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Luckett’s Locks: Rivalry Weekend?

(Matt Cashore/USA TODAY Sports)

(Matt Cashore/USA TODAY Sports)

Well, last weekend sucked. The worst Saturday of the year decided to show up at the absolutely worst time possible with just one cover occurring to go with five losses. A 1-5 mark is never good and the bad weekend knocked us down to 33-30 ATS on the season. However, we’ve got a few weeks left and there are some interesting matchups aligned for the Thanksgiving slate.

It is perhaps the most random weekend of the college football season with a few teams playing their traditional rivals while most others are facing a random conference opponent. As always with the year 2020, things will likely get weird and it’s time to make the most of it.

Here are the best plays on the card.

New Mexico @ Utah State Under 51.5

Danny Gonzales is in his first season running the program at his alma mater and it has been a rough start for the Lobos. NMU is off to an 0-4 start as they’ve struggled to install the 3-3-5 defense. This unit is allowing a robust 6.80 yards per play while the offense has had its own struggles shuffling quarterbacks and searching for playmakers.

Utah State became the first team during the 2020 season to join the coaching carousel with Gary Andersen being relieved of his duties. Now they’ve lost their starting quarterback for the season and nothing is going right for the 0-4 Aggies. Utah State ranks last in the Mountain West in yards per play offense and defense. They are legit bad and the worst team in this conference.

It’s Thanksgiving and two winless teams in the Mountain West are set to go at it in the only night game on television. The weather forecast in Logan is calling for temperatures below freezing for two squads with not much to play for. Excitement levels could be low for one or two of these teams and the weather has us going to the under. We’re riding it in a battle of two programs that don’t have much good going on at the moment.

Iowa State @ Texas Over 56.5

It hasn’t been a great year four for Tom Herman in Austin, but the Longhorns are firmly in the Big XII title hunt and a victory on Saturday could create a messy four-way tie at the top of the conference standings. This offense has done some good things this season and it is mainly due to senior quarterback Sam Ehlinger who has accounted for 29 touchdowns. Meanwhile, the defense has been quietly solid allowing 5.03 yards per play under new coordinator Chris Ash.

Since the shocking home loss to Louisiana to begin the season, Iowa State has gone 6-1 in Big XII play and Matt Campbell’s name is starting to become a potential major candidate in coaching search circles. Breece Hall is one of the best running backs in the country who has posted 1,169 yards and 15 touchdowns in just eight games. Meanwhile, Brock Purdy is solid at quarterback and the Cyclones bend-but-don’t-break on defense. They are good.

It’s a monster game in the Big XII with two good quarterbacks. Texas has had a few weeks off and has to win it if they want play for a league title. Meanwhile, Iowa State is looking for their first conference championship since 1912 and a win pretty much guarantees them a trip to the Big XII championship. Expect top notch efforts from each and that usually means the offenses wins out. We’re playing the over for a total that should be in the 60s.

NC State (-14.5) @ Syracuse

Perhaps one of the more pleasant surprises in the ACC has been what NC State is putting together in 2020. Fresh off a brutal season, Dave Doeren has rallied the troops in Raleigh and thanks to new offensive coordinator Tim Beck rejuvenating the offense things are looking up for the Wolfpack. NC State sits at 6-3 this season and has a great shot at winning out to close the regular season. They have found a way to go 3-1 in one-possession games and will be a team that should generate a lot of buzz entering 2021.

It has been a very long season for Dino Babers and the Syracuse football program. The Orange currently sit at 1-8 and look like nothing good is going to happen anytime soon. This team is on their third starting quarterback and they are the worst offense outside of Kansas in the Power Five posting just 4.31 yards per play. The defense and their new 3-3-5 scheme has given some teams some problems, but this is a team with not much more to play for.

As far as common opponents go, NC State squeaked out a win over Liberty last week while Liberty trounced Syracuse in the Carrier Dome about a month ago. The Wolfpack are playing quality football at the moment and we’re backing them in this spot after that horrific 30-0 loss Syracuse suffered to Louisville last week. Lay the points with the road dog as we jump back on the #FadeSyracuse wagon.

