TaxSlayer Gator Bowl: NC State Wolfpack vs Kentucky Wildcats Betting Picks & Lines
Even though they finished the season below .500, Kentucky (4-6 SU, 4-5-1 ATS) will make its fifth straight appearance in the bowl games as they take on NC State (8-3 SU, 7-4 ATS) on Saturday, January 2, at TIAA Bank Field in Jacksonville, Florida. Both teams in this year’s Gator Bowl matchup haven’t played a game for almost a month. The last competitive appearance for the two teams was on December 5 when NC State defeated Georgia Tech 23-13, while Kentucky was also successful, dominating South Carolina 43-18 on the same day. This will be only the third time Wolfpack and Wildcats face each other, with the previous two meetings way back in 1970 and 1909.
TaxSlayer Gator Bowl: NC State Wolfpack vs Kentucky Wildcats Betting Line Movement
Despite losing 6 games this season, three more than North Carolina State, Kentucky enters the game as a favorite, showing the respect oddsmakers have for teams from the SEC conference. The line stands at -2.5 and has been steady all week. This will the first time Kentucky enters a bowl game as favorites since 2007. The total was as high as 53.5 at one point, but some early action on the UNDER has moved it to 49 or 48.5 depending on where you place your bet.
Notes On NC State
The Wolfpack finished their season in style, winning the last four games for the first time since 2007. Their performances this year have been a pleasant surprise and they have beaten their preseason predicted total by three games. Still, they haven’t been truly tested against the elite competition in the ACC, avoiding the matchups against Notre Dame and Clemson. Their best performance versus ranked opposition came against Liberty when NC State held their much-praised offense to only 14 points.
The last win of the season against Georgia Tech was the second game in the row where Wolfpack’s QB Bailey Hockman threw for more than 300 yards. He finished the campaign with 1,820 yards and 12 touchdowns with 8 interceptions, a pretty decent stat line considering that he took over the starting spot only when Devin Leary got injured. The offense has been solid all season long, averaging 31.1 points and 391.5 total yards. There were some issues on the defensive side of the ball, especially against running. In three losses, NC State allowed a staggering 276 yards on the ground.
Notes On The Kentucky Wildcats
Mark Stoops will take the Wildcats to the bowl game for the fifth year in the row, even though they have recorded only four wins this season. Additionally, those four wins all came against the lesser opposition, as Kentucky failed to beat a single team with a winning record. Still, outside of the SEC, they did pretty well, covering in the last seven games against the nonconference competition.
The offense has been the main reason for Kentucky’s woes this season. They averaged only 21.7 points and 311.8 yards of total offense per contest with a passing offense ranked 121st in the nation. The offensive struggles led to the firing of offensive coordinator Eddie Grant in December. Since then, Stoops hire former LA Rams quarterback coach Liam Coen to the position, but he won’t be on the sidelines calling the plays on Saturday. On defense, things look a bit better, as Kentucky ranks 47th in total points allowed.
TaxSlayer Gator Bowl Betting Pick = +2.5 NC State Wolfpack
Kentucky has struggled to score all year, and the Wolfpack defense has been steadily improving towards the end of the season. NC State is more than capable of putting up a fight, especially if they manage to limit their turnovers and may even win straight up against this Kentucky team which, in a normal year, probably wouldn’t even be in a bowl game.