College Bowl Games
Middle Tenn St
Fri, Dec 17 9:00 AM PT
Rotation: 201, Odds: Toledo -10, Total: 50.5
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Strong Opinion – Under (50.5) – Toledo (-10) 28 Middle Tennessee State 16
Toledo was hot offensively to end the season, racking up an average of 45.5 points over their final 4 games while averaging more than 8.0 yards per play in each game. However, over the course of the season Toledo was just 0.1 yppl better than average offensively and they have been+0.4 yppl with Dequan Finn at quarterback over the course of the season. Finn was an upgrade over early season starter Carter Bradley, who he split snaps with through the first 6 games, but the Rockets were still 0.1 yards per pass play worse than average with Finn at quarterback. The 9.3 yppp Finn has averaged over the last 4 games is an aberration, although I do rate the Rockets’ pass attack at +0.6 yppp heading into this game because losing WR Bryce Mitchell (6.1 yards per target and just a 31% success rate) to injury and replacing him in the receiver rotation with Matt Landers (16.4 YPT and 62% success) is significant and part of the reason for the increased production the last 4 games – although Landers’ 24.9 yards per catch average over the last 4 games is highly unlikely to continue (he has two catches of 80 yards or more). I also don’t expect the three Toledo running backs, who combine for 6.2 ypr for the season, to average 7.7 ypr as they’ve done the last 4 games – especially against a solid MTSU run defense.
While Toledo is certainly improved offensively with Finn at quarterback and with Landers getting targets in place of Mitchell, the Rockets’ offense that I rate at +0.7 yppl heading into this game (instead of +0.1 yppl for the season) will be up against a solid Middle Tennessee defense that’s been 0.2 yppl better than average this season. Toledo is projected to gain 422 yards at 6.1 yppl in this game, even with expected winds in the mid-teens and a 10% chance of rain.
The MTSU offense took a bit of a hit mid-season when quarterback Chase Cunningham was injured but the backup quarterbacks have only been 0.2 yards per pass play worse over the last 4 games than the Blue Raiders poor season pass rating of -1.6 yards per pass play. The MTSU backup quarterbacks have averaged only 5.3 yppp the last 4 games against teams that would allow 7.1 yppp to an average team and they’ll struggle to produce against Toledo’s great pass defense, which allowed just 5.0 yppp this season (to quarterbacks that would combine to average 5.8 yppp against an average defense).
The MTSU rushing attack is 0.9 yards per rushing play worse than average (4.7 yprp against teams that would allow 5.6 yprp) and it’s unlikely that the backs will be able to carry the offense against a slightly better than average Toledo run defense. The Rockets have faced 4 very bad offensive teams this season and they’ve allowed just 12 points (Ball State), 7 points (UMass), 17 points (Bowling Green), and 14 points (Akron) in those games and the math projects only 272 yards at 3.9 yppl for Middle Tennessee State in this game (adjusted for projected weather).
Overall, the math favors Toledo by 15.2 points with a total of 44.2 points and the posted total may be high based on Middle Tennessee games averaging 55.6 total points. That’s much higher than what would be expected from a team that averaged just 5.2 yppl and allowed just 5.2 yppl while playing an average pace. The reason that MTSU games have been higher scoring than their stats would project is because of 8 defensive touchdowns and 2 special teams TDs, which is much higher than normal (the most combined non-offensive TDs in the nation).
Toledo, meanwhile, had 6 combined non-offensive touchdowns in their 12 games, which is a couple more than average too. In addition to all the random touchdowns in games involving these two teams (worth 4.7 points per game more than average), the oddsmakers likely have over-adjusted for Toledo’s recent offensive surge (teams off 3 or more overs tend to go under in their bowl game) and not fully taken into account the bad weather expected in the Bahamas on Friday.
