College Football Odds, Picks for Thursday: Week 7 Betting Previews, Featuring West Virginia vs. Baylor, UCF vs. Temple
Ryan Collinsworth/Action Network.
Thursday night is always a perfect night for football.
In addition to the Thursday night NFL game between the Washington Commanders and Chicago Bears, we have three college football games on deck.
It all begins with a 7 p.m. ET doubleheader. First, we have a Big 12 battle between Baylor and West Virginia to go along with a matchup in the American that features Temple and UCF.
To close out the night 30 minutes later, Morgan State and NC Central take center stage in an FCS showdown.
Check out all three of our betting previews for each game below — and be sure to check back tomorrow for our Friday night college football betting coverage.
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.|
Baylor vs. West Virginia
By Cody Goggin
We’re now hitting the point of the season where we start to get some interesting weeknight matchups.
In this one, two Big 12 teams will face off in West Virginia with hopes of winning this wide-open conference. Both WVU and Baylor are coming off of a bye week, so there are no rest differences to worry about here.
However, there is one team that I think is just on a higher level and should be able to cover this spread.
Baylor’s offense has looked very good this season against some solid defenses.
The Bears rank 19th in Offensive Success Rate and have the No. 34 offense, per SP+. Both their passing and rushing attacks have been strong, ranking 20th and 24th in Success Rate, respectively.
West Virginia will be on the lower end of defenses that Baylor has faced this year.
The opponent hasn’t seemed to matter too much for Baylor, though. The Bears have been remarkably consistent, posting Offensive Success Rates between the 76th and 86th percentile in every game so far.
They have done this against two defenses ranked in the top 32 by SP+ (Oklahoma State and Iowa State), as well as two defenses ranked lower in BYU (55th) and Texas State (78th).
At this point, it would seem like we know almost exactly what to expect from Baylor’s offense in this matchup, as it will probably be very similar to its other performances.
This defense looks good overall, as it ranks 25th in Success Rate and third against the run.
However, it has a glaring weakness against the pass, ranking 72nd in Defensive Passing Success Rate.
Iowa State, Oklahoma State and BYU all posted Success Rates between the 70th and 80th percentile against this defense. These teams are ranked 70th, 17th and 45th in SP+ offenses, signaling that Baylor has had this issue against everyone.
Since West Virginia passes at the 40th-highest rate in the country, Baylor will need to figure out these issues in order to win.
West Virginia’s offense has had a moderate amount of success under new offensive coordinator Graham Harrell and quarterback JT Daniels.
The Mountaineers currently rank 43rd in Offensive Success Rate and have been best on the ground, ranking 32nd in Rushing Success Rate.
The issue with this is that Baylor has one of the best rushing defenses in the country and should be able to stop the Mountaineers. Daniels being able to open up the passing game will be a key to them scoring points.
WVU did post a 66th-percentile Offensive Success Rate while playing from behind against Texas. The Mountaineers also dominated Virginia Tech offensively.
Against Pitt, they struggled to pass at times and the offense had a remarkably terrible day against a questionable KU defense.
The saving grace for WVU’s offense is that Baylor has struggled to defend the pass this year, so if Mountaineers can be effective, there may be a path to victory.
The West Virginia defense is ranked 17th in Success Rate, but did struggle in its most recent game against Texas. The Longhorns were able to post a 98th-percentile Offensive Success Rate in their domination of the Mountaineers.
In its first three games though, West Virginia had just slightly below average performances against two good offenses in Pitt and Kansas, as well as completely shutting down a bad Virginia Tech offense.
Outside of the Virginia Tech game, West Virginia has allowed 38 points or more in each of its FBS games.
If you’re backing the Mountaineers this weekend, you are hoping that they will be able to limit Baylor’s offense to just a moderate amount of success and that the Bears aren’t able to replicate Texas’ offensive performance.
However, since West Virginia ranks 125th in PFF coverage grade and Baylor has the sixth-best passing grade, I think that Baylor has the advantage here.
