This season, Free Analysis sides were 287-273-8 overall and 99-81-2 on games with a difference or 4+ points from the spread. Totals are just 284-277-1 but they’re a profitable 37-29 on differences of 6 points or more from the line.

 

The record on all Free Analysis sides is now 1626-1431-62 ATS since 2013, which is very good picking nearly every game over 5 years. The Free Analysis sides in which my predicted margin was 4 points or more away from the line are now 569-473-22. Totals on the Free pages are now 1347-1294-16 in the 4-plus seasons I’ve been tracking them.

 

The spreads posted are the consensus lines at the time I posted each analysis.

Bowl Best Bets were 8-3 and I am now 52-35-2 on my Best Bets (75-49-3 on a Star Basis) and 22-18 on my Strong Opinions this season.

College Bowl Games

UL Lafayette vs
Tulane

Sat, Dec 15 10:30 AM

Odds: Tulane -3.5, Total: 61

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Tulane (-3.5)  34   Louisiana-Lafayette  28

Tulane is about as mediocre as it gets, with their 6-6 record, a mediocre offensive rating (0.1 yards per play better than average) and a mediocre defensive rating (0.1 yppl worse than average). But, the Green Wave are better than a Louisiana-Lafayette squad whose best win all season was against a below average Arkansas State team and that collected their other 6 victories over teams with an average rating of 21 points worse than average.

The only thing that UL-Lafayette has going for them is an offense that is 0.8 yards per play better than an average FBS attack, averaging 6.7 yards per play against teams that would combine to allow 5.9 yppl to an average team. However, the Ragin Cajuns’ have a defense (if you want to call it that) that is 1.2 yppl worse than average, allowing 6.5 yppl to teams that would combine to average only 5.3 yppl against an average FBS defense. Tulane is no offensive juggernaut but the Green Wave have proven that they can rack up big numbers against bad defensive teams, as they averaged 481 yards at 7.2 yppl against Nicholls State, Memphis, ECU, and Navy – the 4 teams they faced that are 0.4 yppl or more worse than average defensively. None of those teams are as bad defensively as ULL is and they are collectively 0.5 yppl better than the ULL defense.

My model is calling for 457 yards at 7.1 yppl for Tulane in this game while ULL is projected at 424 yards at 6.6 yppl. Tulane also has an edge in projected turnovers and in special teams and overall the math favors the Green Wave by 6.4 points with a total of 63.2 points after taking 2.8 points off the math projection to account for the wind and rain that is expected. I’ll lean with Tulane at -4 points or less.

North Texas vs
Utah St.

Sat, Dec 15 11:00 AM

Rotation: 201, Odds: Utah St. -7.5, Total: 68

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Utah State (-7.5)  35   North Texas  31

Utah State head coach Matt Wells has accepted the job at Texas Tech but he’s continued to run most of the Aggies’ practices and will be on the sideline to support his 10-2 team, although assistant Frank Maile is officially in charge as the interim head coach. Utah State’s only losses were on the road to good teams Michigan State and Boise State and the Aggies blew out most of the bad teams that they faced. North Texas is a slightly below average FBS team and Utah State is the best team that they have faced this season, but the Eagles’ have some good offensive talent and their 3 losses were by an average margin of just 4.3 points.

North Texas is led by 3-year starting quarterback Mason Fine, who continues to improve and averaged 7.1 yards per pass play in his junior season. That’s actually not that great when considering that the teams he faced would allow 7.4 yppl to an average quarterback and overall the Mean Green are just average offensively on a national scale. Utah State’s defense allowed just 24 points per game and were 0.2 yppl better than average overall this season on that side of the ball (5.1 yppl allowed to teams that would combine to average 5.3 yppl against an average team). However, the secondary took a hit with a mid-season injury to CB Ja’Marcus Ingram and a few weeks later safety Shaq Bond was also lost for the season. The Aggies went from being better than average defending the pass to 0.7 yards per pass play worse than average over their final 6 games without Ingram and they got a bit worse when Bond went down. Utah State has a strong run defense (4.3 yards per rushing play allowed to teams that would combine to average 4.9 yprp against an average team) but Fine should be able to throw the ball with good success in this game.

