Friday College Football Odds, Picks: Our Bets for Tonight’s 5 Games, Including UNLV vs. San Diego State (Nov. 19)
AAron Ontiveroz/The Denver Post via Getty Images. Pictured: A San Diego State football player.
- Another Friday means another night of college football action.
- Tonight, we're lucky enough to have five games on the schedule, and it all wraps up with UNLV vs. San Diego State at 11:30 p.m. ET.
- Check out all five of our bets for Friday's college football games below.
We’re back for another edition of Friday Night Lights, and we have quite the treat in Week 12.
We have five games on deck serving as our appetizer for Saturday’s main slate. Not one. Not two. Not three. Not four. Five. That’s a lot of college football for a Friday.
The action starts with Southern Miss vs. Louisiana Tech at 8 p.m. ET before transitioning to three different games at 9 p.m. ET: Memphis vs. Houston, Air Force vs, Nevada, and Arizona vs. Washington State. Then, get ready to grab a nightcap as San Diego State and Nevada go to battle at 11:30 p.m. ET.
And what’s Friday night football without some action on the table? Our college football staff broke down all five games and shared a betting pick based on their analysis for each.
So, buckle up. We’re in for the long haul here.
Friday 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 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.|
Southern Miss vs. Louisiana Tech
By Shawn Burns
Southern Miss plays at Louisiana Tech Friday night in a matchup between two longtime rivals. The programs have played a total of 52 times, with the Golden Eagles leading the series, 35-17.
Head coach Will Hall is in his first season at Southern Miss, and it has been a challenging one. The Golden Eagles are 1-9, and the offense has been a disaster, mostly due to injuries at quarterback and inconsistent play from the offensive line.
The Golden Eagles have played a total of 10 players at quarterback this season, and last week running back Frank Gore Jr. played under center in their hard-fought loss against UTSA.
Southern Miss is limping to the finish line, but this coaching staff must be pleased with the effort as it looks toward next season.
Louisiana Tech is 3-7, but this easily could have been a bowl-eligible team at this point in the season. The Bulldogs had heartbreaking losses to Mississippi State and SMU, and they went toe-to-toe with North Carolina State for four quarters.
Louisiana Tech has also had injuries under center, with three quarterbacks getting at least one start this season, while the defense has been battered all season.
The Bulldogs will have their streak of seven consecutive bowl appearances snapped, but they do have two winnable games to end the season.
The Southern Miss offense has been in shambles all season, and the stats reflect how bad it’s truly been.
The Golden Eagles are 129th in scoring offense, 130th in Rush Success, 130th in Finishing Drives and 129th in sacks allowed. I could go on and on, but you get the point.
It’s anyone’s guess as to who will play at quarterback Friday night. Hall decided to shorten last week’s game against UTSA by playing Gore at quarterback with hopes of controlling the clock. It worked for three quarters before UTSA pulled away for the win. Southern Miss ran the ball 47 times and had the ball for over 37 minutes.
It’s tough to find a bright spot offensively, but Gore has proven to be one of the top players in the conference. He has over 700 yards rushing this season and has averaged 4.5 yards per carry, even with all of the injuries at the quarterback position.
Southern Miss hasn’t been great on defense, but considering the deficiencies of the offense, it’s been pretty good. The Golden Eagles allow 29 points per game, are 57th in the country in total defense and rank ninth in red-zone defense efficiency.
Southern Mississippi has allowed 155 yards per game rushing and held up well against a strong UTSA rushing attack last week.
Louisiana Tech has struggled running the ball for much of the season, so this could be an area that Southern Miss has an advantage defensively.
Quarterback Austin Kendall has missed three games this year, and it’s unclear who will start against Southern Miss. Last week, Aaron Allen started and played great in the win over Charlotte. Kendall, Allen and freshman JD Head are all listed atop of the depth chart.
The offense has played well at times, but inconsistent play under center and the inability to establish a running game have held this unit back. The Bulldogs are 25th in Pass Success, but the quarterbacks have combined for 11 interceptions.
