While some may see the College Football Playoff semifinal games as the end of bowl season, it’s certainly not for most college football fans. There are 11 games set to be played between New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day which gives you plenty to watch while you’re otherwise occupied ringing in the New Year.
Spread: Texas A&M -7
The Aggies first season under head coach Jimbo Fisher has been a successful one, improving on their win-loss record from a year ago, while also earning their first win over SEC foe LSU. Fisher had an immediate impact on the offense, raising the Aggies to 19th in S&P+ (up from 48th in 2017) and getting improved play out of quarterback Kellen Mond. The sophomore quarterback threw for a hair under 3,000 yards and ran for nearly 600 more while totaling 29 touchdowns on the season. Combined with 1,500-yard back Trayveon Williams, Mond formed a potent rushing attack that opened up plenty of opportunities in the passing game. On defense, the Aggies were solid for the most part, but they did show a tendency to allow big plays (1.36 IsoPPP; 124th FBS). Otaro Alaka and Kingsley Keke (24.5 TFL) did plenty of damage in opponents’ backfields all season and will look to do the same against N.C. State.
The Wolfpack were slightly below average in terms of explosiveness this season (1.14 IsoPPP; 87th FBS), but the offense presents plenty of problems for the Aggies. Senior quarterback Ryan Finley completed just under 68 percent of his passes this season for over 3,700 yards with 24 touchdowns and will be looking to impress scouts as he readies for April’s draft. He’s joined in the backfield by fellow senior and 1,000-yard rusher Reggie Gallaspy II who added 18 touchdowns on the ground this season.
N.C. State will be missing two key players for this game as leading receiver Kelvin Harmon and top tackler Germaine Pratt will not play. Harmon is preparing for the draft, while Pratt suffered a knee injury that will keep him from participating. Speaking of the Wolfpack’s defense, they were solid against the run, but struggled against the pass this season allowing opponents to complete nearly 60 percent of their passes. Mond can find success in this game if the offensive line can protect him.
The edge in terms of record against the spread clearly goes to Texas A&M as they were a strong 8-4 in all games this season and 6-2 as the favorites. N.C. State meanwhile played just one game as an underdog (Clemson) and lost badly while finishing 6-6 ATS overall. The Wolfpack will miss both Harmon and Pratt in this game and while I think the Aggies take it, N.C. State keeps it within a touchdown. N.C. State +7, Over 58.5
Local Expert Take: Bill Jones, CBS 11 Sports Anchor
“Quarterback Kellen Mond and the Aggies look to ride the momentum of their last game, an epic 74-72 seven overtime win over LSU. I think they will ride that momentum to their fourth straight win, 38-17 over N.C. State.”