Making it to a bowl game is a huge deal for college football student-athletes. The chance to play one more game with your brothers or make an impact in front of scouts has a tremendous amount of allure. Now that the calendar has hit November, it is time to start factoring bowl eligibility into your handicapping process.
James Madison is ineligible for a bowl game because of its transition to FBS. Seven teams — South Florida, Northwestern, Charlotte, UMass, Nevada, Colorado and Arkansas State — already have seven losses and play 12 games. Hawaii has seven losses but plays 13 games and must win out to be eligible.
There are also some big games remaining for division and conference championship purposes, and you’ll want to factor those into your handicaps as well this month.
Here are some other situational spots to think about for Week 10.
The MAC begins playing on Tuesdays and Wednesdays this week, as the conference gets center stage on the ESPN family of networks. This was a brilliant move by conference officials more than a decade ago to get the league some exposure. These games mean a lot to these players because they’re able to play spotlight games their friends and families can easily see, but also because they get some attention from talent evaluators as well.
Ball State at Kent State and Buffalo at. Ohio are the Tuesday games, while Central Michigan at Northern Illinois and Western Michigan at Bowling Green are the Wednesday games this week. I think a lot of these are pretty pure handicaps in that everybody wants to show out in the spotlight.
I never thought I’d see the day when UConn football was a huge favorite in a college football game again. This will be the biggest spread for the Huskies since Week 5 of the 2012 season and the first time they’ve been a double-digit favorite since Week 15 of the 2014 season. I usually look to go against historical outliers, but UMass has been outscored by 150 points this season and just lost by double digits at home to New Mexico State.
The first game after getting ranked has not gone well for teams this season. South Carolina just lost to Missouri. James Madison lost to Georgia Southern. Oregon State will try not to lose to Washington. The Beavers are in the Top 25 for the first time since the 2013 preseason rankings. That number next to the team name doesn’t really matter much to us as bettors, but it matters a ton to those players, especially teams that have not been ranked in a while. Liberty (at Arkansas) and UCF (at Memphis — could be without QB John Rhys Plumlee) are two other teams in action that are ranked for the first time this season, but their droughts haven’t been nearly as long as Oregon State’s.
The second leg of the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy series is a neutral-site game in Arlington, Texas, this week. Air Force beat Navy 13-10 earlier this season, and a win over Army would give the Falcons the coveted trophy for the first time since 2016. Air Force lost 21-14 in overtime to Army last season and 10-7 in 2020 after beating Navy earlier in the year, so the Falcons also have double revenge as motivation. Army has actually won four of the last five meetings after Air Force won 25 of the 28 meetings from 1989 to 2016. With Army likely to be favored by a fair amount over Navy on Dec. 10, this is a massive game for both service academies.
Is Michigan in a flat spot against Rutgers this week? The Wolverines pummeled Penn State two weeks ago and then took care of business against rival Michigan State. Now they’re on the road for an evening game against a lowly Rutgers bunch that just got shut out by Minnesota last week. With the calendar flipped to November and College Football Playoff rankings out, it’s easy to see how Michigan could look past Rutgers (and Nebraska next week) toward bigger tests against Illinois and Ohio State.
Some of the scheduling decisions athletic directors make are real head-scratchers. Louisville is rolling right now with Malik Cunningham back and head coach Scott Satterfield seemingly off the chopping block. The Cardinals have won three in a row, all by 14 or more points. This game, however, presents all kinds of challenges. James Madison could have QB Todd Centeio back after the bye, and the line seems to imply he’ll be back. The Cardinals have Clemson on deck, followed by NC State and then rival Kentucky. This is a pretty awful spot for Louisville, especially if JMU is at full strength.
Mizzou won the battle of Columbias, knocking off a ranked South Carolina team in the Palmetto State. Now Kentucky comes to town after getting humiliated by rival Tennessee. You have to think this could be a bounce-back spot for Kentucky and possibly a little bit of a flat spot for Mizzou after its first road win against a Top 25 team since Nov. 3, 2018. The next week, the Tigers barely beat Vanderbilt at home 33-28. I think the spot favors Kentucky here.
Is this the flat spot for TCU? Last week’s game against West Virginia was viewed as a bad spot for the Horned Frogs. They won by 10 and covered but also racked up 9 yards per play on the Mountaineers and emphatically won the box score. Now they’re laying double digits in advance of a matchup against Texas. Texas Tech was just humbled at home by Baylor in a matchup against coach Joey McGuire’s former employer. The Red Raiders have a much better defense than West Virginia, and I think this could be a tough spot for a sleepy 11 a.m. kickoff in Fort Worth.