Friday College Football Best Bets: Our Staff’s Top 7 Picks, Including Cincinnati vs. ECU and Colorado vs. Utah (Nov. 26)
Christian Petersen/Getty Images. Pictured: Robert Barnes.
- College football's Week 13 Black Friday slate is loaded with juicy rivalry games up and down the oddsboard.
- To help cut through the noisy schedule, our college football betting staff broke down their top 7 games to bet today, including Cincinnati vs. East Carolin and Colorado vs. Utah.
- Check out our college football staff's full breakdowns for all 7 of our Friday best bets, including updated odds, picks and predictions for each game.
Black Friday means two things: Shockingly low-priced sales and college football.
While there may be sales going on in department stores across the country, we’re definitely getting the best deal when it comes to today’s college football slate.
There are 16 total games in action today, and our staff of college football writers came through with seven of their best bets that span five games in the noon and afternoon kickoff windows.
The action starts with Boise State vs. San Diego State and Eastern Michigan vs. Central Michigan in the noon window before quickly pivoting to an afternoon trio that consists of Missouri vs. Arkansas, Cincinnati vs. East Carolina, and Colorado vs. Utah.
So, ditch the checkout lines (or virtual checkout lines) and prepare to win some money instead of spending it. Let’s have ourselves a day.
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 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.|
Boise State vs. San Diego State
Both divisions in the Mountain West are still up for grabs, and the winner of San Diego State vs. Boise State will determine who will play in the conference championship.
The Aztecs sit atop the West Division and own a half-game lead over Fresno State. Boise State sits in a three-way tie with Air Force and Utah State at the top of the Mountain Division.
Boise State comes into this game winning four in a row, including a 26-point victory over Fresno State.
The Broncos have averaged 190 rushing yards and punched in a touchdown in each of those four games. They’ve also been efficient through the air, averaging nearly 240 yards and finding the end zone in each matchup.
Meanwhile, San Diego State has been surviving by the skin of its teeth, winning six of its last seven games by one possession. Last week, it led UNLV (which ranks 106th in Collin Wilson’s power ratings) by one-point late in the fourth quarter.
The Aztecs’ success has been reliant on their running game that averaged 245 yards per game in their first five contests. But it hasn’t found the same success, averaging 134 rushing yards and 3.6 yards per carry over its last six games.
San Diego State has had the 118th-easiest strength of schedule while Boise State has had the 28th, according to PFF.
Though San Diego State is 10-1, it has started to decline as the season has progressed.
Boise State is starting to thrive, winning four in a row and will keep its Mountain West Championship hopes alive with a victory in this spot.
Pick: Boise State -2.5
Boise State ML -125
Not many teams have been more fortunate in 2021 than San Diego State. The 21st-ranked Aztecs continue to escape on a weekly basis, in large part due to great special teams play and a steady defense.
In total, six of SDSU’s 10 wins have come by eight points or less, including last week’s victory in Vegas over UNLV. I tip my cap to Brady Hoke’s team for finding various ways to win, but I have serious doubts about how good this group actually is.
Meanwhile, Boise State has played up to its competition throughout the season. The Broncos have wins over BYU, Fresno State, and Utah State, and were a missed field goal away from beating Oklahoma State early in the year.
Boise has won its last four outings and needs this game to have any chance at appearing in the Mountain West Championship game.
The circumstances for this game are very bizarre, as it will be a 9 a.m. local kickoff time the day after Thanksgiving. San Diego State has a pretty weak home-field advantage as is, but given this start time, I view this as pretty much a neutral-site battle.
Ultimately, despite what the records say, I view Boise State as the better football team in this matchup. The Broncos have the offensive firepower to move the chains against SDSU, and the Aztecs offense has been very pedestrian throughout the season.
Give me the Broncos on the moneyline, in a crazy early kickoff out west on Black Friday.
Pick: Boise State ML -125
Eastern Michigan vs. Central Michigan
The Eastern Michigan defense won’t get you many stops, but the offense is more than capable of putting points on the board, ranking 29th in points per drive.
