The College World Series is finally here.

The action in Omaha will begin on Friday as all 4 teams in Bracket 1 make their 2024 CWS debuts. This story will cover teams in Bracket 2, who are slated to play their opening-round games on Saturday.

Kentucky, Texas A&M, NC State and Florida will battle it out for the right to play in the championship series. Here’s a breakdown of the betting odds, statistical profiles and pitching staffs for each Bracket 2 program:

No. 2 Kentucky 

Odds to win the College World Series: +500 at bet365

Kentucky has perhaps been a bit underrated by the market throughout the postseason. The Wildcats won a share of the SEC regular-season title along with Tennessee. They’ve since swept through the regional and super regional rounds thanks to solid pitching and an explosive offense. 

UK is well-respected by both Sonny Moore’s power ratings (No. 2) and Warren Nolan’s ELO rankings (No. 3). And yet, the Wildcats are not viewed as a top-2 favorite at any major sports book. 

There is some cause for concern with regards to Kentucky’s pitching staff. The Wildcats have a frontline ace in Trey Pooser, who will likely get the ball on Saturday against NC State. Their No. 2 starter is Mason Moore, who can be a bit erratic (6 walks in a short outing against Oregon State last week) but has also put together great outings vs. Arkansas, Florida and Indiana State since the beginning of May. There’s not a lot of consistent starting options after Pooser and Moore, but UK does have some dependable arms in the bullpen.

Per the latest odds from bet365, Kentucky is +200 to reach the championship series and -150 to win outright on Saturday against NC State. 

No. 10 NC State

Odds to win the College World Series: +1400 at ESPN BET

NC State is here after it defeated Georgia in dramatic fashion at the Athens Super Regional. The Wolfpack have been a strong team all season, but their statistical profile doesn’t stand out amongst other elite teams on either side of the diamond. They rank outside the top 50 nationally in slugging percentage, batting average, on-base percentage and runs. They’re outside the top 75 in ERA, WHIP and strikeout-to-walk ratio.

Still, NC State enters this week at No. 6 nationally in both Sonny Moore’s power ratings and Warren Nolan’s ELO rankings.

NC State really struggled on the mound for most of this season, posting a season-long ERA north of 6. However, fans who want to take a more optimistic view on NC State could point toward the Wolfpack’s impressive performance during the postseason. In 6 NCAA Tournament games so far, NC State has allowed a total of 26 runs, which translates to an ERA of roughly 4.33. In only 1 of those 6 games did NC State’s opponent score more than 5 runs. If NC State can prove that these pitching improvements are real, it will have a chance to make a deep run.

Offensively, NC State isn’t elite, but it does still have a dangerous lineup. The Wolfpack are led by an electric trio: Alec Makarewicz, Garrett Pennington and Jacob Cozart. All 3 of those hitters are batting at least .300 with 18+ home runs on the year.

NC State is +110 to win outright against Kentucky on Saturday, per the latest lines from ESPN BET.

RELATED READING: Betting preview for Bracket 1 at the College World Series

No. 3 Texas A&M

Odds to win the College World Series: +350 at DraftKings

Although Kentucky is the highest-seeded team in this bracket, Texas A&M is the clear favorite in the betting markets to emerge from this side of the CWS field. The Aggies are even the co-favorites (with Tennessee) at a couple of sports books as of Friday morning.

Texas A&M is 3rd nationally in Sonny Moore’s power ratings and 4th in Warren Nolan’s ELO rankings.

Offensively, Texas A&M ranks 8th nationally in slugging percentage, 18th in on-base percentage and 4th in home runs per game. Of course, Texas A&M sustained a devastating loss last week when Braden Montgomery suffered a season-ending ankle injury. Montgomery is a potential top-10 pick in the 2024 MLB Draft and was arguably the best player in a loaded Texas A&M lineup. Still, the Aggies have quite a bit of offensive production beyond Montgomery and should be fine as they prepare to play in Omaha for the 2nd time in 3 seasons.

Texas A&M ace Ryan Prager is expected be on the hill for the Aggies’ opening-round matchup against Florida on Saturday night. Prager will be tasked with keeping the ball in the yard against a high-powered Gators’ offense, but the large dimensions in Omaha should help with that effort. Beyond Prager, Texas A&M doesn’t have any other elite starting options. However, the Aggies do have a strong bullpen — the primary reason they enter this week ranked 6th nationally in ERA.

Texas A&M is -195 to beat Florida on Saturday in the opening round of the College World Series, per DraftKings. Bet365 has the Aggies as the favorites to emerge from this side of the bracket at +125.

Florida

Odds to win the College World Series: +1400 at bet365

Florida is the lone CWS team this year to not earn a top-16 seed in the NCAA Tournament. The Gators’ path to the College World Series began late in the regular season when they needed a series win vs. Georgia to secure an above-.500 record — a minimum requirement for earning an at-large bid in the NCAA Tournament. Florida managed to accomplish that feat and was put into the field as a No. 3 seed in the Stillwater Regional.

Florida then overcame those long odds by beating Oklahoma State twice to advance to the Supers, and then swept Clemson on the road to earn a spot in the College World Series. With their late surge, the Gators rank 9th nationally in Sonny Moore’s power ratings and Warren Nolan’s ELO rankings.

The obvious name to know here is Jac Caglianone, who at his peak is a dominant 2-way player at the collegiate level. Caglianone has legendary power from the left side, as earlier this season he became just the second-ever NCAA player to have back-to-back 30-home run seasons. He also hit .411 this year with an OPS of 1.392.

He’s been Florida’s Game 2 starter throughout the postseason, slotting in behind Liam Peterson in that role. His results in that role have been mixed, but the Gators don’t have many better options. Caglianone has a 4.71 ERA on the year, but has legit swing-and-miss stuff — 82 strikeouts in 72.2 innings of work. The issue with Caglianone on the mound is walks. He’s issued 48 of them — 20 more than any other UF pitcher — so far this season.

Without a true ace, Florida has found itself in a position where it must put up big offensive numbers in order to remain competitive against good teams. That’s exactly what the Gators have done, as the lineup around Caglianone has also been extremely productive. Florida relies pretty heavily on home runs (2.11 per game, good for 7th nationally), as it ranks just 164th nationally in on-base percentage and 182nd nationally in batting average. It’s a formula that has worked so far this postseason, but the College World Series will feature tougher competition and deeper fences than Florida is used to.

Per the latest odds from bet365, Florida is +145 to beat Texas A&M in the opening round and +600 to reach the final.

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