Thursday College Football Betting Guide: Odds, Insights on All 5 Games

Thursday College Football Betting Guide: Odds, Insights on All 5 Games article feature image

USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Will Grier, Ryan Willis and Zac Thomas

The college football scheduling czars have blessed us with five Thursday night games (plus another five Friday), and although they all start at about the same time, there’s no reason to not get action down on a few.

We’ve covered all five games below with some insights, trends and picks. So let’s get to it.

>> All odds as of 11 p.m. ET on Thursday. Download The Action Network App to get real-time odds and track your bets.

Baylor at West Virginia

  • Odds: WVU -14
  • Over/Under: 67.5
  • Time: 7 p.m. ET
  • TV: Fox Sports 1

West Virginia and Baylor both come off bye weeks after tough loses — Baylor had a chance to beat Texas but came up short, while WVU got smacked by Iowa State and gained fewer than 200 yards of total offense.

Despite getting only 40% of bets in this game, Baylor has accounted for the majority of total dollars wagered (52%) thus far. As a result, the Bears have fallen from +14.5 to +14.

As for the total, it’s risen from 63 to 67 behind 78% of bets and 94% of dollars.

Trends to Know

By Evan Abrams

In WVU quarterback Will Grier’s career, he has played in four games after a loss, including Week 1 this season off an injury last year.

Grier after a loss: 4-0 SU and ATS, 17 TD, 2 INT

His coach hasn’t been as successful, though.

Dana Holgorsen is only 13-19 ATS after a straight-up loss with West Virginia. And with at least 10 days between games, Holgorsen is 5-15 ATS.

When worlds collide and the Mountaineers are off a loss and have at least 10 days rest under Holgorsen, they are 2-6 SU and 0-8 ATS, failing to cover by 8.9 points per game.

Bet to Watch

By Ken Barkley

The key thing for me in this matchup is the West Virginia defense. It received a lot of hype before the season, and in the first 4-5 games, with strong performances.

But like with most college football talking points, it needs to be asked: “Against who?” Baylor will be, by a pretty wide margin, the second best offense this defense has faced.

The first was Texas Tech, which scored 34 points, had a chance to tie it late, and didn’t get a lot of breaks in the game in general. Even Iowa State’s offense was able to grind out yards and make plays when it had to in the upset two weeks ago.

In order to back West Virginia at such a big number, you have to think the Mountaineers can win an incredibly high-scoring game (in my opinion). I think it’s possible there is some correlation with the Mountaineers -14 and the over in a parlay, but my favorite bet on this game would be Baylor +14 because I think they’ll be able to score so frequently.

The Pick: Baylor +14

Ball State at Ohio

  • Odds: Ohio -10.5
  • Over/Under: 64
  • Time: 7 p.m. ET
  • TV: CBS Sports Network

This isn’t your typical Frank Solich-coached Ohio team.

The Bobcats have an excellent offense and one of the country’s worst defenses. But they’re facing a team who hasn’t been good in either department. And a team that people are still judging based on a close game against Notre Dame in early September.

Seventy-eight percent of bets have come on Ohio in this matchup, but oddsmakers haven’t extended the line in this game. At Pinnacle, the line has even come down from its opening number of -11 as bigger bets — indicated by the 34% of dollars — have landed on Ball State.

Trends to Know

By Evan Abrams

Under Solich, Ohio has played a home game in primetime 31 times and the Bobcats are 20-11 ATS. MACtion Champs.

By John Ewing

Under Solich, Ohio has been favored by 10 or more points against a MAC team 27 times, going 22-5 straight up but only 14-13 ATS.

Trust Ohio’s Coaching Staff, Current Form

By Ken Barkley

On such a tight turnaround (both these teams played Saturday), I’m not sure any meaningful adjustments can be implemented, and I’d rather just take the current form of each team entering the game. Ball State’s defense has gotten worse in S&P+ every single week of the season, and is now at 106th.

Ohio’s offense has gotten better almost every week of the season and sits at 13th in the same ranking. The Ohio defense and Ball State offense are both equally bad, so quarterback Nathan Rourke vs. the Ball State defense is clearly the unit mismatch in this game.