The situation favors MTSU a bit, as the Blue Raiders apply to a 50-22 ATS bowl situation that plays on teams that had to win their final game to make it to a bowl (such teams usually are more excited) and playing on December bowl favorites of 7 points or more is risky (74-124-7 ATS excluding major Bowls/playoff games). So, I won’t lean with Toledo despite the math model favoring the Rockets by 15 points.
The under is a Strong Opinion at 50 points or more.
Fri, Dec 17 3:00 PM PT
Rotation: 203, Odds: Coastal Carolina -10.5, Total: 63
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Lean – Over (63) – Coastal Carolina (-10.5) 41 Northern Illinois 27
Coastal Carolina might be a bit disappointed to be playing in this bowl for a second straight year and the Chanticleers certainly had higher aspirations entering the season. However, quarterback Grayson McCall is an elite quarterback that should tear up the a bad Northern Illinois pass defense when needed – although it may not be needed given how bad the Huskies’ run defense is. McCall completed 73% of his passes and averaged 10.7 yards per pass play (against FBS teams that would allow 7.5 yppp to an average QB) and threw just 3 interceptions all season (only 6 in two seasons). McCall’s +3.2 yppp rating is significantly better than the team’s +1.6 yppp rating (9.3 yppp against teams that would allow 7.7 yppp) because his backups had a horrible -2.2 yppp rating on their 80 pass plays vs FBS teams (McCall missed two games).
Coastal Carolina may not need to throw it much, as their talented collection of runners averages 237 yards at 6.1 yards per rushing play and Northern Illinois allows 229 run yards at 6.3 yprp (to teams that are 0.5 yprp worse collectively running the ball than Coastal Carolina is). Coastal averaged 53.3 points against the 4 worst defensive teams that McCall faced (Kansas, UMass, ULM, and Arkansas State), scoring at least 49 points in each of those games, and NIU’s defense is only 0.1 yppl better than the average defensive rating of those 4 teams. They probably won’t score that many in this game because the pace of Northern Illinois’ offense is slow, and the Chanticleers will likely have at least one fewer possession than normal.
The NIU attack is mediocre on a national scale, as the Huskies have averaged 6.0 yppl against teams that would allow 6.1 yppl to an average FBS offense and the Huskies are projected to gain 387 yards at 6.2 yppl against a Coastal Carolina defense that’s been 0.5 yppl worse than average (5.4 yppl allowed to teams that would average 4.9 yppl against an average defense).
The huge 1.6 yppp difference between McCall and the team’s pass rating is not in the line, which is why there is value on Coastal Carolina and the over in this game, but December, non-major, bowl favorites of 7 points or more are just 74-124-7 ATS since 1980. I lean with the Over at 64 points or less and I’d lean with Coastal Carolina at -10 or less.
Sat, Dec 18 8:00 AM PT
Rotation: 205, Odds: Appalachian State -3, Total: 67.5
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Strong Opinion – UNDER (67.5) – Appalachian State (-3) 31 Western Kentucky 30
Western Kentucky scored 31 points or more in all 13 of their games this season but Appalachian State is the best defensive team that the Hilltoppers have faced all season and winds from 10 to 20 mph throughout the game, with a good chance of rain, should slow down the aerial attack that WKU depends on. Quarterback Bailey Zappe averages over 50 pass plays per game and he’ll be up against a better than average Appalachian State defense that is 0.2 yards per pass play better than average (0.9 yppp better than the average defense Zappe faced this season) and 0.4 yards per play better than average overall. Zappe averaged 8.2 yppp this season but I project just 7.1 yppp and 415 total yards on 6.1 yppl for the Hilltoppers in this game given the strength of the App State defense and the weather conditions.
