Once again this week, we could postulate that every game is a situational spot in college football. Travel is just different in the age of coronavirus. More than that, though, there are some teams playing for the first time against teams that have already played. There are some teams playing after a week off. There are a lot of different considerations across the college football landscape this week.
Let’s go ahead and take a look at them in this week’s college football situational spots:
Louisiana at Georgia State – Not only has Louisiana played a game already, but the Ragin’ Cajuns went on the road and beat a pretty good Big 12 team in the Iowa State Cyclones. Facing Georgia State represents a clear step down, but the Panthers will have fans in attendance in Atlanta and will be eager to get on the field for the first time. Louisiana isn’t on upset alert here as a 17-point favorite, but they’ll have to avoid coming in too high on the hog, even if GSU hasn’t played yet.
FAU at Georgia Southern – Georgia Southern was missing 38 players last week, some of which were held out because of COVID and contact tracing. Others were suspended. This week, FAU has a handful of players being quarantined under COVID suspicions. Frankly, this game is a mess, but it will be the first game for FAU with new head coach Willie Taggart, so we’ll see how they do with the switch from Lane Kiffin.
Wake Forest at NC State – Another scenario here in which one team has played and another team hasn’t. NC State has not taken the field yet. Wake Forest lost to Clemson, as expected, but did play well enough to cover the lofty spread. NC State would be a bigger favorite if all things were equal, but they’re not. They do return 10 starters on offense, but this was a poor offense and a 4-8 team last season.
UCF at Georgia Tech – Lather, rinse, repeat here. Georgia Tech has played and played well enough to beat Florida State. UCF has not played. This is another line that would likely be higher, but we have a data point for Georgia Tech and it was a pretty good one. We have nothing on UCF, though the Knights are definitely expected to be quite good.
Boston College at Duke – Broken record. Again, Duke has played, and played pretty well. Boston College has not played and has a first-year head coach in Jeff Hafley. Growing pains are expected from the Eagles, but it is worth noting that this line is only 6 and some of the sharper global markets have Boston College down to 5.5. This appears to maybe be a sharp vs. public split game, even though the situation clearly favors Duke having gotten on the field against another opponent.
Appalachian State at Marshall – Is this a weirder spot than not having played? The last thing you want to do is play a game and then sit around for two weeks. You’d rather get into the rhythms of the season, whatever that may be in 2020. Marshall played, blew out Eastern Kentucky, and then had the game against East Carolina canceled, so they’re technically off a bye here against an App State team that just played and beat Charlotte. Strange spot for the Thundering Herd and maybe the movement on App State up to -5.5 reflects that.
Liberty at Western Kentucky – djkhaled.gif. Another one. Liberty has not played. Western Kentucky has played. Liberty will be missing a ton of talent from last season with Stephen Calvert and Antonio Gandy-Golden gone. They also lose a 1,000-yard rusher in Frankie Hickson. This will be their first game of the season and it comes against a pretty good Western Kentucky bunch. The Flames really lack returning production and face a team that has already played. This could be a rout for WKU.
Louisiana Tech at Southern Miss – This game is full of interesting nuggets. LA Tech had its game against Baylor canceled because of a COVID outbreak. Southern Miss played two weeks ago, lost as a double-digit favorite to South Alabama, and then lost head coach Jay Hopson. He resigned from his post after just one game, so the Golden Eagles are in a major state of flux. They also fall into that Marshall role of having played once and then taking a week off. I’m not sure how to interpret anything about this game, but Southern Miss has taken the money to this point.
Navy at Tulane – Navy head coach Ken Niumatalolo lamented the fact that his team didn’t do any hitting in the lead-up to the season. That was very apparent in the blowout loss to BYU. Now Navy hits the road for a conference game against Tulane. Tulane won last week, but it wasn’t pretty. They also draw a Navy team technically off of a bye. The spot doesn’t really seem to favor either team, as Navy should be a lot more prepared this time around.
Troy at Middle Tennessee – We have one data point for MTSU and it was not good at all. They are not facing a triple-option offense now, though, as they host the Troy Trojans. This is the 2020 opener for Troy, so another spot in which one team has played and one team has not, but we can’t really call what MTSU did “playing”. They had no interest in defending the Army option and the offense had very little time to work with the time of possession discrepancy. Of the games with a team that has played and a team that hasn’t, these two teams are on fairly equal footing.
Tulsa at Oklahoma State – This game was originally slated for last week, but got pushed back a week because Tulsa felt that they were not ready to go. Oklahoma State obliged their request. Neither team has played yet, but you wonder if Tulsa happens to be any more prepared with that extra week.
Houston at Baylor – These two teams were not supposed to play this week. In fact, Houston was supposed to play a conference game against Memphis. Instead, Memphis picked up COVID from a party bus and Houston scrambled to find another opponent. Baylor was supposed to play Louisiana Tech last week in Dave Aranda’s head coaching debut, but that game was postponed. This is now a big one for recruiting purposes in the Lone Star State. It is also of interest that Houston goes from prepping for Memphis to prepping for a lesser-known opponent with new offensive coordinator Larry Fedora.
Austin Peay at Cincinnati – A little bonus FCS vs. FBS action here that fits the theme of the article. Austin Peay has played, though it wasn’t a good look last week against Pitt. Cincinnati has not played yet and the global markets have them listed at -33.5. That is a big number for a team that hasn’t played yet against a team that has.