Tennessee linebacker Solon Page III
Tennessee linebacker Solon Page III (38) returns an interception during the second half of an NCAA college football game against Tennessee Tech, Saturday, Sept. 18, 2021, in Knoxville, Tenn. Tennessee won 56-0. (AP Photo/Wade Payne)


Patrick Werkmeister

Following a perfect 3-0 performance in Wednesday’s college football edition of best bets, this slate of bowl games is a great opportunity to stay hot. From the Duke’s Bowl to the Music City Bowl, today’s action is filled with some great matchups. As we chug along these minor bowl games, these contests are great preparation for the NY6 and CFP. Although certain players either opt-out for the NFL draft or enter the college transfer portal, careful analysis of each matchup will avoid any team that is missing their star players. With this in mind, here is what I love for this Thursday bowl slate.

South Carolina vs. North Carolina (-9.5) ~ Duke’s Mayo Bowl
For this edition of the Duke’s Mayo Bowl in Charlotte, the North Carolina Tar Heels face off against the South Carolina Gamecocks. The Tar Heels opened as five point favorites but they are currently favored by a whopping nine and a half-points. Although both programs finished the year at 6-6, South Carolina struggled to get past the weaker teams like Missouri, Vanderbilt, and even Troy. Having said that, they do have quality wins over Auburn and Florida. While the Gamecocks are a shameful 2-5 ATS in their last seven games, the Heels are also a shoddy 2-5 ATS in their past seven contests. Last game out, SC was shutout by their rivals Clemson, 30-0. Similarly, the Tar heels were narrowly defeated by their rivals NC State, 34-30. While both of these programs have had disappointing seasons, North Carolina has the overwhelming matchup advantage in this one. South Carolina will be missing several star players on both sides of the ball, such as their leading rusher and leader in sacks. Contrarily, the Tar Heels roster will be at full strength, including projected 1st round NFL draft pick, quarterback Sam Howell. Without them and many others, this is a poor matchup for SC. Take North Carolina minus the points to get it done for Mack Brown and cover this margin.

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Tennessee (-5.5) vs. Purdue ~ Music City Bowl
From Nissan Stadium in Nashville, the Tennessee Volunteers face off against the Purdue Boilermakers in the Music City Bowl. The opening line for this contest favored Tennessee by three points, but they are now listed as five and a half-point favorites. With this bowl being played at the home of the Tennessee Titans, this will pretty much be a home game for the Volunteers. While Purdue is 4-1 ATS in their last five games, the Vols are a shoddy 2-4 ATS in their past six. Last time out, Tennessee blew out Vanderbilt, 45-21, and Purdue destroyed Indiana, 44-7. With All-Big Ten wide receiver David Bell and elite pass-rusher George Karlaftis opting out of this game for Purdue, they will be the depleted team in this match. Both teams are very successful at passing the football, but without their star receiver it will be hard for them to replicate some of the performances they put up this year. With no one transferring or opting-out of this bowl game for Tennessee, they are in a great position to continue the dominance they’re capable of. As long as they take care of the ball with just minor success on defense, they should have no problem covering this margin with a home crowd. Take the Vols minus the points in this matchup.

Wisconsin (-6) vs. Arizona State ~ Las Vegas Bowl
From Allegiant Stadium in the Las Vegas Bowl, the Wisconsin Badgers take on the Arizona State Sun Devils. The Badgers opened this game as seven-point favorites and they are currently favored by six points. Although Wisconsin finished the season with a par 6-6 record ATS, they are a solid 4-2 ATS in their past six games and have won seven of their last eight playing well at the right time. Additionally, the Sun Devils are a shoddy 2-4 ATS in their last six matches. Last time out for these programs, the Badgers lost in devastating fashion to their rivals Minnesota whereas Arizona State smoked Arizona, 38-15. Without their star running back Rachaad White, Arizona State’s offense should struggle against a stout Badger defense that has allowed just 14.8 points and 240 total yards per game this season. Unlike their opponent, Wisconsin will be fully armed on both sides of the ball. Take the Badgers minus the points to cover this spread with all the players ready to go.

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