The Appalachian State offense is a bit better than average (6.3 yppl against teams that would allow 6.2 yppl to an average team) and I rate Western Kentucky’s defense at only 0.1 yppl worse than average heading into this game. The Hilltoppers were 0.3 yppl worse than average over the course of the season (5.6 yppl allowed to teams that would combine just 5.3 yppl against an average team) but they improved over the 7 games with CB Dominique Bradshaw in the starting lineup after barely playing the first 6 games of the season. Bradshaw was third on the team in passes defended despite missing half the season and Western Kentucky allowed 21 points or fewer in Bradshaw’s first 6 games before giving up 49 points to UTSA in the CUSA Championship game (because of 311 rush yards). The pass defense in 7 games with Bradshaw was 0.3 yppp better than average (5.3 yppp allowed to quarterbacks that would average 5.6 yppp against an average defense) but losing Will Ignont, who led the team in passes defended from his linebacker position, will likely hurt the pass defense some. I don’t think the Western Kentucky pass defense is as good as it was over the final 7 games and I rate the Hilltoppers at 0.2 yppp worse than average against the pass and 0.1 yprp worse than average defending the run. Appalachian State is projected to gain 444 yards at a mediocre 5.8 yppl in this game.
Appalachian State should control the ball (33.1 minutes of time of possession projected) and the combination of their defense, which allowed just 19.3 points per game, and the inclement weather should keep Western Kentucky well below their season average in points scored (43.1 ppg). The Mountaineers should also be held below their season average of 34.2 ppg by a WKU defense that is 0.3 yppl better than the average defense that they faced this season. The Under is a Strong Opinion at 67 points or more.
Sat, Dec 18 11:15 AM PT
Rotation: 209, Odds: Fresno St. -13.5, Total: 54.5
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Lean – Over (51.5) – Fresno State (-11.5) vs Texas-El Paso
The X-factor in this game is how much Fresno State’s star quarterback Jake Haener will play. Haener entered the transfer portal when his head coach left for Washington but decided to return to Fresno when former Bulldogs’ coach Jeff Tedford was named the new head coach. However, there has been no word on who will start for Fresno and if Haener will actually play. The line went from 14-plus points down to 10.5 and has only come back 1 point, which is an indication that the market is unsure if or how much Haener will play.
UTEP is certainly excited to be in a bowl game and the Miners are decent offensively, as they averaged 6.1 yards per play this season against teams that would allow 6.4 yppl to an average team. The Miners are also 0.3 yppl worse than average defensively, yielding 5.3 yppl to teams that would combine to average 5.0 yppl against an average stop unit.
Fresno State’s offense has been 0.6 yppl better than average with Haener behind center but would likely be closer to average without him in the game. The Bulldogs’ defense only allowed 21.2 points per game but they’re not as good as their points allowed would indicate. Fresno allowed 5.4 yppl but they faced teams that would combine to average only 5.2 yppl against an average defensive team (adjusted for facing the worst of the quarterbacks against U Conn, Hawaii, and New Mexico). Fresno has been better than expected (based on their defensive metrics) in redzone defense (just 4.5 points per RZ allowed) and only allowing 4 of 17 4th down conversions is more lucky than good. So, Fresno’s defense isn’t nearly as good as the low points per game allowed suggests.
If Haener plays the entire game at his normal level, then I’d favor Fresno State by 14.7 points with a total of 57.7 points (adjusted for the good scoring conditions). If Haener doesn’t play at all then I’d favor Fresno by 9.5 points with a total of 53.5 points. There is also a decent likelihood that Haener plays part of the game, and the two backups get some snaps as well to reward them for taking most of the bowl practice reps.
Regardless, there is value on the over and I’ll lean over assuming that Haener will play at least some of the game.
Sat, Dec 18 12:30 PM PT
Rotation: 211, Odds: BYU -6, Total: 55
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Brigham Young (-6) 30 Alabama-Birmingham 23
Note: BYU starting QB Jaren Hall is doubtful to play but Baylor Romney has been a bit better throwing the ball in his career than Hall has been. Hall’s running (409 yards on 49 runs) will be missed (worth 0.9 points) but Romney has been 1.5 yards per pass play better than average on 58 pass plays this season and has averaged 8.5 yppp on 183 career pass plays (against teams that would allow 7.0 yppp to an average QB). Romney’s career pass rating has been 0.1 yppp better than average than Hall’s career rating. Overall, it’s a slight downgrade due to Hall’s running but certainly not anything that would concern me if you like BYU. I still have BYU by 7 points.