Utah State’s offense isn’t as good as the 45 points per game that they averaged against FBS opposition (and they scored 73 points against FCS team Tennessee Tech) but the Aggies are 0.7 yards per play better than average offensively (6.9 yppl against teams that would allow 6.2 yppl to an average team) with a balanced attack that can run and throw the ball effectively. North Texas is also good defending the run (4.2 yprp allowed to teams that would average 4.7 yprp) but the Eagles were worse than average defending the pass (6.1 yppp allowed to quarterbacks that would combine to average 5.4 yppp against an average team) – although they were only 0.3 yppp worse than average with All-Conference CB Kemon Hall playing. Hall had 5 interceptions and 17 total passes defended in barely over 9 games and overall the Eagles are average defensively with Hall playing.

The math model projects Utah State by just 4 points with a total of 65 points and I’ll lean with North Texas plus the points. North Texas has gone under the total in 11 of their 12 games this season but there isn’t enough value on the under in this game to consider playing it.

Arizona St. vs
Fresno St.

Sat, Dec 15 12:30 PM

Rotation: 205, Odds: Fresno St. -6, Total: 53.5

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Fresno State (-6)  32   Arizona State  26

Arizona State surprised some people with their success this season under head coach Herm Edwards, who had been out of coaching for more than a decade before coming to the desert. ASU won 7 games and all 5 of their losses were by 7 points or fewer, so this team certainly should be in the hunt for a win in this game even without star WR N’Keal Harry and top tackler LB Merlin Robertson. Harry has abandoned his team to prepare for the NFL draft while Robertson is reportedly dealing with a family matter and did not make the trip to Vegas. Robertson actually is the bigger loss, as the freshman led the Sun Devils in tackles, sacks and total tackles for loss. Harry, meanwhile, is seen as a potential first-round NFL draft pick but his 9.5 yards per target isn’t that much better than the rest of the Arizona wide-receivers, who combined for 8.8 yards per target.

I still rate the Arizona State attack at 0.8 yards per play better than average without Harry and All-Pac 12 RB Eno Benjamin (1524 yards at 5.5 ypr) and veteran quarterback Manny Wilkins (7.5 yards per pass play and just 4 interceptions thrown all season) are still formidable. Benjamin will probably be held in check by an elite Fresno State defensive front that’s allowed just 4.0 yards per rushing play this season (to teams that would combine to average 5.1 yprp against an average team) but I expect Wilkins to have a solid game even without Harry against a suspect Fresno secondary. Fresno’s stats defending the pass look good (just 5.4 yards per pass play allowed) but the Bulldogs have faced a collection of quarterbacks that would combine to average only 5.3 yppp against an average defensive team. The math projects a decent 386 yards at 5.9 yards per play for the Sun Devils in this game.

Fresno State’s offense works because quarterback Marcus McMaryion is among the most accurate passers in the nation. McMaryion completed 69.5% of his passes with just 3 interceptions this season while averaging 8.2 yards per pass play (against teams that would allow 6.9 yppp to an average QB) and the Bulldogs’ rushing attack went from bad to decent (0.3 yprp worse than average) since Ronnie Rivers became the main ball-carrier starting in week 10. Overall, the Fresno attack rates at 0.5 yppl better than average coming into this game and they should move the ball well against a Sun Devils’ defense that was just average even with Robertson (0.1 yprp better than average and 0.1 yppp worse than average). I’ve adjusted for Robertson’s absence and the math now projects 439 yards at 6.5 yppl for the Bulldogs in this game.

The line on this game appears to have adjusted correctly to the star players that ASU is missing, as my math also has Fresno by 6 points, but I’ll lean with the over 55 or fewer points. The conditions look perfect for scoring with no wind expected on an artificial turf field and I think the market has over-adjusted for the absence of Neal. I also don’t think the Fresno pass defense is as good as perceived to be after considering the collection of mostly bad quarterbacks that they faced. The only good quarterbacks that they faced in decent weather conditions were Boise State’s Brett Rypien, who averaged 8.6 yards per pass play in week 11 against them, and Hawaii’s Cole McDonald, who averaged 7.7 yppp against the Bulldogs’ overrated secondary. Rypien wasn’t nearly as good in the blizzard conditions in the Mountain West Championship game but the math projects Wilkins to put up good numbers in this game.