Louisiana Tech has struggled to sustain a rushing attack and averages less than 3.5 yards per carry. The Bulldogs are 113th in Rush Success Rate but had their most productive game of the season last week against Charlotte. Running back Marcus Williams Jr. led the way with 131 yards and four touchdowns in the win.
The Bulldogs returned 10 starters on defense and expectations were high for a unit that struggled a year ago. Unfortunately, it has been a mess all season. They are 112th in scoring defense, 115th in total defense and 113th in red-zone defensive efficiency.
If Southern Miss uses a run-orientated scheme like last week, it will be imperative that the Louisiana Tech front seven plays well. Linebackers Trey Baldwin and Tyler Grubbs are quality players who are tied for the team lead with 78 tackles, and both have a nose for the ball.
Southern Miss has turned the ball over 25 times and is 127th in penalties per game. If Louisiana Tech can play a disciplined game, it will have a great chance to win its fourth game of the season.
Southern Miss vs. Louisiana Tech Betting Pick
This is a rivalry game between two schools that don’t like each other.
Louisiana Tech is the better team but is getting too many points in this spot. Southern Miss is playing with great effort, and its run-oriented offense should let it control the clock and shorten the game to keep the Tech offense on the sideline.
Pick: Southern Miss +16
Memphis vs. Houston
After opening the season 3-0, the Memphis Tigers have dropped five of their last seven games. Bowl season, which was once a near certainty for the Tigers, has now become a major concern.
They must win one of their final two games, with the first one being a match-up against the 9-1 Houston Cougars.
The Cougars finally cracked the College Football Playoff rankings at No. 24 this week after winning nine games in a row.
Houston secured its spot in the American Athletic Championship game after defeating all seven of its conference foes this season. The Cougars will likely have a date with the Cincinnati Bearcats in what will be their first appearance in the conference championship since 2015.
That feelin’ when you clinch a spot in the @American_Conf Championship game 😤#GoCoogs pic.twitter.com/Eu574s7zZi
— Houston Football (@UHCougarFB) November 13, 2021
Memphis upset SMU two weeks ago with the return of quarterback Seth Henigan, which was its only win over the last four games. Houston will need to avoid the let-down spot after securing its spot in the conference title game last week.
Memphis has had a rollercoaster season that has lacked any glimpse of consistency. The Tigers opened the season at 3-0 which included a victory over SEC-opponent Mississippi State.
They followed that game by blowing a 21-point lead to UTSA, along with losses to Tulsa and 127th-ranked Temple (according to Collin Wilson’s power ratings).
The program bounced back with an impressive victory over SMU but then laid an egg last week losing to East Carolina. Predicting which Memphis team will show up on any given Saturday is a tough task.
Overall, the program is 5-5 and needs to win one of its final two games to become bowl eligible.
Part of the blame can be attributed to the injury bug recently. Henigan missed the loss to UCF due to injury, and the true freshman is now back. He’s tossed 21 touchdowns this season while averaging 9.1 yards per pass attempt and 309 yards per game.
His go-to receiver, Calvin Austin III, missed the last game against ECU with injury, but he’s expected to be back against Houston. Austin is one of the most explosive receivers in the nation and he’ll be playing in this year’s Senior Bowl. Austin leads the Tigers with 1,000 yards receiving and 10 total touchdowns this season.
The duo has led Memphis to 32 points per game and the 14th ranking in Passing Success Rate.
Defensively, Memphis has struggled this season, allowing 29 points per game. The group hasn’t been able to get off the field on third down, allowing opponents to convert on 47% of its attempts (120th nationally).
Memphis should be able to slow down the rushing attack of Houston, but it’ll need to focus on the aerial assault from the Cougars. Houston ranks 16th in Passing Success Rate while Memphis sits at 83rd defensively. The Tigers have allowed 7.2 yards per pass attempt, which ranks 50th in the nation.
