Our 4 Best Bets For Thursday’s NCAAF Slate

Brent Booher
August 31, 2023 4:00 PM

We’ve finally made it! The dog days of summer are in the rear view mirror and we are set to embark on our first full week of the college football season.

The Thursday night slate serves as our appetizer for what is to come throughout the rest of Labor Day weekend, with college football on the schedule for the next five days before the NFL’s opening week takes center stage.

(What a time to be alive!)

Without further ado, let’s dive into our favorite bets on the Thursday slate. Here’s what we will have on our card tonight.

Kent State at Central Florida (-35.5, O/U 55)

Shout out to sports betting for making this game remotely interesting tonight, because unless you go to UCF there is really no other reason to watch this one.

Kent State enters the new season after finishing 5-7 a season ago, however, their prospects for 2023 look quite dire. The Golden Flashes saw a mass exodus of what little talent they had when their top nine players entered the portal.

They then lost their head coach, Sean Lewis, as he became the new offensive coordinator for Deion Sanders’ Colorado Buffaloes.

In total, Kent State returns just four starters from that 5-7 team, and none (I repeat.. NONE) of those starters play on offense.

Their reward to kick off the new 2023 season is that of Central Florida, who officially makes their move to the Big 12 Conference this season.

While Gus Malzahn’s Golden Knights will face much stiffer competition this season, it’s not likely coming tonight.

UCF returns 15 starters from a team that won nine games a season ago, including starting QB John Rhys Plumlee, who also led the team in rushing with 862 yards and 11 touchdowns in 2022.

Tonight, UCF is more likely to be slowed down by the weather thanks to the remnants of Hurricane Idalia over anything Kent State figures to throw their way.

The Golden Flashes had the 112th ranked total defense in 2022, and should not pose much of a challenge to the quick-tempo Malzahn attack.

Despite the enormous 35.5-point spread, we don’t see Kent State doing much of anything on offense tonight, and in fact we can see this Kent State team being one of the best teams to fade going forward this season.

The rain, potential for a lightning delay or two, and the new clock rules also leave us wanting to dip our toes in the under pool.

Best Spread Bet and Odds: UCF (-35.5); PointsBet (-108)
Best Totals Bet and Odds UNDER 55; BetMGM (-110)

Nebraska at Minnesota (-7.5, O/U 43)

The first Big Ten Conference game of 2023 features two teams going through a lot of changes as they embark on the new season.

Nebraska kicks off the Matt Rhule era after Scott Frost was fired three games into the 2022 season. Despite what Frost’s record was while at Nebraska, this is a Huskers’ roster that still has a fair share of talent on it.

The Huskers will have a new QB under center for tonight’s conference opener when former Georgia Tech QB Jeff Sims gets the nod for Rhule’s Huskers. Sims boasts tremendous size at 6-4, 220 and started 23 games for the Yellow Jackets, accounting for over 5,500 yards of total offense. He could wind up being a transfer portal steal for Rhule.

Meanwhile, Minnesota enters 2023 with a new starting QB of their own as long-time Gopher Tanner Morgan left the Gophers after 17 years with the team (slight exaggeration). Star running back Mo Ibrahim (1665 yards, 20 TD in 2022) graduated and backup RB Trey Potts transferred out, so P.J. Fleck will have some big shoes to fill on the offensive side of the ball.

The Gophers will now be quarterbacked by sophomore Athan Kaliakmanis, who had 946 yards passing with 3 TD and 4 INT in limited action a season ago, but like Sims with Nebraska, there are a lot of unanswered questions about how each QB will look in their new roles.

This has all the makings of two teams with a lot of new faces trying to get their footing in an early conference game, and we think 7.5-points is a bit too much to give Minnesota tonight. Matt Rhule’s 11-3 ATS record as a betting underdog while at Baylor only makes that bet that much more alluring.

Given all the question marks on the Gophers’ offense, we also will sprinkle a bit on the Huskers’ moneyline, but like the points a lot more tonight.

Best Bet and Odds: Nebraska (+7.5); BetMGM (-110)

Florida at #14 Utah (-4.5, O/U 44.5)

The marquee game of the Thursday slate took a bit of a hit when Cameron Rising was ruled out of tonight’s game as he continues to recover from a torn ACL that he suffered in the Rose Bowl.

The news of Rising’s status for tonight’s game caused the line to drop down to 4.5-points after opening at 9.5 when the opening odds were first set months ago.

With Rising out of tonight’s game, Utah will turn to QB Bryson Barnes with QB Nate Johnson potentially getting a few series as well.

Meanwhile, Billy Napier’s Florida Gators will be rolling with former Wisconsin QB Graham Mertz as they look to fill the shoes left behind by 4th overall pick Anthony Richardson.

However, even with Richardson at QB a season ago, the Gators’ offense struggled for long stretches of time, so adding an iffy QB like Mertz into the fold doesn’t do a whole lot to generate a great deal of faith in Florida to find an explosive spark on that side of the ball. The Gators also have a lot of questions along their offensive line, something that doesn’t bode well against a stingy Kyle Whittingham defense.

This has all the makings of a very gross offensive game, and with Utah’s uncertainty at QB they have to deal with tonight, we’ll stay away from picking a side here and instead back the under at 44.5.

We would, however, have a great deal of interest in a possible live bet on the Utes should that number slide under a field goal during the game.

Best Bet and Odds: UNDER 44.5; DraftKings (-110)

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