The Free Analysis page Leans were 3-1 in week 14 and are 87-60-2 for the season. The sides with a 4 points or more differential from the line (i.e. the Leans) were 3-1 and are now 58-52-1 on the season. The totals Leans were 0-0 in week 14 and still 29-8-1 for the season.


The record of the Free Analysis sides was 8-2 ATS in week 14 and are now 280-287-9 for the season. The totals were 5-5 in week 14 and are now 291-255-7 for the season.


In the 2021 season the Free Analysis sides were just 274-256-6 on all games, but were a very profitable 82-56-2 on differences of 4 points or more (i.e. the leans) while totals were 270-274-3.


The record on all Free Analysis sides is now 2618-2399-88 ATS since 2013, which is very good picking nearly every game over 9-plus years. The Free Analysis sides in which my predicted margin was 4 points or more away from the line (i.e Leans) are a profitable 827-694-30. Totals on the Free pages are now 2368-2286-40 in the 8-plus seasons I’ve been tracking them. I used to track totals with differences from the line of 6 points or more but those fell below the break-even of 52.4% last season and I now choose selected Leans on totals, which I think will perform better (and certainly did this season at 29-8-1).


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

College Bowl Games

Liberty vs

Tue, Dec 20 4:30 PM PT

Rotation: 223, Odds: Toledo -3.5, Total: 54

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Lean – Under (53.5) – Toledo (-3.5)  25   Liberty  22

It’s tough say what you’ll get from Liberty, who completely collapsed down the stretch when rumors that their head coach would leave the program surfaced. The Flames closed the season with 3 consecutive losses as double-digit favorites, including an embarrassing 14-49 loss as a 24 point home favorite to a pathetic New Mexico State team after those rumors of Hugh Freeze going to Auburn started. If Liberty players care about this game and have given a good effort in preparing for it under their interim coach then and outright win would not be a surprise, as the Flames rated higher in my ratings than Toledo until that final game in which they failed to cover the spread by 59 points while being outgained 4.5 yppl to 6.8 yppl.

Liberty’s offense was very good early in the season when Kaidon Salter was behind center but Salter missed a month due to injury and hasn’t regained his form (just 4.7 yppp the last two games). Johnathan Bennett, who took over as the starter when Salter was injured, has been 1.0 yards per pass play below average from week 4 on, which excludes the 14 yards on 24 pass plays off the bench in the first 3 games. Opening day starter Charlie Brewer, who was injured early in week 1, has also returned but he managed just 33 yards on 10 pass plays in his return to action against New Mexico State’s horrible defense. All 3 quarterbacks are healthy and all 3 might play. The Flames are best with Salter at quarterback but I’ll just use the team’s overall rating since it’s unclear which quarterback will start.

Liberty’s offense finished the season at 0.4 yards per play worse than average (5.8 yppl against teams that would allow 6.2 yppl) but that unit rates at -0.6 yppl without injured star running back Dae Dae Hunter, who ran for 854 yards at 6.6 ypr in 9 games before getting hurt (his backups combine for just 4.6 ypr). Liberty greatly increased their offensive pace of play over the final 3 games, as they went from having an average pace (about 2.3 plays per minute of possession) to averaging 2.9 plays per minute. Given that they lost all 3 of those games with the offense performing worse than normal it’s certainly possible that they scrap the up-tempo idea and go back to being a normal paced team. If that’s the case then this game is very likely to go under the total, but I don’t want to make a bet based on that assumption so I’ll project a higher pace than the Flames’ season pace for this game.

It won’t be easy to move the ball against a Toledo defense that’s been 0.3 yppl better than average this season (4.8 yppl allowed to teams that would combine to average 5.1 yppl) and they were better than the 25.5 points per game that they allowed, as a team giving up only 4.8 yppl should allow just 4.5 points per red zone opportunity, which is much lower than the 5.45 PPRZ that Toledo gave up this season( a difference of 2.8 points per game). Most of that is likely due to variance, as Toledo’s defense didn’t have an issue defending in the red zone the previous two seasons with the same defensive coordinator. The math projects just 361 yards at 4.8 yppl for Liberty, although that would go up a bit if Salter plays the entire game (he was 0.5 yppp better than the team’s pass rating).

Toledo is an overrated offensive team, as the 32.1 points per game that the Rockets scored came against a schedule of mostly bad defensive teams and averaging 5.4 points per red zone opportunity was on the high end of what would be expected from a team averaging a mediocre 5.8 yppl. If Toledo’s red zone efficiency had been what is projected based on their stats (i.e. 4.9 PPRZ) then they would have scored 2.2 points fewer per game and it’s unlikely that the Rockets continue to be as efficient near the end zone as they’ve been this season.