The Cougars have been rolling over their nine-game winning streak, outscoring opponents by an average score of 41-19 during that span. The issue is they have had one of the easiest schedules in the country, according to PFF. The Cougars have faced the 124th-ranked strength of schedule through the first nine weeks.
Houston struggled with Navy, only defeating the Midshipmen by one score. The Cougars also needed overtime to escape East Carolina at home.
They returned a kickoff in the final seconds to beat SMU and needed a second-half surge to survive South Florida.
|Opponent||Collin Wilson Power Rating Rank|
Offensively, the group has struggled to run the ball, averaging 3.9 yards per carry and sitting 84th in Success Rate. Though Houston runs the ball on 53% of its snaps, the rushing attack has attributed to just 35% of the Cougars’ total offensive yards.
The offense is reliant on the arm of Clayton Tune, who has thrown 21 touchdowns while averaging 8.4 yards per attempt and nearly 250 yards per game. He’s spread the ball out nicely with nine separate players catching touchdowns, but his go-to receiver is Nathaniel Dell, who is averaging 87 receiving yards per contest.
The Cougars offense has struggled to prevent Havoc, ranking 109th in the nation, but they’ve thrived at Finishing Drives. ranking 12th.
Defensively, the Cougars have been strong this season, allowing less than 300 yards per contest. They rank in the top 12 in Rushing and Passing Success Rates. The unit has amassed 28 sacks and ranks first in pass rush.
Much of those stats can be attributed to the lack of strong offenses that they have matched up with. The defense has struggled at times, allowing 38 points to Texas Tech, 37 points to SMU and 42 points to South Florida.
Memphis vs. Houston Betting Pick
Memphis has had Houston’s number in this matchup historically, winning the last five meetings. The Cougars have benefited from an easy schedule and have beaten up on some bad teams this season. This will be one of the most explosive offenses that the Houston defense has seen all year.
Memphis will finally be healthy for this matchup and is in a must-win position if it wants to make it to bowl season.
According to our PRO Report, Houston has seen 96% of the money, yet the line has dropped from 10.5 to 8.5 in favor of Memphis due to sharp action.
Houston will likely be uninspired after clinching a berth in the conference championship and should be on upset alert in this battle.
Pick: Memphis +8.5 (Play to +7.5)
Air Force vs. Nevada
Nevada is coming off a tight 23-21 loss to San Diego State last week, which has all but eliminated the Wolf Pack from contention in the Mountain West title race.
It enters this contest with a 4-2 conference record, and each of the losses came by just two points, a tough pill to swallow for this squad. Still, a 7-3 record is nothing to scoff at, and Nevada still has a realistic chance to win out and get to double-digit wins this season in a bowl game.
Air Force also enters this contest with a 7-3 record, but it will need a lot of help to pass Utah State in the Mountain Division of the conference after the Aggies pulled off a road win against the Falcons earlier in the season.
Just like all of the great service academy teams, Air Force has used a strong ground game and defense to an average point differential of nearly 11 per game on the season.
It’s unlikely that we see either of these squads in the conference championship game, but there’s no question that both are right there among the best teams in the Mountain West. Who has the edge in this matchup?
Air Force Offense
Any conversation about Air Force’s offense has to start with the ground game, which ranks seventh in the nation in terms of Success Rate.
The primary ball-carrier has been fullback Brad Roberts, whose 1,064 yards rank 12th in the nation, with 10 touchdowns to boot. Quarterback Haaziq Daniels has also done a lot of heavy lifting there, chipping in with 644 yards on the ground and nine rushing touchdowns.
The run blocking is the main reason why Air Force’s ground game has been elite, as the offensive line ranks 10th there in terms of PFF grade. Individually, Air Force has four of the 11 highest-graded run blockers in the Mountain West.
Daniels has also been able to hit shots through the air, averaging 10.2 yards per attempt on 89 passes this season, with Air Force ranking 33rd in Expected Points Added (EPA) per throw.
The passing game isn’t featured in this offense with the Falcons running the ball on 86.5% of plays, but if it hits a completion, there’s a good chance it goes for an explosive gain.
