Friday College Football Betting Guide: Insights, Picks for All 3 Games
USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Bryce Perkins and Steven Montez
The jam-packed weekday college football slate is capped off with three games on Friday night, including two Power 5 matchups.
This guide will hit on the following games:
- Pittsburgh at Virginia (-7)
- Western Kentucky at Middle Tennessee (-13.5)
- Colorado at Arizona (-3)
>> All odds as of 7 a.m. ET. Download The Action Network App to get real-time odds and track your bets
Pittsburgh at Virginia Betting Odds
- Spread: Virginia -7
- Over/Under: 48
- Time: 7:30 p.m. ET
- TV: ESPN2
Virginia has been one of the most pleasant surprises of the college football season. The Cavaliers have just two losses and have played excellent defense all year. Throw in a dynamic dual-threat quarterback in Bryce Perkins, and you’ve got a team that controls its own destiny to win the ACC Coastal.
Pitt Has Faced Tougher Tests
There’s an interesting discrepancy in strength of schedule to this point, with Virginia at 78th and Pitt ninth. Pitt’s up-and-down season includes a 45-point loss against Penn State, a straight-up win as an underdog to Syracuse and nearly upsetting No. 4 Notre Dame in South Bend a few weeks ago.
Pitt Has Been Trending Down, Though
Pitt’s schedule has been tough, and that’s a factor. But the Panthers have been declining in S&P+ ratings (which are opponent adjusted) all season, while Virginia jumped up after a great start and has settled into the top 50 for the last month.
How Will Virginia Defense Attack Pitt’s Running Game?
The one major advantage Virginia has in this game is field position, ranking third offensively and 15th defensively. Pitt hasn’t been as fortunate with an offensive rank of 116th and a defensive rank of 104th. Virginia should have a field-position advantage on Pitt all night.
Pitt has an efficient rush offense, ranking 12th in S&P+. Avoiding passing downs will be key for the Panthers, as that will play into the Cavaliers’ strength on defense.
Virginia has earned high marks in the Havoc category, including a linebacker rank of 12th and a defensive back rank of first in the nation. Considering Pitt is 16th in the nation in run rate on passing downs, quarterback Kenny Pickett will want to go to the air as little as possible.
Can Pitt Stop Bryce Perkins?
The big handicap in this game is limiting the Virginia quarterback on the ground. With 710 non-sack rushing yards, Perkins is the leading rusher on the team, just better than running back Jordan Ellis’ 683 yards.
The Panthers rank 104th in the nation in defending rush explosiveness, meaning Perkins and Ellis should have big days. Pitt hasn’t looked great against rushing quarterbacks this season, either.
Penn State’s Trace McSorley scored a rushing touchdown, Syracuse’s Eric Dungey ran for 70 yards on 13 carries and McKenzie Milton had two rushing touchdowns for Central Florida.
I’ll be on Virginia this game as the Wahoos make their push for the ACC title game.
Collin’s Pick: Virginia -7
One Key Trend
By Evan Abrams
Under Bronco Mendenhall, Virginia has played six home games where it opened as at least a 7-point favorite and the Cavaliers are only 4-2 straight up. While at BYU, Mendenhall went 33-5 SU at home in those same situations.
Western Kentucky at Middle Tennessee
- Spread: Middle Tennessee -13.5
- Over/Under: 53
- Time: 8 p.m. ET
- TV: CBS Sports Network
Sandwiched between two Power 5 matchups is a Conference USA clash involving Western Kentucky and Middle Tennessee. WKU continues to fall from its glory days of 2013-16, while MTSU has rebounded from early blowout losses to Vanderbilt and Georgia.
Historically Good Spot for MTSU
By Evan Abrams
As it gets colder late into the season, Johnny “Red” Floyd Stadium becomes a house of horrors for inferior opponents against Rick Stockstill and Middle Tennessee State.
The Blue Raiders are 7-0 SU and ATS under Stockstill when they are above .500 at home and facing a team below .500 in November or later, covering the spread by 10.9 PPG, with six of those games decided by 20 points or more.
Is MTSU Offense Back on Track?