The Eagles have a very solid quarterback in Ben Bryant, who ranks 15th nationally in adjusted completion percentage and 28th in PFF passing grade.
He’s benefitted from an offensive line that has done very well in pass protection as well, which ranks 18th in pressure rate allowed.
At receiver, EMU’s duo of Hassan Beydoun and Dylan Drummond have combined for 132 catches for 1,477 yards, with Beydoun ranking sixth in receiving grade among MAC receivers. Overall, the Eagles rank 27th in Expected Points Added (EPA) per pass.
Eastern Michigan has a very advantageous matchup against this Central Michigan secondary, which ranks 115th in yards allowed per attempt.
The ground game hasn’t been as good as the passing game has, but running back Jawon Hamilton is tied for second among MAC running backs in yards per carry. Overall, the Eagles’ run game has been mediocre for the most part, but Central Michigan hasn’t been very good at defending the rush, either.
The lone bright spot for this Eastern Michigan defense has been the tandem of Jose Ramirez and Turan Rush on the edge, as they have combined for 13 sacks and 74 pressures of the year, resulting in impressive PFF pass-rushing grades of 91.4 and 87.5, respectively. Those two could cause some Havoc against an offensive line that ranks just 71st in pressure rate allowed.
This could spiral into a defense-optional type of game — as MAC games tend to do from time to time — but I like Eastern Michigan’s offense to put up enough points to stay within this number in a game in which I project the Eagles as 5.1-point ‘dogs.
Pick: Eastern Michigan +9
The greatest trophy in college football will be up for grabs this weekend. We’re talking about the prestigious Michigan MAC Trophy, awarded to the winner of the head-to-head matchups between the three directional Michigan schools in the Mid-American Conference.
The Eagles offense has certainly been highflying this season, averaging 32.9 points per game. They rank second in the MAC and 34th in the country in scoring.
Quarterback Ben Bryant is averaging 245.5 yards per game with 14 touchdowns and six interceptions. He’s completing 69% of his passes, the best in the MAC while helping lead this Eastern Michigan passing attack to the 28th-best Passing Success Rate.
Eastern Michigan’s defense has been torched, giving up 434.1 yards per game, good for 103rd in the country, and 6.24 yards per play. It ranks 117th in Passing Success Rate on defense and 127th in Rushing Success.
Last year against Central Michigan, the Eagles gave up a season-high 553 total yards, getting burned for 318 yards on the ground. Opponents have racked up over 200 yards on the ground in six of the 11 games this year.
I mentioned that Eastern Michigan is second in the MAC in scoring. Well, that’s because Central Michigan is first. The Chippewas are averaging 33.2 points per game, 29th in the nation. Over the last four games, CMU is averaging 42.8 points and 490.3 yards.
Quarterback Daniel Richardson has led the Chips to the top passing offense in the conference and one that ranks 21st in the country in Passing Success Rate. He leads the MAC with 21 touchdowns passes and has thrown just four interceptions.
Move over Kenneth Walker III, Lew Nichols III is the nation’s new leading rusher with 1,516 yards, averaging 137.8 yards per game.
Nichols is running like a man possessed right now. Over his last four games, he has 11 rushing touchdowns and has averaged 197.3 yards over that stretch.
Central Michigan’s defense has allowed 270.4 yards per game through the air, the second-most in the conference. The Chips rank 84th in the country in Pass Success Rate and are outside of the top 100 in big plays.
Both of these teams have shown they have dynamic offenses, and each team’s biggest weakness on defense is the other team’s strength.
With the Michigan MAC Trophy up for grabs in this rivalry showdown, expect both teams to keep their foot on the gas until the end.
Pick: Over 63
Missouri vs. Arkansas
Eli Drinkwitz’s defense is one of the worst in college football. Missouri is allowing 6.1 yards per play, ranks 109th in Success Rate Allowed, and 111th in EPA/Play allowed.
Most of the Tigers’ issues have come against the run, where Missouri is allowing 5.3 yards per carry, which is 113th in college football. The Tigers are also 119th Rushing Success Rate Allowed, 109th in rushing explosiveness allowed, and 122nd in EPA/Rush allowed.
