College Bowl Games
Sam Houston State
Fri, Dec 9 4:00 PM
South Dakota State
North Dakota State
Sat, Dec 10 9:00 AM
Sat, Dec 10 11:00 AM
Sat, Dec 10 1:01 PM
Sat, Dec 17 9:00 AM
Sat, Dec 17 11:00 AM
Rotation: 201, Odds: New Mexico -7.5, Total: 59.5
Game Analysis view matchup stats
New Mexico Bowl
Saturday, December 17 – 11 am Pacific
NEW MEXICO (-7 ½) 33 Texas-San Antonio 20
Strong Opinion New Mexico (1-Star Best Bet at -7 at -115 odds or better)
Lean Under (58 ½)
New Mexico continues to rise under coach Bob Davies and the Lobos upped their record to 8-4 this season to earn another chance to win a bowl game on their home turf. New Mexico lost in this bowl game last season 37-45 to Arizona but the Lobos did cover the spread and should do so again this year with a comfortable victory a bad UTSA team whose most impressive win was against a Middle Tennessee State team that is about 8 points worse than an average FBS team. The five FBS teams that the Roadrunners were able to beat have an average rating of 14.5 points worse than average, which is a prime example of how diluted the bowl games are nowadays.
UTSA averaged 30 points per game, but that average is very misleading given the 365 total yards per game (in regulation) and 5.3 yards per play that the Roadrunners average. Those raw numbers aren’t horrible but they are when you consider that UTSA faced a schedule of teams that would combine to allow an average of 445 yards per game and would give up 6.4 yards per play to an average attack. My offensive rating for the Roadrunners is even worse because I dampen the affect of outliers, and in this case, UTSA’s yards per play average was skewed by the 11.3 yppl they averaged against Southern Miss. UTSA averaged 5.0 yppl or less in 6 of their 11 games against FBS teams.
New Mexico is a bad defensive team that has allowed 6.5 yppl and rates at 1.0 yppl worse than average after adjusting for schedule strength. The Lobos don’t give up as many points (32.4 per game) as would be expected from that defensive yppl rating because their opponents averaged 8 fewer plays than average. San Antonio quarterbacks Dalton Sturm and Jared Johnson, who has been getting snaps lately, should decent success through the air in this game as their pass rating (1.9 yards per pass play worse than average) is only a bit worse than New Mexico’s pass defense (1.5 yppp worse than average), but the Roadrunners’ ground attack is projected to average only 4.6 yards per rushing play. Overall, my model projects just 295 total yards at 5.2 yards per play for the Roadrunners in this game, which should net them around 20 points.
New Mexico’s Pistol offense led the nation in rushing this season and the Lobos averaged 7.0 yards per rushing play while averaging a decent 6.8 yards per pass play. Overall, New Mexico averaged 466 yards at 7.0 yards per play but they did so against teams that would allow 6.4 yppl and their 37.8 points per game was against a schedule that would allow 35.0 points to an average team. In basic terms, New Mexico’s offense isn’t nearly as good as they look on the stats sheet.
The Lobos are still good enough to score a good number of points in this game, although I do expect them to fall short of their season average for yards and yards per play against a pretty decent UTSA stop unit. The Roadrunners are actually average in run defense and their sub-par pass defense (6.4 yards per pass play allowed to quarterbacks that would average 5.5 yppp against an average defense) won’t be fully exploited by a Lobos’ attack that runs the ball 77% of the time. New Mexico is projected at 6.3 yards per rushing play, well below their season average of 7.0 yprp, and 428 yards at 6.5 yards per play.
Overall, the math favors New Mexico by 12 points in this game and I’ve added a couple of points to a 46-7-1 ATS bowl angle that applies to the Lobos. I’ll consider New Mexico a Strong Opinion at -9 ½ or less and I’d play the Lobos in a 1-Star Best Bet at -7 at -115 odds or better.
I also favor this game to go Under the total, as both teams run their offense at a slow pace and both teams played higher scoring games than their stats would project, which has led to a higher over/under number. The total was set too high because New Mexico’s games have averaged 70 total points. However, New Mexico has faced a schedule of teams that combine to average 60 total points and UTSA is actually a lower than average total scoring team, as their 58 total points per game is actually only 54.5 total points per game in regulation (45 points were scored in 5 OT loss to UTEP) and their opponents combine to average 63.6 total points per game in regulation – so the Roadrunners are actually 9.1 points per game lower scoring than average. The compensated points model projects 58.3 total points but my model projects even less than that, as UTSA is not expected to average the 5.4 points per red zone opportunity that they’ve averaged. An average offensive team averages 4.9 points per RZ and UTSA’s offensive numbers would projects only 4.7 points per RZ, which is a difference of 2.6 points per game from the randomly high 5.4 points per RZ they averaged this season. New Mexico averaged 5.6 points per RZ on offense and on defense and those numbers should regress towards the mean as well – although not as much, as option teams tend to be more efficient in general and New Mexico’s defense traditionally has a higher than average points per RZ. Overall, the higher than projected points per red zone of these two teams in the regular season made them both higher scoring than they should have been and my model adjusts for that variance and projects only 52 ½ total points. I’ll lean Under the total and would consider the Under is a Strong Opinion at 59 points or higher.
