College Football Betting Odds, Predictions: Our Top 2 Picks for Thursday’s NCAAF Games
Ryan Collinsworth/Action Network.
Thursday nights are for football at both the professional and collegiate levels.
In addition to the NFL’s matchup between the Atlanta Falcons and Carolina Panthers, we also have two college games on the docket: Memphis vs. Tulsa in the AAC and Georgia Southern vs. Louisiana in the Sun Belt.
Our college football betting analysts are taking one favorite and one underdog, as they broke down both games for Thursday night and shared a pick for each.
Read on for our full Thursday night betting previews, and be sure to check back tomorrow for even more college football betting coverage.
Thursday Night College Football Best Bets
The team logos in the table below represent each of the matchups that our college football staff is targeting from Thursday’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.|
Tulsa vs. Memphis
Memphis, Tennessee, will be the site of a Thursday night AAC matchup between Memphis and Tulsa.
Both teams come into Thursday after losing a combined six straight. As a result, both teams’ bowl eligibilities will rely on this week’s outcome.
Memphis is looking to avoid its fifth loss in a row after losing four straight games by seven points or less.
On the other side, Tulsa is playing its second game in five days after falling to Tulane, 27-13, and producing just 257 yards of total offense.
To make matters worse for the Golden Hurricane, starting quarterback Davis Brin is a game-time decision after leaving last week’s game with a shoulder injury.
Will Memphis keep its bowl hopes alive despite losing four in a row? Or will Tulsa bounce back on a short turnaround with its starting quarterback’s status in question?
Let’s dive in.
The Golden Hurricane must make an incredibly quick turnaround after losing on the road to Tulane just five days ago. Playing two road games with little downtime is no easy task for any team in college football.
To make matters worse for Tulsa, Brin exited last week’s game with a shoulder injury and did not return.
Tulsa head coach Philip Montgomery said Brin was “day-to-day” heading into the matchup with the Tigers. Montgomery added that the short week hasn’t done Brin any favors in terms of making a return, as “every day is an opportunity to get healthier.”
From an offensive perspective, the absence of Brin will make an already one-dimensional Golden Hurricane offense even more predictable.
When looking at the analytics, it’s easy to see where Tulsa finds most of its success.
The Golden Hurricane rank 12th and 34th in Rushing Success Rate and EPA per Rush, respectively. However, Tulsa drops to 67th in Passing Success Rate and 82nd in EPA per Rush.
If Brin is unable to go on Thursday night, the success and frequency of this rushing attack will be vital.
Unfortunately for the Golden Hurricane, Memphis will welcome a run-based offense with open arms. The Tigers rank 28th and 32nd in EPA per Rush and Success Rate, respectively.
Even with Brin in the lineup, Memphis is equipped to take away the most lethal part of the Golden Hurricane’s offensive attack: the run game.
In addition, Brin’s status for Thursday night will be crucial given the offensive output the Golden Hurricane have allowed their opponents.
Defensively, Tulsa gives up 403.6 yards per game, resulting in 33.2 points per game.
The Golden Hurricane have been gashed on the ground, ranking 80th in EPA per Rush and 74th in Defensive Rushing Success Rate, allowing just over a 40% mark of success to opposing rushing attacks.
This inept play by Tulsa’s front seven will be just what Memphis needs to get back on track from a winning perspective.
However, the Tigers have found much of their offensive success this season through the air. Although effective, this one-dimensional offensive style has resulted in Memphis coming up just short in 4 straight contests.
Adding a second dimension through the ground attack will be a lethal combo for the Tigers on Thursday night.
The Tigers enter Thursday’s game desperate for a win. They’re coming off of a bye week after losing four straight games, all to AAC opponents.
Those close losses have not been a result of the offense, which has been productive all year. Memphis has posted 421 yards per game, resulting in an average of 33.9 points per contest.
Coming off of a bye week, the Memphis offense will look to pick up right where it left off against Tulsa’s defensive unit that ranks 90th in overall EPA margin.
Additionally, the Tulsa defense sits outside the top 100 in Line Yards, Havoc and Finishing Drives. This combination will result in an efficient offensive performance from the Tigers, who come into Thursday night averaging an impressive 4.2 points per scoring opportunity.
Memphis has been especially proficient in passing the ball, ranking 39th in EPA per Pass due to a 42% Success Rate.
It’s important to note that Tulsa does rank 24th nationally in Defensive Passing Success Rate, allowing just 35%, and 21st in PFF coverage grading. However, these efficient numbers come as a result of Tulsa’s opponents increasing their rush rate due to Golden Hurricane’s weakness up front.
Even with these inflated numbers, Memphis — which averages 284.6 yards passing per game — should have no issue being effective through the air against the Golden Hurricane secondary. Although its coverage numbers are some of the best in the country, Tulsa still ranks 97th defensively in EPA per Pass.
Look for Memphis to slow down Tulsa’s ground attack and take advantage of its entire defensive unit.
Tulsa vs Memphis Betting Pick
What this matchup comes down to is Memphis’ ability to slow Tulsa down on the ground. The Golden Hurricane have relied on their rushing attack all season to keep them in games.
Memphis is equipped to limit them on the ground, putting pressure on a Tulsa passing attack that will start a banged-up Davis Brin if he even plays at all.
Simply put, the Tigers defense will allow their offense to outpace the Golden Hurricane.