Receiver Brandon Lewis has been the main beneficiary of those deep shots, and he’s averaging a whopping 28.3 yards per reception for 424 yards on the year.
Air Force Defense
The defense has benefitted by having to defend this triple-option offense in practice every day, which has led to a ranking of sixth in Rushing Success Rate Allowed.
However, it could be argued that this front has been even better in the pass rush, ranking second in the nation in pressure rate. Edge rusher Vince Sanford’s 87.0 PFF pass-rushing grade ranks fourth among Mountain West defenders, with teammates Christopher Herrera and Jordan Jackson also ranking in the top 15 in the conference in terms of pressures.
The coverage unit has also been strong, which has led to a ranking of 31st in EPA per pass allowed. Overall, this defense ranks 14th in Success Rate Allowed, and it’ll need another strong day from the pass defense to contain Nevada.
There is really only one aspect for opposing defenses to worry about with this offense, considering the run game ranks 129th in both EPA per carry and Stuff Rate.
Nevada’s passing game has been its bread and butter, but there is one area in that department where Air Force’s defense should have a big edge. This pass rush has been lethal and will get to face a Nevada offensive line that ranks 108th in PFF pass-blocking grade.
Nevada’s Carson Strong has been one of the better quarterbacks in college football this season, leading the Mountain West in PFF passing grade and adjusted completion percentage.
Receiver Romeo Doubs is also an NFL Draft prospect that could hear his name called in the top 100 selections this spring, and he’s tied for 16th in the nation with 23 explosive receptions.
Overall, Nevada ranks just 58th in EPA per play, but stopping Nevada’s elite quarterback-receiver duo will be the key for the Air Force defense.
Nevada’s defense has been relatively solid overall, but its biggest weakness is an area that should raise a lot of concern against this Air Force offense.
It’s really struggled against the run, ranking 113th in Rushing Success Rate Allowed and 103rd in Stuff Rate, which obviously doesn’t lend itself well to stopping a triple-option attack. In that area, the Falcons should dominate in the trenches.
Nevada has a solid pass defense, ranking in the top 20 in EPA per throw and yards per attempt, but that really won’t be featured much at all in this matchup.
Over the past month, Nevada has been gashed on the ground by the likes of Hawaii, Fresno State and San Jose State, with all three averaging more than six yards per carry against this front. It’s hard to see a scenario where Air Force’s potent ground game doesn’t keep it rolling here.
Air Force vs. Nevada Betting Pick
Air Force is the more complete team in this matchup and has a very exploitable edge with its ground game taking on a Nevada front that has really struggled to defend the run.
There hasn’t been a ton of movement on this line in the market through the week, with Air Force bouncing around between +1 and +2 at different points.
Personally, I project Air Force as a 2.5-point favorite on the road and expect the Falcons to come out of this matchup with an 8-3 record heading into its final regular-season game, largely due to a big mismatch with its ground game against a weak Nevada front.
Pick: Air Force ML +105
Arizona vs. Washington State
The Arizona Wildcats head north to the Palouse to take on the Washington State Cougars in the second-to-last regular-season game for both teams on Saturday.
After starting the season 0-8, the Wildcats have finally shown signs of life over the last two weeks. They picked up their only win of the season two weeks ago in an ugly 10-3 home win over a Cal team that was missing 24 players due to COVID-19 protocols.
The Wildcats followed up that performance by scoring 29 points against a Utah team that might be playing the best football in the Pac-12 with Cam Rising at quarterback.
The Wildcats gave the Utes a scare, as Utah led 31-29 with 10:47 to play, but the Utes went on to score seven more points to win, 38-29, while Arizona covered as 24.5-point underdogs.
After firing head coach Nick Rolovich, the Cougars are undefeated against the spread in their last three games. Wazzu hung tight in a 21-19 loss to BYU before stomping Arizona State, 34-21, two weeks ago.
