Thursday nights are reserved for college and professional football.
Along with the NFL game between the Baltimore Ravens and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, there are three college football games on the schedule.
The action begins at 7:30 p.m. ET with an ACC/Sun Belt doubleheader
Virginia Tech begins the night with a cross-divisional matchup against NC State in Raleigh, North Carolina. Simultaneously, Louisiana travels to Hattiesburg to face Southern Miss in another weeknight Fun Belt matchup.
To round things out, Utah travels to Pullman to face Washington State in a rare Thursday night edition of Pac-12 After Dark.
Our college football betting analysts have broken down all three matchups and provided a pick for each. So, read on for their full breakdowns and picks — and come back tomorrow for our Friday night college football coverage.
Let’s have a good time.
College Football Picks for Friday
The team logos in the table below represent the matchups that our college football staff is looking for from today’s schedule. To navigate to a specific bet discussed in this article, click the team logos for one of the matchups below.
Virginia Tech vs. North Carolina State
+13.5 for Virginia Tech
It’s Week 9 of the college football season, and the Virginia Tech Hokies have yet to win on the road. They travel to Raleigh on Thursday night to face NC State in the hopes of snapping a four-game losing streak.
Meanwhile, NC State is attempting to get back on track after an embarrassing 24-9 loss to Syracuse last week.
The oddsmakers don’t think much of the Hokies, who are a 14-point underdog. However, Raleigh has been kind to Tech recently, as VT is on a five-game winning streak in the series, including the last two meetings in Raleigh.
Hokies of Virginia Tech
When it comes to the Hokies offense, I can’t think of anything redeeming about it.
The Hokies were on the verge of being shut out for the first time since 1995 until the fourth quarter of their last game against Miami, which lost to Middle Tennessee.
Virginia Tech’s offense is one of the worst in the ACC, averaging only 19.1 points and 321 yards per game. It ranks second-to-last in both rushing and passing offense.
When it comes to interceptions, Grant Wells trails only his in-state counterpart, Brennan Armstrong of Virginia.
You may be wondering how this team won even two games. First and foremost, those two victories came at home against Boston College and Wofford.
The Hokies have also benefited greatly from opponent penalties. But I’m not convinced it’s because of their ability to draw penalties in critical situations.
Wolfpack of NC State
NC State has its own set of problems, but I’m not sure which is more concerning: the loss of starting quarterback Devin Leary or head coach Dave Doeren’s decision to keep it a secret from the betting public before the Syracuse game.
And, as much as I’d like to rally behind FCS alumnus Jack Chambers, the Wolfpack’s drop-off was game-changing. To be fair, Chambers performed admirably, completing 60% of his passes for 160 yards and one touchdown. The Wolfpack, on the other hand, made four trips to the red zone and only managed three field goals.
Syracuse has the conference’s second-best red zone defense, while Virginia Tech is dead last. It’s still difficult to trust a backup quarterback thrust into an emergency situation, especially against a Virginia Tech team desperate for a win.
The Wolfpack’s defense is ranked among the best in the ACC and the country. NC State allows only 16.9 points and 310 yards per game while ranking in the top 30 in Defensive Success Rate and Defensive Finishing Drives.
I have no doubt that the Wolfpack defense will keep the Hokies at bay. My genuine concern is whether their offense can generate enough points to cover a nearly two-touchdown spread.
Getty Images/Lance King The NC State Wolfpack is pictured.
Betting Prediction for Virginia Tech vs. NC State
There is no other way to put it: the Virginia Tech Hokies are bad at football. West Virginia, North Carolina, and Pitt have all blown them out.
Chambers, on the other hand, could be even worse.
Chambers threw 23 interceptions in two seasons at Charleston Southern. With the addition of the 2020 spring season, he threw 27 interceptions in 26 games. According to PFF, he had 22 turnover-worthy plays against FCS competition in 2021. It would have still led the country among Power Five teams that year.
Chambers had some luck against Syracuse, but I’m not sure he’s a two-touchdown favorite against any Division I team in the country, let alone one that needs a win like it needs air to breathe.
I know Virginia Tech is a difficult team to predict and bet on. But I’d take the Hokies at +10.5 or better here. According to our Action Network projections, Vermont is a 9-point underdog.
