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).