Friday’s Essentials

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Here’s a look at what must be considered before wagering on Friday's slate in select FBS vs. FBS matchups:

Early Starts

Virginia Tech (-2/47) at Virginia, 12 p.m. ET, FOX: The Hokies are sending Bud Foster out in style, but let’s be clear – Foster is doing his part to ensure an exit befitting his legacy as his final days coordinating the defense for Virginia Tech play out. He announced prior to the season that this would be it following a health scare, so his 290th game in his current position will be his final one outside of a bowl game. If his team can pull an upset in Charlottesville, he’ll cram one more assignment in since the winner of this game will be the Coastal Division representative opposite Clemson in the ACC Championship game in Charlotte on Dec. 7.

Virignia Tech has pulled off back-to-back shutouts, dominating Georgia Tech and Pitt by a combined margin of 73-0. The Hokies have won six of seven games, falling by just a single point at Notre Dame as a 17.5-point underdog to open the month. The Cavaliers opened 4-0, suffered through a rough patch and now look to finish the regular-season with a fourth straight win, which would be UVa’s first in a Commonwealth Cup since 2003. Virginia has really struggled in this matchup but nearly won last season, coming up just shot in a 34-31 OT loss after QB Bryce Perkins fumbled to spoil a day where he accounted for four touchdowns and nearly 400 yards of offense. While nowhere near as experienced, Virginia Tech QB Hendon Hooker is 6-0 in starts and hasn’t been intercepted in 110 passes and counting.

Texas Tech at Texas (-9.5/64), 12 p.m ET, FOX: The Red Raiders can’t get bowl eligible, so this trip to Austin will have to suffice as their exclamation point on the season. It hasn’t been a good one for Texas Tech, which struggled after losing QB Alan Bowman, derailing Matt Wells’ first season. Replacement Jett Duffey has been inconsistent but is certainly capable when in a groove, so Tech can be dangerous if the Longhorns allow him to buy time for his receivers. We’ll see how invested Texas’ defense is considering the team is already bowl-eligible and will be a non-factor in the Big 12 race. Only Texas Tech and Kansas have been scored upon more in Big 12 play, so it’s not like the group has played inspired ball.

Offensively, Sam Ehlinger and his group have had their moments but a lot of inconsistency has plagued that group too. Texas is coming off a 24-10 loss to Baylor, which came on the heels of their lowest-scoring output of the season in a 23-21 loss at Iowa State. When the Longhorns were last home, edging K-State, they still harbored conference title aspirations. We’ll see how they handle finishing the season at home after disappointing. The forecast calls for showers, adding to fun.

Toledo at Central Michigan (-11/65), 12 p.m. ET, ESPNU: There’s going to be a lot of people just realizing that Jim McElwain is coaching again today. The former Gators coach known mostly for going viral on social media has done a tremendous job in his first season in Mount Pleasant, where he’ll be looking to secure the school’s first trip to the MAC Championship since 2009. Yep, Antonio Brown’s Chips were the last team to win the West, as this group is trying to do.

The Rockets have been a mess this season but have survived injuries and still have a winning record, so they’re an interesting spoiler here since they’ve already secured bowl eligibility. Top dual-threat QB Mitchell Guadagni has missed the past few weeks and experienced backup Eli Peters won’t play here either, so the Rockets are going to be starting a third-stringer in snowy Mount Pleasant. Tennessee transfer Quinten Dormady threw for a career-high 356 yards in his most recent outing and is worth watching. There’s no question the spread here is inflated, but taking points means you’re relying on a relative unknown with either redshirt freshman Carter Bradley or true freshman Cross Wilkerson working.

Afternoon Delights

Iowa (-5.5/45) at Nebraska, 2:30 p.m. ET, BTN: The Hawkeyes are looking for their fifth straight win in this series, cutting into a ‘Huskers lead that they built up from 1893-1941. You can understand by Iowa fans take offense to Nebraska people thumping their chest at the thought of owning the edge in this rivalry, now known as the “Heroes Game” and being played for the 50th time Take it easy, Iowa, your team is favored on the road at Memorial Stadium, which tells you how Scott Frost’s restoration project is going.