In good weather I would have leaned with BYU and their big-play pass attack, but it looks like wind and rain in Shreveport on Saturday afternoon and that gives UAB a better chance to stay within a touchdown of the Cougars.
UAB runs a slow-paced run-first attack and uses play-action to try to get the ball down the field through the air (the Blazers average 15.3 yards per catch). Throwing the ball deep through wind and rain is not going to be easy but the Blazers, who average 5.6 yards per rushing play, should be able to run the ball if leading rusher DeWayne McBride’s ankle injury has healed to where he’s close to 100%. McBride ran for 1188 yards at 6.8 ypr this season while his backup averaged a modest 5.1 ypr and I project 5.4 yards per rushing play for the Blazers if McBride is 100%. UAB quarterback Dylan Hopkins is slightly better than average and BYU’s pass defense is slightly worse than average, but I project only 6.2 yards per pass play with the wind and rain factored in. Overall, the weather adjusted projection is for 324 yards at 5.7 yards per play for UAB in this game
BYU’s offense is well balanced, as the Cougars are 0.6 yprp better than average on the ground and have been 1.4 yppp better than average through the air this season. The aerial attack is even better with Gunner Romney back healthy and leading receiver Neil Pau’u out with an injury. Romney missed 5 games this season, but he averages 12.3 yards per target and the Cougars are certainly better when he’s healthy. Pau’u may have led the Cougars in targets and catches this season, but he averaged a modest 8.2 yards per target while the rest of the receivers combined for 12.0 yards per target. Quarterback Jaren Hall averaged 10.8 yards per pass play in week 12 against Georgia Southern, which was the only game this season without Pau’u and with Romney and the Cougars project to be 2.2 yppp better than average with their current set of wide receivers.
The weather will have more of a negative affect on BYU’s offense, as the aerial attack won’t be as good and they’re likely to run the ball more in inclement weather, which won’t be that easy against a very good UAB run defense that allowed just 3.9 yprp this season to 11 FBS opponents that would combine to average 4.8 yprp against an average defensive team. The Blazers are 0.1 yppp worse than average defending the pass after adjusting for quarterbacks faced and BYU is still projected to average 8.1 yppp in this game even with the wind and rain.
The total was set too high in this game most likely due to the scoring of these two teams, but UAB’s defense had really bad redzone luck, as the Blazers allowed 5.6 points per redzone opportunity, which is extremely high and is 0.8 points per red zone higher than they would be projected given how good their defense was overall this season. UAB also scored more points per red zone (5.2 PPRZ) then projected while BYU’s offense averaged a very high 5.6 PPRZ, which is also likely to regress. Overall, these teams combined for a total of 4.7 points more total scoring per game than what their PPRZ would be projected, which is partially why my model leans a bit towards the under in this game. I think it’s best to pass on this game.
Sat, Dec 18 2:45 PM PT
Rotation: 213, Odds: Liberty -9, Total: 58.5
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Lean – Liberty (-9) 34 Eastern Michigan 21
Liberty lost their final 3 regular season games to limp into this game, but quarterback Malik Willis should certainly be motivated to get back on track given his fluctuating NFL draft status. Willis had a down year throwing the football, completing a mediocre 62% of his passes and rating at 0.7 yards per pass play worse than average (6.3 yppp against teams that would allow 7.0 yppp to an average QB) while throwing 12 interceptions (after just 6 picks in 2020). NFL scouts wouldn’t be interested in Willis if not for his great running skills (994 yards at 7.2 yards per run) and I expect the Liberty offense to function well against a bad Eastern Michigan defense that’s allowed 6.1 yards per play to a slate of opponents that would combine to average only 5.2 yppl against an average defensive team. The Flames, who overall rate at 0.2 yppl better than average, are projected to gain close to 500 yards at 6.9 yppl in this game.
