Central Florida should have a home-field feel to their St Petersburg Bowl matchup against North Carolina State, and you're a click away from a free college football pick for the contest.
Detroit on Boxing Day for the Quick Lane Bowl? No thanks. Dallas for a Big Ten-Conference USA clash? Again, I'll pass. Dallas kinda' sucks even when there is a good sporting event going on.
Now Tampa-St. Pete is tempting, even if the St. Petersburg Bowl is being played inside one of the worst sports venues in the world, Tropicana Field. I could still see myself going there for the weekend after Christmas, maybe get a little fishing in as well as making a stop at the Yuengling Beer Company in order to bootleg a few cases back to Texas.
This year's matchup holds promise to be a pretty good affair. The North Carolina State Wolfpack enter from the ACC to face American conference co-champs Central Florida, and the Knights are giving up two points according to the latest spread at SBR's live college football odds, a 49½ point total also on the betting card.
The whole thing boots a little past 8 PM (ET) on the eve after Christmas, with this the third matchup between the Knights and Wolfpack. The schools split a home-&-home series in recent times, UCF taking the first meeting in Raleigh in both teams' home opener for 2007, NC State returning the favor three years later in Orlando.
Each contest was a close one (3 & 7 points), the visitor cashing as a slight underdog. Totals split on closing tabs of 47½ that went 'over' by a half and a 52 which stayed 'under' by 3.
Doeren Takes 'Pack Bowling In 2nd Season
There were a lot of lowlights in Dave Doeren's second year on the job at North Carolina State, but there were also plenty of highlights as the Wolfpack went from a 3-9 club to 7-5 and in the bowls. A midseason spell of four losses as NC State faced Florida State, Clemson, Boston College and Louisville in succession offset a 4-0 bolt from the chute; the team didn't give up, though, winning and covering three of the final four.
There was also no letdown in the season finale after the squad reached bowl eligibility in a 42-13 domination of Wake Forest during Week 13. Facing rival North Carolina helped keep the team from getting lazy about the matchup, and it was an even more dominant performance than the week before against the Demon Deacons, the Wolfpack churning out a 35-7 win as 6½ point road 'dogs in Chapel Hill.
The 'Pack faced pretty inferior run defenses in the wins over Wake and UNC, and that ain't the case against UCF. Doeren and OC Matt Canada are going to have to devise a scheme to confound the nation's 5th-ranked defense against the run (97.4 ypg), not to mention the 9th-toughest to score on (17.9 ppg).
UCF Win Away From 3rd-Straight 10+ Win Season
Minus the one stumble at UConn to start November, it was a damn fine year for George O'Leary and the Knights. Their backers aren't unhappy, that's for sure. Central Florida followers brought home the cheddar eight of 12 games overall thanks to the team closing on an 8-2 run against the college football spreads.
The strength of the run defense has already been mentioned, but it bears repeating. The only real slipups took place in the loss at Connecticut and on the road vs. Missouri in Week 3. The final three weeks on the slate saw the Knights surrender a grand total of 85 yards rushing, and there were three more weeks they allowed 72 yards or fewer on the ground.
This has all the looks of a who-blinks-first outcome, a real grind 'em out, field position, taking advantage of turnovers type of game. Sometimes, those games actually play out, which is why I'm simply going with the better defense in this game and laying two on the Knights for my free college football pick.
College Football Pick: Central Florida -2 at BetOnline
Season: 61-43-1 (+13.70)