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Thursday College Football Player Props, Odds: Our 6 Top Bets, Including Hendon Hooker & Lew Nichols III

Thursday College Football Player Props, Odds: Our 6 Top Bets, Including Hendon Hooker & Lew Nichols III article feature image
Credit:

James Gilbert/Getty Images. Pictured: Hendon Hooker.

  • We have a loaded weekday slate, which means there's plenty of chances to nail some player props.
  • Target Tennessee's Hendon Hooker and West Virginia's JT Daniels, among others.
  • Jump in below to see our six best bets.

A loaded weekday slate means there are plenty of college football player props with betting value. And because it’s the opening day of Week 1, we indulged in what the board has to offer.

Our college football staff hand-picked six player props for tonight’s games, including bets on West Virginia quarterback JT Daniels, Tennessee quarterback Hendon Hooker and Central Michigan running back Lew Nichols III.

So, let’s dive into the Week 1 value. And while you’re here, don’t forget to check out our best spread, total and moneyline bets for tonight’s games.

College Football Player Props for Week 1’s Thursday Games

In the table below, you’ll find each of our college football staff’s top player prop picks from Saturday’s slate of games. Click on any pick or team logo to navigate to a specific bet discussed in this article.

Time (ET)
Player Prop
7 p.m. ET
7 p.m. ET
7 p.m. ET
7 p.m. ET
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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.

West Virginia vs. Pitt

7 p.m. ET ET
Thursday, Sept. 1
ESPN

QB JT Daniels Passing Yards

By Cody Goggin

West Virginia has a new-look offense this season, and it doesn’t appear the books have caught on yet. JT Daniels and Graham Harrell come over to Morgantown this season and hope to bring a system with a heavier focus on the passing game.

Daniels played one game under Harrell at USC before playing at Georgia the last couple of years. Daniels went over this total in four of the five games that he attempted more than 16 passes in as a Bulldog.

That’s an important note because Harrell will likely be passing the ball a lot as the new offensive coordinator. In his three years at USC, Harrell’s offenses never ranked lower than eighth in the country in pass rate and averaged at least 298.3 yards in each of these seasons.

Last season, West Virginia had more than 244.5 passing yards in eight of its 13 games.

Pittsburgh’s defense was just 59th in the nation in Success Rate against passing plays last season. None of the projected starters in Pitt’s secondary have a PFF coverage grade above 70, and it is a pretty average unit overall.

As a 7.5-point underdog, the most likely game script will include West Virginia having to be even more pass heavy as it plays from behind. This is just one more factor that pushes this yardage total over the edge for me.

It’s clear to me that West Virginia will have heavy passing volume this game, and I don’t see Pittsburgh being able to shut down Daniels through the air.

I would take this over at 244.5 and would look into some of Daniels’ alternate totals as well, up to 280 yards.

Pick: JT Daniels Over 244.5 Passing Yards (-110) · Play to 259.5

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West Virginia vs. Pitt

7 p.m. ET ET
Thursday, Sept. 1
ESPN

QB JT Daniels Rushing Yards

By Dan Keegan

JT Daniels is a statue in the pocket who averages -11.6 rushing yards per game. He has started and completed 17 games in his career, and he has finished under -6.5 rushing yards 14 times.
Since his ACL injury, he is 6-for-6 in terms of games started and finished with under -6.5 rushing yards.

Will designed runs be a factor? Not likely. Daniels did have 21 designed runs as a freshman at USC, but that was before his ACL injury. He has two since, and they have gone for -12 yards.

Will scrambles be a factor? Daniels has scrambled 11 times in his career for a total of 44 yards per game. Those were mostly before his injury in 2020, too. At Georgia, he scrambled one time for zero yards. This is not a tool in his bag.

Designed quarterback runs have not been a weapon utilized by Neal Brown, Graham Harrell or Daniels.

Are you convinced yet? Let’s look at the other side of the ball.

The Pittsburgh Panthers have a pugnacious pass rush. Habakkuk Baldonado is a rising star, and logged nine sacks last season bending the edge. DT Calijah Kancey added seven himself, collapsing pockets from the middle.

In 2021, Pittsburgh was No. 7 in FBS in Sack Rate. West Virginia was 99th in Sack Rate Allowed.

The story of this game will be Pittsburgh’s pass rush, and it’s up to you to capitalize on the number. I’ll take Daniels under -2.5 rush yards, and would play it down to -6.

Pick: JT Daniels Under -6.5 Rushing Yards · Play to -9


West Virginia vs. Pitt

7 p.m. ET ET
Thursday, Sept. 1
ESPN

RB Israel Abanikanda Rushing Yards

By Patrick Strollo

Pittsburgh is undergoing a rebrand of sorts on offense after seeing Heisman finalist Kenny Pickett (Pittsburgh Steelers), Biletnikoff award winner Jordan Addison (USC) and offensive coordinator Mark Whipple (OC Nebraska) all depart for greener pastures.

