College Football Odds, Picks & Predictions: Friday’s 2 Best Bets, Including Boise State vs. New Mexico
Douglas Stringer/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: A New Mexico Lobos jersey and football.
There’s something special about Friday Night Lights. That’s especially true when two solid college football games are on the docket.
Friday’s college football slate features two games: Louisville travels to Orlando to take on UCF, while Boise State heads south to face New Mexico in a Mountain West melee. Our experts — BJ Cunningham and Kody Malstrom — broke down both games below and shared their best bets for each.
Check out their top picks below — and be sure to come back tomorrow for even more college football betting coverage.
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.|
Louisville vs. UCF
Louisville looks to rebound from an opening weekend loss when it heads to Orlando to take on UCF.
The Cardinals got blown out in Week 1 by ACC foe Syracuse, 31-7, which was unexpected considering they closed as -5.5 favorites on the road. Louisville narrowly beat UCF, 42-35, last season at home, so we’ll see if it can win a straight win over the Knights.
UCF beat South Carolina State, 56-10, in Week 1, so there’s not a lot we can take away from that game. This is now Year 2 under Gus Malzhan after going 9-4 and beating Florida in the Gasparilla Bowl in 2021.
After losing to Louisville last season, the Knights will no doubt be out for revenge in this game.
If you look at the advanced box score from the Syracuse game, this pretty much tells you everything you need to know.
Image via COLLEGEFOOTBALLDATA.COM
Louisville passed the Syracuse 40-yard line five times and came away with only seven points. The Cardinals still gained 6.2 yards per play, but they also turned the ball over three times.
So, essentially everything that could have gone wrong did go wrong for Louisville.
Malik Cunningham is probably the best running quarterback in college football, but his ability as a passer is underrated. Yes, he didn’t have a great opening game. But in 2021, he put up a PFF passing grade of 82.7, averaged 8.6 yards per attempt and recorded a 70.7% adjusted completion percentage.
On the ground, his PFF run grade came in at 90.7 (fourth-best in FBS). He led all FBS quarterbacks with 20 rushing touchdowns as 755 of his 1,142 rushing yards came from designed runs, which was also the most in college football.
Malik Cunningham led P5 QBs last season in:
🥇 Rushing Yards – 1,142
🥇 Rushing TDs – 20pic.twitter.com/EAXe20UmhO
— PFF College (@PFF_College) May 12, 2022
The good news for Cunningham is that he has four starters back on the offensive line, including first-team All-ACC guard Caleb Chandler.
Louisville also snagged the No. 3-ranked running back from the 2021 recruiting class via the transfer portal in Tiyon Evans. He went for 89 yards, 6.8 yards per carry and a touchdown against Syracuse in the opener and makes this rushing attack extremely dangerous.
— ACC Football (@ACCFootball) September 4, 2022
The Cardinals defense was quite poor last season. Louisville ranked 74th in Success Rate Allowed, 100th in Finishing Drives Allowed and 84th in EPA/Play allowed.
A lot of those problems came in the front seven, especially against the run, as Louisville finished outside the top 80 in Rushing Success Rate Allowed, EPA/Play Allowed, Rushing Success Rate Allowed, and rushing explosiveness allowed.
It does return second-eam All-ACC edge rusher Yasir Abdullah, who had 10 sacks and 6.5 tackles for loss last season. It also brings back two other starters, plus an Arizona State transfer who gives it some depth. So, this unit should be improved from those horrible numbers a year ago.
The secondary was the strength of the Louisville defense last season, and it returns Kei’Trel Clark, who was a first-team All-ACC selection in 2020 but missed a boatload of time due to injury last year.
Scott Satterfield also went out and first-team All-ACC cornerback Quincy Riley from Middle Tennessee, along with a host of other transfers. This unit should continue to be the strength on the defense even if it did allow 9.3 yards per attempt in the opener.
The Knights have a new starting quarterback in John Rhys Plumlee, who comes over from Ole Miss. Plumlee was a four-star recruit coming out of high school and started a few games back in 2019 but averaged only 6.10 yards per attempt and had a PFF passing grade of 60.1.
So, he’s a massive downgrade from what UCF had at the quarterback position last season.
UCF does bring back their running back tandem of Johnny Richardson and Isaiah Bowser, who combined for 1,587 yards and 12 touchdowns in 2021.
Plus, it has 132 starts returning on the offensive line, so this rushing attack is going to be just as good as it was in 2021 when it ranked 25th in EPA/Rush.
Defensively, UCF has eight starters coming back but loses three starters on the defensive line, including first-team All-AAC defensive end Big Kat Bryant.
