Boston College at Notre Dame (-24): This game is simple. Boston College, even though they’re 3-7 is still somewhat overvalued in the public’s mind, given how frequently they go to bowl games. Even though they’ve won a lot the past twenty years, it has been mainly because they’ve been able to recruit good quarterbacks (the Hasselbeck brothers, Matt Ryan, Brian St. Pierre).
This will be BC’s Super Bowl, for sure, but this is the new Notre Dame. Brian Kelly comes from the school of thought that you shouldn’t be embarrassed to run the score up on anyone, as we’ve seen. Yes, there will be 20mph winds in South Bend, but I still think the Irish can lay thirty or more on BC. It’s always smart to bet Notre Dame early because most their line come out a bit under, knowing that they will get Notre Dame money from the people who always bet Notre Dame. Get the 24 while you can.
Virginia at Florida State (-17): When I first saw that the spread in this game was 17, I thought I would instantly play Virginia. From a motivation standpoint, the Cavaliers on the surface should have more to play for in this game. They are a young team who is just now seeing how much better they can be. They came out hungry in a nationally televised game at Miami earlier this year. Florida State, while they are riding a five game win streak, had their goals for the season shattered back in late September and early October with consecutive losses to Oklahoma, Clemson, and Wake Forest of all teams. Now they are officially out of the ACC title chase, while Virginia would get into the ACC title game by winning its last two game. The Cavaliers would surely be my bet.
But then I dug deeper into the game. Yes, Virginia has improved significantly from the last three non-bowl teams and is motivated to perform well on a big stage (remember, Florida is a huge recruiting state for a team like Virginia). They have stopped rotating players, and have improved greatly since Mike Rocco has taken the majority of snaps at quarterback. They are run based team though, and run based teams usually struggle once they get behind.
But I found that Florida State doesn’t seem to lack a motivational edge in this game. Yes, they may not have met their biggest goals, but they are still hoping for a 10-win season and a good bowl game. This is the Senior Day for a class that underachieved in their first few years, and they want to go out the right way. The most points Florida State has allowed at home this season is 19, a back door cover by rival Miami last week. The second most points they’ve allowed at home were 16 by Maryland, a team with a passing spread offense. Virginia is a run-reliant team who only averages 26 points per game. Florida State averages 34 points a game, so Virginia would like have to score at least 17 to cover.
This feels like a classic dog or pass situation, but if the line drops to -15.5 I’ll take Florida State.
Clemson (-8) at North Carolina State: Like the previous game, I thought for sure I would bet Clemon when I saw the 7.5 which has now gone up to 8. But of course, books give you that line for a reason. They want you think that getting a top-10 as only a touchdown favorite on the road against a team that has four horrible losses (blown out by Cincinnati, Florida State, Georgia Tech, and lost at woeful Boston College) would be an automatic play on the favorite. But there are some caveats here. First, Clemson has reached most of its goals for the year. They are in the ACC Title game, and next week they have their rivalry game with South Carolina, a game they will have to win big if they hope to make a statement for the BCS Title game or an at-large BCS berth. North Carolina State has to win this game and against Maryland next week to become bowl eligible. (2 of their wins are against FCS schools, so only one counts toward bowl eligibility.) Like Iowa State did last night against Oklahoma State, a team on the brink of bowl competition may throw everything and the kitchen sink at the other team. Get a win here, and everyone might just forget about the Tom O’Brien chasing off Russel Wilson. Clemson has done a good job of covering the spread this year, save its last two games. In many instances, even Clemson fans have expected their team to disappoint them, but Clemson has persevered, outside the road loss at Georgia Tech. I’m going to wait until game time to bet this one, hoping to get a few more points on Clemson.