To replace quarterback whisperer and pass happy offensive coordinator Whipple, the Panthers enlisted the services of Frank Cignetti Jr. Cignetti was at Boston College last year and has the reputation of using the rushing attack as a foundational piece of his game planning.

Last season, Cignetti took Boston College from the 118th-ranked rushing offense to the 61st.

This season, he figures to do the same after inheriting an offense that features five returning offensive linemen, transfer quarterback Kedon Slovis and four veteran running backs.

Leading the Panthers out of the backfield is junior running back Israel Abanikanda. A preseason All- ACC selection, Abanikanda averaged 5.3 yards per carry last season, rushing for 651 yards and seven touchdowns in a pass-heavy offense.

Pitt will feature a more balanced offense this season, with Abanikanda being the alpha of the backfield after being named the lead back this week. Head coach Pat Narduzzi named Abanikanda the lone starting back, stating that “he’s been really steady.”

Look for Pittsburgh and new offensive coordinator, Cignetti, to leverage his elite speed and explosiveness, as the Panthers look to settle in a transfer quarterback and grind down an interstate rival.

Last season, Abanikanda averaged 50.1 yards per game in a pass-heavy offense with only six starts. Take the over as Abanikanda begins this season as the starter under a run-heavy attack with a new quarterback.

Pick: Israel Abanikanda Over 58.5 Rushing Yards · Play to 60


Ball State vs. Tennessee

7 p.m. ET ET
Thursday, Sept. 1
SEC Network

QB Hendon Hooker Rushing Yards

By Doug Ziefel

The Volunteers ran the ball 56% of the time last season, and quarterback Hendon Hooker led the team with 167 rushing attempts. Hooker’s rushing ability is what makes this team dynamic, so we can expect him to use his legs early and often against the Cardinals.

Hooker was only contained by the likes of Georgia, Florida and Alabama last season.

It’s safe to say Ball State’s run defense is not on par with any of those programs. The Cardinals were 103rd in Rushing Success Rate Allowed last season, and with a defensive returning production rank of 110, any improvement shown in this matchup would be shocking.

Hooker managed to go over this total in seven of his 13 games last season despite averaging just 3.7 yards per carry. He averaged just below 13 rushing attempts per game and didn’t have fewer than seven in any game last year.

Given how bad Ball State’s run defense is, he has the potential to go over this total even if he only rushes seven times.

Pick: Hendon Hooker Over 47.5 Rushing Yards (-110) · Play to 49.5


Ball State vs. Tennessee

7 p.m. ET ET
Thursday, Sept. 1
SEC Network

QB John Paddock Rushing Yards

By Mike Calabrese

Mike Neu likes to work with a pocket passer. In the past three years, and 32 starts, he rode with Drew Plitt. The seasoned veteran averaged just 10 rushing yards per game over that stretch. Against Power Five competition or in bowl games, that 10-yard average plummeted to -5-yards per contest.

Enter a Tennessee defense that finished with 34 sacks (39th) and returns DE Byron Young and LB Jeremy Bank, who teamed up for 23 TFLs last year.

John Paddock was a two-star, pro-style quarterback coming out of high school, and he has never shown a propensity to tuck it and run. In fact, he’s never gained a yard rushing at the college level (-19 career yards).

I project the Tennessee defense generating three sacks, given the likely gameflow of BSU playing from behind. That should put Paddock behind the eight ball for this rushing total, likely needing 15-20 positive rushing yards to offset those sacks.

I don’t see that happening.

Pick: John Paddock Under 0.5 Rushing Yards · Play to -3


Central Michigan vs. Oklahoma State

7 p.m. ET ET
Thursday, Sept. 1
FS1

RB Lew Nichols III Rushing Yards

By Kyle Remillard

Lew Nichols III is the engine behind the Central Michigan offense, and saw his workload increase throughout the season in 2021. Through the first five games last season, Nichols III averaged 17 carries for 81 yards. Over the final eight games, he averaged 32 rushes for 180 rushing yards per contest.

The Chippewas match up against Oklahoma State, which was stout against the run last season. The Cowboys ranked fourth in the country, allowing just 2.6 yards per carry. The group was sixth nationally in Points Per Attempt and fourth in Success Rate.

But Oklahoma State lost almost its entire defense in the offseason and only returns 19% of its production from last season, according to TARP.

The top four tacklers who accumulated 40% of the team’s total tackles last season are all gone.

If you’ve been watching Hard Knocks you’ve seen Malcolm Rodriguez impressing the Lions at linebacker. Rodriguez tallied 123 tackles last season, including 14 tackles for loss.

The Central Michigan coaching staff figured out that feeding Nichols III was a recipe for success. In the final eight games – where his usage rate nearly doubled – the Chippewas finished with a 7-1 record.

That trend will continue into this matchup against Oklahoma State.

Pick: Lew Nichols III Over 81.5 Rushing Yards (-110) · Play to 85.5

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