Southern Miss vs. Louisiana
-1 for Southern Miss
On Thursday night, the Ragin’ Cajuns travel to Hattiesburg for a Sun Belt West matchup. While the Golden Eagles will be in the Sun Belt for the first time in 2022, these teams have a long history together.
Southern Miss leads the all-time series 40-11-1, dating back to 1923. However, Thursday’s game will be the first in the series since 2016.
The Golden Eagles have a nine-game winning streak in the series, are 22-1 all-time at home, and haven’t lost in Hattiesburg since 1989. They’ll try to extend their winning streak on national television Thursday night on ESPN2.
Meanwhile, Ragin’ Cajuns head coach Michael Desormeaux is looking to shake things up in his first year. Louisiana is on a two-game conference winning streak, and its backup quarterback is performing admirably.
Can he keep his hot streak going against the Golden Eagles, or will the heat get to him?
Cajuns from Louisiana
After dropping their first two conference games and losing their starting quarterback, things looked bleak for the Ragin’ Cajuns. But in came Ben Wooldridge, who had been working with Chandler Fields before he was injured.
Wooldridge has 546 yards passing in the last two games. He’s also thrown seven touchdown passes without an interception.
He set career highs in passing yards, attempts, completions, and longest pass in their last game against Arkansas State. He also set a school record by scoring five touchdowns in a single game and connecting with ten different receivers.
His numbers have been incredible, but his ability to limit turnovers has been the most important.
Louisiana will be without two of its best running backs this week, as Chris Smith is doubtful and Terrence Williams is out for the season. Wooldridge, on the other hand, gives this offense the best chance of winning the game if he puts up numbers like last week while limiting turnovers.
ULL will face a defense that ranks fourth in the Sun Belt in interceptions. Turnovers could be the difference in this game, and the Ragin’ Cajuns defense is poised to outperform a Southern Miss offense that has thrown 11 interceptions.
Louisiana matches up well defensively with the Golden Eagles, but nearly every other team does as well. In terms of offensive success rate, offensive finishing drives, and offensive EPA per play, Southern Miss ranks outside the top 100.
Golden Eagles of Southern Miss
Despite a mediocre offense, the Golden Eagles are winning games. Despite being one of the conference’s worst offensive teams, Southern Miss is 2-1 in conference play and 4-3 overall.
Southern Miss scores 25 points and gains 334 yards per game. Its offense is heavily reliant on star running back Frank Gore Jr., who leads the conference in rushing yards with 84.8 yards per game and 4.9 yards per carry.
The Golden Eagles’ defense has led them to four wins in their last five games. Southern Miss enters the game ranked 32nd in Defensive Havoc, making them one of the few teams that can compete with a Ragin’ Cajuns team ranked 37th in Havoc Allowed.
In addition, Southern Miss is ranked 14th in Defensive Success Rate, while Louisiana is ranked 31st. In this game, I anticipate few scoring chances.
Pick for Louisiana vs. Southern Miss
As crazy as it sounds, I believe the return of Louisiana’s starting quarterback could jeopardize this game. Fields struggled earlier in the season, and Wooldridge has been on a roll.
Desormeaux stated that Wooldridge would start, but if things get tough against a solid Golden Eagles defense, I believe Fields will take over.
The Southern Miss defense has consistently frustrated opponents, and it will do so again against the Ragin’ Cajuns. It will also be able to control the clock against a Sun Belt rush defense that is in the middle of the pack.
Louisiana has been one of the conference’s worst in red-zone defense. Despite their high Finishing Drive percentage, the Ragin’ Cajuns allow opponents to score on 90% of their red-zone trips.
Sharps are all over the Golden Eagles as an added bonus. Southern Miss wins 47% of bets but 91% of the money.
Bet on the Golden Eagles to extend their winning streak in the series.
Washington State vs. Utah
This Thursday night’s conference matchup features two teams coming off byes.
Utah will look to continue its path toward a Pac-12 Championship appearance, while Washington State sees its first full season under Jake Dickert as a path toward bowl eligibility.
This game is interesting because these two teams match up in a way that almost counteracts their opponents’ strengths. Because neither offense is particularly explosive, this could be a low-scoring game.
