College Bowl Games
Sat, Dec 16 10:00 AM
Odds: North Texas +7, Total: 62
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Lean – North Texas (+7) 28 Troy 32
North Texas has been underrated all season (8-5 ATS) and I see some value with the Mean Green even without top rusher Jeffery Wilson, who missed the last two games and is listed as out for this game. I don’t expect North Texas to be able to run well against a good Troy defensive front that allowed just 3.9 yards per rushing play this season but Eagles’ quarterback Mason Fine is a good quarterback (64% completions and 7.1 yards per pass play) and my math model projects 6.9 yppp in this game against a below average Troy pass defense (6.1 yppp allowed to quarterbacks that would average only 5.7 yppp against an average team). Overall the math projects 403 yards at 5.6 yards per play for North Texas in this game.
Veteran Troy quarterback Brandon Silvers, a 4-year starter, has below average numbers (6.6 yppp against teams that would allow 7.2 yppp to an average quarterback) but North Texas gives up a lot of big plays through the air and the Eagles rate at 1.2 yppp worse than average (6.8 yppp allowed to quarterbacks that would average just 5.6 yppp). My math projects Silvers to average 7.2 yppp in this game and for the Trojans to rack up 442 yards at 6.2 yards per play.
Troy is a better team but my math model favors the Trojans by just 4 points in this game and I’ll lean with North Texas plus the points. I have no opinion on the total at the current number but I’d lean under at 63 points or higher.
Sat, Dec 16 11:30 AM
Odds: Georgia St. +6.5, Total: 53.5
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Lean – Georgia State (+6 ½) 24 Western Kentucky 28
Georgia State should be pretty fired up to garner the school’s first ever bowl victory and I question if Western Kentucky’s players will be that excited about this minor bowl game after a disappointing 6-6 campaign that followed two seasons in which they won 23 total games under former coach Jeff Brohm. But, even if both teams are equally motivated I still favor the Panthers getting points.
These two teams are both among the worst in the nation running the football and I don’t expect either to run the ball well in this game (3.4 yprp projected for Western Kentucky and just 3.6 yprp projected for Georgia State). That will leave the outcome of this game in the hands of two experienced senior quarterbacks – Mike White (W. KY) and Conner Manning (Geo St). Both quarterbacks should end their college careers on a positive note, as neither team can defend the pass. Mike White (6.3 yards per pass play against teams that would allow 7.2 yppp to an average quarterback) faced a Georgia State defense that is 1.3 yppp worse than average (6.6 yppp allowed to quarterbacks that would average 5.3 yppp against an average defense) while Manning takes on a Hilltoppers’ secondary that is 1.5 yppp worse than average (6.4 yppp allowed to quarterbacks that would average just 4.9 yppp). Georgia State is projected to have an edge in the aerial game, averaging 7.3 yppp to Western Kentucky’s 7.0 yppp, but the Hilltoppers are likely to throw the ball more often and Mike White is very careful with the football (just 7 interceptions on 521 pass attempts).
The math model projects Western Kentucky to have a small edge in total yards (410 yards at 5.7 yards per play to 395 yards at 5.5 yppl) but the Hilltooppers have an edge in projected turnovers and have better special teams. But, it’s not enough to justify a nearly full touchdown spread, as the numbers all add up to my math model favoring Western Kentucky by just 4 ½ points. I’ll lean with Georgia State at +6 or more and I have no opinion on the total (the math projects 52.5 total points).