San Diego St.
Sat, Dec 17 12:30 PM
Rotation: 203, Odds: San Diego St. +4, Total: 51.5
Game Analysis view matchup stats
Las Vegas Bowl
Saturday, December 17 – 12:30 pm Pacific
Houston (-4) 24 San Diego State 23
Lean San Diego State (+4)
Lean Under (51 ½)
When Houston is focused and healthy they are tough to beat, which helps explain upset wins over Oklahoma and Louisville. The Cougars also lost twice as favorites of 17 points or more, including a 22 point loss to lowly SMU, and they suffered a letdown in a loss at Memphis the week after their big win over Louisville. Which version of Houston is going to show up for this game? A case can be made that playing a minor Bowl on the first day of the Bowl season is not likely to inspire a team that played in the Orange Bowl last year (upset Florida State) and was ranked as high at #6 in the polls early this season. The Cougars also lost their head coach to Texas, although the hiring of offensive coordinator as the new head coach is popular among the players. But, how will that coaching change affect how the players view this game? I’m inclined to think that this game will be viewed as an unwanted consolation prize by Houston players while San Diego State will be thrilled to be facing a team of Houston’s caliber after earning their way to this bowl game by winning the Mountain West Championship game.
San Diego State wins the old fashioned way, with a relentless two-man rushing attack and solid defense. The Aztecs averaged nearly 300 rushing yards per game at 6.8 yards per rushing play with Donnell Pumphrey leading the way with 2018 yards at 6.1 ypr while being spelled by Rashaad Penny and Juwan Washington, who combined for 1428 yards at 8.0 ypr. Pumphrey needs 108 yards to break Ron Dayne’s NCAA career rushing record and he’ll be fired up to accomplish that feat in his home city of Las Vegas. Quarterback Christian Chapman is below average at 6.2 yards per pass play against teams that would allow 7.1 yppp to an average quarterback but he’s only thrown 6 interceptions all season and has a standout big play receiver in Mikah Holder (21.9 yards per catch) to keep defenses honest if they put too many men at the line of scrimmage to defend the run.
Overall, I rate the San Diego State attack at just 0.3 yards per play better than average and their run-heavy game plan doesn’t match up particularly well against a Houston defense with a very strong defensive front led by freshman phenom Ed Oliver, who had 19.5 total tackles for loss this season. Houston only allowed 4.3 yards per rushing play this season (to teams that would combine to average 5.2 yprp against an average team) and the Cougars’ pass defense is 1.0 yppp better than average if I exclude the 5 games that star pass rushing linebacker/end Tyus Bowser missed in the middle of the season. Bowser had 7.5 sacks in just 7 games and his late season return was a big factor in the Cougars’ win over Louisville (he has 1 sack and 4 quarterback hurries). I only included the games in which Bowser and starting CB Brandon Wilson played (he missed week’s 4 through 6) and I project San Diego State to average a modest 5.1 yards per rushing pay and only 4.9 yards per play in this game.
Houston’s offense is led by Greg Ward Jr, who had to throw a lot more often because the rushing attack went from great last year to below average this season (4.3 yprp against teams that would allow 4.9 yprp). Ward’s passing numbers weren’t great, as he averaged 6.8 yards per pass play against teams that would allow 6.7 yppp) but he is good at moving the chains and doesn’t make many mistakes (just 9 interceptions in 11 games on 435 passes). Ward’s low interception percentage will be put to the test against a San Diego State defense that was among the national leaders in interceptions for a 2nd consecutive year thanks to Damontae Kazee, who picked off 8 passes last season and 7 more so far this season, to lead a team that accumulated 22 interceptions in 13 games. San Diego State rates at 0.5 yards per play better than average, allowing 5.1 yppl to teams that would combine to average 5.6 yppl against an average defensive team and that unit has an edge over a Houston offense that was 0.1 yppl worse than average (5.6 yppl against teams that would allow 5.7 yppl). Houston does run a lot of plays, however, as Ward consistently finds ways to get first downs, and I project 390 total yards at 5.2 yards per play for the Cougars in this game.
While I do think that San Diego State cares about this game more than Houston does it’s certainly possible that the Cougars could be fired up to send senior quarterback Greg Ward Jr. out in style in his final game. I’ll just stick with the math, and the math favors Houston by only 1 point with 47 total points. I’ll lean with San Diego State at +3 or more and Under 50 points or higher.
