Thursday College Football Odds, Picks: How We’re Betting Jacksonville State vs Sam Houston, Temple vs Tulsa

Thursday College Football Odds, Picks: How We’re Betting Jacksonville State vs Sam Houston, Temple vs Tulsa article feature image

Getty Images. Design by Cyriel Klitsie/Action Network. Pictured (Cockwise from top-left): Temple’s EJ Warner, Western Kentucky’s Austin Reed, Sam Houston’s Keegan Shoemaker and Jacksonville State flags.

  • Thursday's college football slate features three evening showdowns: Temple vs Tulsa, Western Kentucky vs Middle Tennessee and Sam Houston vs Jacksonville State.
  • Our staff came through with betting previews and picks for all three of Thursday's college football games.
  • Check out all three picks for Thursday's NCAAF games below.

Thursday nights are for football.

Along with the NFL's matchup between the Detroit Lions and Green Bay Packers, we have three college clashes on the slate: Temple vs. Tulsa, Middle Tennessee vs. Western Kentucky and Jacksonville State vs. Sam Houston.

Our college football staff came through with a betting preview for each game that will take place on the collegiate gridiron, and all three culminate with a pick for Thursday night.

So, check out all three previews for Thursday's college football games — and be sure to check back tomorrow for even more betting coverage for Friday night's college football slate.

Thursday Night NCAAF Betting Previews

The team logos in the table below represent each of the matchups from Thursday's college football slate. Click on the team logos for any of the matchups below to navigate to a specific betting preview.

GameTime (ET)Pick
7:30 p.m.
7:30 p.m.
8 p.m.
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.

Temple vs. Tulsa

Thursday, Sept. 27
7:30 p.m. ET
Over 55.5

By Cody Goggin

This Thursday, we will see the Temple Owls travel to face the Tulsa Golden Hurricane. This will be the first AAC matchup of the year for both teams, and it may end up being an exciting one.

Multiple factors in this game lend themselves to the possibility of seeing fireworks on the field.

Let’s dive into my betting preview and find a pick for Temple vs. Tulsa on Thursday, Sept. 28.

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Temple Owls

Coming into the season, I believed that this Owls offense would continue taking a step forward behind quarterback EJ Warner, as they were much more successful through the air with him at the helm last year.

However, that hasn't happened yet. The Owls enter this game ranked just 91st in Success Rate and have the 119-best offense, according to SP+.

Warner has at least been serviceable in the passing game, averaging 0.02 EPA per dropback this season. Temple throws the ball at the 10th-highest rate in the country, so I would expect to see a lot of him in this game against a porous Tulsa secondary.

In fact, the only way that Temple can move the ball is through the air, as it ranks 66th in Passing Success Rate and 67th in Passing PPA, but 120th in Rushing Success Rate and 107th in rushing PPA.

Defensively, Temple has looked slightly better, ranking 65th in Success Rate and 65th in explosiveness allowed. But the Owls do struggle in two areas, as they sit 105th in Defensive Finishing Drives and 126th in Havoc.

Tulsa runs the ball much more than it passes, which plays into the weakness of this Owls defense. Temple ranks 67th in Rushing Success Rate Allowed and 90th in Rushing PPA.

The other main weakness of this defense is its propensity to allow explosive plays through the air. The Owls rank 113th in passing explosiveness allowed.

Tulsa’s offense hasn’t been great, but it's better than both Akron and Norfolk State — the only two offenses Temple has found a way to contain this season. Even Rutgers, whose offense ranks three spots behind Tulsa in SP+, posted a Success Rate in the 88th percentile and 6.26 yards per play on this defense.

Tulsa Golden Hurricane

Offense has been hard to come by for Tulsa this season as well. Washington and Oklahoma do skew the Golden Hurricane's numbers negatively because they're such strong opponents, but Tulsa also played poorly offensively against Northern Illinois last weekend.

Tulsa did put up a Success Rate in the 43rd percentile and scored 22 points, but it recorded an EPA per Play in just the 12th percentile and 4.46 yards per play, good for the 15th percentile. NIU’s defense ranks 102nd, so that's the unit most similar to Temple's skill level that Tulsa has seen thus far.