Sat, Dec 16 12:30 PM
Odds: Oregon -7, Total: 61
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Oregon (-7) 34 Boise State 26
Oregon is a different team with Justin Herbert back at quarterback after missing nearly 6 games. In fact, I think the Ducks could have been the best team in the Pac-12 if Herbert was healthy the entire season. Herbert’s compensated yards per pass play is 9.4 yppp (he averaged 9.4 yppp against FBS teams that would allow 6.3 yppp to an average quarterback and 6.3 yppp is the national average), which ranks second only to Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield. The other Oregon QB’s have a compensated 2.8 YPPP. Oregon’s offense has been incredible in the 6-plus games with Herbert – averaging 52 points – but in 5 games without Herbert the Ducks manages just 54 TOTAL points (10.8 per game). It’s the biggest difference due to one player I have ever seen in all my years of handicapping. Royce Freeman, Oregon’s leading rusher decided to skip the bowl game to prepare for the NFL draft process, but I don’t see the Ducks’ rushing attack (272 yards per game at 5.8 yards per rushing play) missing a beat given that Oregon’s 3 backup running backs have combined for 1101 yards on 180 runs against FBS opponents (6.1 ypr), which is a bit better than Freeman’s 6.0 ypr average in those games. With Herbert, Oregon has one of the most potent offenses in the nation and my math model projects 473 total yards at 6.7 yards per play for the Quack Attack against a good Boise State defense that is 0.6 yards per play better than average (5.0 yppl allowed to teams that would combine to average 5.6 yppl against an average defensive team).
Something that was overlooked about Oregon this season is their strong defense. The Ducks yielded just 5.2 yppl to a schedule of FBS teams that would combine to average 6.0 yppl and that unit has an advantage over a Boise State offense that is just 0.3 yppl better than average (6.0 yppl against teams that would allow 5.7 yppl). Oregon actually has a better defense than Boise State does and the Ducks are projected to limit the Broncos to 341 yards at 5.1 yppl in this game.
Overall the math favors Oregon by 11 ½ points in this game and I’ve had the Ducks as Best Bets in the two games since Herbert came back (48-28 over Arizona and 69-10 over Oregon State). However, Boise State applies to a 72-18-2 ATS Bowl game situation that plays on pre-New Year’s bowl dogs of 7 points or more. Oregon, meanwhile applies to a 2-23 ATS bowl situation. That big dog situation has a lot to do with these big favorites in early bowl games not being that excited to be playing in a minor bowl game but I don’t see that being the case for Oregon, as the Ducks appear to have a chip on their shoulder and want to continue to prove what a great team they really are now that they have their quarterback back in action. Oregon players are also really supportive of new head coach Mario Cristobal (70 players signed a petition supporting Cristobal as the next head coach that was given to the athletic director), so I expect the Ducks to play hard in this game. Still, I have a tough time going against such a historically strong situations and I’ll pass on this game – although I chose Oregon in my pool.
Sat, Dec 16 1:30 PM
Rotation: 207, Odds: Colorado St. -5.5, Total: 58
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Lean – Marshall (+5 ½) 29 Colorado State 31
Colorado State enters this game on a 6-game spread losing streak and my math model suggests that the Rams are still a bit overrated. CSU certainly has a very good offense, as quarterback Nick Stevens led the Rams to an average of 502 total yards at 6.8 yards per play (against teams that would allow 6.0 yppl to an average offense). However, Colorado State has a horrible defense that is much worse than the deceiving 27.5 points per game they’ve allowed. The Rams have given up 6.3 yards per play to teams that would combine to average just 5.2 yppl against an average team and that unit is bad defending both the run (5.8 yprp allowed) and the pass (6.8 yppp allowed to quarterbacks that would average only 5.5 yppp against an average defensive team).
This is an interesting match-up because Marshall is offensively challenged (5.5 yppl against teams that would allow 6.1 yppl) while the Thundering Herd have a solid defense that’s allowed just 19.3 points per game – although they are just average defensively after compensating for opposing offenses faced. Marshall’s offense gets a bit of a boost with top wide receiver Tyre Brady scheduled to return after missing the last 3 games (aside from one series). Brady has averaged 8.5 yards per target this season while the next 3 main receivers combined for just 7.3 YPT.
I expect Marshall to have pretty good success moving the ball against that horrible Colorado State defense (the math model projects 410 yards at 6.2 yppl) but the Rams should perform a bit better (projected at 438 yards at 6.4 yppl). That projected yardage difference is not enough to justify the line on this game and Marshall has an edge in special teams. Overall the math favors Colorado State by just 2 points and I’ll lean with Marshall plus the points with no opinion on the total.
