College Football Odds & Picks for Week 7: Our Top Bets, Including Oregon vs. Cal & Syracuse vs. Clemson (Friday, October 15)

College Football Odds & Picks for Week 7: Our Top Bets, Including Oregon vs. Cal & Syracuse vs. Clemson (Friday, October 15) article feature image
Credit:

Ezra Shaw/Getty Images. Pictured: Muelu Iosefa.

  • There's nothing quite like Friday night lights, and Friday gives us four big college football games to bet.
  • Our college football experts came prepared, breaking down all four games that includes Cal vs. Oregon and Clemson vs. Syracuse.
  • Check out all four picks complete with full betting breakdowns below.

Friday Night Lights. Very few things are better in the fall.

Here at The Action Network, we’ll take as much football as we can get whenever we can get it, whether that comes on a Friday, Saturday, Tuesday, or Thursday. So, we’re more than happy with college football under the lights on a beautiful Friday night in October.

The action opens with Clemson vs. Syracuse and Marshall vs. North Texas at 7 p.m. ET. To wrap things up, we’ll see a battle between two Pac-12 teams in Cal vs. Oregon in a special edition of Pac-12 After Dark, along with a San Diego State vs. San Jose State matchup in the Mountain West.

So, start getting ready for a big college football weekend. Because we’re already prepared.

Week 7 College Football Picks for Friday, Oct. 15

Click the team logos for one of the matchups below to navigate to a specific betting preview for Friday evening’s Week 7 college football slate.

Game
Time (ET)
Pick
7 p.m.
Syracuse +14
7 p.m.
North Texas +11
10:30 p.m.
Under 54
10:30 p.m.
San Diego State -9.5

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.

Photos via Getty Images.


Clemson

vs

Syracuse

Syracuse +14
7 p.m. ET
ESPN

By Kody Malstrom

Has anyone been a bigger disappointment this season than the Clemson Tigers? I should know. My parents constantly remind me how much of a disappointment I am to them, and I still think they top me.

Clemson came into this season at -1000 or more at most books to win the ACC and with a win total of 11.5. It’s safe to say after two losses in five games — and barely escaping in other matchups — that this is not the Clemson of the past.

Syracuse, on the other hand, has been exceeding most expectations. It hasn’t succeeded so much in the record book — sitting at 3-3 — but instead, with its level of play.

An afterthought as a football school, Syracuse has been competitive all season. The Orange could easily be 5-1 if the coin flipped their way, as they dropped two tight ones by three points apiece,

In a battle of enough orange on the field to cure a pirate of scurvy, this matchup may be closer than the spread implies.


Clemson Tigers

Clemson Offense

Clemson looks lost. A shell of its former selves. So, what gives?

For starters, the offense has been horrendous so far. It’s crazy to think a year ago quarterback D.J. Uiagalelei instilled hope into all Clemson fans that he would be able to carry the mantle when Lawrence left.

Boy, were they wrong.

In five games, Uiagalelei has thrown for 793 yards, three touchdowns and three interceptions at a completion rate of 54.3%. Not good.

He has happy feet, constantly leaves the pocket at the first sign of pressure and puts himself in poor positions.

With a Pass Success rank of 128th, Clemson would almost be better off just abandoning the passing game.

The lack of passing attack has made the offense near one-dimensional and easy to plan for.

Clemson will look to bounce back against a Syracuse defense that is in the middle of the league in most defensive metrics.


Clemson Defense

While the Clemson offense has been horrendous, the defense has been respectable.

Brent Venables is one of the best defensive coordinators and it shows. While the defense is still not to the usual level we’ve seen in past seasons, the unit is still capable of stalling out opposing offenses.

Their biggest strengths involve shutting down the Big Play and limiting scoring past the 40. Nearly every game they have been in has been a low-scoring affair.

One glaring weakness the Tigers’ defense does have is that they struggle against the pass.

While they are top-five in Def. Rush Success, they shockingly rank 85th in Def. Pass Rush, showing an inability to get to the quarterback.