On a down-to-down basis, this offense has been serviceable. The Golden Hurricane rank 47th in Success Rate, coming in at 47th on the ground and 57th through the air. Their main issue has been preventing Havoc (112th) and generating explosive plays (123rd).

These issues are due in large part to injuries at the quarterback position. Braylon Braxton was the starter heading into the season but was injured early in Week 1. Since then, Cardell Williams and Roman Fuller have split time filling in for him.

Williams should be the starter if Braxton is still unable to go, but there hasn't been any update on Braxton’s status yet this week.

Last year, Braxton was PFF’s 30th-graded quarterback among players who took at least 20% of their team’s dropbacks. His 8.8% big-time throw rate was the third-highest mark in FBS, just barely off the national lead.

The Tulsa defense has been nothing to write home about. It ranks 119th in SP+ and allowed a 69th-percentile Offensive Success Rate to NIU, which has the 128th-best offense in the country, according to SP+.

Tulsa ranks 127th in Defensive Success Rate, 112th in Havoc and 96th in Finishing Drives.

The Golden Hurricane passing defense has been one of the worst in FBS this season, ranking 132nd in both Passing PPA and Success Rate Allowed.

With Temple’s affinity for thowing the ball, this secondary is likely in for another tough day.

Temple vs Tulsa

Betting Pick & Prediction

I don’t trust either defense in this matchup,  as both have been gashed all season long. The strengths of both offenses also match up with the opposition's weakness, making this a perfect storm.

Temple ranks 21st in seconds per play, while Tulsa has been fast in its own right at 44th.

These two teams both boast relatively fast-paced offenses and have their own unique strengths that line up well here. Braxton’s return for Tulsa would just be the cherry on top, but even without him, I still like this game to go over its current total of 55.5 points.

Middle Tennessee vs. Western Kentucky

Thursday, Sept. 27
7:30 p.m. ET
CBS Sports Network
Western Kentucky -5.5

By Cody Goggin

Middle Tennessee will travel north Thursday night to take on Western Kentucky. This will be the first conference game of the season for both of these teams, and it's a matchup that may go a long way toward deciding this year’s CUSA Championship.

Neither team has been able to break out yet this season, but Western Kentucky’s offense has shown flashes in its passing game.

Let’s dive into my preview and best bet for Middle Tennessee vs. Western Kentucky.

Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders

Middle Tennessee has had a difficult start to the season offensively. The Blue Raiders struggled to move the ball against both Alabama and Missouri, but both of these teams have top-20 defenses. The Blue Raiders found more success on this side of the ball against both Murray State (72nd-percentile Success Rate) and Colorado State (78th-percentile Success Rate).

Western Kentucky’s defense is more in line with Murray State's and Colorado State's, but I still wouldn’t expect a crazy offensive day from the Blue Raiders. On the season, they rank 100th in Success Rate and 99th in Finishing Drives.

They pass at the 24th-highest rate in the country with the 86th-best Passing Success Rate and the 65th-best EPA.

This hasn't typically been the way to attack WKU’s defense this season, as it's 63rd in Passing Success Rate Allowed. However, the Hilltoppers’ propensity to allow big passing plays defensively may allow Middle Tennessee to have some chances for explosive plays.

The passing defense will likely be an issue for the Blue Raiders in this matchup; they rank 108th in Passing Success Rate Allowed and 120th in Passing PPA Allowed. Mizzou and Alabama both shredded this passing defense, as did Colorado State, which had an 87th-percentile EPA per dropback against the Blue Raiders.

Michael Hickey/Getty Images. Pictured: The Western Kentucky football team and mascot.

Western Kentucky Hilltoppers

In terms of Finishing Drives, Western Kentucky has had one of the best offenses in the country, ranking sixth thus far this season.

However, this isn’t likely a sustainable scoring rate, as the Hilltoppers are just 76th in Offensive Success Rate. This team passes at the third-highest rate in college football with the 79th-best Passing Success Rate.

While their overall Success Rate wasn’t great against USF, the Hilltoppers did still put up 6.67 yards per play. WKU also didn't get completely stymied against Ohio State and recorded a 41st-percentile Success Rate and 5.51 yards per play mark against Troy (which has a top-50 defense) last week.

I do think that this offense is good enough to take advantage of bad defenses, particularly ones like Middle Tennessee that struggle to defend the pass.