Liberty’s defense  was very good most of the season and they still rate at 0.3 yppl better than average (5.1 yppl allowed to teams that would average 5.4 yppl against an average defense) even after giving up 6.8 yppl to a horrible New Mexico State offense (4.6 yppl expected on the road against an average defense). It seems to me that Liberty just wasn’t focused on that game with the rumors of coach Freeze leaving and prior to that game the Flames’ defense was 0.5 yppl better than average. I’ll keep that New Mexico State game in the math since it’s possible that they still don’t play up to their potential in this game, and being without LB Ahmad Walker (transfer), who had 11 total tackles for loss and was the #3 tackler, adds about a point per game. Even with that adjustment I still project Toledo to average just 4.9 yppl in this game after adjusting for the bad weather (80% chance of rain throughout the game and some wind).

This was an interesting game to handicap and I had to make some assumptions. First, I’ll assume that Liberty has regrouped and the remaining players are focused on this game after dropping 3 straight as huge favorites to end the regular season (teams off 3 or more losses are 57% ATS in bowl games since 1980). And, since my math really likes the under here, I’ll have to assume that Liberty will continue to play at a very fast pace offensively, as they did in their final 3 games, even though there is a good chance that they scrap that idea due to how miserable their offense was in those final 3 games.

With Liberty playing as fast as they have over their last 3 games I would project 50 total points in this game with -2.6 points for the bad weather included. The total is higher than it should be in part because Toledo’s red zone scoring efficiency was much higher than projected on both offense and defense. The difference between the red zone efficiency in Toledo’s games this season and what would be expected from their statistics, resulted in 5.0 more total points per game being scored in their games this season than the stat would project. Part of that difference is in the line and has created value on the under.

I have projected a few points below 50 points because I think there is a good chance that Liberty scraps their up tempo offense and goes back to playing at an average pace and because Liberty’s defense would be 0.2 yppl better if I exclude that final game outlier against New Mexico State. If the Flames play at the pace of their first 9 games and I exclude that defensive outlier then the math would project just 44.6 total points (with the weather included). I’ll settle on something in between and lean with the under at 52 points or higher.

As far as the side goes, my first instinct was that Liberty had given up on the season. However, after more reading about the team, it appears as if they’re intent on atoning for their bad finish and All-American senior DL Durrell Johnson (22.5 total tackles for loss) has decided to play in this game to help his fellow seniors go out with a win. He could have easily decided to opt out to prepare for the NFL draft and the fact that he’s decided to play made me reconsider my stance that the Flames would be give a full effort. The math, even with the New Mexico State debacle included, favors Toledo by just 2.9 points, and taking that game out would lead to a prediction of Liberty by 0.3 points. But, I’ll pass on the side.

Western Kentucky vs
South Alabama

Wed, Dec 21 6:00 PM PT

Rotation: 225, Odds: South Alabama -4.5, Total: 56

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South Alabama (-4.5)  31   Western Kentucky  27

I’ll assume that Western Kentucky quarterback Austin Reed will start this game after withdrawing from the transfer portal last Tuesday. If so, Reed will be returning to play behind an offensive line that will be without two starters (transfer portal), his #2 receiver Daewood Davis (opt out to prepare for NFL draft) and starting TE Joshua Simon. Western Kentucky’s pass-heavy offense averaged close to 500 yards per game at 6.7 yards per play (against teams that would allow 6.1 yppl to an average attack) but that unit rates at 0.2 yppl better than average after adjusting for the 4 absent starters.

The Hilltoppers will likely throw the ball more often than normal against a good South Alabama defense and playing in a domed stadium also leads to more passing in general. South Alabama is 0.4 yards per pass play better than average defending the pass and I project a modest 6.5 yppp for Western Kentucky even in the perfect dome conditions. Overall, the Hilltoppers are expected to gain 402 yards at 5.8 yppl in this game, which is well below their norm. Western Kentucky averaged just 23.5 points per game against the 4 better than average defensive teams that they faced (Indiana, Troy, UAB, and Auburn) but I project 27 points for the Hilltoppers in this game.

