This is it. This is the last week of the 2021 college football regular season. I mean, I don’t even know what to do with that. But I guess ... enjoy it! That’s what. Remember when we weren’t even sure we would have a football season last year? Let us give thanks for what has been an enjoyable last few months of NCAA football action.
The final week of football — especially after Thanksgiving Day games — can be tricky. You just don’t know where the motivation or energy is for players. Bowl eligibility comes into play and playing spoiler comes into play. For us, however, it’s simple: We’ve got leftovers and a couch calling our names. Here are some betting options to consider for the Friday, post-turkey day slate.
North Carolina at N.C. State (-6)
The Tar Heels QB Sam Howell is a better QB at home than on the road, posting a 16-3 TD-to-interception ratio at home compared to 6-5 on the road. Plus, North Carolina already has a bowl bid locked up. The only fight in this one would be playing spoiler to N.C. State. The Wolfpack have a shot at contending in the Atlantic Coast Conference if they win this game and Wake Forest (-4.5) loses to Boston College on Saturday. Here’s a look at the ACC championship game scenarios:
N.C. State: Defeat UNC and Wake Forest loses to Boston College
Wake Forest: Defeat Boston College and it is in
Clemson: If N.C. State and Wake Forest lose, and Clemson (-11) defeats South Carolina
A lot is at stake here for the Wolfpack, who are top 20 in passing yards and facing a UNC defense ranked 92nd in defending the pass. North Carolina may be a top-10 offense (24th in passing, 26th in rushing), but N.C. State is a top-20 defense (53rd against the pass, 16th against the run), plus is top 15 in opponent red-zone scoring attempts, opponent red-zone scores and top 20 in opponent touchdowns allowed, with all stats significantly better at home.
Iowa (-120 ML) at Nebraska
Cornhuskers quarterback Adrian Martinez has been ruled out for this matchup, causing a huge Nebraska line shift from a -3.5 favorite to a 1.5-point underdog. It’s warranted. Martinez accounts for 64 percent of the team’s touchdowns (14 passing, 13 rushing). Early in the season I called Nebraska a team with an offense of one. Well, one minus one equals zero.
The Hawkeyes need to win this game for a shot at the Big Ten title game. In order for Iowa to secure a spot in the conference championship, the Hawkeyes would have to win this game and have Wisconsin lose to Minnesota on Saturday. The Nebraska defense will be out to play spoiler, but insert quarterback Logan Smothers, who has just 11 passing attempts, and this Iowa defense — which has forced 21 interceptions this season (first in the nation) — could feast.
Coastal Carolina at South Alabama (+15)
The Chanticleers were denied a chance to win the Sun Belt title last year after the conference matchup against the Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns was canceled due to the pandemic. This year, the Chanticleers won’t be making a run with App State locked in to face Louisiana for the title. Still, with a 9-2 season, Coastal has locked up a bowl bid, while South Alabama needs one more win to become bowl-eligible. Am I calling for the upset? Not quite, but I do like the Jaguars to contend. Coastal has shown that it is not entirely dependable ATS, defeating Troy 35-28 as 17-point favorites, losing to Georgia State outright as 12.5-point favorites, and defeating Texas State 35-21 as 24.5-point favorites.
Plus, could we see former starting QB Jake Bentley back on the field? Out because of injury, Bentley was seen in warmups prior to the Tennessee game. However, it was QB Desmond Trotter who got the start. If Bentley plays, that would benefit this Jaguars offense. He threw for over 2,100 passing yards on 70% passing with 15 touchdowns this season. South Alabama still does have a top-35 defense in a home game that means more to it than it does for the Chanticleers.
Other games to consider for less analytical reasons.
Colorado (+24) at Utah
The Utes clinched a spot in the Pac-12 championship game after a big 38-7 win over Oregon last week. With two previous championship trips and two losses (2018 to Washington and 2019 to Oregon), Utah should be fired up for the title game, which could result in resting some players from the start or perhaps the second half.
Colorado enters this matchup with no chance to become bowl-eligible, but is perhaps looking to finish strong and ride the momentum of a 20-17 upset win over Washington as a 7-point underdog. This could also be an in-game opportunity if you get a feel for the game flow early on.
Washington State at Washington (+1)
The Washington State Cougars have a shot to win the Pac-12 North if they win this game and if Oregon (-7) loses to Oregon State on Saturday. The Huskies likely will not be making a bowl game but does have an opportunity to close out the season with a strong home win and the chance to play spoiler to a conference foe.
Washington is ranked No. 1 in passing defense, but the Huskies have played just one opponent in the top 50 for passing offense: Arkansas State (10th in passing yards). Washington held the Red Wolves to 220 passing yards (100 yards below their season average) and 4.5 yards per pass (season average 8.8). There is something there regardless of competition faced. Washington State is 40th in passing and 102nd in rushing, so I like Washington's defense to contend here. The Huskies are averaging 29 points at home while averaging just 18 on the road. Washington could definitely play spoiler here.