Middle Tenn St
Sat, Dec 16 5:00 PM
Rotation: 209, Odds: Arkansas St. -3.5, Total: 63.5
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**UNDER (63 ½) – ARKANSAS STATE (-3 ½) 30 Middle Tennessee State 26
The total on this game opened at 58 points but climbed up to 63.5 points by Friday, which offers us good value on the under. I can understand that people see Arkansas State averaging 38 points in their 10 FBS games and Middle Tennessee State averaging 36 points in their 4 games since quarterback Brent Stockstill returned to the lieup and think this game will be high scoring. However, my math doesn’t see it that way.
While Arkansas State did indeed put up good offensive numbers (37.6 points on 509 yards per game at 6.5 yards per play with starting QB Hansen in the game), the Red Wolves did so against an absolutely horrible collection of opposing defensive units. The teams that Arkansas State faced would allow 36.1 points and 6.6 yppl to an average offensive team, so their 6.5 yppl is actually worse than what an average team would gain per play against that same schedule of teams. Middle Tennessee State, at 0.1 yards per play better than average on a national scale (5.1 yppl allowed to teams that would average 5.2 yppl against an average defense), is the best defense that Arkansas State has seen this season and my math projects just 5.4 yppl for the Red Wolves in this game, which is below average. Arkansas State will run a lot of plays with their up-tempo attack (82 projected) so they should score a better than average number of points, but they are unlikely to come close to their 37.6 points average now that they’re facing a quality defense that has allowed just 24 points per game.
Middle Tennessee State’s offense appears to have gotten better with the return of Brent Stockstill, who missed 6 games with an injured shoulder, but that is actually not the case, as the Blue Raiders just faced 4 bad defensive teams to end the season. For the season MTS was 0.7 yards per pass play worse than average (6.2 yppp against teams that would allow 6.9 yppp to an average team) but Stockstill was actually worse than that this season, as he averaged 6.2 yppp in his 6 games while facing teams that would allow 7.2 yppp to an average quarterback. Stockstill’s numbers look much better in those final 4 games at the end of the season but he was still 0.8 yppp worse than average in those games, averaging 6.8 yppp against teams that would allow 7.6 yppp to an average QB. Stockstill is less interception prone (5 picks in 6 games) than his backup John Urzua (9 interceptions in his 6 games) but the offense is no better with Stockstill at moving the ball than their season rating of 0.4 yppl worse than average. There has also been some talk about an improved running game with Terelle West as the starter after he ran for 170 yards against Old Dominion in the finale after missing much of the season. However, my grandmother could gain 100-plus yards against Old Dominion’s swiss cheese defense and West’s 5.2 yards per rush average this season is worse than both Brad Anderson (5.5 ypr) and Tavares Thomas (5.9 ypr), so it’s possible that the Raiders’ rush attack might be worse with West getting the bulk of the carries – although I assumed it would be the same.
Arkansas State has a pretty solid defense that allowed just 27 points and 5.5 yppl to FBS teams that would average 5.4 yppl against an average team and my math projects 5.4 yppl for Middle Tennessee State, which is also below average.
I do project a lot of plays to be run in this game (153) but both teams are projected to average only 5.4 yppl and 825 total combined yards does not come close to equating to more than 60 points. My model is based on projected stats and not points scored and allowed, but a compensated points model would project only 52 total points, which is even lower. I’ll go Under in a 2-Star Best Bet at 62 points or higher (Strong Opinion down to 61 points).
Tue, Dec 19 4:00 PM
Rotation: 211, Odds: Florida Atl. -22, Total: 64
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Lean – FLORIDA ATLANTIC (-22) 43 Akron 16
Lean – Under (64)
Florida Atlantic, of all teams, is the biggest bowl favorite since at least 1980 (as far back as my database goes back), and the Owls have a coach that’s an unapologetic asshole that likes to run up the score and no doubt knows what the pointspread is. Usually backing a huge favorite in a bowl game is not a good idea, but Lane Kiffin should have his team excited to build on their momentum in front of their home fans (his game is played at FAU Stadium) and Akron is a horrible, horrible team that is 19 points worse than an average FBS team.
