Thursday's NCAAF action: What bettors need to know

Nov 20, 2013 |
Thursday's NCAAF action: What bettors need to know
UCF QB Blake Bortles ranks seventh in FBS in passer efficiency (168.6).
Photo By - USA Today Sports
UCF QB Blake Bortles ranks seventh in FBS in passer efficiency (168.6).
Photo By - USA Today Sports
Rutgers Scarlet Knights at Central Florida Knights (-17.5, 57.5)

Central Florida looks to follow up a remarkable road victory and stay unbeaten in the American Athletic Conference when it hosts Rutgers on Thursday. The No. 20 Knights' remarkable run through the league slate continued Saturday with perhaps the game of the weekend in college football as standout quarterback Blake Bortles led his team to 10 points in the final 1:06 to steal a 39-36 victory at Temple. Late drama is nothing new to Central Florida, which has won five games by seven points or less, four during its five-game winning streak.

While the Knights may eventually eye a conference crown and an automatic BCS berth, the Scarlet Knights still have plenty to play for as well. They remain one win shy of bowl eligibility for the eighth time in nine years. Rutgers also had a three-point win against Temple before it suffered a 52-17 loss to Cincinnati on Saturday, its third setback in four games.

TV: 7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN.
LINE: Central Florida opened as low as 16.5 and jumped to 17.5. The total is set at 57.5 points.
WEATHER: Temperatures in mid 70s with a 27 percent chance of rain early on. Winds blowing NNE at 6 mph.

Although it has a shot at gaining that bowl eligibility, a once-promising season has taken a bad turn for the Scarlet Knights, whose 1-3 slide has coincided with an allegation by a former player of bullying by a coach and an embarrassing home loss to the Bearcats. Gary Nova's touchdown pass late in the first quarter Rutgers cut Cincinnati's lead to 10-7, but the Bearcats responded with six straight touchdowns. Nova threw two interceptions and has nine picks against five touchdowns in the last four games.

ABOUT CENTRAL FLORIDA (8-1, 5-0): Many who had not heard of Bortles prior to the Temple game are now well aware of his exploits. In the comeback win over the Owls, the junior threw for a career-high 404 yards, leading Central Florida to 657 total yards, the most the program has amassed in a game since it joined the FBS ranks in 1996. Bortles ranks seventh in FBS in passer efficiency (168.6).


* Scarlet Knights are 4-1 ATS in their last five Thursday games.
* Knights are 5-1 ATS in their last six home games.
* Under is 11-5 in Scarlet Knights last 16 road games.

Rice Owls at Alabama-Birmingham Blazers (+19, 63.5)

Rice looks to keep its chances at the Conference USA West Division title alive Thursday night as it visits Alabama-Birmingham. The Owls fell to division co-leader North Texas two weeks ago but bounced back in its previous game, rolling past Louisiana Tech 52-14 on the strength of Charles Ross' conference record-tying five rushing touchdowns. The Blazers have dropped four straight games and have surrendered a whopping 119 points in their last two defeats.

The Owls have built much of their success on a potent running game - and after struggling to gain much real estate in the loss to the Mean Green, they atoned with a sensational performance against the Bulldogs. Ross racked up 215 of Rice's 415 rushing yards, and the Owls finished with six scores on the ground to improve to 5-1 in conference play. UAB has been feasted on all season, allowing more than 42 points per game.

TV: 7:30 p.m. ET, Fox Sports 1
LINE: UAB is installed as a 19-point dog after being as low as +20. The over/under is set at 63 1/2.
WEATHER: Temperatures will be in the mid-50s under partly cloudy skies. Wind will blow northwest across the width of the field at 6 mph.

ABOUT RICE (7-3, 5-1 Conference USA): Ross has been the centerpiece of one of the best rushing attacks in the country, surpassing the 1,000-yard plateau for the season last time out while leading the conference with 11 rushing scores. Quarterback Taylor McHargue has had an up-and-down season to date, throwing for 1,751 yards with 13 touchdowns and eight interceptions. He has also run for 359 yards, but had just one in the victory over Louisiana Tech.

ABOUT UAB (2-8, 1-5): Austin Brown and Jonathan Perry have formed a competent quarterback tandem for the Blazers, combining to throw for nearly 2,100 yards with 16 touchdowns and eight interceptions. Perry threw for a season-best 210 yards in last week's loss to East Carolina but was picked off twice - one of which was returned by Kyle Tudor for a 50-yard touchdown. Darrin Reaves (827 yards, nine TDs) and Jordan Howard (826 yards, two TDs) pace the run attack.


* Owls are 5-0 ATS in their last five games vs. teams with losing records.
* Blazers are 1-7 ATS in their last eight conference games.
* Over is 7-0 in UAB's last seven games vs. teams with winning records.

UNLV Rebels at Air Force Falcons (-1, 61)

The UNLV Rebels look to get their season back on track as they visit Colorado for a showdown with the Air Force Falcons. The Rebels have lost three of their last four games - including back-to-back home defeats to San Jose State and Utah State - to spoil what had been a solid start to the year. The Falcons have struggled all season long but have been better of late, defeating Army at home before dropping a 45-37 shootout against host New Mexico.

The Rebels may be in for a struggle Thursday as they bring a shaky run defense into Falcon Stadium. UNLV ranks eighth in the 12-team Mountain West Conference in rushing yards allowed per game (234.5) while surrendering 22 touchdowns on the ground and 5 1/2 yards per carry. If Air Force has done one thing well this season, it's running the ball - the Falcons are second in the conference and 11th in the FBS in rushing yards per game at 277.

TV: 9:30 p.m. ET, ESPNU
LINE: Air Force is listed as a one-point fave, down slightly from a 1 1/2-point open. The over/under has held at 61.
WEATHER: Snow is in the forecast at Falcon Stadium with temperatures in the mid-teens and wind blowing across the length of the field at 13 mph.

ABOUT UNLV (5-3, 3-3 Mountain West): Thursday's X-factor could be Rebels senior quarterback Caleb Herring, who will look to solve a Falcons pass defense that ranks fourth in the conference in yards against per game. Herring has thrown for more than 250 yards in three straight games, with seven touchdowns and just three interceptions over that span. His performance could ultimately determine whether feature back Tim Cornett (970 yards, 11 TDs) has room to run.

ABOUT AIR FORCE (2-8, 0-6): Solving the Falcons' offense isn't difficult - Air Force has run the ball an unfathomable 538 times so far in 2013, while attempting just 141 passes. But stopping the Falcons' ground attack is a much harder task; they're averaging better than five yards per carry with 26 rushing touchdowns spread out among nine different players. Eighteen different Falcons have at least one carry, led by Anthony LaCoste with 111 for 781 yards and six scores.


* Rebels are 8-3-2 ATS in their last 13 games following a SU loss
* Falcons are 2-7 ATS in their last nine conference games.
* Over is 6-1 in the last seven meetings.

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