So, facing an Arkansas offense that is running the ball 62.5% of the time and carrying the ball for 4.9 yards per carry is a terrible matchup for it.
With how bad Missouri’s defense has been this season, the Tigers have been forced to throw the ball very often.
Connor Bazelak hasn’t been very effective this season, averaging only 6.7 yards per attempt. However, throwing the ball is how teams beat Arkansas’ defense. The Razorbacks are allowing 7.9 yards per attempt, rank 59th in Passing Success Rate Allowed, 76th in passing explosiveness allowed, and 61st in EPA/Pass allowed.
Both Arkansas and Missouri play at above-average tempos, with Arkansas ranking 33rd in plays per minute and Missouri ranking 56th in the same stat. So, if Arkansas goes up early in this game, it will force Missouri to push the tempo, creating a very fast-paced game.
I have 76.5 points projected for this game, so I think there’s some value on over 62.5 points.
Pick: Over 62.5
Cincinnati vs. East Carolina
The Cincinnati Bearcats (11-0) have been a firebrand all season.
After starting the season highly-ranked, the Bearcats backed the hype up and are now ranked No. 4 by the College Football Playoff committee. They’re on the precipice of making something special happen by becoming the first non-Power Five team to make the College Football Playoff.
However, they still have a number of hurdles in front of them and need things outside of their control to go their way.
The headwinds facing Cincinnati are aplenty.
They come in the form of continued criticism of its non-Power Five schedule, three one-loss Power Five teams ranked behind it in the CFP rankings and a variety of high-profile games this weekend that could cause the selection committee to re-evaluate how they see the top four teams in the last two sets of rankings.
The Bearcats are not entirely in control of their own destiny, as unfortunate as that may be. It’s cliché, but they can only control their “style points” from this point forward.
Style points, coupled with some help along the way, is going to be Cincinnati’s clearest path to the playoff. Depending on what happens in the Power Five, simply winning out may not cut it.
Cincinnati has won its last three games against East Carolina, counting a 55-17 win last year at home.
The Bearcats are coming off their best win of the season last week, taking down SMU, 48-14. Senior quarterback Desmond Ritter accounted for five touchdowns and over 300 yards of offense.
The top-ranked Cincinnati defense shut down a potent SMU offense that a lot of pundits thought had a legitimate chance to win outright. The defense allowed only 199 yards of total offense in the lopsided victory.
At this juncture in the season, winning convincingly is the only thing the Bearcats can do to make sure they remain relevant in the CFP conversation.
Head coach Luke Fickell and the rest of the team are entirely aware of the conundrum that they face. This will be a massively motivating factor for the team against East Carolina. Additionally, it’s the most important factor in handicapping this game.
My model has Cincinnati as 19.5-point favorites as it heads to Greenville. Lay the points on Black Friday, as the Bearcats have to make a statement.
Pick: Cincinnati -13.5
Colorado vs. Utah
Utah finally woke up.
After a sluggish start of the season, Utah has now looked like one of the best teams in football recently after a 38-7 demolition of potential Pac-12 Championship opponent Oregon.
With its Pac-12 Championship berth already secured after that win, what do the Utes even have to play for?
Colorado’s season has been a different story, yet it also sits in the same boat as Utah going into this game. It’s lost any chance of a bowl season with a 4-7 record, which means it could potentially come into this one sleepy as well.
With question marks surrounding each other’s motives, this screams for an under play. Not only that, but both teams’ styles of play are very under-friendly as well.
Both Utah and Colorado are above average in the nation at rush rate, constantly pounding the ball on the ground. This keeps the clock constantly ticking — every under bettor’s dream.
Not only are they both run-heavy, but Colorado may experience stalled-out drives as Utah is more than equipped to stop the Utes. The Buffs are very poor in the run game with a Rush Success rank of 99th and a Line Yards rank of 105th.
Just because they run it often doesn’t mean they run it well.
To couple with a heavy dose of running, both squads are well below average in the nation at plays per minute.
With Utah hopefully shutting Colorado down and the clock constantly ticking due to run-heavy schemes, then we should be able to comfortably take this under ticket to the window.