There is a pair of college football matchups for bettors to sink their teeth into on Thursday night. Georgia Southern faces Texas State, but the main event is a Big 12 showdown between Texas Tech and TCU in Fort Worth. Unfortunately for the Red Raiders, they'll be without their starting quarterback. We deliver you the need-to-know notes to help you crack the odds for these, and all of college football's biggest matchups in Week 7.
LONG DRIVES AHEAD
Third-down execution will be critical Thursday night as Georgia Southern and Texas State lock horns at Bobcat Stadium. The host Bobcats will be looking to improve on their third-down defense, having allowed foes to convert 34 of 80 chances – good for a 42.5-percent success rate that ranks just outside the top 100 nationally. Fortunately for them, the Eagles have been even worse – surrendering a score or a new set of downs on 43.7 percent of opponent third downs, ranking them 108th overall. Unfortunately for Texas State, they've made good on just a third of their own third-down chances.
Third-down defensive ineptitude on both sides should mean longer drives – and subsequently, more scoring. The Over on the total of 52 is an intriguing play, as are the Overs on the Georgia Southern (35.5) and Texas State team totals (16.5).
BOWMAN OUT OF COMMISSION
The Texas Tech Red Raiders likely won't have quarterback Alan Bowman in the lineup for Thursday's marquee matchup with TCU. Bowman, who suffered a collapsed lung against West Virginia two weeks ago, has been released from hospital but his status has been downgraded from questionable from doubtful despite head coach Kliff Kingsbury's optimism that his starting QB would be able to return. It's a major absence for the visiting Red Raiders, as Bowman enters the week having thrown for nearly 1,700 yards with 11 touchdowns and three interceptions through five games.
Bowman's expected absence hasn't impacted the line – the host Horned Frogs are 7.5-point favorites – but the total, which had already dipped from 63.5 to 59, slipped to 58.5 in some spots once the news hit. Jett Duffey, who will make his first career start, threw for 173 yards with one TD and two INTs in relief of Bowman. Consider the Under on Tech's team total of 23.5.
HIT THE ROAD, MEACHAM
A three-game losing skid has cost the Kansas Jayhawks' offensive coordinator Doug Meacham his job. Meacham, who was also the team's quarterback coach, was shown the door after the Jayhawks fell to 0-3 in conference play with last week's 38-22 defeat at West Virginia. Meacham joined the Jayhawks after the 2016 season and led the team to a nine-point jump in scoring average from last season to this season. But Kansas has struggled to maintain good drives, having made just 13 red zone trips though its first six games.
Things don't get any easier coming up for Kansas, which is on a bye this week but finishes its schedule with road games against Texas Tech, Kansas State and Oklahoma and home dates with TCU, Iowa State and Texas. And with the Jayhawks having covered one of their last nine games following a bye, consider the Red Raiders ATS in their Oct. 20 matchup.
Iowa State running back David Montgomery is considered day-to-day with an arm injury but left the door open for a possible return Saturday against West Virginia. Montgomery, who suffered the injury in late September against TCU, was forced to sit out last week's contest with Oklahoma State. Montgomery's return could be significant, as the junior rusher has put together back-to-back 100-yard contests and has scored a rushing touchdown in each of his previous three games. Johnnie Lang and Sheldon Croney will likely split the work if Montgomery is unable to play.
Iowa State was already a good bet to lean more toward the pass with the Mountaineers allowing a paltry 3.39 yards per carry. If Montgomery sits out, the Cyclones could forego the run altogether – and that should put the over on the 56-point total squarely in bettors' sights, despite West Virginia ranking inside the top 50 in passing yards allowed per game (211.4).
The Hawaii Rainbow Warriors will have their standout quarterback in the lineup for Saturday's road encounter with Brigham Young. McDonald was a late scratch from last week's 17-13 triumph vs. Wyoming with an undisclosed injury, ceding the start to Chevan Cordero. But McDonald put in a full practice Tuesday and confirmed that he plans to play this weekend. The sophomore has had a sensational season for the Rainbow Warriors, having thrown for an absurd 2,100 yard with 24 touchdown passes and a pair of rushing scores through six games.
Hawaii went 4-2 O/U in McDonald's six starts but went 25 points below the total last week with Cordero at the helm. Look for the over to be the superior play on Saturday's total of 56.5, even with the Cougars having gone just 1-5 O/U on the season.
FANT'S STATUS IN DOUBT
Iowa Hawkeyes tight end Noah Fant is questionable for this Saturday's game against Indiana. Fant will need to go through the concussion protocol this week after suffering a head injury in last weekend's 48-31 victory over Minnesota. Fant finished with four receptions for 27 yards and a touchdown in the wild win, and has reached the end zone a team-best five times through the Hawkeyes' first five games. It's a significant loss for Iowa, with Fant having accounted for 16 touchdowns over the past two seasons despite catching just 49 passes over that span.
Fant's absence would put Iowa's shot at both the cover (the Hawkeyes are -5.5) and the over on the team total (29.5) in doubt. Fant has accounted for five of the Hawkeyes' seven receiving scores in the red zone, while Nick Easley is the only other Iowa receiver with multiple TD catches on the season.
BACKFIELD REINFORCEMENTS FOR BIG BLUE
Michigan running back Chris Evans is set to return this week as the Wolverines take on visiting Wisconsin in a pivotal Big Ten showdown. Evans, who is dealing with an undisclosed injury, was on the field for warm-ups last week against Maryland but was ultimately made a late scratch for the 42-21 Michigan victory. Evans has battled injuries this season, but has racked up 172 yards and a pair of touchdowns on just 30 carries. He'll likely split work with No. 1 option Karan Higdon against the Badgers, who have limited opponents to 130.2 yards per game on the ground with just three rushing TDs against.
This game will likely be decided on the ground - and while the return of Evans will bolster Michigan's offense, both teams are quite capable of stuffing the run. We suggest taking the under on the 47.5-point total.
DENT IN THE ARMOR
Alabama's vaunted defense has lost a critical piece heading into Saturday's encounter with visiting Missouri. Cornerback Trevon Diggs suffered a broken foot in last weekend's triumph over Arkansas and has been ruled out for the remainder of the season. Diggs had made a name for himself as one of the top defenders in the SEC, racking up 20 tackles, six passes defended and an interception in his first season in the starting lineup. He'll be replaced by five-star recruit Patrick Surtain, the son of the former All-Pro NFL cornerback of the same name.
Being able to slide a five-star recruit into the lineup certainly doesn't hurt, but the loss of Diggs is a big one - and could help the Tigers reach their team total, which stands at approximately 23 points. But bettors beware: The Crimson Tide haven't allowed more than 23 points in 22 consecutive home games, holding teams to single digits 11 times in that span.