Eastern Michigan will have a tough time keeping up, as the Eagles have been 0.6 yppl worse than average with QB Ben Bryant on the field. Bryant has pretty good raw numbers and Eastern Michigan has averaged 33 points in the 10 games with Bryant as the quarterback but they’ve averaged a modest 5.8 yppl in those games despite facing a schedule of mostly bad defensive teams that would allow 6.4 yppl to an average attack. Liberty’s defense has yielded just 21.7 points per game and only 4.8 yppl to teams that would average 5.2 yppl against an average stop unit and the Flames have a huge advantage against the EMU offense. Eastern Michigan is projected to barely get back 300 yards at 4.8 yppl.
This game, as with many early bowl games, comes down to motivation. It’s possible that Liberty may not be that fired up for this game after seeing their once high aspirations deteriorate late in the season, and December Bowl favorites of 7 points or more are just 74-124-7 ATS since 1980. However, Willis is certainly motivated, and the defensive players strike me as a group proud of their accomplishments this season based on the interviews I’ve seen. I do think Liberty cares about this game and their head coach Hugh Freeze is 5-1 ATS in bowl games in his career (EMU coach Creighton is 3-0 ATS).
The math model favors Liberty by 15.5 points and I’ll shave a few points off based on the early bowl big favorite situation. I’ll lean with the Flames at -10 or less.
Sat, Dec 18 4:30 PM PT
Rotation: 215, Odds: Oregon St. -7, Total: 67.5
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Lean – Over (67.5/68) – Oregon State (-7) 40 Utah State 33
I bet Utah State over 3.5 wins before the season started and the Aggies are now 10-3 with a conference championship. Oregon State also surpassed expectations and I was on the Beavers a few times in the first half of the season before the market caught up to how good they were. In other words, I like both of these teams. I don’t see any value in playing the side but I do think this game is likely to get into the 70s in total points.
Utah State’s offense averaged 458 total yards and 33.2 points per game, but the Aggies are just 0.1 yards per play better than an average FBS team, as their 6.0 yppl came against teams that would allow 5.9 yppl to an average team. Oregon State has a solid defense, as the Beavers allowed 5.8 yppl to teams that would combine to average 5.9 yppl against an average defensive team, but not having the services of All-Pac 12 LB Avery Roberts is significant, as Roberts led the conference in tackles (128), including 9.5 tackles for loss. Without Roberts I rate the Beavers’ defense at 0.2 yppl worse than average and projects 483 yards at 6.3 yppl for Utah State, which includes a boost for playing in a domed stadium.
This issue for Utah State will be their inability to stop Oregon State’s prolific offense. The Beavers have the 10th best offense in the nation on a compensated yards per play basis, running for 6.0 yards per rushing play while quarterback Chance Nolan averaged 7.8 yards per pass play (against teams that would allow 6.2 yppp to an average QB). Overall, Oregon State rates at 1.2 yards per play better than average with Nolan at quarterback and the Beavers should move the ball at will against a Utah State defense that’s been 0.6 yppl worse than average. The Aggies have only faced one good offense and they allowed 520 yards at 8.1 yppl in that game against BYU (they played Washington State’s good offense in week 1 when the horrible Guarantano was the starting quarterback for WSU). Stopping the Beavers’ ground game should prove particularly difficult, as the Aggies allowed an average of 7.5 yprp to the 2 good rushing teams that they faced this season (Air Force and BYU). I project Oregon State to run for 6.6 yprp, for Nolan to average 8.9 yppp and for the Beavers offense to gain 501 yards at 7.6 yppl.
