The Thursday night offerings this week in college football are not spectacular, but they’re all conference games, and therefore hold a great deal of meaning for the teams involved.
Rutgers Scarlet Knights @ Louisville Cardinals
Thursday, 7:35 PM ET
College Football Betting Odds: Louisville -17
This game is simply a hard one for Rutgers to deal with. The Scarlet Knights led Louisville by a 14-3 margin in the second half of last year’s meeting between the two schools, but a penalty denied Rutgers a touchdown and a 21-3 lead, which likely would have put the game away. Louisville rallied for a 20-17 win to capture the Big East championship and a spot in the Bowl Championship Series. Now, Rutgers has to go on the road to play Louisville. Moreover, the Scarlet Knights are facing a version of Teddy Bridgewater that is much better than the 2012 version, if only because the 2012 version was injured in the latter half of the season. The Louisville quarterback has been brilliant so far this season, and so Rutgers is going to have a hard time containing the Cardinals’ offense. Rutgers also played three overtimes this past Saturday in suburban Dallas against Southern Methodist. The Scarlet Knights have a short week and must commute from New Jersey to Kentucky to play this game. The football line is so high because Rutgers might be tired. The sense here is that fatigue will indeed wear down the Scarlet Knights in the second half, and Louisville will pull away.
Pick: Louisville -17
San Diego State Aztecs @ Air Force Falcons
Thursday, 9:05 PM ET
College Football Betting Odds: San Diego State -4
This game should be a close one, and it feels like an event that’s hard to predict. There’s nothing certain about a San Diego State football game. This team blew a fourth-quarter lead to Oregon State last month, and it lost a 21-point fourth-quarter lead to Nevada this past Friday before surviving in overtime. The Aztecs’ defense is vulnerable to Air Force’s triple-option offense, especially with a short week of preparation. Air Force’s defense isn’t very good, but the Falcons definitely played better against Navy this past weekend. Air Force is going to be motivated here. The Falcons want to get to a bowl game and must win at least five games over the next two months if they want to reach their goal. Take Air Force outright.
Pick: Air Force +4
Arizona Wildcats @ USC Trojans
Thursday, 10:35 PM ET
College Football Betting Odds: USC -6
This game should be wild and scattered in nature. No one knows what to expect from USC now that the Trojans have fired head coach Lane Kiffin, replacing him with interim boss Ed Orgeron. USC has responded well to Orgeron in recent practices over the past two weeks. You’ll probably see USC play with a good mindset. However, the Trojans’ defense is just not as good as previously thought. USC’s defense hammered the offenses of Hawaii, Washington State, Boston College, and Utah State, and people near the program thought this defense was going to be the strength of the team. Then, however, the Trojans came up against a talented and athletic Arizona State offense and surrendered 62 points. Arizona will cover the college football spread in this game because its spread-option offense will confuse the Trojans at times, and because USC’s offense won’t be as sharp as it needs to be. However, USC will get the win because Arizona just can’t throw the ball well enough to score a lot of touchdowns.
Pick: Arizona +6