Syracuse Orange

Syracuse Offense

If you would have told me at the start of the season that the Syracuse offense would have better advanced metrics in most categories than the Clemson offense six weeks in, I would have laughed uncontrollably hard in your face.

Well, I would have been wrong.

While not special in really any metric — other than a great Big Play number — the Orange offense is average-to-above-average in all metrics.

They heavily lean toward the run, as running back Sean Tucker leads the nation in rushing attempts. His 133 attempts have accounted for 791 yards and nine touchdowns.

Quarterback Garrett Shrader joins the ground game as a dual-threat quarterback. So far, he has thrown for 627 yards, four touchdowns and two interceptions. He has also added 412 yards and eight touchdowns with his feet.

Syracuse may want to lean more toward the passing game if it wants to secure the upset, as Clemson ranks 16th in Def. Rush Success.

If Cuse does decide to run, it will need to push back the opposing line to open some holes. This may be tougher than expected as Clemson ranks 12th in Def Line Yards.


Syracuse Defense

Luckily for Syracuse’s pedestrian defense, Clemson’s offense is awful.

The defense has found themselves in shootouts the past two weeks, a trend they look to break this week. The opportunity is there as the Clemson offense ranks 79th in Finishing Drives.

An interesting matchup will be the battle on the ground. With Clemson posing no threat via the air, it will pound the football.

The front line will need to anchor down and generate some pushback. If they can make Uiagalelei scramble, the defense will be in prime position for success all game.


Clemson vs. Syracuse Betting Pick

A few weeks in, and it’s still hard to believe how awful Clemson is. We have been so used to comparing it to Alabama over the past few years, it still seems unreal.

The Tigers have been so bad that they are the first matchup I look for when the lines drop on Sunday — a good Sunday distraction from watching the Lions break my heart.

I was in shock when this number opened at Syracuse +14.

With Collin Wilson projecting this at +9, there is immediate value to taking Syracuse at +14, which is exactly what I did.

Even though Syracuse is pedestrian on defense, the Clemson offense does not scare me at all. The Cuse should do enough to stall them out and force punts, which will do wonders for staying within the number.

If they can get Uiagalelei to scramble, they will look to capitalize on any mistakes the Tigers make on offense while under pressure.

With Clemson still having a respectable defense, I will also look at the under as a live add. I believe both ends will find it tough to move the ball down the field.

I grabbed the opener at +14 and it is still widely available. I would play this at no less than +13.

Pick: Syracuse +14

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Marshall

vs

North Texas

North Texas +11
7 p.m. ET
CBS Sports Network

By Shawn Burns

Marshall and North Texas have been conference foes since 2013, but this will be just the third time they have played and their first meeting since 2016.

Both teams have struggled to start the season, but Marshall had much higher pre-season expectations. They were picked as a favorite to make the Conference USA title game.

Marshall squeaked by Old Dominion last weekend and the win snapped a three-game losing streak. The Thundering Herd are 3-3 and 1-1 in conference play.

They still have their whole season ahead of them with opportunities against Charlotte and Florida Atlantic who are ahead of them in the Conference USA East standings.

North Texas head coach Seth Littrell is in his sixth season and has taken the Mean Green to four bowl games, but since the 2019 season they are 9-18 overall and have a 6-11 record in conference play.

They are on a four-game losing streak and have started conference play with two losses to UAB and Louisiana Tech. Last week, they battled back against Missouri in the second half, but still fell by double digits.

Littrell runs his version of the Air Raid offense, and Marshall head coach Charles Huff runs a high-tempo offense, so expect a ton of plays on Friday night.


Marshall Thundering Herd

Marshall Offense

Marshall has moved the ball well this season averaging 514 yards of total offense and over 34 points per game. It’s third in the country in plays per minute and fifth in the country in first downs.

Running back Rasheen Ali is only a freshman and has averaged 115 rushing yards over the past four games, and he is key to Marshall staying on schedule offensively.

The problem has been turnovers, and Grant Wells has already thrown nine interceptions while the offense has turned the ball over 16 times, which ranks dead last in the country.

If the offense can play with a little more discipline the offense could take off in the second half of the season.