A loss here means that Frost has begun his tenure at his alma mater with multiple losing seasons. The absence of QB Adrian Martinez has tempered momentum this season, but they did at least snap a four-game losing streak with last week’s 54-7 rout at Maryland that teases a turning of the corner. We’ll find out here. Iowa won last season’s game 31-29 despite fielding a better team than they’ve got this season, so Nebraska has a chance to break through and really rescue its season. Rain is expected to factor in throughout.

Cincinnati at Memphis (-12/58), 3:30 p.m. ET, ABC: This game has a much national impact as any since the winner places itself in the driver’s seat to represent the Group of Five leagues in the Cotton Bowl. The Tigers are looking for their third straight West Division title and would be at Navy’s mercy with a loss here. A victory would mean that the American Athletic title game would be played at the Liberty Bowl next week. Cincinnati, already locked in as the East Division champ, will host with a win.

The Tigers have won four of six, including three straight. The Bearcats have repeatedly bounced back after finding themselves down in games this season, so they may be worth an in-game play if getting points if down early in the game. Bearcats QB Desmond Ritter has been dealing with a shoulder injury, so look for a healthy dose of Michael Warren II here. Tigers QB Brady White has thrown 30 touchdown passes, but he’ll be facing the best defense he’s seen since losing 30-28 at Temple on Oct. 12. Memphis has won five straight games since, averaging over 45 points per game and topping 42 each time.

Boise State (-14/57) at Colorado State, 3:30 p.m. ET, CBSSN: The Broncos are looking for their 11th win here as they try to complete a perfect run through the Mountain West regular-season slate. Hawai’i has already secured its spot in the title game by winning the West Division and will play the Broncos next week. Colorado State has dropped consecutive games to Air Force and Wyoming and is stuck playing spoiler here to close out another losing season. As you would expect, the Rams are treating it as a home bowl game, looking to beat a nationally-ranked opponent for the first time since 2002. Boise has never been able to navigate its conference schedule unscathed, so it is hoping to make some history amid snowy conditions in Fort Collins QB Hank Bachmeier is expected to return from injury, but check prior to game-time to make sure.

Washington State at Washington (-7/63.5), 4 p.m. ET, FOX: This year’s Apple Cup lacks intrigue since neither team is playing for anything beyond rivalry pride, having already secured winning records and bowl bids despite disappointing seasons given preseason expectations. On paper, this could have been one of the day’s biggest games, but both teams lost to Utah and Oregon and fell in a few other games they had no business dropping, creating a situation where the loser falls to 6-6. The Huskies lost to Stanford, while WSU routed it 49-22 behind QB Anthony Gordon’s 520 passing yards and five touchdowns. The Cougs pulled out last week’s meeting against Oregon State 54-53 behind Gordon’s 50 completions and 606 passing yards, but he threw three picks and will be facing a secondary that can punish mistakes.

Washington won last season’s meeting 28-15, landing a Pac-12 Championship appearance, so we’ll see if Chris Petersen’s team can demonstrate similar focus with nothing on the line. The Huskies have won nine of 10 in the series, including six in succession. Mike Leach hasn’t won an Apple Cup since 2012 but has a quarterback set to top the 5,000-yard mark to try and help engineer an upset. Gordon and RB Max Borghi have keyed an attack averaging over 41 points per game, but a defense that has given up over 31 points will have to deal with a capable group led by QB Jacob Eason. Temperatures should be in the high 30’s throughout.

Primetime Matchup

South Florida at UCF (-23.5/62), 8 p.m. ET, ESPN: The Knights will look to keep hopes for another 10-win season alive while they try to extend a dominant run over rival South Florida, who once refused to play the university located roughly an hour to the north because it wasn’t competitive enough. The Bulls have only won four games under Charlie Strong this season and are a massive ‘dog. There have been some great UCF-USF matchups over the years, but this one has all the makings of a blowout. South Florida’s top rusher, Jordan Cronkite, has been ruled out and QB Jordan McCloud is nursing a sore thumb, so keeping pace with UCF in the “Bounce House” will require playing well over their heads.

Avoiding a letdown here and closing out a promising first season for freshman Dillon Gabriel is the mandate for the home team, which could be closing out the Charlie Strong era if South Florida elects to pay a buyout and seek a new head coach following another disappointment. The Knights have won 20 straight games at Spectrum Stadium and expect a full house despite falling short of their goal of competing for conference and national titles.

Follow Tony Mejia on Twitter at @TonyMejiaNBA