My math favors Oregon State by 9.5 points with a total of 73.1 points. The Beavers apply to a
The total on this game is low likely because Utah State’s defense is overrated. The 25.3 points per game that the Aggies have allowed is better than average, but they should have allowed 3 points more than they actually did. The disparity is due to some positive variance (i.e. luck) in 4th-down conversions allowed (just 5 of 18) and in their redzone defensive stats. The 4.2 points per redzone opportunity that Utah State allowed ranks with the best defensive teams in the nation, which they clearly are not, and the Aggies should have allowed 5.0 points per redzone opportunity based on their overall defensive metrics. That difference is worth 3 points, which I don’t think is in the line here. I’ll lean over 69 points or less.
Sat, Dec 18 6:15 PM PT
Rotation: 217, Odds: Marshall +4, Total: 55.5
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Louisiana-Lafayette (-4) 30 Marshall 25
Louisiana-Lafayette has won 12 consecutive games since losing at Texas in their opener while Marshall is just 7-5 with zero wins in 4 games against teams that have an overall rating of -5 points or better (i.e. better than 5 points worse than an average FBS team). The best team that the Thundering Herd beat was a bad Navy team. ULL, meanwhile, tends to play relatively better against better teams, as they are 4-0 ATS against good teams since losing to Texas (all favored by less than 7 or getting points) while being just 2-5 ATS when favored by more than 7 points. That trend covers all 3 years with Levi Lewis as the starting quarterback, as the Ragin’ Cajuns are 11-3 ATS from -7 to underdog while being just 8-14 ATS favored by more than 7 points with Lewis at the helm.
This game will be a battle between Louisiana’s strong rushing attack and Marshall’s aerial attack.
ULL averages 216 rushing yards at 5.9 yards per rushing play and they’ll be facing a soft Marshall run defense that’s yielded 211 rush yards per game at 5.2 yprp to teams that would average only 4.6 yprp against an average team. Lewis had a down year throwing the ball (0.7 yards per pass play worse than average) and Marshall has a strong pass defense (0.9 yppp better than average) but the Ragin’ Cajuns are projected to run for 6.2 yprp and total 427 yards at 5.8 yards per play.
Marshall will need quarterback Grant Wells to play well because the Thundering Herd don’t have a dependable rush attack and are projected to average only 4.4 yprp against a better than average ULL run defense. Wells was 0.5 yppp better than average this season (7.7 yppp against teams that would allow 7.2 yppp to an average QB) but Louisiana’s defense has been 0.5 yppp better than average (5.3 yppp allowed to quarterbacks that would average 5.8 yppp against an average defense). The perfect dome conditions will make it easier for both teams to throw the ball, which aides the pass-oriented Thundering Herd more than it does the run-heavy Ragin’ Cajuns’ offense. Marshall is projected to gain 407 yards at 5.7 yppl.
The math model favors Louisiana-Lafayette by 3.8 points (with a total of 55.8points) but that doesn’t take into account a likely advantage of having more fans for this game, which is in New Orleans. That may be worth half a point to a point, but I still don’t want any part of this game.
Mon, Dec 20 11:30 AM PT
Rotation: 219, Odds: Tulsa +9, Total: 52.5
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Lean – Old Dominion (+9) 26 Tulsa 31
Lean – Over (52.5)
Old Dominion has had a solid defense all season long and their offense improved dramatically when Hayden Wolff took over at quarterback in week 7. The Monarchs lost that game to a very good Western Kentucky team but they won their final 5 games (also 5-0 ATS) to get to this bowl game after starting the season 1-6. Only two other teams in my database that goes back to 1980 have started 1-6 and made it to a bowl game. One is North Texas, who plays later this week, and the other was Miami-Ohio in 2016 and the Redhawks were extremely close to beating Mississippi State as a 14-point underdog in their bowl game (lost 16-17 on a late FG).
Tulsa had to win their final 3 games to qualify for a bowl, so they’re likely just as excited to be playing in this game. With motivation likely equal, this comes down to line value and I see the line value on Old Dominion, just as I have over the second half of the season in which my math model at least leaned with the Monarchs in each of their last 5 games.
