Thursday College Football Betting Odds & Picks: Southern Miss vs. South Alabama, UAB vs. Central Arkansas (Sept. 3)
Butch Dill/Getty Images. Pictured: Austin Peay vs. Central Arkansas.
- Collin Wilson breaks down a pair of Thursday night college football games, including Southern Miss vs. South Alabama and UAB vs. Central Arkansas.
- Central Arkansas is coming off a thrilling Saturday night win just five days ago, while UAB hasn't played but returns most of its production from 2019.
- Get Collin's full breakdown, including updated odds, analysis and bets on both games below.
Central Arkansas at UAB
|Central Arkansas Odds||+14.5 [Bet Now]|
|UAB Odds||-14.5 [Bet Now]|
|Over/Under||47.5 [Bet Now]|
|Time||Thursday, 8 p.m. ET|
Central Arkansas was victorious 24-16 over Austin Peay last Saturday in the FCS Kickoff in Montgomery, Alabama. But, rather than taking a bus back to Arkansas and then returning to the state of Alabama on a short week, UAB Athletic Director Mark Ingram set up housing for the Bears in Birmingham.
There is no denying that Central Arkansas’ passing attack will be tested against one of the most havoc-minded teams in FBS. UAB has one of the highest marks in returning production in all of FBS at 81% — including a highly disruptive defense that ranked eighth in tackles for loss and 13th in passes broke up last season. Those numbers are especially important against Central Arkansas quarterback Breylin Smith, who is sack-prone and had two interceptions against Austin Peay.
— Austin Peay Football (@GovsFB) August 30, 2020
Meanwhile, Tyler Johnston III returns at quarterback for UAB behind an experienced offensive line. The Blazers return four offensive linemen with double-digit career starts, while seven others have appeared in 10 or more games. The Blazers’ experience bodes well for the return of running back Spencer Brown, as the offensive line had minimal run disruption in 2019 per Sports Source Analytics.
Per Bet Labs, Bill Clark is also one of the most profitable coaches before and after UAB’s hibernation from college football. Clark’s attention to detail and preparedness has led to a 63% winning percentage against the spread since 2014.
The projected full-game spread for this showdown is UAB -19.5, with an early market opener of -14.5 quickly on its way to that target.
Central Arkansas continues to have issues finishing drives. Against Austin Peay in Week 0, the Bears crossed their opponent’s 35-yard line on 11-of-15 drives without doing much damage on the scoreboard. UAB ranked 20th in defensive finishing drives last season, which may exacerbate Central Arkansas’ difficulties on Thursday. While I would play the full-game total up to UAB -17, there may be a better bet on the first half.
Central Arkansas was slow to get points on the board against Austin Peay, but that is not a one-time occurrence. In 2019 action, the Bears scored just one touchdown in the first half against Illinois State, a field goal in the first quarter in a 52-point effort versus Incarnate Word and a field goal in the first quarter over Stephen F. Austin. We may think those are random events for head coach Nathan Brown, but consider the Bears were blanked early against Southeast Louisiana, Sam Houston State and Nicholls.
This is not a trend with Central Arkansas; it is an identity. That may not bode well against a UAB club that posted 124 points in the second quarter versus just 27 in the fourth quarter during 2019.
The Bet: UAB First Half -9.5 or better
South Alabama at Southern Miss
|South Alabama Odds||+14 [BET NOW]|
|Southern Miss Odds||-14 [BET NOW]|
|Over/Under||54.5 [BET NOW]|
|Time||Thursday, 9 p.m. ET|
There is plenty of respect between the two head coaches, as Jay Hopson of Southern Miss and Steve Campbell of South Alabama both coached at Delta State in the early 1990s. Whether or not that respect between coaches means the Southern Miss players are taking knees with a 14-point lead remains to be seen. Last season, both of these teams had issues getting points on the board when the opportunity presented itself.
Southern Miss finished the 2019 season ranked 111th in finishing drives — a stat that determines points per attempt past the 40-yard line. Not to be outdone, South Alabama finished last season seven ranks lower (118th) in that same category.
The Jaguars showed flashes of competent quarterback play once Desmond Trotter took over at the end of the season; but when under pressure, Trotter’s passing efficiency dropped from 60% to 40%. One area for Trotter to improve is sticking in the pocket, as the sophomore had one of the highest rates of rushing in drop-back passing attempts in his first year.
The story is different for Southern Miss quarterback Jack Abraham. The senior was 35th in passing success rate last season but had one of the smallest yards per attempt in the country. His accuracy is still questionable, with a 14-to-10 touchdown to interception ratio in drop-backs that had zero pressure. Considering these teams ranked 99th and 116th in offensive success rate, it is certainly worth looking at a low total.
Seconds per play is a stat that reports how much time is used off the play clock before the ball is snapped. Southern Miss ranked 105th in seconds per play for 2019, with South Alabama coming in at 71st. Because South Alabama ranked 122nd in havoc allowed as well, scoring opportunities may be an issue Thursday night.
The projected spread for this game is Southern Miss -13.5, so there is little value in taking a side. Based on both teams’ previous season marks in players per game, pace and success rate, the projected game total for this matchup would be 49 points. Considering the dink-and-dunk nature of the Southern Miss offense, Trotter’s tendency to leave the pocket and both teams penchant for turnovers, I will be looking to take the under.
The Bet: Under 54 or better.