South Alabama’s offense is 0.3 yppl worse than average (6.0 yppl against teams that would allow 6.3 yppl) but quarterback Bradley Carter is slightly better than average throwing the ball and he’ll likely throw it more than normal in this game against a Western Kentucky secondary that will be without their best cornerback Kahlef Hailassie, who has declared for the NFL draft and presumably will not play in this game. The Hilltoppers’ defense was 0.1 yppl worse than average this season but I rate that unit at 0.3 yppl worse than average without their top corner and the Jaguars are projected to gain 446 yards at 6.1 yppl in this game.

My math favors South Alabama by 4.5 points with a total of 58.4 total points so this is a pass for me.

Baylor vs
Air Force

Thu, Dec 22 4:30 PM PT

Rotation: 227, Odds: Air Force +4, Total: 43.5

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Baylor (-4)  23   Air Force  20

I think Baylor by 4 points would have been the right number if this game weren’t being played in 15 to 25 mph winds, which are expected on Thursday night. Wind affects the passing game negatively and that does not really affect an Air Force team that’s going to run the ball about 90% of the time. As it turns out, the wind affect is projected to hurt Baylor’s offense by about a point more than it will affect the Air Force offense.

Baylor was just 0.3 yards per play better than average offensively this season (5.7 yppl against teams that would allow 5.4 yppl to an average FBS team) and that unit is up against a solid Air Force defense that allowed just 257 total yards and 13.3 points per game while giving up just 4.9 yppl with their starters in the game. The Falcons were only 0.1 yppl better than average but they possess the ball so much on offense that opponents had just 50 plays per game to work with and I project just 310 yards on 54 plays for Baylor in this game (5.7 yppl).

The Air Force option attack averaged 404 yards per game at 6.0 yppl this season while rating at 0.3 yards per rushing play better than average and 1.6 yards per pass play better than average. Overall, the Falcons were 0.2 yppl worse than average because they ran the ball 89% of the time. It may not be so easy to run against a good Baylor defensive front that was 0.8 yprp better than average in the regular season (4.7 yprp allowed to teams that would combine to average 5.5 yprp against an average defense). Of course, defending the run well doesn’t mean that a team can defend the option and a lot of how they perform in this game depends on how intently they prepared. You’d think that having extra time to prepare for a bowl game would help teams defend the option better but the 3 military teams, who all run the option offense, are 38-15 ATS in bowl games going back to 1980. The math projects just 4.9 yppl for Air Force by they are likely to run around 10 more plays than Baylor’s offense.

Overall, the math favors the Bears by 3.1 points with 42.3 total points. I’ll pass.


Wake Forest vs

Fri, Dec 23 3:30 PM PT

Rotation: 231, Odds: Missouri +2, Total: 63

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Note: I released this Best Bet early and got good line value on the Under (closed at 59)

1-Star Best Bet – *Under (63) – Missouri (+1)  28   Wake Forest  27

Wake Forest averaged 36.2 points in the 11 games with Sam Hartman at quarterback, but Missouri’s defense is 0.8 yards per play better than the average defense that the Demon Deacons faced this season and the Tigers’ slow pace on offense will likely give Wake one fewer possession than normal. Missouri yielded just 5.2 yppl this season to a schedule of teams that would combine to average 6.1 yppl against an average team and only elite offensive teams Kansas State and Tennessee scored more than 27 points against Missouri this season (and Wake is not an elite offensive team). The Tigers allowed an average of just 25 points facing a schedule of teams with an average compensated yards per play rating that is exactly the same as Wake Forest’s offensive rating, which is just 0.4 yppl better than average (6.0 yppl against teams that would allow 5.6 yppl).

Missouri’s defense won’t be as good without 3 starters that have opted out, as star safety Martez Manuel and stud defensive linemen Isaiah McGuire and D.J. Coleman combined for 17 of the Tigers’ 33 sacks and added 16 additional tackles for loss. I value the impact of those absences at 0.4 yppl and 3.8 points (3.4 points to the total).

Wake Forest has been good at converting on 3rd-downs (46.4%) but Missouri’s defense is good on 3rd-down (33.9% against a slate of good offensive teams) and that battle could determine the winner of this game. My math projects a modest 409 yards at 5.6 yppl for the Demon Deacons in this game.

Missouri’s offense averaged just 5.7 yppl against teams that would allow 5.7 yppl to an average team but that attack is going to be significantly worse without superstar WR Dominic Lovett, who has decided to transfer. Lovett averaged 11.3 yards on his 75 targets with a very good 53% success rate while the rest of the wide receivers combined to average just 7.2 yards per target with a 41% success rate. WR Barrett Banister (8.2 YPT and 50% success) is now the main target and he plans to play after missing the final two games of the regular season. Lovett being out is worth 2.9 points to Missouri and 2.7 points to the total.