The Utah Utes
Offense of the Utes
This season, the Utah offense has been among the best in the country. According to SP+, it ranks 11th in the country in Offensive Success Rate, 28th in EPA per Play, and 10th overall.
Utah has scored at least 26 points in every game this season, resulting in an impressive 5-2 record.
The Utes will need this win to keep their chances of defending their conference title alive. They are 3-1 in conference, with their lone loss coming to UCLA. Overall, the Pac-12 is having an up year at the top, making it more difficult to reach the conference championship game.
Cam Rising, Utah’s quarterback, has been a key contributor to the team’s offensive success. Rising is averaging 0.25 EPA per dropback this season and has 12 passing touchdowns to only four interceptions. Rising has the 17th highest overall PFF grade among quarterbacks who have at least 20% of their team’s passing snaps.
Despite their success, the Utah offense is lacking in explosiveness. It is ranked 116th in FBS for explosiveness, ranking 96th on the ground and 120th in the air. If the offense is unable to generate big plays, it may be prone to making mistakes on long drives.
Defense of the Utes
Utah’s defense has not performed up to expectations, ranking 82nd in Defensive Passing Success Rate and 59th in Defensive Rushing Success Rate.
It has been vulnerable to big plays on the ground, ranking 109th in EPA per Rush Against and 91st in defending ground explosiveness.
This defense has been hit-or-miss all season. It allowed 16 points or less in four straight games against weaker offenses, but then gave up 42 points in back-to-back weeks to UCLA and USC.
If Utah’s defense can replicate the former, I expect it to easily shut down the Cougars offense. But, given how inconsistent the Utes have been on that front, it’s difficult to predict what to expect from this unit.
Getty Images/Alika Jenner Cam Rising, quarterback for the University of Utah.
Cougars of Washington State
Offense of the Cougars
This season, Washington State’s offense has relied heavily on its run game. It is ranked 39th in terms of rushing success rate and 44th in terms of EPA per rush.
When you compare that to the Cougars’ rankings of 64th in Passing Success Rate and 84th in EPA per Dropback, it’s clear where their offensive strength lies.
While rushing has been their most successful strategy, the Cougars pass the ball much more frequently. With a pass play rate of 67%, Washington State ranks second in the country.
They don’t run very often, but when they do, it works well.
Cougars Defensive Line
This Washington State team’s defense has been its strongest suit. The Cougars are ranked 39th in Defensive Success Rate and 25th overall in SP+, but they have been much more effective in defending opposing passing attacks.
Similarly to how Utah has struggled to produce explosive plays this season, Washington State’s run defense has been excellent at preventing them. The Cougars are ranked 19th in terms of run defense explosiveness. They do, however, allow explosive passing plays, ranking 112th in the country.
The key for this Cougar defense will be to keep Cam Rising under control in order to prevent long pass plays while not being devoured by the Utes’ rushing attack on early downs.
Betting Prediction for Utah vs. Washington State
I believe the stage is set for a low-scoring game here. Utah’s biggest strength in the passing game coincides with Washington State’s biggest strength, which is its pass defense.
The Utah offense averages 27.9 seconds per play, ranking 95th in the country.
Utah’s offense lacks explosiveness, and the Cougars should be able to contain any explosive run plays. This will force Utah to successfully run the ball on early downs, which will chew up the clock.
On the other hand, Utah’s defense has struggled to defend elite offenses while performing admirably against others. The offense at Washington State would fall into the second category, as it hasn’t been particularly strong this season.
To score, the Cougars will need to sustain long drives. Despite accounting for two-thirds of their offensive plays, their passing offense has lacked explosiveness.
I like a bet on this total with multiple paths to the under.
If Utah’s offense does succeed, there’s still a chance the Cougars offense can’t get anything going against this defense and the total is still suppressed. I would reduce this to 54 points.
Looking for the best sports live betting and online casino online? OKBET got you covered from future bets to players and everything in between, including the latest sports and casino odds.OKBET also has the most up-to-date props for every day of the season. Join OKBET now and enjoy their 50% cashback as a welcome bonus + up to 68% bonus on your second deposit. More bonuses await you, register now! For more sports and casino betting guides, follow us and get updated.
For more sports and casino betting guides, follow us and get updated.