Motivation big this week

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Rivalry week is here which annually signals the fact that the college football regular season is winding down.

It also means taking motivational factors into account as it becomes a much bigger part of the overall handicapping pictures than just breaking down the individual matchups on the field.

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Some teams are vying for conference crowns and division titles this weekend while other teams are trying to earn that all important sixth victory of the season and gain bowl eligibility that comes with it.

Then, you have other teams in action that may be at four wins or less and can’t get to a bowl game. But don’t let that trick you into believing that every team in that situation won’t show any life and will be looking to just play out the string. Nothing stokes the competitive fires more than facing an archrival and you are going to see some instances this week where below average teams that aren’t even good enough to get to a bowl game this season will show up and play extremely hard this week for the simple reason that they are going up against a rival and playing their rival becomes their “bowl game” of the season.

I also want to issue a friendly reminder that when betting rivalry games, be sure to take teams overall season records with a grain of salt. Usually the games that look too obvious with a supposedly superior favorite against an outmanned underdog in a rivalry game prove to lend value to the ‘dog in many instances and we often see the undermanned team play like their season is on the line in games like this.

Thursday

Mississippi +2.5 at Mississippi State: Mississippi State can clinch a bowl bid with their sixth win here. Ole Miss is 4-7 and will not be bowling this season.

The Rebels can only play the role of spoiler in this game but I expect them to do just that. Ole Miss dual QB system of John Rhys Plumlee and Matt Corral should be a problem for the Bulldogs’ defense that is allowing 390 yards per game and 6.3 yards per play.

I like Ole Miss to win outright. MISSISSIPPI

Friday

Washington State +7 at Washington: The Apple Cup rivalry battle is renewed here in this matchup. Washington has had a disappointing season considering they thought they would contend for a Pac-12 title. Instead, the Huskies sit at 6-5 and enter this game on a 1-3 SU and ATS slide in their last four games, including a lethargic 20-14 loss to Colorado last week. Washington’s only win and cover during this stretch came in an ugly and unimpressive 19-7 win against Oregon State. The Cougars survived with a wild 54-53 win last week against the Beavers and their QB Anthony Gordon has actually played better than Washington QB Jacob Eason in recent weeks.

I know the track record is ugly for Mike Leach against Chris Petersen in the past in this matchup but this could be the right time for Wazzou to finally take down Washington. WASHINGTON STATE 

Saturday

Wake Forest at Syracuse Total 67: Syracuse has had a horrendous defense all season and it showed again last week surrendering 56 points and 608 total yards to Louisville and they will be in for a lot of problems here most likely against a very dynamic Wake Forest offense led by QB Jamie Newman who has had a very good season.

Syracuse may have Clayton Welch at QB for this game after Tommy DeVito was pulled last week due to injury. But that may not be a bad thing considering DeVito has struggled most of the season. Regardless of who plays, the Wake Forest defense isn’t all that great and just allowed 27 points to a pedestrian Duke offense last week. Expect a massive shootout here. OVER

Oklahoma at Oklahoma State +13: Oklahoma continues to be wildly overvalued week after week. The Sooners are on a 0-4 ATS slide entering this game with the SU and ATS loss to Kansas State followed by ATS losses against Iowa State, Baylor and TCU in consecutive weeks and Oklahoma didn’t win any of those games by more than four points.

I expect the Cowboys’ offense to have success against a struggling Sooners defense which should allow them to hang within this large number from start to finish. OKLAHOMA STATE

Last week: 2-2

Season: 20-25-1

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