Wake Forest has been 0.2 yppl worse than average defensively this season (6.0 yppl allowed to teams that would combine to average 5.8 yppl) and the Demon Deacons are down two defensive backs in safety Malik Mustapha (injury) and CB Gavin Holmes (transfer). I value those losses at 1.5 points, which is not as much as Lovett is worth to Missouri’s offense. I project 382 yards at 5.6 yppl for Missouri’s offense in this game.

Missouri games went over the total in each of their last 3 contests, but the Tigers are 8-4 Under for the season and teams that went over in their last 3 games or more are 73-47-1 Under in their bowl game (63-34-1 Under when the total is less than 65 points). Missouri games had 7 non-offensive touchdowns, which is more than usual, and that has influenced the total upwards a bit. The math favors Missouri by 1.4 points with 56.4 total points and the bowl under trend is in play.

The Under is a 1-Star Best Bet at 62 points or higher (Strong Opinion down to 61).

UL Lafayette vs

Fri, Dec 23 12:00 PM PT

Rotation: 229, Odds: Houston -6.5, Total: 60.5

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Note: I released this Best Bet early and got good line value on the Under (closed at 56)

1-Star Best Bet – *Under (60.5 -105) – Houston (-6.5)  30   Louisiana-Lafayette  22

Rotation #230 – December 23, 12 pm Pacific

The total on this game appears to be based on a compensated points model, which would project 60.7 total points. However, that projection has been boosted by 47 points scored in Houston’s overtime games and the number of non-offensive touchdowns in games involving these teams is a bit high (6 in Houston games and 5 in ULL games).

My model projects a much lower scoring game after adjusting for key absences on Louisiana-Lafayette’s offense.

Houston has been good offensively this season, averaging 6.8 yards per play and 37.2 points per game (35.3 ppg in regulation) but Louisiana-Lafayette’s defense is better than all but 4 of the defensive units that the Cougars faced this season and their recent surge of points in the last 5 games (44 ppg) have been against 5 bad defensive teams. Louisiana’s defense has allowed just 22.8 points per game and rates 0.1 yppl better than an average FBS defense. Houston averaged just 26.8 points in regulation time in 4 games against teams that are about average defensively (UTSA and Kansas are a bit worse than average and Texas Tech and Memphis are a bit better than average) and my model projects 31 points for Houston in this game.

A lot of the value on the under comes from Louisiana-Lafayette’s offense being much worse heading into this game than it was in the regular season. The Ragin’ Cajuns were 0.7 yards per play worse than average offensively this season but that was with most of the passing coming from injured QB Ben Wooldridge and with potential NFL receiver Michael Jefferson catching passes. Wooldridge averaged 6.2 yards per pass play on 254 pass plays this season against teams that would allow 6.8 yppp to an average quarterback and he took over as the full-time quarterback mid-season after early season starter Chandler Fields proved that he couldn’t move the team consistently. Fields took over the offense again in week 12 after Wooldridge was injured in practice in what was described as a season-ending lower leg injury.

Fields has averaged just 5.3 yppp (excluding garbage time against Florida State’s backup defense) against teams that would allow 7.1 yppp to an average quarterback. Fields is not comfortable throwing the ball down the field (he averages just 10.7 yards per completion to Wooldridge’s 12.0 ypc) and he’ll have even less success in that area without Jefferson, who has opted out and declared for the NFL draft. Jefferson averaged 9.1 yards on 89 targets this season and no other receiver on the team had more than 37 targets. The other wide receivers combined for 7.0 yards per target, but the #2 and #3 receivers, Rogers and LeBlanc, combined for just 8.6 yards per reception and 4.8 yards per target and Fields will likely rely on those short passes more than airing it out to the backups with big play potential (Stephens and Bernard combined for 9.5 YPT on 45 targets). I only lowered the expected yards per pass play by 0.3 yppp for Jefferson being out but it could be more if Fields doesn’t utilize Stephens and Bernard. I rate ULL’s offense at 1.2 yppl worse than average with Fields at quarterback and without Jefferson, which is about 4 points per game worse than their season rating – and also not reflected in the total on this game. Houston’s defense is 0.2 yppl worse than average but should be able to contain ULL’s offense in this game (it is the worse they’ve faced all season).

Houston hasn’t reported any players that are opting out and I’ll assume they’ll be at full strength offensively, but this total was too high given Louisiana-Lafayette’s offensive downgrade.

