The TaxSlayer Gator Bowl between Kentucky and NC State will serve as a hangover cure for the college football world, the first game to kickoff after the conclusion of the CFB Playoff semifinals. Experts are split on how the game will unfold, most siding with NC State, while 66% of the public’s wagers are on Kentucky to cover the 2.5-point spread.
The four-letter network’s analytics differ. In SP+ the Wolfpack have a 60% win probability with a projected margin of victory of 4.3 points. FPI is the inverse, giving UK a 56.5% chance at victory. When the humans handicap the Gator Bowl, Stanford Steve and the Bear both agreed that this is Kentucky’s game to win. Chris Fallica liked UK so much, he put them in the weekly ESPN+ picks column.
Mark Stoops has found a way to lead the Cats to bowl wins with teams that struggled offensively, and I expect he’ll do that here too. NC State has surprised a lot of people this season with its 8-3 mark, but I don’t think the Wolfpack can win the line of scrimmage here against UK. Kentucky found itself after a rough spell with a blowout of South Carolina, and anything close to that effort here should give UK its third straight bowl win.
Barton Simmons was tooting Kentucky’s horn throughout the preseason. He’s not doing that in the postseason, picking NC State to cover the spread as one of his locks on the Cover 3 Podcast.
“Give me NC State and the points. Better team and also Kentucky’s without their offensive coordinator. We’ve seen where you can overthink these things in a bowl game. That’s not my primary talking point here, but it is a factor, a variable Kentucky is dealing with. I think both have limited quarterbacks but NC State’s offense — I want to reiterate Tim Beck has been a pleasant surprise as offensive coordinator. I think he’s done a great job with NC State all year long. I just think this is a better football team and they’re the underdog, so give me the Pack. “
Concerned by the change of heart? Don’t. Danny Kanell believes NC State is going to cover as well. It’s always good to be on the wrong side of a Danny Kanell pick.
Outside of their podcast world, every CBS writer was polled and every single one called for the Wolfpack to cover the spread and win outright.
It’s a clean sweep. All six USA Today national football writers are rolling with the team in the Top 25.
Bill Bender is calling a 28-24 NC State upset.
The Wildcats were 1-4 against ranked teams this season and struggled with consistency on offense. The Wolfpack closed the season on a four-game win streak. This should be another tight-knit fight, but we’ll go with the more consistent team.
Only one writer is willing to pick Kentucky.
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Pete Fiutak believes it will be close, but no cigar for the Wildcats, predicting a 27-23 NC State win.
It’s not the normal high-end Gator Bowl matchup, but these two are at just the right level to keep this tight and interesting the entire way.
Kentucky might not be pretty, but it’s able to bog things down and make most teams play at its level. However, the offense has been way too sad against the decent-to-great teams ever since the 34-7 win over Tennessee back in mid-October.
NC State might not have the star power, but it has the veterans around QB Bailey Hockman to set a good pace. The defense isn’t going to let Kentucky get into any sort of a groove.
As long as NC State doesn’t get rolled in the turnover battle, and as long as the run defense holds up, it’ll be a strong win for head coach Dave Doeren to close out a quietly nice year.