The college football season is sweet but short, and it’s hard to believe that we’ve reached the end of the regular season, but indeed we have. Yes, some teams won’t wrap it up until next Saturday, but this is the final week for the vast majority of FBS teams and conference championship games are next week, followed by bowl season. We’ve already reached that time of year.
Looking on the bright side, though, we’ve got some great football directly ahead. Rivalry games fill the slate this week, and there’s nothing better than when genuine hatred gets thrown into the mix. You can generally expect the unexpected in situations like that, and as bettors we strive to get out ahead of these things. Hopefully we’ve done just that with these three selections:
North Carolina @ NC State Saturday 20:30 GMT
Line: North Carolina -5.5 (BetVictor)
The Tar Heels have been rolling, winning every one of their games since losing the season opener to South Carolina. They’ve had a pretty generous schedule, though, avoiding ACC heavyweights Clemson and Florida State, and they’ve been severely tested nearly every time they’ve faced a bowl-caliber team, eking out wins over Pitt, Virginia Tech, and Georgia Tech (not technically “bowl caliber”, but still…). The Wolfpack have been playing pretty good football since a disappointing stretch in October, and at 7-4 they’re certainly one of the two or three best teams the Heels have seen this season. Quarterback Jacoby Brissett is a gutsy competitor who is very smart with the football, throwing 17 touchdowns to just 3 interceptions this year. He’ll need a big game to keep pace with Marquise Williams and the high-scoring Heels, but the generous North Carolina defense–a unit that surrendered 27 points and over 400 total yards to a very mediocre Virginia Tech offense least week– should help in that regard. I think the Heels are walking into a hornet’s nest here, Senior Day at Carter-Finley Stadium and so on, and I’m not sure they make it out unscathed. Gimmie NC State and the points.
Texas A&M @ LSU Sunday 00:30 GMT
Line: LSU -5.5 (PaddyPower)
Les Miles is taking unprecedented heat at LSU, and I’m not sure if a win this week and in the bowl game could save his job. Incredible, isn’t it? I mean, three weeks ago LSU was an undefeated top-5 team with the Heisman frontrunner. It’s amazing that it could go from that to the coach being fired over the course of just three games, especially since Miles has been there for over a decade and has experienced tremendous success. That’s where we’re at, though, as Texas A&M comes into Tiger Stadium on Senior Day. If that sound ominous, you’re probably thinking correctly. Remember– this isn’t a case of the players “quitting on” or disliking Miles. I’m picturing rabble-rousing speeches, tears streaming down faces… full-on Rudy-type stuff. And if you don’t think that emotion plays a huge role here, you’re forgetting that we’re dealing with 18, 19, and 20-year old kids. Plus, from a football perspective, I’m not sure how the undersized A&M front seven is going to slow down Leonard Fournette. The Aggies have been terrible against the run this season, ranking 13th in the SEC and 102nd nationally in rushing defense, and Fournette is surely itching to add some more highlight-reel runs to his Heisman resume. I think he gets them, and I don’t think the A&M offense– a unit that has been held to 25 points or fewer in four of their last five conference games– will be able to keep up. LSU is going to win this one, and they’ll probably win big.
Florida State @ Florida Sunday 00:30 GMT
Line: Florida St. -2.5 (bet365)
The Seminoles head down to the Swamp on Saturday night for another chapter in one of college football’s most bitter rivalries. Both of these teams have been very uneven in recent weeks, with Florida State dropping two of their last four games against FBS opponents and Florida needing overtime to get past tiny Florida Atlantic last week (not to mention their 9-7 scare against Vanderbilt two weeks earlier). The Gators are a little banged-up, as defensive line stalwarts Alex McCalister and Jon Bullard are both listed as doubtful, but the Florida defense is as deep as any in the country and they’ve repeatedly overcome injuries this season without missing a beat. And that’s what this game will come down to, I believe– the excellent Florida defense against a Florida St. offense that revolves around star tailback Dalvin Cook. The Gators held up fairly well when they faced another stud runner in Leonard Fournette earlier this year, and if they can slow down Cook the burden will fall on inexperienced quarterback Sean Maguire, a recipe for disaster for the Noles. Maguire has been a backup for virtually his entire career, and the Florida secondary is chock-full of future NFL talent. Of course, the Gators may have some problems of their own on offense, but “problems on offense” have been a weekly theme for them since losing quarterback Will Grier, so they should be more accustomed to an ugly, low-scoring, close game than their opponents. And I do think this one will be fairly ugly, which is one of the reasons I feel very comfortable with the Florida side– better defense, playing at home, and a more experienced quarterback (say what you want about Treon Harris, but he’s played in– and won– some big games). Gators in a close one.
Recommended Bets (1-3 unit scale)
1 unit NC State +5.5 at 1.91 (BetVictor)
2 units LSU -5.5 at 1.95 (PaddyPower)
2 units Florida +2.5 at 1.95 (bet365)