I also trust Ohio’s coaching staff more than Ball State’s by a large enough factor to think it could make a difference between blowout and close game. There isn’t a huge talent disparity on the field, but with coaching and special teams edges, and a huge offense vs. defense advantage, Ohio on a short week would be my lean here.

The reason to pass is that each team is coming off huge wins/losses ATS by wide margins (Ohio a win over Bowling Green; Ball State a loss to Eastern Michigan), so it’s debatable whether you’re really getting any line value here.

Toledo at Western Michigan

  • Odds: Western Michigan -6.5
  • Over/Under: 68
  • Time: 7 p.m. ET
  • TV: ESPN2

Western Michigan has surprised some folks by ripping off six straight wins after opening losses to Syracuse and Michigan.

Toledo has been dealt a brutal scheduling spot, and hasn’t been winning much lately. But does that give the Rockets some value?

Trends to Know

By Evan Abrams

Toledo has lost consecutive games straight-up against Eastern Michigan and Buffalo. The Rockets have not lost three consecutive games within the same season since 2011 and overall since Week 2 of the 2013 season.

Toledo has also dropped four consecutive games against the spread. The Rockets have only done that three times since 2005 and only once in the last decade (2014).

A Good Setup for Toledo?

By Ken Barkley

This is a fantastic setup for Toledo. As the trends above mentioned, the Rockets are not doing great in the results department. Moreover, they’ve failed to cover in four straight, and got trucked in the second half by Buffalo last week.

Confidence in Toledo in the market is probably the lowest it’s been all season.

Meanwhile people may be starting to warm up to Western Michigan, whose won six straight and covered comfortably last week against Central Michigan.

My advice here is, don’t be fooled. Toledo has a small talent edge, and a HUGE coaching and special teams edge, but more importantly, Western Michigan’s numbers are incredibly inflated because of who it’s played on that winning streak — Delaware State, Georgia State, Miami Ohio, Eastern Michigan, Bowling Green, and Central Michigan.

Toledo is dramatically better than five of those opponents and in similar company to Eastern Michigan, a team the Broncos only beat by three at home. There kind of just has to be line value with Toledo here, even if it’s only a couple points. Rockets for me.

The Pick: Toledo +6.5

A Bad Setup for Toledo?

By Steve Petrella

As Ken details above, there’s value on Toledo from a market perspective. These are two pretty equal teams with good offenses and bad defenses, and Toledo even has the special teams edge. Yet you’re getting almost a touchdown on the dog.

But from a scheduling spot, I feel for the Rockets here.

Toledo is playing its third game in 12 days and fourth game in 19 days. Next week, it plays on Wednesday to setup another short week. MACtion is unforgiving. This is a spot I wanted to back the Rockets, but will be staying away.

When both teams don’t have time to prepare, though, it’s tended to favor the defenses. The under is 81-65-2 (55.5%) since 2005 when both teams are on five days rest.

Appalachian State at Georgia Southern

  • Odds: App State -10
  • Over/Under: 48.5
  • Time: 7:30 p.m. ET

Georgia Southern got back to its triple-option roots this summer, and it’s paid off. The Eagles are 6-1 straight-up and against the spread.

But Appalachian State has been just as good relative to expectations, if not better. The Mountaineers’ sole loss came to Penn State in overtime, and they’ve blown out almost everyone else.

Trends to Know

By Evan Abrams

Appalachian State is one of three teams beating its opponents by at least 28 PPG (Alabama and Clemson are the other two).

Since 2005, teams who have won by at least 28 PPG in October or later have struggled on the road 79-91-4 ATS (46.5%) and when that team failed to cover the spread in their previous game — and many would assume a good bounceback spot — those teams are 19-32 ATS (37.3%).

By John Ewing

No. 25 App State is ranked for the first time in school history. Low-ranked (No. 15-25) Group of Five favorites have gone 144-172-6 (45.6%) ATS since 2005.

Team Profiles Will Lead to Under

By Steve Petrella

I think this Appalachian State offense is slightly overrated and its metrics are propped up thanks to blowouts of South Alabama, Charlotte and Gardner-Webb.