For the season, the Old Dominion offense was 1.1 yards per play worse than average, as original starting quarterback D.J. Mack averaged a horrible 3.6 yards per pass play while facing teams that would allow 6.7 yppp to an average quarterback. Wolff was much better, as he’s averaged 7.2 yppp in his 6 starts (against teams that would allow 7.5) and improved his yppp average in each of the last 4 games – ending with 9.4 yppp in week 12 against a good Middle Tennessee State pass defense and then 11.1 yppp in the finale against Charlotte (they’re terrible defensively but 11.1 yppp is still good). I’ll assume that Wolff plays at his average level over his 6 starts but it’s certainly plausible that he’ll play better than that given his consistent improvement. Tulsa’s defense is average on a national scale and I project 357 yards at 5.3 yards per play for the Monarchs in this game.
Old Dominion’s defense rates the same as the Tulsa defense (average on a national scale), as the Monarchs allowed 5.6 yppl to teams that would combine to average 5.6 yppl against an average team. Tulsa does have the better offense, as the Golden Hurricane averaged 6.2 yppl this season against teams that would allow 5.9 yppl to an average attack. The pass attack wasn’t quite as good on a compensated yards per pass play basis over the final 3 games without WR Sam Crawford Jr., who leads the team in yards per target at 9.8 YPT among the top 5 receivers on the team. The dropoff isn’t much and I still rate the Hurricane offense at 0.2 yppp better than average, which isn’t much of an edge over the Old Dominion defense. I project 444 yards at 6.1 yppl for Tulsa.
It appears that Old Dominion, who covered the spread in each of their last 5 games with Wolff at quarterback, is still underrated, as my model favors Tulsa by just 5.7 points with a total of 57.3 points. I’ll lean with Old Dominion at +7.5 or more and I’ll lean over 53.5 points or less.
Tue, Dec 21 12:30 PM PT
Rotation: 221, Odds: Wyoming -3.5, Total: 59.5
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Wyoming (-3.5) 34 Kent State 29
Wyoming stumbled across the finish line with 6 losses in their final 8 regular season games but a 4-0 start and a week 13 upset win over conference champ Utah State got them to this bowl game. Kent State enters off a 23-41 loss in the MAC Championship Game.
Both teams are below average and are about the same from the line of scrimmage, but Kent State’s horrible special teams should lead to better field position for Wyoming and that figures to make the difference.
Kent State’s offense put up impressive numbers this season, averaging 6.1 yards per rushing play, 7.0 yards per pass play and 485 yards per game at 6.5 yards per play. However, the Golden Flashes faced a schedule of teams that would allow 6.3 yppl to an average FBS offense so they’re really just a bit better than average and today will be facing a solid Wyoming defense that’s yielded just 22.5 points per game and rates as average on a national scale (5.3 yppl allowed to teams that would average 5.3 yppl against an average defense). Kent State runs their offense at a fast pace, and I project 435 yard at 5.9 yppl for the Flashes.
Wyoming’s offense is run-oriented, which suits Kent State just fine given that the Flashes are worse defending the pass than defending the run. However, Kent’s run defense is still 0.3 yprp worse than average and 0.2 yprp worse than what Wyoming has faced on average this season. The Cowboys’ attack improved a bit late in the season when Levi Williams took over as the starting quarterback in the final 4 games, as Williams is a more accurate passer (58% to 51%) and a slightly better runner than Sean Chambers. Wyoming’s offense only averaged 23.2 points per game and was 0.3 yppl worse than average for the season but I rate that attack at -0.1 yppl heading into this game and the Cowboys averaged 34.7 points against the 6 worst defensive teams that they faced, and I project 34 points on 450 yards at 6.1 yppl.
As I mentioned, these teams are close to even from the line of scrimmage, but Kent State has horrible special teams that should give the Cowboys a significant field position advantage.