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College Football Friday: Picks, Predictions and Props

College Football Friday: Picks And Props For Friday's Games Are Here.

We are on the tail end of the college football season. For Friday, we have four games on deck but three are conference title games. It’s actually a pretty good Friday slate so here’s what I’m thinking for each game.

C-USA Championship: UAB vs Marshall -5, 42

What do we do with this one? We just saw the Thundering Herd get blown out in a 20-0 loss to 2-3 Rice as 24.5-point favorites. Quarterback Grant Wells threw five interceptions that led to 14 points for the Owls. Was that because they were caught in a look-ahead spot? I’m not one to guess so all I can do is look at the matchup in front of them and that’s facing the UAB Blazers.

The line opened at -5 and has ticked up just a bit. I think it’s fair to say that UAB has had a tougher schedule, having faced Miami, Louisiana-Lafayette and I’ll even throw UTSA in there because I’ve been following that team all season and the Roadrunners were definitely underrated. Outside of defeating Appalachian State, Marshall hasn’t really had competition.

The teams are similar in the run game with UAB having the edge. The two average 193 and 176 rushing yards per game, and 5.1 and 4.6 yards per rush. Marshall’s strength is in defending the run. The Herd held Appalachian State to 2.9 yards per rush, well below its 5.1 average, and held Florida Atlantic to 2.3, also well below a 4.6 average. UAB might have trouble moving the ball.

The same could be said about Marshall, however. UAB faced a 25th-ranked rushing attack in Louisiana, a team that averages 208 rushing yards and 5.4 yards per rush. UAB narrowly lost 24-20 and held the Ragin’ Cajuns to 134 yards on 42 attempts for a 3.2 average. Giving up two interceptions in the final six minutes of the game is what cost the Blazers that win.

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Take away the run game and both will be looking to generate offense through the air, where Marshall has a slight edge. The two average 190 and 215 passing yards per game, and 7.1 and 7.4 yards per pass, while throwing eight and nine interceptions. But UAB does have the better quarterback protection with just two sacks allowed compared to Marshall’s seven, three of which came against Rice.

Neither team lights it up on offense and both teams have really strong defenses. Both tend to give the ball away so I think this game could come down to who does a better job protecting the pigskin. With Wells coming off a game with five interceptions, that could definitely mess with his confidence.

Keep an eye out for UAB running backs Spencer Brown and DeWayne McBride. Both were out in their season finale against Rice and both could be back in the lineup this week. If that’s the case, I like UAB for the upset.

Consider: UAB +5, ML +170

MAC Championship: Ball State vs Buffalo -13, 67.5

This line opened with Buffalo as a 12-point favorite and the total has ticked up from the 66.5 opening. I’ve really got just one question: Can this Ball State defense stop Buffalo?

Looking at the run game, Buffalo is first in all of college football with 344 rushing yards per game. The Bulls are followed by Air Force (336), with the third-best team well off the pace averaging 283. Buffalo is also first in yards per rush, averaging 7.5 yards per attempt. North Carolina is second-best, averaging just 6.0.

Now, Buffalo’s stats may be a bit inflated after star running back Jaret Patterson rushed for 409 yards (yes, in one game) against Kent State. In total, he has over 1,000 yards rushing and 18 scores. He is the Bulls offense. Last week, we learned that they have another stud in Kevin Marks, who averaged 12.1 yards per carry against Akron and has 500 total yards this season.

But again, can Ball State stop Buffalo? I don’t want to get in the way of this train. Ball State has played two rushing teams in Central Michigan and Western Michigan, both top 35 in rushing yards and average. Both teams did, however, play with a balanced offense against Ball State.

Buffalo is just a different beast. The Bulls are a run-first team but quarterback Kyle Vantrease is definitely a capable passer. They are 111th in passing yards but 10th in efficiency, averaging 9.5 yards per pass. And we did see Ball State get shredded against the pass in their matchup with Central Michigan.

Ball State’s offense is more balanced but its strength lies in the pass. The Cardinals are 24th in passing yards with Drew Plitt averaging 8.4 yards per pass, throwing 13 touchdowns to five interceptions. The best passing offense Buffalo faced was Kent State (12th in passing yards, 7th in yards per pass). The Bulls won 70-41 while giving up 343 passing yards, 9.8 yards per pass and 5.2 yards per rush.

This game is being played at Ford Field – a dome game with two offenses that can put up points. Buffalo has scored 40-plus points in all five games this season. The Bulls have shown that they’d rather score than stop scoring so I think Buffalo names their number, wins the MAC title and this total goes OVER.

For the prop, the Bulls do one thing particularly well and that is long touchdowns. In their five games, they had a touchdown score surpass this total seven times. Just for fun, because my gosh it is amazing to see what this team can do, they have had touchdowns on a 56-yard run, a 65-yard interception return, a 78-yard pass (yes, pass), an 82-yard pass (yes, another pass), a 57-yard run, a 58-yard run, and a 53-yard blocked field-goal return.

This team is insane! Put them in the Top 25!

Consider: Buffalo team total OVER 40.5, OVER 66.5

Prop: Longest touchdown OVER 54.5

Pac-12 Championship: Oregon vs USC -3, 64

Washington was originally set to face the Trojans in the title game but due to COVID-19 concerns, the Huskies have been replaced by the Ducks.

Looking at USC, this is a bit of a fraudulent 5-0 team. In three of their five games, they came back to win. They were down 27-14 to Arizona State and won. They were down by three with 1:27 left to Arizona and won. They were down 35-23 to UCLA and an interception in the fourth quarter thrown by Dorian Thompson-Robinson shifted things. This is a USC team that could just as easily be 2-3.

Both of these teams pass. What can’t either defend well? The pass. The Oregon offense is 25th in averaging 277 passing yards and 9.6 yards per pass. USC is 13th, averaging 319 passing yards but just 7.5 yards per pass. The teams are 72nd and 75th in passing yards allowed.

What Oregon has that USC doesn’t is dual-offense ability. The Trojans don’t run. They are 115th in rushing yards, while the Ducks are 41st, averaging nearly 100 more yards than USC and an efficient 5.3 yards per rush. What did we just see USC struggle with? A team that can both run and pass. USC gave up 185 yards on the ground and 10.1 yards per pass against UCLA. I think they could have a similar struggle here.

One thing that’s a common element in the Pac-12 is teams that are terrible at holding on to the ball. This conference showcases a turnover-fest every week and this game should be no different. These two teams have combined to surrender eight interceptions and 16 fumbles, all in just five games played.

The difference is that USC is second in takeaways. The Trojans are +7 in turnover margin because this defense has forced eight interceptions and recovered seven fumbles, although it only forced three. They definitely have had a bit of unsustainable fumble luck.

I expect this to be another sloppy Pac-12 matchup. I think you can bet either side and hope to get lucky. I would have considered the OVER but the line jumped to 64 from the 62 opening. If it drops back down to 63 or less, I’d consider taking that.

For the prop, USC quarterback Kedon Slovis has 15 touchdowns in his five games, including five scoring strikes in each of his last two. Ride the hot arm.

Consider: Oregon +3

Prop: Kedon Slovis OVER 2.5 passing touchdowns +115