The Golden Knights ranked 74th in Defensive Line Yards, 70th in Rushing Success Rate Allowed and 118th in rushing explosiveness allowed. That’s not going to bode well against a dual-threat quarterback like Cunningham, who recorded 99 rushing yards and two rushing touchdowns in this game last year.
The secondary is going to be one of the best in the group of five this year. The entire unit remains intact and added Austin Peay transfer Koby Perry, who was one of the best defensive backs in FCS last season.
In 2021, UCF ranked 15th in Passing Success Rate Allowed, sixth in explosive passing allowed and 29th in EPA/Pass Allowed. So, Louisville’s focal point will likely have to be Cunningham and the rushing attack.
Louisville vs. UCF Betting Pick
Even though UCF has matchup advantages on offense in the running game and in the secondary, this line is too high for the Knights. Their issues in the front seven are going to be rigorously put to the test against one of the most talented rushing attacks in college football.
I have UCF projected at -0.9, and our Action Network PRO Projections have UCF as a -3 favorite. I like the value on the Cardinals at +5.5 or better.
Pick: Louisville +5.5 or Better
Boise State vs. New Mexico
You would think that after doing this for six years or so, I would learn to embrace Week 1 surprises. However, another calendar year has started and another Week 1 has left me scratching my head over some results.
One of those being my Maine +7 ticket against the New Mexico Lobos. Not only did it not cover, the Bears got absolutely steam rolled, 41-0. That was nearly as bad as my Oregon +17.5 against Georgia, but we’ll save that rant for another time.
On the other hand, Boise State had a much tougher season opener, traveling to the West Coast to take on an underrated Oregon State squad. After some early mistakes, the Broncos played a much better game, but it was too little, too late.
Will New Mexico continue to roll and shock the average viewer once again? Or will Boise State find its footing and shake off the cobwebs by knocking New Mexico back down to earth?
Let’s find out.
Listen, everyone has bad days. Just the other day I went to pour milk into my precious bowl of Cinnamon Toast Crunch only to find out I was out of milk.
For Boise State’s Hank Bachmeier, it was getting benched early in the second quarter after a rough start (two interceptions) against Oregon State.
Lucky for Boise, it found success in backup quarterback Taylen Green, who threw for 155 yards and one pick. While not eye popping, his success led to Boise winning the second half, 17-10.
As of this writing, Bachmeier is still listed as the starting quarterback on the depth chart. In a personal redemption spot against New Mexico, he will look to tear apart the Lobos’ defense.
Boise State nickel Tyreque Jones says he still has "all faith and confidence" in Hank Bachmeier, and is excited to see what he does on Friday pic.twitter.com/FtHDuHwcB2
— Brady Frederick (@BradyFrederick_) September 6, 2022
While the offense needs to figure out its issues, the defense is much more sound.
Oregon State is a far superior team to New Mexico, meaning Boise State will have a good chance to get back on track and replicate last year’s success — it ranked above average in nearly all major metrics, including Success Rate.
One weakness that does need to be mentioned is the Broncos’ inability to limit pass play explosiveness. However, they catch a break, as New Mexico leans heavy toward the run, something Boise State is more than capable of limiting.
Alabama, Georgia and … New Mexico?
All jokes aside, New Mexico did impress in its season opener. New Mexico held the Bears to 118 total yards and 2.5 yards per play, while the Lobos finished with 437 yards and an average of six yards per play.
The offensive line was a major concern heading into the season, but looked formidable protecting Kansas transfer Miles Kendrick.
Known as a run heavy unit in years past, the Lobos identity may shift with a decent arm in the backfield. While he still tossed two picks, Kendrick threw for a respectable 170 yards and two touchdowns on 14 completions (17 attempts).
Despite that, the Lobos still possess an above average rush rate and will look to do the same against a Broncos defense that struggled to find its footing last week.
The offensive line will need to prove it is far superior than predicted against a stout Broncos defense that will look to generate Havoc in the backfield.
Boise State vs. New Mexico Betting Pick
While tempering expectations after just one game, it’s hard to ignore Boise’s struggles under center last week. Oregon State is a far superior opponent than New Mexico, but the offense looked stagnant with Bachmeier.
I am taking the Lobo’s at +17 or better, as Bachmeier tries to get his footing.
I’m not only looking for Boise to struggle, but also for New Mexico to continue its newfound offensive momentum to generate some much needed scoring and clock control.
New Mexico grinds it out with an above average rush rate, bleeding the clock with prolonged drives. If Boise State’s defense continues to struggle, this gives a spread of over two touchdowns more value with a shorter clock and fewer potential points on the board.
I want to also note: I will be grabbing Boise live should New Mexico cut the number below seven and if the Broncos bench Bachmeier for Green again.