Sat, Dec 17 2:30 PM
Odds: Arkansas St. +6.5, Total: 51
Game Analysis view matchup stats
Saturday, December 17 – 2:30 pm Pacific
Central Florida (-6 ½) 27 Arkansas State 20
This game is being played in UCF’s former home stadium but there isn’t enough evidence to suggest playing close to home is an advantage in a bowl game. I’m sure that UCF will have more crowd support than Arkansas State, but what kind of reward is a bowl game in which you don’t even get to leave the city to attend? UCF should be rewarded for going 6-6 after losing all 12 games last season and I believe they’ll play hard for first-year head coach Scott Frost, who quickly took himself out of the running for the head coaching vacancy at Oregon, where he used to be the offensive coordinator. I’m sure that his players appreciate that loyalty and will give a great effort in this game to try to finish above .500 for the season.
Arkansas State, however, is no pushover, as the Red Wolves have a solid defense and a capable quarterback in Justice Hansen, who took over after two blowout losses to start the season. Arkansas State actually lost their first four games of the season, including a loss to FCS team Central Arkansas before winning 7 of their final 8 games to capture a share of the Sun Belt title. The key to the turnaround for Arkansas State was a defense that rebounded from two ugly performances to start the season (allowed 8.0 yards per play combined to Toledo and Auburn) and turned into a better than average unit – on a national scale. After getting burned for multiple big pass plays in those first two games the coaching staff made a change at free safety that solidified the secondary. The Red Wolves allowed just 4.8 yards per pass play in the 9 games with the current starting defensive secondary (CB Brown missed the week 4 loss to Central Arkansas, who averaged 7.0 yards per pass play in that game), which is good even when taking into account that the opposing quarterbacks faced on those games were mostly not very good (that group would combine to average just 5.3 yppp against an average defense). Only one time in those 9 games did Arkansas State allow 5.0 yards per pass play or more and no team averaged more than 5.4 yards per play against the Red Wolves over the last 10 games of the season. The run defense isn’t likely to be as good without the services of 340-pound defensive tackle Waylon Robinson, who is out with a knee injury, and possibly DL Chase Robison, who is listed as questionable. I don’t still don’t expect UCF’s below average attack (5.0 yards per play against teams that would allow 5.8 yppl to an average team, and the same rating with Milton at QB) to move the ball with any consistency in this game and I project just 4.8 yards per play for the Golden Knights in this game.
UCF has an even better defense, which was a major reason I played on the Knights so many times this season. That defensive unit yielded just 4.9 yards per play to teams that would combine to average 5.6 yppl against an average defensive team and they have a solid advantage over Arkansas State’s offense.
The Red Wolves switched quarterbacks in week 3 after struggling offensively the first two weeks and Justice Hansen has averaged 7.3 yards per pass play, which made up for a sub-par rushing attack that managed just 4.5 yards per rushing play (against teams that would allow 5.4 yprp). Hansen’s numbers aren’t actually that great considering he faced teams that would combine to allow 7.1 yppp to an average quarterback and overall the Red Wolves rate at 0.4 yards per play worse than average offensively with Hansen at quarterback. My math projects only 4.7 yards per play for Arkansas State in this game.
The projected yardage is pretty close in this game but UCF has an advantage in projected turnovers and on special teams and overall the math favors the Knights by 6 ½ points with a total of 46 ½ points. There is no value on the side and the under has just a 52.0% chance (at under 50 points) based on the historical performance of my model in bowl games. That’s below the 52.4% necessary to cover the standard -110 odds so I have no opinion on the side and I’d only lean Under at 51 points or higher.
Sat, Dec 17 2:30 PM
Rotation: 209, Odds: Toledo -1, Total: 60
Game Analysis view matchup stats
Saturday, December 17 – 2:30 pm Pacific
Appalachian State (+1) 31 Toledo 30
My math model picks this game 30.3 to 30.1, so there really isn’t any value on either side or the total in this game, and I don’t have any bowl angles that apply to this game. While this isn’t a game worth betting, it should be a game worth watching, as Toledo quarterback Logan Woodside is one of the best quarterbacks that nobody has heard of. Woodside completed 69% of his passes and leads the nation with 43 touchdown passes, against just 9 interceptions, while averaging 9.2 yards per pass play. Woodside faced a collection of mediocre to bad defensive teams this season that would combine to allow 7.2 yppp to an average quarterback and this game will be the first time all season that he’s faced a good pass defense.
Appalachian State has yielded just 5.0 yards per pass play this season to quarterbacks that would average 5.8 yppp against an average defense and the Mountaineers secondary will challenge Toledo’s receivers. Appalachian did allow Miami quarterback Brad Kaaya to average 13.0 yards per pass play against them in week 3, but they also held Tennessee quarterback Joshua Dobbs to just 5.6 yppp in an overtime loss at Tennessee and it’s likely that performance against Miami was an aberration – although we’ll find out today. The math projects 7.1 yards per pass play and 443 yards at 6.2 yards per play for Toledo in this game, which should net them around 30 points.
