Friday Night Lights.
Don’t get me wrong: At The Action Network, we love us some Tuesday or Wednesday MACtion, Thursday Fun Belt games, and — of course — Saturday’s wall-to-wall college action. But there’s just something about Friday night college football under the lights that hits differently.
This week, we’ve been blessed with yet another three-game card for Friday night. We’ve analyzed the odds, poured through the tape, broken down schemes, and highlighted our favorite betting positions for each of those three games. Below, check out comprehensive game guides for each of Friday’s college football matchups:
- 7:30 p.m. ET | Minnesota vs. Maryland
- 9:00 p.m. ET | East Carolina vs. Tulsa
- 9:45 p.m. ET | Hawaii vs. Wyoming
|Minnesota Odds||-20 [BET NOW]|
|Maryland Odds||+20 [BET NOW]|
|Moneyline||-1115/+650 [BET NOW]|
|Over/Under||61 [BET NOW]|
|Time||Friday, 7:30 p.m. ET|
Minnesota Golden Gophers
Michigan doubled up Minnesota in the season opener, 49-24, and the game featured plenty of explosive plays.
The Wolverine defense stifled the Gophers in passing plays, as Minnesota posted a 27% Success Rate. Michigan came from every angle, defending four passes, making eight tackles for loss and sacking the quarterback five times.
The Gophers’ offensive line posted the third-worst grade of all active FBS teams, per Pro Football Focus. Despite Mohamed Ibrahim’s 140 yards, the offensive line graded 70th in run blocking. Minnesota has the quarterback and skill position players to do damage, but the offensive line must improve after right tackle Daniel Faalele opted out of the season and right guard Curtis Dunlap sat on the sideline with a cast on his leg.
The special teams unit was without its kicker, kickoff specialist and punter, which led to Michigan owning an average starting field position at the 40-yard line. There’s no word on whether or not the special teams players will return for Maryland.
The defense was just as gruesome, taking a PFF grade rank of 97th. The Gophers posted just one sack without a hurry for a defense that featured six new players in the front seven.
After last week, the question is if Northwestern is bound for the College Football Playoff or if the Terrapins are just the worst team in the Big Ten.
The answer is likely somewhere in between. While the Wildcats probably won’t sniff the playoff, Maryland did not post a single explosive drive. Instead, quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa threw three interceptions. On the positive side, the offensive line graded out 28th-best for pass blocking, per PFF. Mike Locksley has plenty of work to do in getting the quarterbacks in tune with the wide receiver unit.
Despite the three interceptions, Locksley gave his quarterback a vote of confidence to start the week.
Defensively, the Terrapins didn’t contribute much to stop Northwestern from scoring 43 points. Maryland did, however, limit the Wildcats to just one pass over 20 yards.
Betting Analysis & Pick
There are not many positives to write home about in the season opener for both clubs. Minnesota generated enough offense against Michigan to rank in the top 25 in Line Yards. While the Success Rate for the Gophers offense is in the top 25, the explosive element that led the team 2019 has disappeared.
From a pace standpoint, Maryland and Minnesota ranked 77th and 90th in seconds per play, respectively. Our Action Network projection makes this game Minnesota -13, giving a heavy edge to Maryland. Considering Minnesota is replacing the entire right side of the offensive line, breaking in a new front seven on defense and dealing with a coordinator change on offense, this is a team that cannot be trusted to lay three scores on the road.
Pick: Maryland +17.5 or better
|East Carolina Odds||-17.5 [BET NOW]|
|Tulsa Odds||+17.5 [BET NOW]|
|Moneyline||-1115/+575 [BET NOW]|
|Over/Under||61 [BET NOW]|
|Time||Friday, 9 p.m. ET|
The once-proud East Carolina football team has fallen on hard times.
On Friday night, the Pirates look to continue leaning on the run game in order to move the football and score points. Unfortunately, this plan runs directly into the strength of Tulsa, the American Athletic Conference’s new bully on the block.
