In the handicapping world, records usually don’t mean anything. Every week you’ll find teams with a better record than their opponent, yet they’re the underdog in the betting market.
We’ve reached the part of the college football season where records do matter. Why? Bowl eligibility and its effect on focus and motivation.
Teams from non-Power 5 conferences don’t have aspirations of winning the National Title or reaching the College Football Playoff. Realistically, a number of them can’t even win their conference. But every team, no matter how big or small, starts the season with the goal of making it to a bowl game.
So what are we looking for? A) Teams that have five wins and are looking for their sixth to clinch bowl eligibility. They are highly motivated and focused to reach that goal. B) Teams that have picked up a seventh loss. They can no longer go to a bowl game. Their season is essentially over. Those teams may look to flip the roster and give their younger players minutes to get a head start on prepping for their future. C) Possibly look for spots to play against teams that just picked up their sixth win. This generally doesn’t apply to Power 5 schools, but if you’re looking at a smaller program that’s not a regular in the bowl scene, they’re going to be fat-and-sassy after picking up their sixth win. Obviously, if they are fighting for a conference championship, they are going to stay motivated. But if you’ve got a smaller school that’s not used to going to bowl games, they are usually primed for a letdown after reaching that goal.
Southern Miss -4.5 vs. UAB
Circa opened this at Southern Miss -8.5 and it’s been bet down to -4 at some shops. I’m struggling to see why. According to Sagarin’s numbers, UAB has played the No. 162 schedule in the country. There are only 130 FBS teams, so that means there are 32 FCS teams that have played a more difficult schedule than what UAB has faced so far this season.
Southern Miss is playing at home and coming off a bye week, while UAB just had a physical matchup with an SEC team and now has to face a road back-to-back. That’s a pretty big disparity in health and rest. UAB quarterback Tyler Johnston got knocked out of last week’s game after suffering a sprained knee. He is considered a game-time decision for Saturday’s contest.
Southern Miss Head Coach Jay Hopson likes where his team is at coming off the bye week. Courtesy of the Biloxi Sun Herald: “We’re getting healthy, and that’s going to help us,” Hopson said. “I’m hoping one or two guys will get back into the mix after the open date. You knock on wood, and hope you’re getting as close to full strength as you can be going into the final stretch.”
After missing out on a bowl game last season, Southern Miss is one win away from clinching eligibility.
Charlotte -13 at UTEP
Charlotte has won its last two games to get to 4-5 on the season. They have three games left to pick up two wins. Luckily for them, the first one is against 1-7 UTEP and they still play 1-8 Old Dominion. Courtesy of The Gold Sheet: UTEP is 2-13 against the spread in their last 15 home games.
Washington -10 at Oregon State
When Caesars opened their regular season win totals in July, you could have gotten +130 on over two victories for the Beavers. They are currently in second place in the Pac-12 North with wins over Cal, UCLA and Arizona. If the Beavers want to parlay this run into a bowl game, they could really use a home win over the Huskies. Oregon State ends the year at Washington State and at Oregon. Certainly not an impossible task, but with needing two more victories to become bowl eligible, a win over a struggling Washington team on Friday night would really kick things into a different gear in Corvallis.
Georgia State -2.5 at UL-Monroe
This is a really tough spot for the Panthers. Georgia State was picked to finish last in the Sun Belt this season. They are currently riding a four-game winning streak and have already reached six wins to clinch bowl eligibility for only the third time in program history. So not only are they fat-and-sassy after reaching six wins, they host division-leading Appalachian State next week. Head Coach Shawn Elliott will have his hands full with trying to stay focused on UL-Monroe this week.