College football preview and best bets for Thursday slate of games | September 2

Ohio State 2021 Spring Football Game
Ohio State 2021 Spring Football Game

The college football season kicked off its week 1 slate of games on Wednesday with the UAB-Jacksonville State game. Here's a look at the best bets for some of the key games on Thursday's CFB docket.

Temple Owls at Rutgers Scarlett Knights, SHI Stadium, 6 pm (ET)

Temple is coming off a disappointing 1-6 campaign in 2020 that saw the Owls lose several players to Covid protocols, injuries, suspensions and transfers. The Owls return with 11 starters and brought in 11 transfers, with nine coming from power-five conference teams.

Georgia transfer D’Wan Mathis will get the start under center for an offense that features star wide receiver Jaden Blue and speedster Randle Jones.

Rutgers returns 20 starters (11 offense, nine defense) from last year’s squad that went 3-6 as the Scarlett Knights played an all-Big Ten schedule. Wide receiver Bo Melton, running back Isaih Pacheco and wideout/kick returner Aaron Cruickshank are players to watch on offense. The Knights also have a stud on the defensive side in linebacker Olakunle Fatukasi, a candidate for several national awards.

Best bets

Expectations are high among the Scarlet Knight faithful, and while I believe that Rutgers is the better team -- the Knights have a huge advantage on special teams -- there is a lot of guesstimation here. I also like the under, but I am not that confident as both teams defenses were subpar last year.

Best bet: Rutgers -650 money line.

Boise State Broncos at UCF Knights, Bounce House, 7 pm (ET)

Boise State returns 17 starters (nine offense, eight defense) from a 2021 squad that went 5-2 and reached the Mountain West Conference championship game for the fourth straight year. Quarterback Hank Bachmeier, running back George Holani and wide receiver Khalil Shakir are the players to watch under first-year coach Andy Avalos. The Broncos have a solid front seven on defense.

UCF returns 16 players (seven offense, nine defense) from a squad that went a disappointing 6-4 last season. Quarterback Dillion Gabriel has been great as a starter for the Knights and he has many dangerous weapons at wide receiver with Brandon Johnson, Jaylon Robinson, and Ryan O’Keefe. However, the X-factor for first-year head coach Gus Malzahn could be their running attack, led by Northwestern transfer Isaiah Bowser.

This first matchup between the two teams should be outstanding as both teams can pile on the points in bunches. UCF is an offensive juggernaut with no real weakness on that side of the ball, and Malzahn is one of the most creative offensive minds in college. Plus, the Knights have been really good at the Bounce House over the last several years – going 23-2.

Best bet: UCF (-210 money line), take the over in total points (68).

USF Bulls at North Carolina State, Wayne Day Family Field at Carter-Finley Stadium, 7:30 pm (ET)

USF is expected to be better than a year ago when the Bulls went 1-8, but NC State is an up-and-coming team that is coming off an eight-win campaign. Quarterback Devin Leary is healthy after missing the final 10 games of the season with a broken left foot and has plenty of weapons at his disposal.

Best bet: Take North Carolina State (-18) to cover and the total to go under (59 points).

Ohio State Buckeyes at Minnesota Golden Gophers, TCF Bank Stadium, 8 pm (CT)

Ohio State enters the season in an unfamiliar position as they don't have a quarterback who has thrown a collegiate pass on the roster. Freshman CJ Stroud will be behind center, but the Buckeyes still have a lot of talent. Minnesota returns 20 total starters, but the Gophers have not beaten the Buckeyes since 2000.

Best bet: Ohio State (-640 money line), take the under in total points (62.5).

Edited by Colin D'Cunha
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