Georgia Southern vs
Eastern Mich

Sat, Dec 15 2:30 PM

Odds: Eastern Mich +3, Total: 47.5

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STRONG OPINION – UNDER (47.5) – E. Michigan (+3/+3.5) 21   Geo Southern  20

Eastern Michigan is a good defensive team that is even better when you only include the games played with Jaylen Pickett, Brody Hoying, and Maxx Crosby, who all missed games early in the season. From week 4 on that trio wreaked havoc on opposing offenses (combined for 37.5 tackles for loss) and Eastern Michigan allowed just 21.4 points per game and only 4.4 yards per play (to teams that would combine to average 5.0 yppl against an average FBS defense). That defense will be up against a Georgia Southern option offense that has averaged an impressive 30.6 points per game and 6.1 yards per play. However, the Eagles have faced teams that would allow 34.2 points per game and 6.2 yppl to an average offensive team so Georgia Southern is not as good as their raw stats reflect. Eastern Michigan has already faced an otion team this season in Army, which will help with preparation, and the Eagles did a decent job in holding Army to 5.2 yards per play. They really shut down the running part of the option that day (just 4.0 yards per rushing play) but gave up some big pass plays, which is something that they are likely to improve upon.

Georgia Southern’s defense also has an advantage in this game, as the Eagles have been just 0.1 yards per play worse than average defensively while allowing just 23.0 points per game, while Eastern Michigan’s offense has been 0.5 yppl worse than average (5.6 yppl against teams that would allow 6.1 yppl to an average team).

Both of these teams also play at a slow pace, as Georgia Southern averages just 1.82 plays per minute of possession while Eastern Michigan plays at a below average pace of 2.27 plays per minute. My math model projects only 120 total plays in this game (excluding kneel downs and QB spikes) an for the teams to combine for only 5.2 yards per play. That would most likely produce a game well below the posted Over/Under (the math projects 40.5 points) and I’ll consider the Under a Strong Opinion at 47 points or higher (a lean Under with the total lower than 47 points).

The math also likes Eastern Michigan here, as the Eagles are underrated defensively (because they weren’t as good in the 3 games when any of their 3 star defenders were out) and Georgia Southern is overrated due to a randomly good +22 turnover margin. The Eagles are likely to be positive in turnovers because they don’t throw the ball that often but most of that +22 is simply good fortune and they’re only projected to be +0.64 turnovers in this game. I also like Eastern Michigan as an underdog given their 17-2-1 ATS mark in their last 20 games as an underdog or pick. I’ll lean with Eastern Michigan.

Middle Tenn St vs
Appalachian State

Sat, Dec 15 6:00 PM

Rotation: 209, Odds: Appalachian State -6.5, Total: 47.5

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Appalachian State (-6.5)  28   Middle Tennessee State  19

I would have considered Appalachian State for at least a Strong Opinion in this game if not for the departure of head coach Scott Satterfield, who took the job at Louisville and took his offensive and defensive coordinators with him. The co-offensive and co-defensive coordinators are still with the program but new play-callers on both sides of the ball is a bit of a concern. Then again, whatever play-calling tendencies the MTS coaching staff may have uncovered are probably useless.

There is no doubt that Appalachian State has the better team, particularly on the defensive side of the ball. The Mountaineers allowed just 16.4 points per game against FBS opponents and that number shrinks to just 13.6 per game if you exclude their overtime game at Penn State to open the season. Appalachian State yielded less than 300 total yards per game at just 4.5 yards per play (to teams that would average 5.5 yppl against an average defensive team). The average rating of the offenses that App State faced is a bit better than the offensive rating of Middle Tennessee State, which is 0.2 yppl worse than average. The Blue Raiders are 0.4 yards per rushing play worse than average and veteran quarterback Brent Stockstill may be completing 70% of his passes but those passes aren’t going very far and he’s been 0.3 yards per pass play worse than average this season (6.5 yppp against teams that would allow 6.8 yppp to an average quarterback. The math projects just 294 yards at 4.4 yppl for the Blue Raiders in this game.

Middle Tennessee’s strength is actually their defense, which allowed just 25.3 points per game and 5.4 yppl but rates as average after compensating for their opposition (their opponents would average 24.9 points and 5.3 yppl against an average FBS defense). Appalachian is a bit worse than average offensively and the math projects 376 yards at 5.8 yppl for the Mountaineers. Not having Satterfield calling plays, which is considered a strength of his, may hurt the offense a bit, which is why I picked Appalachian by 9 points rather than the 11 point margin that the math model projects. The math shows no value on the total after adding a few points for this game being played in a dome but I’ll lean with Appalachian State despite the coaching change.