Quarterback Jayden de Laura and the Cougars are coming off of a 38-24 loss against Oregon at Autzen Stadium last week.
When Arizona Has the Ball
If the Cougars cover or pull the unlikely upset, it will be because they take advantage of Washington State’s poor run defense.
The Wildcats don’t have any strengths offensively, as they have churned through quarterbacks due to injury. Will Plummer will be their starting signal-caller this week, and his improvement has been a big reason why they’ve been involved in four straight competitive games.
After recording a poor QBR of 26 or lower in each of his first five appearances this season, Plummer has had three straight games with a QBR over 50. He will need to continue the steady but unspectacular play of late while also continuing to run the ball.
In his first five appearances, Plummer ran for no more than 16 yards in a game, but he has run for 68 and 50 yards in the last two games for Arizona while adding another dimension to its stagnant offense.
If Plummer can keep it going and limit turnovers while the Wildcats get some kind of push on the ground against a Wazzu defense that ranks 125th in Rush Success Rate and 117th in Line Yards, they should shorten the game enough to stay within the 15-point spread.
Both the Arizona offense and Washington State defense are unspectacular, as they each rank 71st or lower in every single advanced statistic listed in our dropdowns below.
When Washington State Has the Ball
If Washington State wins and covers as home favorites, it will be because it creates explosive plays and de Laura doesn’t turn the ball over.
The Wazzu rushing offense is mediocre, as it ranks 76th in both Rush Success Rate and Line Yards. The Arizona run defense is the strength of its unit as it ranks 58th in Rush Success Rate and 63rd in Line Yards.
The edge for the Cougars offense lies through the air, as their pass blocking ranks 38th while Arizona’s pass rush sits at 85th. De Laura should have the time to make throws from the pocket or extend plays with his legs, but he needs to take care of the ball as he has nine turnovers this season, including four over the last three games.
Washington State ranks 38th in big plays, and it should have opportunities downfield against an Arizona defense that ranks 74th in big plays allowed, 79th in PFF Tackling, and a horrific 126th in PFF Coverage.
Arizona vs. Washington State Betting Pick
While the Cougars are undefeated against the spread in their last three weeks (2-0-1 or 3-0 depending on the line against Oregon), the Wildcats have covered in four straight games, as Plummer’s development has helped them look competent offensively at times.
With the Cougars in a sandwich spot here before the Apple Cup against Washington next week and after an important matchup with Oregon last week, I like this spot for the Wildcats.
The spread has been pricing in a much more incompetent Plummer at quarterback, but he has shown over the last three weeks that he’s being undervalued.
I like Arizona’s chances of mucking up and shortening this game by running the ball consistently against the poor Washington State run defense. I don’t trust de Laura to play a clean game, and I will be betting a half-unit on Arizona at +15 on DraftKings (with value down to +14.5).
Pick: Arizona +15 (Play to +14.5)
San Diego State vs. UNLV
San Diego State survived a difficult test against Carson Strong and Nevada last week, as the Aztecs moved to 9-1 overall and 5-1 in the Mountain West following the 23-21 victory.
Two more wins is enough for SDSU to make the conference title game. The next challenge for the Aztecs to conquer is a Friday night road trip to lowly UNLV.
The Rebels began the season 0-8 but have shown some life in the last two weeks, beating both New Mexico and Hawaii to get to 2-8.
UNLV was never quite as bad as its record indicated, as it had lost by one score to Fresno State, UTSA, Utah State, San Jose State and in double overtime to Eastern Washington.
UNLV isn’t good, but a few breaks and bounces, and it’d look like a much more competitive team than it’s been.
It’s a tricky spot for SDSU, sandwiched between games against Nevada and Boise State, but it’s also a must-win for the Aztecs if they want to stay in front of Fresno and stay in first for a spot in the Mountain West Championship.
San Diego State Offense
SDSU runs the ball on 64.2% of its plays, which is the ninth-highest rate in the nation. The Aztecs offense is slow, it lacks explosiveness, and it tries to methodically move the ball down the field.