Middle Tennessee’s offense was struggling leading up to the Old Dominion game, but the Monarchs gifted five turnovers and allowed MTSU to rush for 5.5 yards per carry. The game served as a much needed offensive breakout for the Raiders after they scored more than 25 points against an FBS team just once all season. Facing a 125th S&P+ ranked defense will do that.
The Middle Tennessee offense is predicated on the passing attack led by quarterback Brent Stockstill. While Western Kentucky’s rush defense is dreadful, there are positive signs for the Hilltoppers against the pass.
The Blue Raiders are 17th in explosiveness on passing downs, supported by a completion percentage rank of 15th. The Hilltoppers are 39th in passing downs efficiency and should be able to slow down the Blue Raiders attack.
Middle Tennessee’s offensive line has a sack rate of 12th in passing downs, meaning Western Kentucky will have plenty of opportunities for disruption.
A Case for the Under
Collin highlighted a bunch of reasons why Western Kentucky can slow the Middle Tennessee attack, at least somewhat. And this WKU offense is absolutely dreadful.
The ‘Toppers have one of the least explosive offenses in college football with just 22 plays of 20-plus yards this season. That’s fifth-fewest in the country.
Because Stockstill has been there for so long, I tend to think of Middle Tennessee as a solid offensive team. But the defense has been better this season, ranking 67th in defensive S&P+. There are no glaring weaknesses either, as the Raiders rank 53rd against the run and 56th against the pass, and are top 80 in efficiency and explosiveness.
Both teams play with some pace, but I think WKU will struggle to put up points, and MTSU benefitted greatly from those Old Dominion turnovers last week to score 51 points. We don’t really know if the offense is back on track yet.
Steve’s Pick: Under 53
Colorado at Arizona
- Spread: Arizona -3
- Over/Under: 56.5
- Time: 10:30 p.m. ET
- TV: Fox Sports 1
Colorado is fresh off blowing a 31-3 lead to Oregon State, while Arizona scored a huge upset over Oregon last week.
Is recency bias skewing the perception of these two teams?
Colorado Trending Down
By Evan Abrams
Colorado started the season 5-0 and rose all the way to No. 19 in the country before falling on the road to USC and starting its current three-game losing streak.
The Buffaloes are now underdogs on the road against Arizona, so this begs the question: Will bettors get early season Colorado, or the struggling Buffaloes of late?
Since 2011, a team over .500 that lost three consecutive games and was a dog in its next conference game is 9-12 ATS, but only 3-18 SU, losing by 12.1 PPG.
Will Two Under Teams Produce Another Under?
By Evan Abrams
Colorado and Arizona have played 17 games combined this season. In those 17 games, the under is 13-4, with the Buffaloes 6-2 to the under and the Wildcats 7-2.
Between 2005 and 2015, when two conference foes met, both going under the total in at least 75% of their games, the under was only 65-67-1 (49.2%), with the average total margin actually leaning to the over during that span.
Since 2016, however, that trend has done a complete 180. The under during the past three seasons is 28-10 (73.7%), profiting bettors 16.2 units in that span.
Should You Buy Khalil Tate’s Return to Form?
The good news for Arizona is that Tate looks healthy for the first time this season. Tate escaped the pocket for a few rushes against Oregon, while putting up three passing touchdowns. J.J. Taylor was the story for the Wildcats, rushing for 212 yards and a couple of touchdowns.
The bad news for Arizona is Colorado’s ability to defend the explosive play — 34th in the rush and 25th in the passing game. Even with a healthy Tate, the Wildcats might not generate a ton of big plays.
This might seem like an easy play on Arizona after Colorado lost a four-score lead to Oregon State. Colorado had a postgame win expectancy of 85% against the Beavers, per Football Study Hall, showing how unlikely the overtime loss was.
Colorado has advantages in this game with sack rate, red zone efficiencies and limiting opponents’ third down conversion rate. Look for quarterback Steven Montez to have plenty of pass completions with or without star wide receiver Laviska Shenault Jr., who is questionable with a toe injury.
In a game that should be a shootout, I’ll back the better red zone and third-down defense in Colorado.
The Pick: Colorado +3