UAB vs
Northern Ill

Tue, Dec 18 4:00 PM

Odds: Northern Ill +2, Total: 42.5

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Alabama-Birmingham (-2)  22   Northern Illinois  19

Both of these teams lean on their defense, as UAB yielded just 18.8 points per game against FBS opponents while NIU gave up just 21.5 points per game. Northern Illinois actually has the stronger defense and the best player on the field in All-American DE Sutton Smith (24.5 total tackles for loss) but UAB has a more capable attack and my math model leans with the Blazers to cap off what has been an historic season.

UAB revived football just last season and this season the Blazers won the C-USA title and will be aiming for their 11th victory. Birmingham’s defense is actually just average on a national scale, allowing 5.0 yards per play to teams that would combine to average 5.1 yppl against an average defensive team but that is more than good enough to control a horrible Northern Illinois attack that’s averaged a paltry 4.8 yppl this season (against teams that would allow 5.7 yppl to an average team). The Huskies only hope is to have success on the ground with their mediocre rushing attack (5.2 yprp against teams that would allow 5.2 yprp) because quarterback Marcus Childers cannot be counted on to carry the load given his horrible 4.3 yards per pass play average (against teams that would allow 6.4 yppp to an average quarterback). Childers miraculously averaged 7.5 yppp in the MAC Championship comeback win over Buffalo but he’s averaged more than 5.2 yppp only twice in 13 games this season and his projected at just 4.3 yppp in this game. UAB is 0.2 yards per rushing play better than average (4.6 yprp allowed to teams that would average 4.8 yprp against an average team) so the Blazers should be able to contain the Huskies’ mediocre ground game. My math model projects just 292 yards at 4.7 yards per play for Northern Illinois in this game.

NIU’s only chance to win will ride on the shoulders of Smith and their defense. UAB’s offense will likely be led by backup quarterback Tyler Johnston III, as starter A.J. Ederly is still listed as questionable and may not start even if he’s healthy. Ederly averaged 6.2 yards per pass play against teams that would allow 7.4 yppp to an average quarterback and his compensated numbers were 1.5 yppp lower than Johnston, who averaged 7.4 yards on his 117 passes against FBS opposition that would combine to allow 7.0 yppp to an average QB. Johnston does a good job of pushing the ball down the field, averaging 15.1 yards per completion despite not having a pass play of more than 50 yards (Ederly had a 95 yarder and still had much worse numbers). However, those longer passes also lead to more interceptions, as Johnston threw 8 picks on 111 pass attempts. NIU, however, picked off only 7 passes in 13 games and they don’t get their hands on many balls (just 3.2 passes defended per game), so I don’t expect more than 1 interception from Johnston in this game. UAB has a pretty good rushing attack to go along with their vertical passing game, as the Blazers averaged 220 rushing yards at 5.3 yard per rushing play this season (against teams that would allow 5.3 yprp) and overall that unit rates at 0.1 yppl worse than average with Johnston at quarterback – although that rating would be higher if they needed to throw more, which they might have to in this game since running the ball will be a severe challenge against NIU’s stout defensive front. The math projects 369 yards at 4.9 yards per play for UAB in this game.

Overall the math favors the Blazers by 4 points with a total of 41.5 points but compensated points model would make this game a pick. There isn’t enough value on the side or total to recommend even a lean in this game. Pass.

San Diego St. vs
Ohio

Wed, Dec 19 5:00 PM

Odds: Ohio -3, Total: 53.5

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Ohio (-3)  27   San Diego State  24

San Diego State has their worst season in many years despite quality wins over Arizona State and Boise State. The problem was that the Aztecs played to the level of their competition and lost games to UNLV (as a 23.5 point favorite) and Hawaii (favored by 18). San Diego State was 0-8 ATS as a favorite and 3-1 ATS as an underdog in the regular season and playing well as a dog is nothing new for Rocky Long’s team, as the Aztecs are 28-14 ATS as an underdog since he stepped on campus in 2009 (9-1 ATS recently).