The Aztecs rank in the bottom 10 in Passing Success Rate, bottom 20 in pass blocking and bottom 30 in big play ability. So, while UNLV’s defense has been exposed in the secondary by better quarterbacks in the Mountain West, the Aztecs have only thrown for more than 200 passing yards once all season.
Playing as a big favorite, they’ll have no reason to be aggressive when the SDSU defense should have no issues shutting down a bad UNLV offense.
A conservative approach from the Aztecs in this game, especially early, points toward a slow start here.
San Diego State Defense
No one can run on San Diego State, and no one has been able to run on it all season long. SDSU ranks eighth in both Line Yards and Rushing Success Rate Allowed, and given UNLV’s issues running the ball, there are going to be a lot of stuffed runs along the defensive front for the Aztecs defense on early downs.
SDSU will force UNLV to drive the length of the field too, in part because the Aztecs boast the best punter in the nation in Matt Araiza, who can single-handedly flip the field and has done so all year. He’s almost a part of the Aztecs’ defense as well because of how much he complements the defense.
The Aztecs sit in the top 10 in big-play defense allowed, meaning it will be hard for the Rebels to break off big plays to find quick touchdowns.
Without the ability to move the ball methodically or hit big plays, it’s hard to see how the Rebels score much without flukes or SDSU offensive turnovers.
The Rebels offense has a fairly balanced attack, but they’re not particularly good at any one thing, and that’s a problem against a loaded San Diego State defensive front.
UNLV ranks outside the top 100 in Rushing and Passing Success Rate, doesn’t have much in terms of explosiveness and struggles mightily at preventing Havoc.
Quarterback Cameron Friel has had some turnover issues and overcame two interceptions last week against Hawaii. He’s pretty limited as a passer, and it’ll be dangerous for the Rebels offense trying to play from behind in this game because of the turnover risk.
While the Rebels’ pass-blocking unit is statistically its best on offense, it’s hard to ask it to hold up if UNLV struggles to run on early downs, which the numbers suggest it will.
UNLV plays very slow offensively, as both teams rank in the bottom 20 in offensive pace. That’s important for the first half total because the Rebels may be forced to play faster in the second half when they’re likely behind. But that doesn’t come into play early in the game.
The strength of the Rebels defense is up front, where they rank 37th in Rushing Success Rate Allowed and 43rd in Defensive Line Yards. Against the Aztecs’ run-heavy offense, the Rebels’ ability to slow them down is critical for the first-half handicap.
SDSU’s offense has been anemic at times, and that usually comes when it can’t successfully run the ball on early downs and stay ahead of the chains.
The Rebels are prone to allowing big plays and have subpar tackling and coverage numbers, but San Diego State is one of the least explosive teams in the country on offense.
The Aztecs only score one way, and it’s through methodical drives, turnovers and subsequent short fields.
UNLV’s bad secondary won’t be exploited like it was against Fresno State and Nevada, both of which have much better passing attacks.
San Diego State vs. UNLV Betting Pick
Forty-one is one of the lowest totals you’ll see across the entire college football landscape this season in a game that doesn’t involve Iowa, Wisconsin or a service academy.
The Aztecs defense is that dominant, and their offense is that mediocre. The Rebels showed the last two weeks that they haven’t quit on the season, and with a chance to play spoiler, they’re in an all-in spot.
UNLV doesn’t have much of an ability to consistently score against SDSU, but it can play slow. If it avoids early turnovers, the Rebels can stay in this game with their defense against a bad SDSU offense.
I want no part of this game in the second half when the game could open up as one or both teams are forced to play faster because they’re trailing. Turnovers from the UNLV offense are also a major concern for the total because they could give the Aztecs short fields to work with.
By playing just the first-half under 21, you take out some of the second-half variance that is affected by the game state. It lowers the chance of back-breaking turnovers from a bad UNLV offense pushed out of its comfort zone.
All signs point to a slow start in Sin City on Friday night.
Pick: 1H Under 21 (-115)
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