Baylor vs. West Virginia Betting Pick
Overall, I believe that Baylor is the better team here. The Bears are in the hunt for the Big 12 Championship, while West Virginia may struggle to get to a bowl game.
The Bears are just the better team, and this number is too short at 3.5.
Playing this number, I feel confident in Baylor winning this game handily and moving to 4-2 on the season.
Pick: Baylor -3.5 (Play to -4)
Temple vs. UCF
UCF looks for a signature win over Temple at the Bounce House on Thursday to help propel it into the AP Top 25 Poll.
Through five games, the Knights are 4-1 with their sole loss coming to Louisville in early September. Since then, the program has won all three of its matchups by a combined score of 108-43.
Temple has gone 2-3 through a relatively easy schedule to date. The Owls found two victories over Lafayette and UMass. Its three losses have come to Duke, Rutgers and Memphis, as the offense combined for only 17 points in those matchups.
The Temple defense has been one of the more pleasant surprises this season and will have its work cut out for it against a hit-or-miss UCF offense.
It’s been ugly for Temple offensively through the first five weeks of the season. The Owls rank dead last in the nation, averaging just 11 points per game against FBS opponents while putting up only 263 yards per game.
First-year head coach Stan Drayton has yet to find a source of offense that he can rely on. The Owls own a rush rate of 51% through a shared backfield, averaging only 2.7 yards per carry and 84 rushing yards per contest.
Incumbent starting quarterback D’Wan Mathis was pulled after the second game of the season and moved to wide receiver. That made room for EJ Warner — son of Pro Football Hall-of-Famer Kurt Warner — to step in under center.
The freshman quarterback has had some growing pains, completing 56% of his passes while throwing five interceptions to six touchdowns. He has led the Owls to just 31 points in his four games as a starter.
Despite the offense showing few signs of life, the Temple defense has been one of the more robust units in the American Athletic Conference this season.
The Owls are holding opponents to 17 points per game and only 320 yards of total offense. They’ve allowed only 3.8 yards per carry (50th) and 5.6 yards per pass attempt (7th) against FBS foes.
They’ll have their toughest task to date against a UCF offense that averages 35 points per game.
Central Florida owns a 4-1 record and has outscored its opponents by 21 points per game this season. But it hasn’t been all smooth sailing, as the offense has stalled in many games this season.
The unit was held scoreless in its final 10 drives against Louisville. Two weeks later, the Knights led Georgia Tech by six at halftime in a game that saw quarterback John Rhys Plumlee throw for only 49 yards. And last week, UCF trailed SMU, 13-10, at halftime before ripping off 31 unanswered points.
Plumlee has been hit-or-miss the last month. He threw for an average of 327 yards and three touchdowns against Florida Atlantic and SMU, but the senior averaged only 90 passing yards and tossed two interceptions against Louisville and Georgia Tech. He’s been wildly inconsistent at times this season, missing open receivers.
However, Plumlee has proven deadly with his legs, leading the team in rushing while averaging 5.4 yards per carry.
Isaiah Bowser has also had a disappointing start to the season, putting up just 3.4 yards per carry through the first month. Though Bowser has found pay dirt eight times this season, his longest rush of the year is only 17 yards.
The UCF defense has been stifling and has allowed only one opponent to score 20 points this season. Louisville gouged the defense, rushing for 226 yards. But in their other four matchups, the Knights have allowed only 118 yards rushing and 3.7 per attempt.
The group has thrived at creating Havoc, generating 35 tackles for loss this season to go along with 11 sacks.
Temple vs. UCF Betting Pick
This is an interesting matchup between two teams projected to be on opposite ends of the American.
The Temple offense has been an eyesore, and that will likely continue in this matchup. The Owls rank outside the top 100 in nearly every advanced metric offensively. Now, they match up against a stout UCF defense that hasn’t allowed more than 20 points to any opponent this season.
UCF’s offense has been hit-or-miss depending on Plumlee’s performance at quarterback. I’m expecting him to be frustrated in this matchup.