Marshall Defense

The Thundering Herd defense has been sturdy overall, but the rushing defense has been a weak link ranking 119th in the country. If Marshall can stop the run Friday night, its elite pass rush and pass defense could take over.

The Thundering Herd are fourth in the country with 24 total sacks and average four per game. Marshall plays an aggressive style of defense, and it’s also sixth in the country in tackles for loss with eight per game.

Its pass defense has been dominant, allowing 178 yards per game.


North Texas Mean Green

North Texas Offense

North Texas has played two quarterbacks, and it looks like coach Littrell has settled on Austin Aune. He has rushed for over 50 yards in back-to-back games and had over 350 yards of total offense in the loss at Missouri.

Littrell had explosive offenses in the past, but this season has been a different story. The Mean Green rank 106th in scoring offense and 88th in passing offense with only 212 yards per game. One bright spot has been the rushing attack led by running back DeAndre Torrey, who is a threat whenever he touches the ball.

The lack of explosive plays has been missing, but Aune had four touchdowns of over 20 yards last week, so it’s possible that the offense has finally found some rhythm.


North Texas Defense

The Mean Green have played three of the top 40 scoring offenses in the nation including SMU, Louisiana Tech and Missouri over the past month, and their defensive statistics have suffered in the process. Against FBS opponents, the defense has given up 37 points per game.

North Texas has a fast and athletic defense that flies around the ball, and it’s done a good job of creating turnovers. It ranks 40th in the country in causing turnovers while averaging seven tackles for loss a game.

The Mean Green have allowed big plays, but have been strong once their opponents have entered the Red Zone. They are 19th in the country in Red Zone Defensive Efficiency.


Marshall vs. North Texas Betting Pick

Marshall has been a double-digit favorite three times this season and failed to cover each — it easily could have lost all three outright. I can’t trust the Herd to cover a high number on the road, especially in conference play, so I’m riding with the home underdog North Texas.

Marshall had trouble stopping the run all season, and North Texas has a veteran offensive line and the top rushing attack in the conference. I like what I saw from Aune last week in defeat, as he provided a spark for the offense.

Expect the Mean Green to keep this game close at home.

Pick: North Texas +11



Cal

vs

Oregon

Under 54
10:30 p.m. ET
ESPN

By Roberto Arguello

The Oregon Ducks host the California Golden Bears in a Friday night edition of Pac-12 After Dark. Both of these teams are coming off a bye week following upset losses two weeks ago.

In their most recent game, the Ducks were eight-point favorites at Stanford, but the Cardinal converted a goal-line fade on fourth-and-goal with no time remaining to force the game into overtime.

The Cardinal scored a touchdown, and the Ducks couldn’t convert a first down as Stanford won, 31-24, in overtime to hand Oregon its first loss of the season.

The Golden Bears, who have yet to beat an FBS team this season, were favored by 7.5 points at home against Washington State two weeks ago, but the Cougars held the Cal offense to just one score as they pulled the road upset, 21-6.

Cal upset Oregon last season in the final game for the Golden Bears in 2020. Will they get their second straight win on Friday over the Ducks, or will Oregon take another step forward as one of two potential playoff contenders in the Pac-12?


California Golden Bears

Cal Offense

If the Cal offense keeps things competitive with Oregon or even pulls the upset, it will be because they improve on third and fourth down.

In Cal’s most recent loss to Washington State, Cal rushed for 0.3 more yards per rush (3.6 to 3.3) and threw for 0.1 fewer yards per pass (5.1 to 5.2), but they lost by 15 points.

This happened because the Golden Bears converted just three of 15 third downs, and they were an abysmal one of five on fourth downs (the Cougars converted seven of 15 third downs and one of two fourth downs).

The Golden Bears rank first in the nation in line yards and 37th in Rush Success rate, but they also rank 66th in Finishing Drives and 123rd (out of 130) in fourth-down conversion rate (23.1%).

The Bears need to do a better job of converting line yards into rushing yards as they have yet to rush for more than 3.7 yards per carry in their two Pac-12 losses.

