively this time around, and Miami won't have the same desire to send a message.
Toss in a short week for the Canes, and it's likely we see a letdown as they go from a season-defining win over an SEC team to playing in front of a sparse Hard Rock crowd that empties out after watching Bethune-Cookman's legendary band, "The PRIDE," at halftime.
Give me the points here.
Pick: Bethune-Cookman +53 (Play to 50)
Navy vs. Memphis
By Cody Goggin
These teams haven’t put much on display this season, but the rosters are largely the same from when these two faced off a season ago, leaving us with some information to go off of.
Let’s take a look at the odds and make a betting pick for this AAC matchup between Navy and Memphis.
Not much can be gleaned from Navy’s first two contests this season. Week 0 saw it get drubbed in Ireland by Notre Dame, and in Week 2, it dispatched FCS opponent Wagner with ease.
Through these two games, it’s still way too early to make any judgments on what this team is.
Brian Newberry takes over as the new head coach in Annapolis after spending the last four years as the defensive coordinator.
Running the Navy offense will be Grant Chesnut, who has been the offensive coordinator at Kennesaw State for the last nine seasons. At Kennesaw, Chesnut ran a variation of the option, which fits Navy’s traditional offensive scheme.
Offensively, the Midshipmen return eight starters, including their leading passer, four of their top five leading rushers, their leading receiver and four offensive linemen.
In Week 1 against Notre Dame, the Navy offense had a yards-per-play mark in the second percentile. However, its Success Rate sat in the 48th percentile. The Mids would pick up the yards they needed at times but couldn't generate any explosive plays.
Naturally, the offense improved against Wagner and up a 58th-percentile Success Rate and 56th-percentile EPA per Play. While an improvement, Wagner’s defense finished 112th in the FCS by SP+ last year, so more should be expected from the Middies.
They may prove me wrong, but I don’t see this being the week that Navy proves to be better than its SP+ offensive ranking of 107th from last year.
The Navy defense was one of the better units in the AAC last season, ranking 41st in SP+ defense while allowing just 24.3 points per game.
With nine starters back, including all of its defensive backs, Memphis may have a tough time moving the ball against this squad.
In the same way that it's tough to take anything away from Navy’s first two games, Memphis has had a similarly unhelpful schedule. Week 1 saw it beat Bethune-Cookman, 56-14, while it had the privilege of playing a downtrodden Arkansas State team in Week 2 and won, 37-3.
Quarterback Seth Henigan returns for his third season with the Tigers. Last year, he threw for 3,571 yards and 22 touchdowns, leading Memphis' 29th-ranked offense.
With the easy schedule, things have started off well for him again. Memphis ranks 14th in the country in Passing Success Rate so far with Henigan averaging 0.33 EPA per Play and completing 72% of his passes.
On the defensive side of the ball, the Tigers struggled a bit last year, ranking 80th in SP+. Things are off to a strong start for them in 2023, though, as they rank 5th in Defensive Success Rate.
However, this is largely due to their schedule of opponents.
Memphis does bring back six starters from last year’s defense, including most of the secondary. We shouldn’t expect this defense to perform as well as it has going forward, but it may be marginally improved from last year.
Navy vs Memphis
Betting Pick & Prediction
At this point in the season, I’m not confident whatsoever in Navy’s offense. Wagner is a team it certainly should have had a better offensive showing against, but the Midshipmen failed to produce any remarkable numbers.
Memphis ranked 23rd in yards per rush allowed last year and held Navy to a 13th-percentile Success Rate in a 37-13 victory.
I like the Tigers at -14.5 and would take them to -17, as I believe they win going away here on Thursday night.