The most intriguing game on Thursday's college football slate takes place in a spot where you least expect it to.
The Central Michigan Chippewas' trip to face the Oklahoma State Cowboys has the potential to be the most entertaining contest on Thursday.
Apologies to the lovers of nostalgia, but the Backyard Brawl has too many offensive question marks to throw full support behind it being the best game on the slate.
The early evening kickoffs should garner the most attention, but there is one later game featuring a Big Ten team that could have a lot of one-sided offensive fireworks.
Thursday CFB Picks
Overall Record: 0-2
Central Michigan (+21.5) at Oklahoma State (7 p.m. ET, FS1)
Over 58 (-115)
Central Michigan will have the best individual talent on the field in Stillwater on Thursday night in running back Lew Nichols.
Nichols and quarterback Daniel Richardson are one of the best Group of Five offensive duos and they will give a new-look Oklahoma State defense some problems.
Oklahoma State had a strong unit on defense last season, but it lost defensive coordinator Jim Knowles to Ohio State. Derek Mason steps into that role from Auburn. His defense gave up 20+ points in each of the last six regular-season games.
Central Michigan will try to utilize Nichols in both aspects of the offense. Nichols had 40 catches in addition to his 341 carries for 1,848 rushing yards last season.
The Chippewas put up 24 points on Missouri and 21 points on LSU in road games to start the 2021 campaign. They also hung with Miami on the road in 2019.
The only blowout loss suffered by Central Michigan under Jim McElwain against a power-five foe was a 61-0 loss to Wisconsin in his second game in charge.
Oklahoma State had trouble starting last season. The Cowboys produced one-score wins over Missouri State, Tulsa and Boise State to start the 2021 campaign and they struggled to beat Tulsa, 16-7, at the beginning of the 2020 season.
The recent slow starts under Mike Gundy and the defensive changes open the door for Central Michigan to score some points and be competitive.
Spencer Sanders has a few returners alongside him on the OK State offense, so the Pokes should be able to put up 20-30 points and push the over. Not having a dynamic running back in the mold of Chuba Hubbard and Jaylen Warren could hurt the Cowboys when it comes to breaking away with explosive plays.
West Virginia at Pittsburgh (7 p.m. ET, ESPN)
Under 51.5 (-110)
The Backyard Brawl has a history of being just that, a knock-down drag-out brawl in the trenches.
The last five meetings in the rivalry before it took a break in 2011 failed to reach 50 total points, and I think something similar will be in play on Thursday night.
Pat Narduzzi is a defense-first head coach and he needs his expertise to be on display as the Pittsburgh offense works out the growing pains with Kedon Slovis taking over at quarterback.
West Virginia's offense is in flux as well with J.T. Daniels taking over under center. The Mountaineers have experience across their offensive line, but that unit was dreadful in protecting the quarterback in 2021.
Pittsburgh has a few returning pieces, but getting Slovis on the same page with wide receivers in heightened roles could end up in some slow drives in the first half.
We could see some points in the second half, but I think there are too many offensive unknowns to trust both teams to combine for 52 points.
New Mexico State at Minnesota (9 p.m. ET, BTN)
Over 53 (-105)
Minnesota possesses one of the best collection of experienced players on offense in the power five.
Tanner Morgan is back at quarterback and Mohamed Ibrahim returns at running back after suffering an injury at the start of last season.
Morgan, Ibrahim and the Minnesota offense have a new coordinator to work with, but Kirk Ciarocca is not entirely new. Ciarocca was the Minnesota offensive coordinator for P.J. Fleck's first three seasons at Minnesota.
Minnesota produced 35 or 38 points in three of four September games in 2019 and it produced 48 points against New Mexico State in the opener in 2018.
The Golden Gophers should not skip a beat offensively, and in fact, they may even get better with the reunification of the offensive stars from 2019.
Minnesota should hang a 40-spot on the Aggies at minimum and I think NMSU playing in Week 0 helps with offensive cohesion to score at least one garbage time touchdown to get to 54 points.