The biggest difference for San Diego State this season is that they did not have a dominating ground attack to cover up for their sub-par quarterbacking. The Aztecs managed just 4.9 yards per rush after a string of 2000 yard rushers with Donnel Pumphrey and Rashaad Penny. Juwan Washington was expected to be next in line to put up huge numbers after he ran for 1213 yards at 6.6 ypr as a backup the previous two seasons, but Washington was injured for part of the season and managed just 870 yards at a modest 4.8 ypr behind an offensive line that wasn’t as dominant as in recent years. San Diego State was worse than average running the ball, even when Washington was healthy, but their preferred method of moving the chains should work pretty well in this game against an Ohio defensive front that is 0.4 yards per rushing play worse than average (5.3 yprp allowed to teams that would combine to average only 4.9 yprp against an average defense). Some success running will help the occasional deep ball off of play-action and Ohio has proven susceptible to long passes in allowing 7.0 yards per pass play this season (to teams that would combine to average only 5.6 yppp against an average defensive team). The math projects 6.1 yards per play for the Aztecs in this game but both teams play at a slow pace and the number of possessions will be limited – and just 338 total yards are forecast for SDSU.

Ohio strength is an offense that averaged a very impressive 7.3 yards per play in 11 games against FBS foes that would combine to allow 6.0 yppl to an average attack. The Bobcats have a dynamic quarterback in Nathan Rourke, who throws the ball down the field well (14.5 yards per completion) and averaged 7.8 yards per pass play in FBS games while adding 952 yards on 104 runs. Running backs Quellette and Irons also posted great numbers (combined for 1973 yards at 6.4 ypr) but their production will likely be limited by San Diego State’s elite run defense that yielded just 3.4 yards per rushing play this season (to teams that would combine to average 4.8 yprp against an average team). The Aztecs are vulnerable to the pass, however, as they’ve surrendered 6.6 yards per pass play to quarterbacks that would combine to average 6.3 yppp against an average defense, and Rourke should have pretty good success through the air while doing some damage with his legs. Running quarterbacks are relatively better against good run defenses and my math model is projecting 202 rushing yards at 5.2 yprp and 196 pass yards at 7.7 yppp for the Bobcats.

The math favors Ohio by 5 points in this game but San Diego State will probably play better in this game than they did down the stretch against bad teams and the Aztecs apply to a 33-10 ATS bowl situation that plays on underdogs that lost their previous two games straight up. I’ll pass on this game.

Marshall @
South Florida

Thu, Dec 20 5:00 PM

Rotation: 215, Odds: South Florida +4.5, Total: 51

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Strong Opinion – SOUTH FLORIDA (+4)  25   Marshall  24

Gasparilla Bowl – Thursday, 5 pm Pacific

South Florida started the season with 7 consecutive wins but only one of those victories was against a bowl-bound team (Georgia Tech) and the Bulls came crashing down to earth with 5 losses against bowl teams to end the regular season. Obviously, Marshall is a bowl team but the Thundering Herd are a worse than average team by FBS standards and are only a couple of points better than the average rating of the team’s that South Florida faced this season. In other words, the Bulls should be as good as they were overall this season in all areas except for quarterback with Blake Barnett reportedly available for emergency duty only. USF players are excited about being able to play another game in their home stadium after losing their final two home games of the regular season and I think they’ll play well even without Barnett.

South Florida’s offense is only average even with Barnett, who is actually not that good. Barnett was 0.5 yards per pass play worse than average after compensating for opposing defenses faced, but the backups were considerably worse in the two games that Barnett missed (Cincinnati and UCF). Chris Odadokun and Brett Kean combined for just 4.0 yards per pass play but they were without All-Conference TE Mitchell Wilcox in both of those games (he will play tonight based on his own words) and Cincy and UCF both have good pass defenses. Those two opponents would combine to allow just 5.4 yppp to an average quarterback while Barnett faced teams that would allow 7.3 yppp, so the difference between Barnett and his backups is not as extreme as the raw stats make it look. The difference, which Wilcox back, is about 0.8 yards per pass play, which equates to about 3 points.

With Barnett out the math model would still project decent production against a Marshall defense that wasn’t as good as their numbers suggest. The Herd stop unit allowed just 22 points and 4.9 yards per play but they faced a schedule of teams that would combine to average just 5.1 yppl against an average defense after factoring in the 3 backup quarterbacks that they faced. The run defense is good (4.1 yards per rushing play allowed to teams that would combine to average 4.5 yprp against an average team), which takes on more importance in what will be poor conditions for throwing the ball, but the Marshall pass defense is just average (5.5 yppp allowed to quarterbacks that would combine to average just 5.5 yppp against an average defense). South Florida is a good running team with two good backs in Jordan Cronkite and Johnny Ford, who combined for 1832 rushing yards at 6.6 ypr despite missing a combined 3 games. Having TE Wilcox back will also help in the windy conditions, as short passes take on more weight. South Florida may actually be better offensively than expected due to a change in play calling after Sterlin Gilbert left of the head coaching job at McNeese State. Gilbert was Charlie Strong’s OC at Texas too and I think he’s a terrible play-caller, so there is room for improvement in that area. The gusting winds could limit what new play-caller Justin Burke can do – although being the tight ends coach I expect Wilcox to see a lot of targets, which would be a positive given that he averaged 9.4 yards per target this season.