Auburn @ Alabama Over 62.5

Alabama is sitting at 7-0 and is in the thick of the hunt for another national championship despite losing explosive playmaker Jaylen Waddle for the season. Mac Jones is firmly in the running for the Heisman Trophy while DeVonta Smith has been dominant at receiver and Najee Harris is the best running back in the SEC. Now their defense has found their groove as they’ve held three straight opponents under five yards per play. They are peaking at the right time.

After a rocky start, Auburn has won three consecutive games and now sits at 5-2 with tough games remaining against Alabama and Texas A&M. Bo Nix has played much better football in his last 12 quarters and the Tigers will need him to be sharp at Bryant-Denny Stadium on Saturday. However, it appears that Auburn could be without star freshman tailback Tank Bigsby this weekend in the Iron Bowl.

Alabama leads the Power Five in yards per play offense and they have been a machine all season. At this point, the expectation should be for them to score at least 40 points in each game and they’ll get that in this one. The question is can Auburn get to 20? Gus Malzahn usually puts together a pretty good game plan for this matchup and the Tigers will be able to hit on some chunk plays to setup touchdowns. The over hits and Alabama’s national title quest continues.

Duke @ Georgia Tech (PK)

We all knew it was going to be a long rebuild for Geoff Collins at Georgia Tech, but the Yellow Jackets have shown some signs in year two. True freshman quarterback Jeff Sims has been a turnover machine, but he’s shown some big play capabilities by putting up 7.6 yards per attempt despite completing just 55.7% of his passes. Fellow true freshman Jahmyr Gibbs has a bright future at tailback, but the defense still has a long ways to go.

Clemson transfer Chase Brice has been a disappointment at quarterback while the Duke defense was not as good as the preseason expectations. The Blue Devils, however, do have a quality running game while defensive ends Chris Rumph II and Victor Dimukeje have combined for 15 sacks.

It’s a matchup of two of the worst teams in the ACC and neither squad has played a football game in at least three weeks. This one is going to be very sloppy in Atlanta, but we’re rolling with the home team at Bobby Dodd Stadium on the even line. These are two programs that seem to be going in opposite directions and it feels like a good time to side with the young head coach.

Nevada (-7) @ Hawaii

The Wolf Pack picked up big time win over San Diego State last weekend and they have a legit shot at a Mountain West title after their 5-0 start. They lead the league in yards per play offense while ranking second in yards per play defense. The Air Raid scheme is having a big season as Carson Strong is averaging 361 passing yards per game while Brian Ward is turning out to be a tremendous hire at defensive coordinator.

Todd Graham is off and running in his first season on the islands and the Rainbow Warriors are struggling. Hawaii ranks near the bottom of the Mountain West in both yards per play offense and yards per play defense while the passing game has been very inconsistent to start the season. To win games in Honolulu you have to score points and Hawaii is not doing that putting up only 24 per game.

Nevada is a solid football team while Hawaii is still finding their way under a new coaching staff. For the second week in the row, there is really good value on the Wolf Pack and this is a cheap price for what might be the best team in the Mountain West. Lay the points as we stay up late for the Saturday nightcap.

Best Bet: Notre Dame @ North Carolina Over 68

The Irish are sitting at a perfect 8-0 and now they’ve reached their second toughest game since the monster Clemson win. The Irish have top-15 rushing offense in college football while quarterback Ian Book is putting up over eight yards per attempt and has thrown 11 touchdowns with just one interception. Meanwhile, this defense ranks in the top-20 in yards per play allowed and there is very little doubt that this is one of the better teams in college football.

To say North Carolina has been a powder keg on offense would be an understatement. Phil Longo’s offense als0 has a top-15 rushing offense while quarterback Sam Howell ranks seventh nationally averaging 10.6 yards per attempt. UNC is putting up 43.1 points per game and has posted a fiftyburger three separate times this season. Meanwhile, the defense has slowly been sipping allowing over six yards per play in four of their last six games.

We’re set to have some beautiful weather in Chapel Hill for this Friday afternoon kickoff and these are two really good teams going at it. North Carolina is much better than their No. 19 ranking and Notre Dame is a legit top seven or eight squad. I expect the Heels to be able to score on this Notre Dame defense while North Carolina hasn’t been able to put up much push against any good offense this season. One thing 2020 has taught us is that offense trumps defense and this total gets into the 70s. Play the over.

Article written by Adam Luckett

Twitter: @AdamLuckettKSR