To quote another memorable sports bully, “Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.”
East Carolina Pirates
The Pirates enter this contest averaging the 26th-most rushing yards per game (193.0) among active FBS teams. Quarterback Holton Ahlers did air the ball out 50 times against Georgia State, but that was more a product of game flow than anything else, as the Pirates were playing catch-up most of the day.
Additionally, Ahlers was woefully inefficient. He threw three interceptions, racked up a measly 236 passing yards and finished without a touchdown. If East Carolina is going to rely of Ahlers’ arm against Tulsa’s mini Legion of Boom (they’ve got big, tough ballhawks in its secondary), it could be a long night for the guys in purple and gold.
As such, the ground game is going to have to lead the way. There is just one problem, though. The bulk of the running game’s success has come against teams that have been generous to opposing backfields. Navy is near the very bottom of the FBS (120th), and South Florida ranks 103rd in opponent yards per rush attempt. Obviously, these defenses aren’t taking the field Friday in this game.
That being said, points are going to be hard to come by for the Pirates.
On the other side of the ball, it’s really tough to gauge the defense. The Pirates gave up points and yards to Central Florida and Georgia State, but so does everyone else. They did play fairly well against South Florida (24 points allowed) and Navy (318 yards allowed).
“Sharps,” big money bettors and The Action Network PRO projections all back East Carolina. I can’t imagine the trio is backing its offense, though.
Tulsa Golden Hurricane
The last time we saw the Golden Hurricane, it began its game at Central Florida by turning the ball over three times, taking a safety and allowing an explosive run for a touchdown in the game’s first eight minutes.
And just like that, it was 16-0 and an uphill battle the rest of the way.
However, this team doesn’t quit.
Led by a defense that only yielded three second-half points, Tulsa came all the way back and defeated Central Florida, 34-26. Just like that, the nation’s second-longest home winning steak was no more.
Needless to say, that’s some serious mental toughness.
It’s the same toughness Tulsa showed when it went toe-to-toe with the sixth-ranked Oklahoma State. On that day in Stillwater, the Golden Hurricane held the Cowboys to 16 points and 4.4 yards per play.
Maybe even more impressive was the fact Tulsa held explosive Chuba Hubbard to 3.07 yards per touch.
Offensively, quarterback Zach Smith is serviceable and the Golden Hurricane rotate bruising running backs who have the ability to keep the chains moving. One of those backs — T.K. Wilkerson — missed last week’s contest due to a personal matter. His status for Friday is still up in the air. However, talented sophomore Deneric Prince (6.3 yards per carry) will be ready to go..
That being said, the Golden Hurricane aren’t usually in a hurry to go. Tulsa is 83rd in FBS with 65.7 plays per game. This is despite the fact it’s played two of the most up-tempo offenses in college football. One would think this skews its numbers upward. Tulsa will be looking to control the football and grind down the overmatched Pirates.
Betting Analysis & Pick
Tulsa’s defense is physical in all three levels and should be properly motivated, as this is (finally) its first home game of the year. East Carolina is going to have a tough time moving the ball.
When one team doesn’t move the ball and the big favorite likes to control the game, you’ve got a recipe for an under.
Obviously, you hate rooting for unders. I hate rooting for unders. So what? If East Carolina’s defense gives us anything at all, this total might be off by a touchdown. That’s why I’m backing the under in this meeting.
Pick: Under 61
|Hawaii Odds||+1.5 [BET NOW]|
|Wyoming Odds||-1.5 [BET NOW]|
|Moneyline||+100/-121 [BET NOW]|
|Over/Under||60 [BET NOW]|
|Time||Friday, 9:45 p.m. ET|
Right off the bat, let’s address the elephant in the room. Since 2014, Hawaii has been a trainwreck on the road against the spread. The Rainbow Warriors’ 14-21-2 ATS road record ranks 121st out of 130 FBS programs.