Marshall’s offense was 0.7 yards per play worse than average this season, (5.6 yppl against mostly bad defensive teams that would allow 6.3 yppl to an average attack) but the Thundering Herd are only 0.3 yppl worse than average with Isaiah Green at quarterback, as backup Alex Thomson was dreadful in the 3 ½ games that he played. Still, South Florida’s defense, which rates at 0.1 yppl worse than average (5.8 yppl allowed to teams that would average 5.7 yppl against an average team) has the slight advantage in this game. Marshall is projected to average just 5.3 yppl even if the weather were good but 15 mph winds with gusts into the 40s are expected and it will rain most of the day leading up to this game. Running the ball will be key and while Marshall has a better run defense, the Bulls have better running backs – especially if Marshall’s top runner Tyler King (655 yards at 6.1 ypr in just 7 games) misses his 6th consecutive game (he’s questionable). Throwing will be tough and Green completed just 55.7% of his passes this season and is likely to be less accurate in the wind.

Playing at home may not seem like as much of an advantage in a bowl game but home teams are 19-11 ATS in bowl games since 1980 when not favored by 7 points or more and have covered the spread by an average of 6.8 points in those games – so I used a standard home field advantage for this game even though a good number of Marshall players have ties to southern Florida. There is value on South Florida even with Barnett not playing (the math favors USF by 4 with Barnett and by 1 points without him) and the only reason that they’re an underdog is because they’ve lost 5 straight games, which has lowered their stock. When a stock is low it’s time to buy and teams that have lost their previous 5 or more games are actually 4-0 straight up and 4-0 ATS in their bowl game with an average winning margin of 13.5 points and an average spread of +4.1 points. USF has something to prove and I think they’ll play well in this game. I’ll consider South Florida a Strong Opinion at +3.5 points or more.

The math projected 55 total points with Barnett out for USF but the projected weather conditions equate to 6.0 fewer points being scored. The market has mostly adjusted so I’ll pass on the total.

Note: The statistics in the math model projections included in the emails are not adjusted for weather. I only adjust the points scored for each team. In the case of this game, if you’re playing props, you should assume both teams to run the ball more often, throw with less efficiency, and for there to be fewer total plays (due to more running).

Toledo vs
FIU

Fri, Dec 21 9:30 AM

Odds: FIU +7, Total: 56.5

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Toledo (-7)  32  Florida International  25

The total on this game opened at 67 points and has plummeted due to extremely windy conditions (27 mph with gusts into the 40s) and my weather algorithm projects 8 fewer points than projected to be scored due to weather. High winds also tend to favor the team that can run the ball better and that team is Toledo. Toledo averaged 237 yards at 6.0 yards per rushing play against FBS opponents that would combine to allow only 5.1 yprp to an average team. Surprisingly, the rushing numbers improved after losing quarterback Mitch Guadagni, who was leading the team in rushing when he was finally shut down heading into week 10. Running backs Koback and Thompkins raised their level of play down the stretch and combined for 6.1 ypr this season and the Rockets should have no trouble moving the ball on the ground against a soft FIU defensive front that allowed 5.6 yards per rushing play to teams that would combine to average only 4.7 yprp against an average defensive team. Rockets’ backup Eli Peters improved over final 4 games of the regular season and overall he was just 0.3 yards per pass play worse than average. FIU is 0.5 yppp worse than average defensively but I don’t expect Toledo to throw the ball very often, as they should run for about 7 yards a carry.