Cal quarterback Chase Garbers has been inconsistent throughout his career in Berkeley, and he will need the Cal rushing attack to step up and give him third-and-manageable or else the Oregon edge rushers will tee off on him.

Garbers will get a boost Friday with left tackle Will Craig and receiver Nikko Remigio healthier following the bye week.


Cal Defense

Cal’s defense needs to step up against the run and force Oregon quarterback Anthony Brown to beat them with his arm if they hope to win or cover.

Cal’s defense, which ranks 73rd in defensive Line Yards and 45th in Rush Success rate allowed, will have its hands full against Oregon’s rushing offense that ranks 32nd in Line Yards and 45th in Rush Success rate.

However, Oregon’s bell cow, running back CJ Verdell, is out for the season, and the Ducks can’t replace his combination of strength, speed, and vision.

The Ducks rank just 95th in Big Plays, so keeping the Oregon offense in front of them will be key as they force Brown and Oregon’s other running backs to beat them repeatedly on third downs and in the red zone where they will have less space to work with.


Oregon Ducks

Oregon Offense

The Ducks need to consistently put pressure on California’s young middle linebackers if they hope to win and cover at home on Friday.

The Golden Bears have played five middle linebackers this season, two of which are true freshmen and two others are sophomores.

Key defenders for Cal remain out, including outside linebacker Kuony Deng and nose tackle Stanely McKenzie, so the Golden Bears will need younger players to step up throughout their defense.

Oregon needs to put pressure on the young Cal defenders by testing their eye discipline with misdirection to keep the pressure off on Brown at quarterback. Travis Dye figures to get the majority of the carries at running back, and he will need to make the Cal defenders miss in space.

Oregon offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead missed the Stanford loss, and it is unclear if he will be coaching this Friday. However, I would expect the Ducks to have a more cohesive offensive plan given that they are coming off a bye and have already played a game without Moorhead.


Oregon Defense

Oregon’s defense needs to force Garbers into obvious passing situations to win and cover.

The good news for Oregon’s defense is that it will return several key players from injury, including defensive tackle Jake Shipley and defensive end Bradyn Swinson.

The bad news for Oregon is it will be without star defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux for the first half against Cal following a questionable targeting penalty in the second half against Stanford.

Oregon’s group of edge rushers has been devastated by injuries this season.

But Kayvon Thibodeaux, Bradyn Swinson, Mase Funa, Adrian Jackson and Jake Shipley are all expected to be back and healthy for the Friday matchup with Cal. https://t.co/8aVxqlRoIg

— Jarrid Denney (@jarrid_denney) October 12, 2021

Oregon’s defense, which ranks 57th in Line Yards, needs to step up against Cal’s offense that will likely try to run the ball often on early downs.

The Oregon pass rush should thrive in the second half with all three of Thibodeaux, Shipley, and Swinson back in action together. But its defense, led by safety Verone McKinley III, will need to weather the storm in the first half against Garbers.


Cal vs. Oregon Betting Pick

My initial reaction to this line opening with Cal as 14.5-point underdogs was to bet on the Golden Bears, but now that the line is down to 13.5, I like the value much less, especially with Shipley and Swinson back.

This week after practice, Oregon defensive tackle Brandon Dorlus weighed in on the significance of having both starting defensive ends, Thibodeaux and Swinson, on the field together:

“I’m telling you all, this film on Friday is going to be different… I’m saying, it’s going to be real different having them both back on the field.”

The Cal defense needs to create Havoc to pull the upset, but it ranks just 101st in Havoc created while the Ducks offense ranks 11th in Havoc allowed.

However, Oregon’s offense did struggle mightily against Justin Wilcox’s defense last year, and although Brown replaces Tyler Shough at quarterback in this matchup, I don’t love laying two touchdowns in this spot for Oregon.

The Cal offense has been inconsistent, and if they can’t run the ball, they won’t have success, especially when Thibodeaux returns in the second half.

Instead of playing the spread, I love the value on under 54 at DraftKings (and would bet it down to 51.5), as I don’t trust either quarterback to make big plays down the field, and Verdell’s absence significantly lowers Oregon’s explosiveness and red-zone running ability.

