College football betting, odds: Let's roll with some underdogs on Thursday night

·Betting analyst
·3 min read

Week 0 is done and dusted (thank goodness). We move on to a full slate of college football betting options. The action begins Thursday with a few intriguing matchups but only a couple have my attention.

Here’s what I like:

West Virginia +7.5 at Pittsburgh (-110)

The Mountaineers have been my go-to fade on the road team in the last two seasons, going 3-7 ATS. That was with quarterback Jarett Doege, who had some of the most lopsided splits I’ve seen in college football. He had a 33-to-7 touchdown-to-interception ratio at home, but when traveling it was 10-to-9. Doege is gone and in comes JT Daniels from Georgia. Daniels brings a higher ceiling to this offense after throwing for 4,840 yards in his college career.

MORGANTOWN, WV - APRIL 23: West Virginia Mountaineers head coach Neal Brown on the field during the West Virginia Mountaineers college football spring game on April 23, 2022, at Mountaineer Field at Milan Puskar Stadium in Morgantown, WV. (Photo by Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
West Virginia head coach Neal Brown walks on the field during the football spring game on April 23, 2022, in Morgantown. (Photo by Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Pittsburgh is coming off a 11-3 season with head coach Pat Narduzzi getting his contract extended through 2030. Kenny Pickett is now in the NFL with USC transfer Kedon Slovis starting at quarterback. With both teams starting new quarterbacks, I have to look at the defense. Pitt was first in quarterback pressure last season and returns the entire defensive line. The problem is, the Panthers were 119th in passing defense. Now, Daniels isn’t exactly CJ Stroud, but he does have a 7.9-yard completion average in his career with a 64% completion percentage.

The Mountaineers had a top-50 defense that also has a load of returning production and should be an improved unit in terms of yardage allowed. This could be more of a competitive defensive battle with West Virginia having a huge edge (top 60 in passing defense last year) compared to Pitt. I like Daniels to bring a new spark to this offense on the road. Slovis certainly still has some question marks coming off a season with eight interceptions and 11 touchdowns. Am I ready to call for the +240 underdog upset? Not quite. It is just Week 1, after all. Let’s take things slowly and ease into the new season.

Penn State at Purdue +3.5 (-110)

Could Purdue QB Aidan O’Connell be better than Penn State QB Sean Clifford? Clifford ended the 2021 season on a poor note, throwing two interceptions and completing 44 percent of his passes in a 24-10 loss to Arkansas. Clifford had his best passing yards production last year despite being sacked 30 times. O’Connell threw for more yardage, higher yards per completion and more passing touchdowns than Clifford with a higher completion percentage. Are the Nittany Lions in a position to rebound after losing six of their last eight games last season?

The Penn State offense ranked bottom 30 in yards per play and lost its top wide receiver in Jahan Doston, who accounted for half the receiving scores and nearly 1,200 receiving yards. The defense for Penn State wasn’t much either, ranking 81st in sacks. Though it was top 40 in total defense, the Nittany Lions lost their top two linebackers and top cornerback.

I like O’Connell to do some damage to this Penn State defense. In six games last season, he threw for at least 370 yards, including 375 with two touchdown against a stout Iowa defense. Grabbing +140 is worth the risk on a team that looks to have the better offense. I’ll be conservative and grab the points, although I also like over 53. This game features two pass-only offenses with questionable defenses.