How the Zips won 6 games is the biggest mystery of this season (aside from how they managed to cover against Toledo in the MAC Championship game, which I’m still upset about). Akron was outgained this season 316 yards at 4.9 yppl to 454 yards at 6.2 yppl despite facing a schedule of teams that would be outgained by 0.3 yppl by an average FBS team.
Florida Atlantic has won 6 games this season by 24 points or more and Akron is 11 points worse than the average team that the Owls faced this season, so winning by 24 points or more in this game should be expected. FAU averaged 39.4 points on 481 yards at 6.9 yards per play against teams that would allow 6.1 yppl to an average team and the Owls are projected to gain 531 yards at 7.3 yppl against a horrible Akron defense that is 0.5 yppl worse than average.
The Florida Atlantic defense is pretty good by lower conference standards, as the Owls were just 0.1 yppl worse than average, allowing 5.6 yppl to teams that would combine to average 5.5 yppl against an average FBS defense. That unit has a huge edge over a horrible Akron attack that managed just 21 points per game and 4.8 yppl against teams that would allow 6.0 yppl to an average team. My math model projects just 332 yards at 4.5 yppl for the Zips in this game, so it will be a challenge for them to reach 20 points.
My math model favors FAU by 27 ½ points in this game, with a total of 59 points so the value is with Florida Atlantic and the under. Akron scored two late touchdowns to cover the spread on the final play against Toledo, who turned it over 5 times after averaging just 1 turnover per game heading into that game but they aren’t likely to be as lucky today. Toledo pulled their defensive starters to allow that final touchdown but Lane Kiffin is less likely to do that given his desire to beat down his opponents into submission and because he understands that his alumni are betting on his team and he’ll do what he can to cover. That’s not to say that FAU will cover the number but they are more likely to than most huge favorites in bowl games because most huge bowl favorites are playing in a bowl game that they are disappointed to be playing in, which is not the case here. I’ll lean with FAU at -24 or less, and I’ll lean under 63 or higher. I’d upgrade Florida Atlantic to a Strong Opinion if the line drops to -21 points or less.
Wed, Dec 20 5:00 PM
Rotation: 213, Odds: SMU -4.5, Total: 70
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Strong Opinion – Louisiana Tech (+4.5) 37 Southern Methodist 36
Louisiana Tech is a below average offensive team with a bad defense but the Bulldogs have some advantages in this game against an SMU team that is among the worst defensive teams in the nation and will be missing their best defensive player, CB Jordan Wyatt. Wyatt led the Mustangs with 4 interceptions (2 returned for touchdowns) and 12 passes defended in 11 games. SMU’s pass defense is horrible even with Wyatt, as the Mustangs allowed 8.3 yards per pass play to FBS quarterbacks that would combine to average 6.5 yppp against an average defense. In the one prior game that Wyatt missed a below average Connecticut aerial attack connected on 22 of 28 passes for 408 yards. Louisiana Tech quarterback J’Mar Smith is well below average (6.3 yppp against teams that would allow 7.1 yppp to an average QB) but he should have a really good game here while the Louisiana Tech ground game (5.4 yard per rushing play) churns out chunks of yards on the ground against a soft SMU defensive front that has yielded 6.3 yprp to teams that would combine to average 5.2 yprp against an average defense. Louisiana Tech is projected to run for 245 yards at 6.3 yprp while the pass attack generates 261 yards at 8.0 yppp against a horrible SMU secondary without their best player and possibly without leading tackler SS Mikial Onu, who is questionable with a concussion. If Onu were not to play that would probably make the SMU run defense even worse.
SMU is equipped with a really good offense, as the Mustangs have averaged 38.6 points on 495 yards at 6.6 yards per play (against teams that would allow 6.0 yppl) and Louisiana Tech’s defense, which rates at 0.7 yppl worse than average (5.9 yppl vs teams that would average 5.2 yppl), is worse than the average unit the SMU has exploited this season. However, it’s possible that SMU might be without their most explosive offensive player, freshman WR James Proche, who is questionable with a hamstring injury. A tender hamstring is not idea for a big play receiver and the Mustangs would surely be hurt if Proche does not play or is hampered by the tight hamstring if he does try to play. Proche has averaged an incredible 13.4 yard per pass targeted at him and caught 66% of those passes, which is really impressive for a guy averaging 20 yards a catch. The rest of SMU’s receivers combine for 8.2 yards per target, so it wouldn’t be easy to replace Proche in the offense. If Proche plays and is 100% (unlikely) then I’d project 507 yards at 7.0 yppl for SMU in this game. If he doesn’t play at all then I’d project 488 yards at 6.7 yppl for the Mustangs.