The Temple defense has been one of the top surprises this season, ranking sixth nationally in Havoc. The group owns a top-20 unit in Passing and Rushing Success Rates and ranks 16th in keeping opponents out of the end zone. Meanwhile, UCF struggles in Finishing Drives, ranking 106th.
Though each team plays with a quicker tempo, I’m banking on both defenses to remain strong. I can’t see the Temple offense finding any success, and I envision its defense doing enough to keep UCF from pouring it on late.
Pick: Under 46 (Play to 45)
Morgan State vs. NC Central
The North Carolina Central Eagles have had 12 long days to think about their blowout loss to the Campbell Camels.
The loss not only ended a four-game winning streak to start the season, but it also ended their seven-game win streak that dated back to last season — the longest in FCS.
The Eagles now turn their sights to Morgan State as they look to get back on track and open up MEAC play with a win over the Bears.
Morgan State comes into this game already 0-1 in the MEAC after a last-second touchdown by Norfolk State gave the Spartans their first win of the season.
Losing in the closing seconds always hurts, but it hurts even more as Morgan State was set to beat Norfolk State for the first time since 2018 after losing 14 of its last 15 meetings against the Spartans.
And unlike the Eagles, who have had 12 days to prepare, the Bears must move on from that heartbreaking loss and shift their focus with just four days to prepare.
NC Central was voted to finish second in the MEAC, while Morgan State was picked last. Can the Eagles get the job done at home and cover the spread?
Alfonzo Graham is the MEAC’s leading rusher, racking up 542 yards and four touchdowns this season while averaging 108.4 yards per contest.
He’ll have his work cut out for him this week against NC Central’s top-50 FCS run defense, but Morgan State may need him more than ever this game.
Quarterback Carson Baker ranks last in the conference in passing yards per game and second-to-last in completion percentage and efficiency. Going up against the 27th-best pass defense in the FCS, the Bears will lean heavily on Graham and the run game.
On the defensive side of the ball, Morgan State wins at the line of scrimmage. Lawrence Richardson and Erick Hunter lead this unit as both rank inside the top 10 in the conference in total tackles. The Bears also have Nana Asante, who ranks second in the MEAC in tackles for loss.
But when it comes to defending the pass, Morgan State has struggled. The Bears rank second-to-last in the conference in terms of pass defense, giving up an average of 225.4 yards per game.
They’ll have to step up in a big way if they want to slow down the Eagles, who lead the conference in offensive efficiency.
As a team, the Eagles average 230.6 yards passing per contest and lead the conference in scoring with an average of 38.2 points.
Quarterback Davius Richard leads the conference in touchdowns on the season while also ranking first among MEAC quarterbacks in efficiency.
Wide receiver Devin Smith ranks second in the conference in receptions per game and is tied for second in touchdowns.
And he isn’t alone — three other receivers have racked up over 100 yards on the season, while eight total receivers have more than five receptions. All but one averages at least eight yards per catch.
On the defensive side of the ball, NC Central ranks second in the conference in scoring defense, holding opponents to just 20.4 points per contest.
Its rush defense has limited opponents to 128.6 yards per game, but it will face its biggest challenge of the season against the conference’s best back this week.
Morgan State vs. NC Central Betting Pick
My biggest concern with Morgan State is penalties. The Bears are the most-penalized team in the MEAC, and it isn’t close. Morgan State has 48 penalties on the season and has racked up 530 penalty yards. The next most-penalized team, Delaware State, has racked up 42 penalties for 368 yards on the season.
North Carolina Central has also been a problem in the red zone, giving up a score on only 66.7% of opponent trips. Moreover, the Eagles have three interceptions in the red zone this season. They’re tied with SC State for the MEAC lead with six interceptions on the season.
Even if Morgan State’s defense can improve against the pass — it’s one of the worst in the conference — I still think penalties and the Eagles’ red-zone defense will be too much to overcome.
Back the Eagles as high as a 9.5-point favorite, and look for NC Central to pull away late.