Get college football best bets for the Thursday 10/19/23 slate. This article features an analysis of Rice vs. Tulsa and James Madison vs. Marshall.
College Football Week 8 Best Bets – Thursday Slate (10/19/23)
We’re onto Week 8 of the college football season, and there are two exciting games on Thursday night. Check out the Lineups YouTube page for further discussion of the biggest games on Saturday. We’ll have a best bets article for the Saturday slate, as well.
James Madison Dukes Vs. Marshall Thundering Herd
If you haven’t watched James Madison this season, you’re in for a treat. The Dukes are off to a 6-0 start after finishing 8-3 last year in their first season in the FBS. While they aren’t postseason eligible under the NCAA’s backwards rules, James Madison is going scorched earth and has crushed its early schedule, ranking 14th in ESPN’s strength of record metric.
This week, James Madison looks for revenge against Marshall after losing to them last season. The Thundering Herd offense revolves around Rasheen Ali, who ranks third in the FBS with 11 rushing touchdowns. However, their run game hasn’t been particularly efficient – they rank 126th in rushing success rate and are going against a JMU defense that leads the FBS in rushing success rate allowed and has allowed just 1.4 yards per carry.
I was less convinced by James Madison’s pass defense to start the year, but they put the clamps on Davis Brin in that game. The Dukes rank top 20 in the country with a 9.1% sack rate and Jalen Green is having a monster season as he’s tied for the FBS lead with ten sacks per PFF. That spells trouble for Cam Fancher, a quarterback who has melted under pressure at times.
If there has been a weakness for James Madison, it’s been running the ball – they’re just 124th in rushing EPA per play. However, they now face a Marshall defense that can’t stop the run, ranking 116th in rushing EPA allowed. Look for Kaelon Black, who leads the team with 445 rushing yards, to have a productive evening.
Still, this James Madison offense is led by quarterback, a transfer who previously played at USF and Arizona. McCloud has 14 touchdowns to just three interceptions this year and is coming off perhaps his best game with three touchdowns and no picks as well as a season high 80.6 PFF passing grade.
Marshall’s defense has declined across the board from last season, which was expected after losing defensive coordinator Lance Guidry to Miami. They rank 123rd in explosive plays allowed and 89th in PFF’s tackling grades, routinely allowing big plays on the ground and through the air.
There will be a sell high point for James Madison at some point this season, but this isn’t it. Head coach Curt Cignetti is putting on a master class in motivation and I expect the James Madison wagon to keep rolling on Thursday night.
Best Bet: James Madison -3.5
Rice Owls Vs. Tulsa Golden Hurricane
While the James Madison vs. Marshall game gets top billing on ESPN – and rightfully so – there’s a fascinating game taking place on ESPN2 between Rice and Tulsa. Both of these AAC teams are coming off their respective bye weeks and looking to elevate from identical 3-3 overall records (1-1 in conference play).
Rice transferred in quarterback J.T. Daniels before the season, and he’s had a strong start to the season with 8.8 yards per attempt and a 15-5 TD-INT rate. After playing through an injury against UConn in Week 6, the bye week will have done him some good heading into this matchup.
Daniels has found instant success with wide receiver Luke McCaffrey, who is well on pace to post career numbers – he already has 30 catches for 514 yards and six touchdowns. The duo will look to do damage against a Tulsa pass defense that ranks 123rd in success rate allowed.
Context is needed when it comes to the Tulsa pass defense as their numbers took a hit with early matchups against Washington and Oklahoma. However, they’ve also had the luxury of facing two backup passers and the struggling Temple passing offense in recent weeks.
Kevin Wilson, former Ohio State offensive coordinator and new Tulsa head coach, leans on the run game as the Hurricane ranks sixth in rush play rate. However, this Rice defense has been stout against the run, ranking 40th in rushing success rate allowed.
True freshman Cardell Williams has started most of the season for Tulsa over Braylon Braxton, who had been dealing with an ankle injury but appeared off the bench last week. Without him, the Hurricane hasn’t shown a willingness to throw the ball – they rank 114th in passing plays per game. His return could be huge for the offense.
If you can find a Rice +3.5 before kickoff, I’d obviously prefer that route since 3 is such a key number, but we still get some push protection in betting the +3 here. I like Rice to win this game outright, but we’ll take the points with the Owls on Thursday night.
Update: It seems like Braylon Braxton could get the start tonight based on the recent line move to Tulsa -3.5, so I’d hold off on this one for now. If it’s Braxton under center, I like this bet much less as he provides real passing upside for an offense that badly needs it.
Best Bet: Rice +3