This is an odd situation for SMU, as new head coach Sonny Dykes, is going to coach the team in this bowl game. I doubt that Dykes will make any significant changes to a productive offense, but he has never cared about defense before so SMU is the perfect team for him. Louisiana Tech is not as good at SMU but the Mustangs are without their best defensive player and potentially without their most impactful offensive player. Louisiana Tech is a live dog in this game and I’ll consider the Bulldogs a Strong Opinion at +4 points or more.
Thu, Dec 21 5:00 PM
Rotation: 215, Odds: FIU +7, Total: 57.5
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Lean – Florida International (+7) 25 Temple 30
Thursday, December 21 – 5 pm Pacific
Temple is certainly a better team since Frank Nutile took over at quarterback but the line has more than adjusted to that improvement and I don’t see any significant value in this game either way. Temple’s strength is a defense that is mediocre by national standards, allowing 5.6 yards per play and 27.7 points per game to teams that would combine to average 5.6 yppl and 27.9 points against an average defensive team. Florida International put up good offensive numbers (403 yards at 6.0 yppl) but that number was skewed by the 9.2 yppl in their 63-45 final game win over U Mass and overall the Panthers faced a collection of defensive units that would combine to allow 6.3 yppl to an average offensive team – so FIU is below average offensively even with that big final game boosting their numbers. My model projects a sub-par 339 yards at 5.2 yppl for FIU in this game
Temple’s offense was horrible in the first half of the season with Logan Marchi behind center but the Owls got a boost when Nutile took over, as he rates at 0.8 yards per pass play better than Marchi. Nutile is still 0.2 yards per pass play below average if you take out his garbage time stats against UCF’s backups, which includes a 74 yard touchdown pass, and the Owls’ rushing attack is horrible (4.45 yprp against teams that would allow 5.25 yprp), so that unit probably won’t fully exploit a bad FIU defense that has surrendered 6.2 yppl to teams that would combine to average only 5.4 yppl against an average defensive team. However, my math model projects a pretty good 420 yards at 6.1 yppl for the Owls.
Overall the math favors Temple by just 5 ½ points and Florida International coach Butch Davis is 6-1 ATS in bowl games, so he may have an edge in knowing how to prepare his team for a bowl game over Temple’s year head coach Geoff Collins. I don’t have much here but I’d lean slightly with Florida International at +7 points or more playing close to home in St. Petersburg.
Fri, Dec 22 9:30 AM
Rotation: 217, Odds: Ohio -6.5, Total: 59
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Strong Opinion – Ohio (-6 ½) 34 Alabama-Birmingham 21
Lean – Under (59)
Ohio is a borderline Best Bet and I’d be more willing to pull the trigger if I knew the status of Bobcats’ running back Dorian Brown and WR Brendan Pope. Brown is listed as questionable with a hip injury that kept him out of Ohio’s regular season finale and Pope, who also missed that game, is questionable with an ankle injury. Brown is important because fellow running back A.J. Quellette was injured early in that final game and he’s listed as doubtful to play. Quellette is the team’s leading rusher with 980 yards at 5.3 yards per rush but I’d be fine with him out if Brown is ready to go since Brown has 605 yards at an even better 6.1 ypr. However, if Brown is out too that leaves the bulk of the running back carries to Julian Ross, who averaged only 4.3 ypr on 19 carries in the loss at Buffalo and averaged only 3.9 ypr on 54 runs over the course of the season. Quarterback Nathan Rourke will still be able to move the chains with his legs, as he ran for 969 yards on 116 runs this season (8.4 yprp), but Ohio’s rushing attack (6.3 yprp against teams that would allow 5.4 yprp to an average attack) would be projected at just 0.3 yprp better than average if Brown doesn’t play (and may not be as good if Brown does play if he’s not 100%). The injury to Pope isn’t quite as vital, as Ohio’s pass attack would only take a hit of 0.3 yards per pass play if he doesn’t play and the Bobcats don’t throw the ball that often. Ohio’s offense has averaged 6.4 yards per play against FBS teams this season and the Bobcats rate at 0.5 yppl better than average – all thanks to Rourke’s running ability. However, if Brown and Pope are both out then I’d rate Ohio’s attack as just average.