This isn’t a great defense, but I don’t have faith in Middle Tennessee being able to properly attack it. Rushing defense is a weakness for WKU, but that's not a strength of Middle Tennessee’s, so this weakness may not be as pronounced.

As mentioned above, Western Kentucky has had a reliable passing defense. It just need to keep Middle Tennessee from generating explosive plays, which it's been unable to do in the passing game this year (86th in Passing Explosiveness).

Middle Tennessee vs Western Kentucky

Betting Pick & Prediction

I believe that Western Kentucky is the better team here by a decent margin. The Hilltoppers will be playing at home in a primetime Thursday night game. I expect that the crowd will show up and make this a tough environment to play in, just furthering WKU’s advantage.

With the current number at 5.5, I like taking the Hilltoppers to cover here on the backs of their offense.

I’d take this number up to -6.5 but not any higher than that.

Pick: Western Kentucky -6.5 or Better

Jacksonville State vs. Sam Houston

Thursday, Sept. 27
8 p.m. ET
Sam Houston TT Under 14.5

By Cooper Van Tatenhove

There's no more welcome sight these days than a college football trifecta of matchups on Thursday night.

Among these three matchups is a highly-intriguing battle between Jacksonville State and Sam Houston.

Jacksonville State is looking to build upon a 3-1 start to its 2023 campaign despite an offense that has struggled to impress.

On the other side, Sam Houston has simultaneously produced an effective defense while boasting one of the worst offenses in the country.

To determine which one of these teams will overcome their shortcomings on Thursday night, let’s take a look at the odds and make a pick and prediction for the Jacksonville State Gamecocks vs. Sam Houston Bearkats on Thursday, Sept. 28.

Jacksonville State Gamecocks

The handicap for Rich Rodriguez and Jacksonville State starts at the quarterback position. Logan Smothers started over Zion Webb last week against Eastern Michigan but didn’t show any noticeable improvement. The Nebraska transfer completed just nine passes for 91 yards and a touchdown.

This level of quarterback play has the Gamecocks ranked outside the top 120 in passing play explosiveness, Success Rate and PPA. Rodriguez has clearly identified this weakness, as the Gamecocks had 55 total rushing attempts in Week 4 compared to just 19 total passing attempts.

This run-dominant style will likely continue against Sam Houston, no matter who starts under center.

Although Sam Houston’s defense has been impressive as a whole, it's shown an inability to consistently stop the run. The Bearkats rank 74th nationally in Rushing Success Rate Allowed.

Against Air Force's triple option, Sam Houston gave up 244 total yards on the ground with an average of 4.1 yards per carry.

Overall, it's clear that Jacksonville State’s offense will continue to lean on the ground attack given its quarterback uncertainty and Sam Houston's stout secondary.

Sam Houston Bearkats

For Sam Houston, the question remains: Can it find the end zone?

The Bearkats rank near the bottom in all of college football in Offensive Success Rate, explosiveness and Points per Opportunity after scoring only 10 total points through their first three games.

Things will not get any easier for this offense as it goes up against a Jacksonville State defense that ranks sixth nationally in Success Rate and inside the top 30 in explosiveness, Points per Opportunity and Havoc.

To make matters even more uncertain for this Bearkat offense, head coach KC Keeler is still deciding who the starting quarterback will be moving forward. In Week 4, Arizona transfer Grant Gunnell took over starting duties from Keegan Shoemaker, who started the first two weeks.

Gunnell wasn't all that impressive, throwing for 100 yards, no touchdowns and one interception.

Given this quarterback uncertainty and the fact that Jacksonville State's defense serves as the Gamecocks' strength, look for the Bearkats to continue to struggle on the offensive side of the ball once again.

Jacksonville State vs Sam Houston

Betting Pick & Prediction

In Sam Houston’s matchup against Air Force, we capitalized on the Bearkats' inefficient offense by betting their team total under.

This week, I believe the same play has similar value.

The Bearkats are still looking for consistent play at the quarterback position and now must face a Jacksonville State defense that has allowed an average of 11.8 points per game through the first four weeks of the season.

In a game that features plenty of offensive question marks, I will gladly continue to fade this Sam Houston offense until it gives me a reason to do otherwise.

Pick: Sam Houston Team Total Under 14.5 (Play to 14)

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