College football fans don’t have to wait until Saturday for their betting action in Week 1 as there are plenty of games on both Thursday and Friday. Here’s a look at one key matchup each night along with NCAAF odds.
Top college football games on Thursday and Friday
No. 4 Ohio State at Minnesota (+14)
It’s an 8 p.m. ET kickoff Thursday on Fox TV. Ohio State is No. 4 in the preseason AP Top 25. Ohio State has appeared in the AP preseason poll for 33 consecutive years, which is the longest active streak of any program in the country. Oklahoma is second at 22 years. The streak, which began in 1989, includes 12 appearances in the top-five of the poll.
The Buckeyes are now just one year away from tying Penn State for the longest poll run in AP history. The Nittany Lions appeared in every preseason poll from 1968 through 2002. Ohio State’s current streak ties Nebraska (1970-2002) for the second-longest in poll history.
The Buckeyes begin life without star QB Justin Fields. Redshirts CJ Stroud has won the starting job in his place. Stroud, who was the backup to Fields last fall, beat out Jack Miller and freshman Kyle McCord. None of them has thrown a pass in a college game, but the 6-foot-3, 218-pound Stroud completed 16 of 22 passes for 185 yards and two touchdowns in the spring game.
Stroud played in three games as a true freshman in 2020, against Rutgers, Michigan State and Clemson in the College Football Playoff semifinal, and he had a 48-yard rushing touchdown against the Spartans.
While the Gophers aren’t ranked, don’t be surprised if they win the Big Ten West Division. They welcome back one of the conference’s best QBs in Tanner Morgan. He is 18-8 as a starter and has completed 405 passes (seventh most in school history) of 653 attempts (eighth most in school history) for 6,028 yards (sixth most in school history) in his career. His career completion percentage of .620 (405-of-623) ranks first in school history and his 46 career touchdown passes ranks fourth. Morgan threw a touchdown pass in a school-record 18 consecutive games from Dec. 26, 2018 to Nov. 13, 2020.
Ohio State opens a season with a true road game for just the 12th time in school history. It is also just the fourth time OSU has opened a season with a conference game. Coach Ryan Day has never lost a game to a Big Ten team posting a 17-0 record in the last two-plus seasons against conference opponents (including two championship game wins). OSU has won its last 21 meetings against Big Ten opponents overall, dating to a loss at Purdue midway through the 2018 season. Pick: Minnesota.
No. 10 North Carolina at Virginia Tech (+5)
Friday night game at 6 p.m. ET on ESPN. Last year, the Heels hosted Virginia Tech and won 56-45. Michael Carter ran for a career-high 214 yards and two touchdowns — including a 62-yarder midway through the fourth quarter. Javonte Williams ran for a 169 yards and two more scores. The Heels had 399 rushing yards — their best output since 1993 and against an Atlantic Coast Conference opponent since 1988. Both Carter and Williams are now in the NFL.
North Carolina has arguably the nation’s best quarterback in Sam Howell, who might be the No. 1 overall pick in next year’s NFL Draft. Howell, who was named Preseason ACC Player of the Year, led the ACC and ranked sixth nationally with 30 touchdown passes in 2020. Additionally, Howell ranked fourth in the country and topped the league with 3,586 passing yards last fall in helping lead the Tar Heels to the Orange Bowl for the first time in program history.
Howell’s top target is Beau Corrales. He has 80 receptions for 1,176 yards and 12 receiving touchdowns in his collegiate career. After setting career highs in receptions (40), receiving yards (575) and touchdowns (6) as a junior in 2019, Corrales was limited to just 13 catches in five games in 2020.
The Hokies will go with Braxton Burmeister at QB. He’s 3-1 as a starter at Tech. He started the loss to North Carolina last year and rushed 11 times for 51 yards and a TD. The Oregon transfer ended last season on a positive note, leading the Hokies to 33-15 victory over Virginia to reclaim the Commonwealth Cup. He threw for a career-high 212 yards in the win, completing 15 of 22 throws with a touchdown.
Jalen Holston and Raheem Blackshear give Tech a solid one-two punch on the ground in the backfield. Holston finished last season with 40 carries for 189 yards, including a pair of rushing scores vs. Miami. The speedy Blackshear can line up in the backfield or in the slot, making him a difficult match-up for opposing defenses. The Rutgers transfer rushed 68 times for 255 yards with two TDs a year ago and led the RB room with 18 receptions. Pick: North Carolina.
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