Appalachian State runs an option offense out of the pistol formation and throws the ball much more often than a typical option attack. Quarterback Taylor Lamb is in his 3rd season as the starter and does a good job of running the attack. Lamb is a mediocre passer (6.8 yards per pass play against teams that would allow 7.1 yppp to an average QB) but he makes good decisions and the Mountaineers ground attack averaged 260 yards at 6.2 yards per rushing play (against teams that would allow 5.5 yprp). Toledo is bad defending both the run and the pass and overall the Rockets allowed 6.1 yards per play to teams that would combine to average only 5.3 yppl against an average defensive team. Appalachian should run their offense will in both facets and the Mounties are projected to average 6.7 yards per play and to rack up 409 total yards.
Overall, the math picks this game even and I see both offenses having success. I can’t predict a tie so I’ll pick the better defensive team to win by a point and hope that Appalachian is not disappointed to be coming to Mobile, Alabama for a second straight year. If I were a player I’d be a bit disappointed if I found out that my bowl destination was the same as the previous year, especially when it’s one of the less exciting cities to host a bowl game (no offense Mobile. I’m sure it’s lovely there but kids don’t dream about a trip to Mobile, Alabama – twice). I have no opinion on the side or the total.
Sat, Dec 17 6:00 PM
Rotation: 211, Odds: UL Lafayette +6, Total: 59
Game Analysis view matchup stats
New Orleans Bowl
Saturday, December 17 – 6 pm Pacific
Southern Miss (-6) 30 UL Lafayette 24
Lean Under (59)
Southern Miss was favored 7 times this season against an FBS opponent, by an average of 15.2 points, and the Eagles won just 3 of those 7 games while losing 3 times as a double-digit favorite. Southern Miss also won as a dog at Kentucky and ended the regular season with a 15 point win as a 15 point dog against Louisiana Tech. To say that the Eagles are volatile is an understatement. The inspired upset win over the Bulldogs earned Southern Miss the right to play in a bowl game, so they should be pretty excited to be here. UL Lafayette, meanwhile, has a good history playing close to home in the New Orleans Bowl, which the Ragin’ Cajuns won 4 years in a row, 3 times as an underdog, before missing out on a bowl game last season. ULL has actually never lost a bowl game, as those 4 New Orleans Bowl victories are their only bowl games in program history. Coach Mark Hudspeth obviously knows how to get his team ready for a bowl game and the Ragin’ Cajuns have been a pretty trustworthy team this season (8-4 ATS). However, teams that have a good regular season spread record are generally not good bets in bowl games and UL Lafayette actually applies to a negative 8-43 ATS bowl situation. I’m not interested in playing Southern Miss based on that angle because my math model indicates that the spread is too high.
These teams are evenly matched from a yards per play perspective, as I rate Southern Miss at 0.3 yards per play worse than average on offense and 0.9 yppl worse than average on defense while ULL rates at 1.0 yppl worse than average offensively and 0.2 yppl worse than average on defense. Both defenses are 0.1 yppl better than the opposing offense and my math model projects both teams with 5.6 yards per play. The Eagles do have a pretty sizeable edge from the line of scrimmage, however, based on their extreme play differential. The Southern Miss plays a risk-reward style of defense that gives up a lot of big plays but also gets a lot of 3-and-outs (24% on 3rd down conversions allowed is extremely low). Those two characteristics lead to a lot of opponent’s drives with very few plays, which has led to Southern Miss having a +21.6 plays differential. My model projects the Eagles to run 17 more plays than UL Lafayette will run and for the total yards to be 441 yards to 348 yards in favor of Southern Miss.
That yardage advantage is offset somewhat by the Eagles’ horrible special teams, which is even worse without the services of their star placekicker Parker Shaunfield, who had missed just 1 kick all season before missing the final 3 games of the regular season with a quad injury that might also keep him out of this game (he’s questionable). Shaunfield is pretty valuable given that the backup kicker has only made field goals of 25 yards or shorter and has missed 2 of 12 extra points. Shaunfield has a rating of +1.04 points per game (based on points added/subtracted based on the distance of field goals made and missed) while backup Brauchle has cost his team 2.9 points in 3 games. That’s a difference of 2 points per game!
My math model favors Southern Miss by just 1 ½ points if Shaunfield is out and by 3 ½ points if he’s ready to return from his injury, but either way the line value is clearly on the side of Lafayette. However, that 8-43 ATS bowl situation that applies to ULL balances out that line value and I have no opinion on the side. I will lean with the Under and would consider the Under a Strong Opinion if the total goes up to 60 points or higher.