CFB Week 13 best bets (Part 1): Thanksgiving edition
It can be hard not to consider each week of the football season its own individual portion, but now that we're through Week 12, it's easier to understand the big picture. That said, Week 13 - the regular-season finale for all but Army and Navy - really is its own beast. Some teams are playing out the string. Some are saving themselves for a bowl game, while others are still trying to get there. Throw in the nature of Thanksgiving weekend often doubling as a rivalry game, and we're just hoping to get a handle on mindsets in a sport where that's critical to success.
This line has fallen from Mississippi -3.5, through the field goal, to a virtual pick'em. Ole Miss piled up over 700 yards at Arkansas but was almost never in the game. Meanwhile, Mississippi State compiled only 418 yards against East Tennessee State, but a win was never in doubt.
The Bulldogs haven't played a good game against a quality opponent since October, while the Rebels were always going to have a hard time getting up after losing to Alabama. Now Ole Miss' main rivals come to town in what is expected to be sloppy conditions - perfect for the Rebels' run game, which had 463 yards in a losing cause last week.
Pick: Ole Miss -2
Veteran starting quarterback Ben Bryant left Saturday's game with a leg injury, so it looks like Cincinnati is relying on sophomore Evan Prater, who is getting his first start against the best defense in the conference and a top-15 unit in the country, according to Football Outsiders.
Tulane let its first opportunity to clinch a spot in the American Athletic Conference Championship fall through its hands two weeks ago against UCF, but the Green Wave will get a second shot at the Knights at home after they knock off the Bearcats by doing just enough with a versatile offense.
Pick: Tulane +2
Baylor left it all on its home field, valiantly challenging undefeated TCU, only to fall short because its defense gave up too many explosive plays. Texas still has a small chance of reaching the Big 12 title game and can take advantage of those offensive opportunities. Bijan Robinson should have another big day against a defense that may not have much left.
Pick: Texas -8.5
Arizona State's season has followed a familiar script. It started disappointingly, which resulted in head coach Herm Edwards getting fired. Then the Sun Devils bounced back, playing better over three or four games, only to slump back to a point where they've been merely playing out the string.
For the moment, Arizona State is a largely rudderless program unsure of who the coach and quarterback will be next year, whereas this has been a positive season down the highway in Tucson. An upset at UCLA was followed by a predictably slow start last week, but Arizona's two touchdowns in the back half of the fourth quarter of a blowout showed the type of fight that suggests plenty of optimism for Jedd Fisch's program, as well as Jayden de Laura's electrifying skill set.
Pick: Arizona -4
We talked about all-in attitude in making a winning bet on Arkansas last week, with Ole Miss having emptied the tank the week before and the Razorbacks needing to win their home finale for bowl eligibility. Now it's Arkansas's turn to have the letdown after a big win, with Missouri in the role as the small home underdog one win away from postseason eligibility. The Tigers are capable too, with close losses to Auburn, Florida, Kentucky, and even Georgia. Missouri can hold up against the Razorbacks' run game, and it's not like the Hogs' defense has been particularly stout at the best of times this year.
Pick: Missouri +3
A rough stretch in the middle of the season derailed Florida State in the public's view, but the Seminoles found their game to end the season - winning four games by a combined 173-39. Florida may be a step up from those teams, but the Gators are flawed in their first year under Billy Napier. A loss at Vanderbilt is a concerning way to come into this game.
The Seminoles just happened to play Napier's former team, Louisiana-Lafayette, perhaps helping them prepare for what the Gators plan to do on offense. Jordan Travis is healthy and the 'Noles turn to Trey Benson as primary tailback, which will be the difference in a comfortable Florida State win.
Pick: Florida State -9.5
Matt Russell is a betting writer for theScore. If there’s a bad beat to be had, Matt will find it. Find him on Twitter @mrussauthentic.