Pick: Under 54

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San Diego State

vs

San Jose State

San Diego State -9.5
10:30 p.m. ET
CBS Sports Network

By Alex Hinton

San Diego State and San Jose State have met 44 times all-time with the Aztecs holding a 22-20-2 lead.

The programs have met as conference foes every year since 2013. San Diego State had won seven straight before San Jose State snapped the streak with a 28-17 win last season.

The Spartans fell behind, 10-0, before backup quarterback Nick Nash filled in for an injured Nick Starkel. SJSU may have to rely on Nash against SDSU once again, but his team hasn’t looked liked the defending Mountain West Champions this season.

Meanwhile, the Aztecs come into this year’s matchup at 5-0 and up to No. 24 in the country. San Diego State will have revenge on its mind and hopes to spoil San Jose State’s homecoming.


San Diego State Aztecs

Aztecs Offense

San Diego State head coach Brady Hoke spent the majority of his time as an assistant as a defensive line coach.

Hoke emphasizes physicality on both sides of the ball, starting the Aztecs’ running attack. The Aztecs rank 24th in Rushing Success Rate and average 241.4 rushing yards per game.

San Diego State runs the ball over two-thirds of the time, but that may be partially to hide its shaky quarterback play.

The Aztecs have rotated Lucas Johnson and Jordon Brookshire at quarterback, but the two have combined to complete 53% of their passes with four touchdowns and two interceptions.

San Diego State ranks 120th in Passing Success Rate, and Brookshire is expected to start on Friday.


Aztecs Defense

San Diego State’s offensive style play of game complements its dominant defense.

The Aztecs rank second in the country against the run (50 YPG) and third in Rushing Success Rate. The Aztecs are also seventh in total yards (270.4 YPG) and No. 16 in scoring defense (16.6 PPG).

San Diego State thrives on disrupting its opponents’ flow on offense. The Aztecs sit second in Havoc, tied for 17th in sacks (18) and 30th in pass-rush grade.

They also rank 17th in Finishing Drives. San Diego State will match up very well with San Jose State’s offense.


San Jose State Spartans

Spartans Offense

The Spartans have been without starting quarterback Starkel for the last two games, and it’s been Nash under center.

Head coach Brent Brennan has been tight-lipped about who will start, but at this point, I would assume it’s Nash. In the Spartans’ last two games, Nash picked apart a dreadful New Mexico defense but struggled last week at Colorado State.

At any rate, the Spartans need to generate more offense. San Jose State ranks 113th in scoring offense (20.5 PPG) but 28th in Finishing Drives. It also stands 116th in Passing Success Rate, 84th in Havoc Allowed, and 89th in pass blocking.

The Spartans don’t try to establish the run much, but they aren’t very successful when they do, ranking 98th in Rushing Success Rate.


Spartans Defense

San Jose State had been doing just enough to hold the fort while its offense struggled. However, the Spartans struggled to defend an undermanned Colorado State squad last week.

Even without its starting running back and top receiver, Colorado State put up 449 yards of total offense against San Jose State.

Against San Diego State’s offense, the Spartans will have an advantage in both Pass Success and Havoc, along with limiting explosive plays


San Diego State vs. San Jose State Betting Pick

Against the three best teams on its schedule — USC, Western Michigan, and Colorado State — San Jose State has averaged eight PPG and had an margin of defeat of 20.3 PPG.

San Diego State will be the best defense that San Jose State has faced this season, and I don’t expect the Spartans to generate much offense.

San Jose State is not going to be able to run the ball with much success. Meanwhile, San Diego State ranks third in coverage. The Spartans’ passing attack will have not much luck either, especially with all the pressure that San Diego State will create.

San Jose State’s run defense is not terrible, but it will be at a disadvantage against San Diego State’s rushing attack. I expect the Aztecs will control the game with its running attack and dominate on defense.

Usually, when there is such a low total, there’s a temptation to take the underdog because points will be at a premium.

However, at -9.5 there is still enough wiggle to back the Aztecs. I like San Diego State to win this game by double digits, and I would take the spread up to -11.5.

Pick:  San Diego State -9.5 

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