The Mountaineers are committed to running the ball, and they do it just fine (72nd in rushing S&P+). But they’ve been more effective throwing the ball (29th). Yet we can probably point to last year against Georgia Southern as an example of what might happen Thursday.

App State ran the ball 47 times and threw it 14 times in a 27-6 win in 2017. Georgia Southern was getting back to the triple-option at the time and an excellent Mountaineers front seven — that ranks sixth in defensive rushing S&P+ this season — shut it down completely.

More importantly, there were just 18 possessions and 117 total plays run because both teams don’t play with pace and love to run early and often.

The total has come down some, but I think there’s value in the under based on each team’s profile.

The Pick: Under 48.5

Why I’m Leaning App State

By Collin Wilson

Each team is going to try and flex its strongest traits in this game. Georgia Southern’s best route to victory is extended drives. The Eagles rank in the top 20 in time of possession, and should have success running the option in the trenches against an Appalachian State team that is 63rd in stuff rate.

There is also a very large discrepancy in penalty yards with these two teams, as Georgia Southern is the least penalized teams at 43.3 yards per game to Appalachian State’s bottom 10 ranking at 63.7 yards per game. The Eagles defense will be able to combat the Mountaineers explosiveness ranking 23rd against rush explosiveness and second against through the air in passing downs.

My power rating is at 10.5 and S&P+ is at 11.5, so there isn’t much value in the current number. But I do lean Appalachian State for a couple of reasons. Georgia Southern has a -1.2 in 2nd Order Win total, indicating a bit of luck this season. The Eagles are +14 in net turnovers and had a 14% post game win expectancy over Texas State.

Appalachian State is top 25 in categories on both sides of the ball in field position, finishing drives, and explosiveness. Most of their wins are quality wins, with one loss at Penn State. I’ll look at any Mountaineers number that pops below 10 on Thursday, or any live number that pops below -7 in the live market.

Georgia Tech at Virginia Tech

  • Odds: Virginia Tech -3
  • Over/Under: 58.5
  • Time: 7:30 p.m. ET
  • TV: ESPN

Oh, how the Hokies have fallen. They’re just a 3-point home favorite over Georgia Tech after a disastrous October.

Georgia Tech hasn’t been the popular bet in this game, but the Jackets have still managed to move from +4.5 to +3. The 37% of bettors behind them have accounted for 42% of dollars wagered.

Trends to Know

By Evan Abrams

Justin Fuente came from Memphis to Virginia Tech in 2016 and since then, his Hokies have faced the rushing attack of Georgia Tech twice. Virginia Tech lost both games, allowing Georgia Tech to rush for 635 combined yards, five rushing touchdowns and 5.0 yards per carry.

Metric Matchup

By Steve Petrella

Because of the triple-option, Georgia Tech has one of the most efficient offenses in the country. The Yellow Jackets are routinely picking up chunk yardage, and they’re in third-and-short situations more often than all but two teams in the country.

Virginia Tech’s run defense ranks 107th in S&P+, but that’s dragged down by explosiveness — the Hokies rank dead last at defending it on the ground. But they rank top 10 in other metrics like stuff rate and opportunity rate. I think the explosiveness ranking is dragged down by a 97-yard Notre Dame rushing touchdown.

The Hokies have handled the triple option better under Fuente than the surface results indicate, and I think we see that again Thursday.

Bet to Watch

By Steve Petrella

Let’s look at Virginia Tech’s body of work. The Hokies have really played one good game — a home win over Duke. That’s it. The Florida State opener was a debacle on both sides of the ball, and Tech got very lucky with turnovers. VT lost to Old Dominion, got blown out by Notre Dame, and was extremely fortunate to survive North Carolina.

Trouble is, oddsmakers aren’t giving the Hokies any extra value due to brand name or perception. This line implies they’re dead even with Georgia Tech from a power ratings perspective.

I think there’s a tiny bit of pure line value on Virginia Tech, since we’ve seen its disasters over the last month and we saw Georgia Tech annihilate Louisville on national TV a few weeks ago. But I’m not jumping in front of this Hokies train. Pass for me.