UAB has good raw defensive numbers (5.4 yppl allowed) but the Blazers faced mostly bad offensive teams that would combine to average just 5.0 yppl against an average team, so Ohio should be able to move the ball at a better than average clip even if they are without Brown and Pope. My model projects 429 yards at 6.5 yppl for Ohio with Brown and Pope at 100% and 396 yards at 6.0 yppl if Brown and Pope both miss this game. I’ll split the difference in my math model.
UAB was a surprising 8-4 and 8-3-1 ATS, which is a good record for a team that was out-gained by 20 total yards per game in 11 games against FBS competition. The Blazers were better than their stats thanks to variance in 3 key areas. UAB was +3 in defensive touchdowns, had a 48% to 40% edge in 3rd & 4th down conversion rate and averaged a ridiculously lucky 5.8 points per redzone opportunity while their opponents averaged only 4.4 points per RZ. A team that averaged 5.5 yppl and allowed 5.4 yppl should not have such significant advantages in 3rd & 4th down conversion rates and especially shouldn’t have such a huge edge in redzone scoring efficiency. The best offensive teams in the nation wouldn’t be expected to average anywhere close to 5.8 points per redzone chance and UAB’s defensive stats would predicted 4.8 PPRZ, which is about the same as their offensive expectation. The difference in redzone scoring, compared to what would be expected of a team with UAB’s statistical profile, equates to 5.0 points per game of redzone luck. UAB had an average scoring margin of +2.9 points in 11 games against FBS opponents with an average overall rating of -15.5 points and they would have been outscored by that collection of really bad teams had it not been for the extreme positive variance.
The reality is that UAB is 0.4 yards per play worse than average defensively and are an even worse 0.9 yppl worse than average on offense (5.5 yppl against teams that would combine to allow 6.4 yppl to an average team). That attack is at a disadvantage against an Ohio defense that is only 0.3 yppl worse than average (5.6 yppl allowed to teams that would average 5.3 yppl). The math model projects only 331 yards at 4.9 yppl for UAB and assumes that their points per redzone opportunity is in line with what would be expected from a team that is below average overall offensively.
In addition to being below average offensively and defensively, UAB also has horrible special teams, as the Blazers are -4.8 in net yards per punt differential and -3.0 yards in net starting kickoff field position. UAB has a good kicker (+0.4 points per game better than average) but Ohio’s kicker is one of the best in the nation at +0.8 points per game better than average (15 of 16 on FG attempts of less than 50 yards). My math model favors Ohio by 12 ½ points if redzone scoring is normal and the math would still favor the Bobcats by 8 points even if UAB continues to be far outside the normal range in points per RZ. If Brown and Pope both miss this game then the math would favor Ohio by 9 ½ points, so the Bobcats are still the right side to be on from a mathematical perspective.
Bowl games are often about which team is more focused while preparing for their bowl game and that is an area that likely favors UAB, as most of the players on this team were there when there actually wasn’t a team and all they did was practice while waiting for this season to come. It’s incredible that the Blazers were as successful as they’ve been in their first season back playing football but much of that success was a mirage. So, despite UAB’s players being incredibly fired up to be representing their school in this bowl game I will stick with the math and I’ll consider Ohio a Strong Opinion at -7 points or less and I’ll lean with the under.
Note: Ohio RB A.J. Quellette WR Brendan Pope have both been upgraded to probable but neither is as important as #2 rusher Dorian Brown (6.6 ypr) and while I like Ohio a bit more now I will maintain my Strong Opinion rating.
