Thursday night may be the occasion that confirms the old adage that not all football is good football, but all football is good. Neither South Florida nor East Carolina has been particularly inspiring this season, but both have been competitive in the terms we discuss around here, as their combined 5-9 record is outdone by a combined 8-5-1 ATS.
Of course, one or the other will have to win Thursday night, in both regards, and one is far more likely than the other. That will not inherently mean it played better — just less bad.
Here are our free college football picks and predictions for South Florida at East Carolina on October 28, with kickoff set for 7:30 p.m. ET.
South Florida vs East Carolina odds
Odds via the Covers Line, an average comprised of odds from multiple sportsbooks.
Sunday’s earliest lines hung this with East Carolina favored by 7.5 points. By the end of the night, that had risen to 9.5 with brief buybacks down to 7.5. Come Monday morning, that yo-yoing had ceased, with the Pirates firmly favored by 9.5.
The total opened at 57.0 and ticked downward to 56.5. Use the live odds widget above to track any future line movements right up until kickoff and be sure to check out the full college football odds before placing your bets.
South Florida vs East Carolina picks
Picks made on 10/27/2021 at 6:15 p.m. ET.
Click on each pick to jump to the full analysis.
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South Florida vs East Carolina game info
• Location: Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium, Greenville, NC
• Date: Thursday, October 28, 2021
• Time: 7:30 p.m. ET
• TV: ESPN
South Florida vs East Carolina betting preview
Be sure to monitor the gametime conditions with our NCAA football weather info.
South Florida: Xavier Weaver WR (Questionable), Christian Helms WR (Out), Darrien Grant DL (Out), Latrell Williams WR (Out), Isaiah Cromarty DB (Out).
East Carolina: Bailey Malovic OL (Out).
Find our latest NCAA football injury reports.
Betting trend to know
East Carolina is 3-0-1 ATS the following week after its last four straight-up losses. South Florida, meanwhile, is 1-9 ATS the following week after its last 10 ATS wins. Find more NCAA betting trends for South Florida vs. East Carolina.
South Florida vs East Carolina predictions
East Carolina -9.5 (-110)
In a game with no strong units, somehow South Florida’s pass defense still stands out as particularly bad. The Bulls have allowed three opposing offenses to crack 300 yards through the air while giving up 262.6 passing yards per game. Even when South Florida held somebody below 200 passing yards — Temple’s 183 just last week — it still gave up 8.7 yards per pass attempt.
East Carolina is not particularly potent through the air, but junior quarterback Holton Ahlers averages 7.4 yards per attempt and does not mind chucking it around, averaging 34 pass attempts per game.
The Pirates offense may hum best when it can run all over somebody — its two games with at least 40 points this year are also, not coincidentally, the only two times it ran the ball at least 40 times — but who’s doesn’t? Ahlers just put together a strong showing in that loss to Houston, completing 23 of 37 passes for 278 yards (7.5 yards per attempt) with two touchdowns and no interceptions. In his last three games, he has averaged 261.7 yards per game and 7.8 yards per attempt while throwing only one interception compared to his five touchdowns.
Included in those three defenses, Houston has one of the best passing defenses in the country, and Central Florida is a Top-25-esque team — ranking No. 25 in EPA against the pass. Ahlers is not simply finding a rhythm against bad defenses, though Tulane would be considered such, exceedingly comparable to South Florida.
Of note: Against Tulane, Ahlers averaged 9.0 yards per attempt. There is no reason to not think he will do something similar to the Bulls.
Under 56.5 (-110)
If the expectation is Ahlers will pick apart South Florida’s defense, why endorse the Under? Two reasons: First of all, it’s a Thursday, and both these teams played last week. The short week will do no one any favors.
Secondly, the Bulls lack a worthwhile offense in good moments, and the one coming off a win is not a good moment. South Florida’s season has gone so sideways, any win should be seen as setting up a possible letdown the week after.
East Carolina’s decent defense should be decent enough to capitalize on that letdown. Yes, in this tilt, any unit earning the adjective “decent” is considered an outright strength.
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