This week, things are different from an itinerary standpoint. Instead of boarding a flight back to Hawaii following its 15-point win over Fresno State in the San Joaquin Valley on Saturday, the Rainbow Warriors headed east. Head coach Todd Graham opted to keep his troops on the mainland, stationing them in Denver for the week. This has taken a multi-stop, nine-hour-flight-time trip and reduced it to a two-hour bus ride.
This is just one reason why I like the Rainbow Warriors to build on their impressive season-opening win this weekend at Wyoming.
Hawaii Rainbow Warriors
There was buzz this offseason that Hawaii and its Air Raid offense would undergo a significant overhaul. But given the team’s personnel, I was banking on Graham and his staff to ease into a new identity.
Well, so much for that.
The Warriors galloped for 323 yards on 53 attempts. So, where is this coming from? Because it’s not Graham.
You have to keep in mind that Graham inherited a decent rushing attack at Arizona State and promptly took the ball away from his running backs in a desperate attempt to turn Arizona State into an uptempo spread-passing power. He failed to accomplish that but went down swinging, dialing up 35 pass attempts per game in his final season in Tempe.
The Warriors’ opener has verified a few things. The first being that Graham truly handed the reins of his offense over to GJ Kinne and Brennan Marion. Marion is the really interesting ingredient in this offensive stew because he’s the architect of the “GoGo offense.”
His offenses set FCS records and utilize strange backfield alignments (two running backs to the same side of the QB) and motion. He was the play-caller behind the largest point-spread upset in college football history (Howard’s 43-40 win over UNLV), and it appears he has influenced the Warriors’ play-calling out of the gate.
This is great news for Hawaii quarterback Chevan Cordeiro. The redshirt sophomore is best suited to a run-first attack, given his dual-threat abilities. Under this new regime, Cordeiro already has a stat line of 20-for-31 for 229 yards through the air and 116 yards with a pair of touchdowns on the ground.
He can make this offense really sing while reducing momentum-killing turnovers. And that’s the key for Hawaii in 2020: reducing costly picks. It gave the football away 30 times last season, finishing dead last in FBS. If Hawaii had been merely average in that department, then its 10-5 campaign could have been truly special.
One game into the 2020 season, the turnover margin reads +3 for the Rainbow Warriors with a double-digit road victory to their credit. I feel like there’s more where that came from this season for Cordeiro and the new staff.
Craig Bohl is an excellent coach, and the fact that he’s not only achieved success but also delivered stability to this program is a testament to his quality.
What he can’t do is play quarterback, and Wyoming is in need of one right now. Sean Chambers suffered his third season-ending injury in as many seasons, leaving the cupboard pretty bare. The Pokes did stage a late comeback against Nevada last weekend, but overall, Levi Williams struggled through the air.
The massive redshirt freshman kept plays alive with his legs, but he barely connected on half of his passes. Hawaii, meanwhile, was incredibly disruptive against Fresno State, notching six pass breakups and seven tackles for loss. That spells trouble for a 19-year-old making his second career start.
Defensively, things get even shakier for the Pokes. Nevada nearly broke 500 yards and killed Wyoming through the air all night. The fact that Wyoming surrendered just 76 yards on the ground was a byproduct of Nevada’s playcalling that chose to put the ball in the air a staggering 52 times. Wyoming was a dominant run defense last season, but it lost nearly half of its production (48%) and needed to replace six starters.
With limited film available on the Warriors’ new-look and an offense that needs time to gel, I just don’t see this being a good matchup for the home team.
Betting Analysis & Pick
Tickets are split nearly down the middle on this game, but the handle is favoring Hawaii 70/30 as of publication. That’s an indicator of sharp money siding with the slight road dog.
I would have been gun shy of Hawaii in this spot had the game been accompanied by a long flight, but the unique circumstances surrounding its appearance in Laramie have me bullish on Graham and his boys.
I’ll be playing Hawaii on the moneyline and the alternate line at -9.5 (+275).
Pick: Hawaii Moneyline +100; Hawaii Alternate Line -9.5 (+275) (Lean)