Fri, Dec 22 1:00 PM
Rotation: 219, Odds: Wyoming -3, Total: 45.5
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Lean – Central Michigan (+3) 19 Wyoming 20
Lean – Under (45)
The big news a couple of days ago was that Wyoming quarterback Josh Allen is healthy enough to play after missing the final 2 ½ games of the regular season. Allen is projected as a first round NFL pick but I pity the team that is stupid enough to take him. Allen is just another version of Christian Hackenburg (Penn State and drafted by the Jets a couple of years ago) or Kyle Boller (completed less than 50% of his passes at Cal and was a first round draft pick), who were guys with a gun for an arm that could throw a ball through a barn door – if they could only hit the barn. I don’t understand why NFL scouts continue to be seduced by strong armed quarterbacks that are inaccurate. It’s like wanting to date the prettiest girl in town even if she’s a gold-digging idiot that can’t carry a conversation and will ultimately take all your money. Allen has completed only 56% of his passes while averaging just 5.0 yards per pass play (against FBS teams that would allow 6.8 yppp to an average quarterback) this season. The draft experts are giving him a pass because Wyoming lost so much talent at the skill positions from last year’s team. Okay. But, Allen completed only 56% of his passes last season too. You cannot coach accuracy. You either have it or you don’t, and some of the greatest quarterbacks ever, who were incredibly accurate in college, were lower round draft picks because they didn’t have a strong arm (Joe Montana and Tom Brady come to mind). I’ll now get off my soap box and analyze how Allen’s inept passing skills affects this game.
As illustrated above, Wyoming has a horrible pass offense (1.8 yppp worse than average) and the Cowboys can’t run the ball either (just 4.2 yards rushing play against teams that would allow 5.4 yprp to an average team). That combination results in an offense that averaged just 279 total yards and 4.6 yards per play against FBS teams that would allow 6.1 yppp to an average team. I don’t see Allen doing much damage against a good Central Michigan pass defense that yielded just 5.0 yppp this season (to quarterbacks that would average 5.4 yppp against an average team) and is 0.9 yppp better than the average defense that Wyoming faced this season. Josh Allen faced mostly worse than average pass defenses and he was even worse, relatively against better than average pass defenses – averaging just 3.4 yppp against Iowa, 2.2 yppp against Oregon, and 3.5 yppp against Boise. My math projects a dismal 4.2 yppp for Wyoming in this game and it wouldn’t surprise me if it were lower than that given that Central Michigan’s pass defense is only 0.5 yppp worse than those 3 good defensive teams that Allen combined to average just 3.1 yppp against. The Chippewas are 0.4 yard per rushing play worse than average but Wyoming is projected to average only 3.7 yprp in this game and just 286 total yards at 4.2 yards per play.
Wyoming made it to a bowl game because of a very good defense that is great defending the run (4.2 yprp allowed to teams that would average 5.0 yprp) and very good defending the pass (5.6 yppp allowed to quarterbacks that would average 6.1 yppp). Central Michigan’s offense is below average for the season (5.7 yppl against teams that would allow 6.2 yppl to an average team) but the Chippewas were better from week 6 on when top receiver Corey Willis returned from injury along with star TE Tyler Conklin. From week 6 on the Chippewas were just 0.1 yppl worse than average (6.0 yppl against teams that would allow 6.1 yppl), as the rushing attack also got more consistent. Wyoming should still control that attack and I project 339 yards at 4.7 yppl for Central Michigan in this game.
The Chippewas are projected to outgain the Cowboys by 53 yards but Wyoming has an edge in projected turnovers and special teams and this should be a close, low-scoring game. The math does favor Central Michigan by 1 point, with a total of just 39 points, but Central Michigan applies to a very negative 5-40-2 ATS bowl situation that is based on their 5 game spread winning streak. I trust my math more than I trust the bowl situations, so I’ll still lean with Central Michigan at +3 points or more despite the very negative historical situation. As far as the total is concerned, I’m also just going to make that a lean even though the differential between the over/under and the predicted total is 6 points. My model hasn’t done as well picking unders with low totals in the bowl games and I’ll respect that past performance history and just lean under – although Wyoming went over the total just 1 time all season.