Toledo also doesn’t defend the run well, as the Rockets allowed 5.8 yprp to teams that would combine to average 4.9 yprp against an average defense, but Florida International is well below average running the ball (5.0 yprp against teams that would allow 5.6 yprp to an average team) and projected to average 1.5 fewer yards per rush than Toledo, which is likely to be key in this game given the conditions. Former Bowling Green quarterback James Morgan had a solid season but his 7.0 yards per pass play came against teams that would allow 7.4 yppp to an average quarterback but Morgan is reportedly not going to play. Backup Christian Alexander was neck and neck with Morgan for the starting job entering the season and he also completed 65% of his passes and his compensated stats on 29 pass plays was better than Morgan’s compensated passing numbers. So, I don’t think an adjustment is needed. Toledo’s pass defense, while bad (0.7 yppp worse than average) is 0.4 yppp better than what Morgan has faced on average this season.

Each quarterback is projected to average about 7 yards per pass prior to adjusting for the wind, but Toledo’ superior rushing attack should make the difference in the very windy conditions. My math favors Toledo by 8 points and projects 57 total points after adjusting for the weather. This line jumped after it was announced that FIU QB Morgan would be out but I really don’t see that making any difference except that now I have no opinion whereas I would have leaned with Toledo at -4.5.

Note: The statistics in the math model projections included in the emails are not adjusted for weather. I only adjust the points scored for each team. In the case of this game, if you’re playing props, you should assume both teams to run the ball more often, throw with less efficiency, and for there to be fewer total plays (due to more running).

Western Mich vs
BYU

Fri, Dec 21 1:00 PM

Odds: BYU -12.5, Total: 52.5

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Best Bet – *Under (52.5) – BYU  25  Western Michigan  19

Strong Opinion – Western Michigan (+12.5)

The weather will be calm in Boise today but that’s about the only thing favoring scoring. Both of these teams run their offense at a slow pace and Western Michigan’s offense is not nearly as good as it was the first two-thirds of the season with Jon Wassink at quarterback. Wassink averaged 7.8 yards per pass play against teams that would combine to allow just 6.2 yppp to an average quarterback. Backup Kaleb Eleby was not nearly as good in his 4 games at quarterback, as the freshman averaged 6.8 yppp while facing mostly bad defensive teams that would combine to allow 7.1 yppp to an average quarterback. The Broncos averaged only 26.8 points and 5.5 yppl in those final 4 games despite facing teams that would combine to allow 31 points and 6.2 yppl to an average attack.

BYU’s defense is very good against both the run and the pass and overall the Cougars have been 0.8 yards per play better than average (4.9 yppl allowed to teams that would combine to average 5.7 yppl against an average defense). The absence of leading pass-rusher Corbin Kaufusi (8.5 sacks) is a negative but his youngest brother Devin stepped in and recorded a sack in the one game that Corbin Kaufusi missed and the Cougars actually had more sacks in that game (against New Mexico State) than in any game this season, so perhaps Corbin’s absence will not be an issue – although I adjusted 0.7 points for the injury. Regardless, BYU’s defense is much better than a Western Michigan offense with Eleby at quarterback.

BYU turned to freshman quarterback Zach Wilson at mid-season and the offense really didn’t change much. Wilson’s compensated yards per pass play numbers are 0.2 yppp worse than original starter Tanner Mangum but he projects to throw fewer interceptions (he threw just 3 on 164 passes). Wilson has been 0.6 yards per pass play worse than average and the BYU rushing attack is mediocre, so the Cougars are 0.3 yppl worse than average offensively and averaged a modest 25.4 points per game.

Western Michigan’s defense is 0.6 yppl worse than average (6.2 yppl allowed to teams that would combine to average 5.6 yppl against an average team) but the Broncos weren’t much worse than average in compensated yards allowed. WMU has a tendency to give up big plays, which leads to fewer total plays run by their opponent. That is part of the reason why Western Michigan has an average play differential of +10.4 plays. BYU is projected to average 6.1 yards per play but the Cougars are projected to run only 59 plays (excluding spikes and kneel downs, which I take out of my stats) for a total of 362 yards. Western Michigan is projected to gain 327 yards at 4.7 yppl and the overall projection of 689 total yards does not justify the total being this high, even with the good weather, which I adjusted for. It also doesn’t hurt that BYU’s top two running backs are both listed as questionable today – although I just assumed both would play.

I’ll take the Under in a 1-Star Best Bet at 51 points or higher. The math model favors BYU by only 11 points and Western Michigan applies to my best Bowl situation – a 46-7-1 ATS subset of a 92-45-4 ATS contrary situation that is a perfect 8-0 the last 5 years. That’s good enough for me to consider Western Michigan a Strong Opinion at +11 or more.