Week 10 in the college football season gets underway on Thursday night with both Mountaineers programs in action as West Virginia tangles with Baylor, and Appalachian State hosts Georgia Southern. We break down the odds for those Thursday matchups as well as a pair of games on the weekend in our college football best bets and predictions.
NOT A GREAT MATCHUP
The West Virginia Mountaineers had an extra week to prepare for this week’s encounter with the host Baylor Bears – but not even that might cure what ails them. The Mountaineers enter Thursday’s matchup with one of the worst rush attacks in the nation, averaging a paltry 2.9 yards per carry on 213 attempts. And they’ll get no relief from a Bears defense that has punished opposing backfields, limiting them to just 3.6 yards per attempt so far this season. West Virginia’s pass protection will also face a major test from a Baylor defensive unit that leads the Big 12 in sacks with 25 despite having played just seven games.
You could bet on the Mountaineers having figured out its ground game, or you could acknowledge that West Virginia could find itself struggling to score against the Bears in hostile territory. Either way, we like Baylor to cover the spread here.
GO LOW, THEN GO LOWER
What happens when two run-heavy teams with stout ground defenses face off against one another? We’ll find out Thursday night as Georgia Southern brings its sixth-ranked rush attack into Appalachian State for a showdown with the Mountaineers. App State ranks 14th in the country in rushing yards per game, setting the stage for what should be a whole lot of handoffs. But both teams have defended the run well this season, with the visiting Eagles having limited opponents to just 133.0 yards per game (3.46 YPC) and Appalachian State having been just as proficient defensively (118.5 YPG, 3.51 YPC in conference play).
Both teams should be able to move the ball, but not nearly as efficiently as they have for the majority of the season. The total for this game is already three points lower than its opener, and that’s still not low enough. We favor the under.
TAYLOR A GAMETIME DECISION
The Memphis Tigers might have another stud running back in the fold for this week’s pivotal AAC showdown with visiting SMU. Patrick Taylor Jr. suffered a leg injury in the Tigers’ season opener against Ole Miss on Aug. 31 and hasn’t played since – but has been practicing in a non-contact jersey this week and is a game-time decision against the Mustangs. His return would give Memphis an incredible 1-2 punch in the backfield; Taylor racked up 128 rushing yards and a score vs. the Rebels, while freshman Kenneth Gainwell has compiled 979 yards and 11 touchdowns in Taylor’s absence.
Memphis is already looking at a total in the high-30s for this one, but if Taylor returns, we’ll feel a whole lot better about taking the Over. Keep an eye on Taylor’s status, and act accordingly.
HAMMERIN’ HANK SET TO RETURN
The Boise State Broncos are hoping to have their No. 1 quarterback on the field this weekend against host San Jose State. Hank Bachmeier missed last week’s 28-25 loss at BYU – the Broncos’ first defeat of the season – with a lower-body injury. But the freshman was seen throwing passes to Boise State receivers in practice earlier this week, though the team hasn’t updated his status. Bachmeier has been one of the top first-year quarterbacks in the country so far, throwing for more than 1,500 yards with nine touchdowns, three interceptions and a rushing score.
The Broncos’ offense looked out-of-sync against the Cougars, especially through the air (185 total yards, 5.8 yards per attempt). Bachmeier’s return, coupled with SJSU’s dismal run defense, should make Boise State a solid option to go Over its team total.