Look for Memphis to end its four-game losing streak and keep its bowl dreams alive against an exhausted Tulsa team playing its second game in five days.
Georgia Southern vs. Louisiana
By Dan Keegan
While MACtion captures our hearts and fills our betting cards for midweek college football, the Thursday night Sun Belt games should not be overlooked.
Troy vs. South Alabama, Coastal Carolina vs. App State and Louisiana vs. Southern Miss have all been exciting games in the must-see TV timeslot in recent weeks.
That tradition continues this week with a Georgia Southern vs. Louisiana game that promises to be entertaining. It could be decided by which team gets off the mat better in a short week after tough losses; both teams let multi-score leads slip away on their home fields last Saturday.
This matchup is a classic case of opposing styles.
The Ragin’ Cajuns are a defense-first team, ranking 30th in SP+ on that side of the ball — the holdover from their recent dominance of the Sun Belt West.
Georgia Southern is undergoing an offensive revitalization in Clay Helton’s first year. The Eagles boast an excellent pass offense but struggle to get stops.
This should be a fascinating Thursday night game, both from a narrative standpoint and with the clash of styles. Should we take the home team and its sturdy defense, or the visitors and their ability to throw the ball all over the yard?
Let’s dive into the matchup.
What an improbable turnaround season it’s been for Helton in Statesboro. He has taken a team projected to finish near the bottom of the Sun Belt and has it a win away from bowl eligibility.
In the first season transitioning from decades of triple-option football, Helton installed an Air Raid attack and created one of the best offenses in the Group of Five.
The aerial attack is led by Buffalo transfer quarterback Kyle Vantrease. The “Ginger General” has already set career highs and school records for numerous passing statistics. He has completed 61.6% of his passes for 2,982 yards (4th in FBS) and 20 touchdowns, although he has tossed 13 interceptions.
While Vantrease has been good, the straw that stirs the drink is four quality receivers. With Khaleb Hood and Amare Jones operating from the slot and Derwin Burgess Jr. and Jeremy Singleton on the perimeter, the Eagles have the deepest and most experienced receiving corps in the Sun Belt.
They’re athletic and shifty, compiling big yards after the catch numbers — and they’ve had big days against quality FBS pass defenses like JMU and South Alabama already.
|WR Khaleb Hood||60||685||2|
|WR Derwin Burgess Jr.||53||642||6|
|WR Jeremy Singleton||48||508||2|
|WR Amare Jones||35||483||6|
And while Louisiana is stronger against the pass than the run — it ranks eighth in EPA against the pass and 51st against the rush — it hasn’t faced a passing offense in the same universe as this one.
The only above-average passing attack it’s faced is South Alabama’s.
Georgia Southern’s defense is a much deeper rebuild and has been the team’s Achille’s heel. It prefers to get into high-scoring affairs and let the chips fall where they may. It has won offense-heavy games against Nebraska and James Madison but faltered in close games against other top Sun Belt offenses like Coastal, South Alabama and Georgia State.
Louisiana’s offense has cratered with the post-Billy Napier talent exodus and ranks 94th in offensive SP+. While it will be happy to see Georgia Southern’s forgiving defense come to town, it’s ill-equipped to win with only its offense.
While Georgia Southern has to feel great about its new direction under Helton, Louisiana is wrapping up a disappointing first campaign with Michael Desormeaux as head coach.
He was an in-house hire, hoping to keep the good times of the Napier era extended, but the program has suffered.
A number of players lost eligibility or transferred to new homes in the college ranks. A two-quarterback rotation was inconsistent at the beginning of the season and has now stabilized to just Ben Wooldridge.
The offense has fallen off of a cliff, with a mediocre run game and a poor pass attack.
The defense is the team’s strong suit, but it’s not a lights-out unit. In the last two weeks, it choked away a 17-point lead to Troy and allowed 39 points to USM’s struggling offense.
Wooldridge is the quarterback and has provided some much-needed stability to the passing game, although the Cajuns are only 111th in Offensive Passing Success. Louisiana will have to try to control the ball and play keep-away, but that will be a new task for an offense that ranks 106th overall in Success Rate.
The defense has better statistics against the pass than the rush, so that’s an encouraging sign for the Cajuns in this matchup. But as noted, they haven’t truly been tested by any strong passing attacks on the season.
Georgia Southern vs Louisiana Betting Pick
While there are similarities with first-year head coaches looking for bowl eligibility, reaching that mark would be a mighty achievement for the Eagles, while falling short would be a big letdown for a Ragin’ Cajuns team that has already surrendered its grip on the West Division title.
Motivation will be a huge factor after the two comebacks these teams just allowed, and I prefer the team looking to cap a surprise season than the one on the decline.
On the field, it’s a clash of styles. Georgia Southern has succeeded in taking teams and dragging them into points-powered matchups. Eagles games are like a basketball matchup where one team is trying to impose its tempo on the other. So far, they have been successful in those games and have only lost when they do so against another strong offense.
Louisiana’s offense is not equipped to play in such a game and will have trouble stringing together long drives and finishing them, ranking 103rd in Finishing Drives.
I’ll take the optimistic program and better quarterback fighting to attain their goals. I’ll take the Eagles when given a field goal or more. The line opened at +5.5 and can be found at +3.5 at some shops as of writing.