The Under is a 1-Star Best Bet at 59 points or more.

Middle Tenn St vs
San Diego St.

Sat, Dec 24 5:00 PM PT

Rotation: 233, Odds: San Diego St. -7, Total: 48.5

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New Mexico St. vs
Bowling Green

Mon, Dec 26 11:30 AM PT

Rotation: 235, Odds: Bowling Green -3, Total: 48.5

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Bowling Green (-3)  28   New Mexico State  23

I recently wrote that Connecticut was the worst bowl team in memory, but this New Mexico State team is just as bad and it’s a miracle that the Aggies got to 6 wins thanks to a shocking 35-point win as a 24-point dog against an uninterested Liberty team in week 13 and a 65-3 win over a dreadfully bad (even by FCS standards) Valparaiso team the next week. New Mexico State actually won 6 of 8 after an 0-4 start to the season but beating the likes of Hawaii, New Mexico, UMass, Lamar and Valpo means nothing and that win over a good Liberty team has an asterisk next to it.

Bowling Green is by no means a world beater themselves, but the Falcons do have wins over very good defensive teams Marshall and Toledo in which they scored a total of 76 points, so the Falcons certainly deserved this bowl bid.

The Bowling Green offense is 0.9 yards per play worse than average, which is a bit worse than a New Mexico State defense that rates at 0.7 yppl worse than average. However, the perfect dome conditions will likely lead to more passing (and more efficient passing) and quarterback Matt McDonald (0.9 yards per pass play) has an advantage over an Aggies’ pass defense that has been 1.2 yppp worse than average, allowing 6.1 yppp to FBS quarterbacks that would combine to average only 4.9 yppp against an average defense. McDonald is projected to average 7.1 yppp inside the dome and the Falcons are expected to gain close to 400 yards at 6.0 yppl in this game.

New Mexico State’s offense has looked good the last two games against an uninterested Liberty defense (that was dealing with rumors that their head coach was leaving, which was the case) and a horrible Valpo defense. However, the Aggies’ attack was mostly horrible this season (-1.0 yppl rating) and rates at 0.8 yppl if quarterback Diego Pavia plays the entire game. Pavia is a 0.2 yppl upgrade over the team’s rating but he mostly split time with Gavin Frakes. Frakes has only played garbage time recently and Pavia played the entire game against Liberty so I’ll assume he’ll be at quarterback as long as this game is competitive. Bowling Green’s defense has been 0.5 yppl worse than average this season, so the Falcons have an advantage over New Mexico State’s offense, which I project at 340 yards and 5.6 yppl.

In addition to the advantage from the line of scrimmage the Falcons are also a couple of points better in special teams and have a 0.9 points edge in projected turnovers. Overall, the math favors Bowling Green by 7.4 points but the Falcons apply to a 7-35 ATS bowl situation that applies to favorites with a bad defense. I’ll pass this game.

Georgia Southern vs

Tue, Dec 27 9:00 AM PT

Rotation: 237, Odds: Buffalo +3.5, Total: 67

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Georgia Southern (-3.5)  35   Buffalo  32

Both of these teams are horrible defensively but Georgia Southern is a better offensive team and should be able to outscore the offensively challenged Bulls.

Buffalo averaged 29 points per game this season with a ball-control offense of runs and short passes. The Bulls averaged 75.3 plays per game (minus kneel downs and spikes) but managed just 5.1 yards per play while facing teams that would combine to allow 6.2 yppl to an average offensive team. That unit is ever worse without WR Jamari Gassett, who led the Bulls with 9.1 yards per target but had just 3 targets over the final 4 games and has decided to transfer. Marlyn Johnson has stepped into Gassett’s role, but he’s averaged only 3.9 YPT on 33 starters this season. Buffalo’s best receiver of the 3 running backs, Ron Cook Jr., is also out and his 8.3 YPT and 50% success rate catching passes is going to be missed given that fellow backs Washington and Henderson combine for just 4.4 YPT and a dismal 25% success rate. In the final 4 games of the season with Gassett and Cook not playing much, the Bulls averaged only 4.7 yards per pass play (against teams that would allow 7.6 yppp to an average team) and only 4.3 yppl. I don’t think that the Bulls are that bad but their pass attack projects at 0.5 yppp worse than their season rating of -1.4 yppp.

Georgia Southern allowed over 250 ground yards per game at 6.4 yards per rushing play (against teams that would average only 4.9 yprp) so I imagine that Buffalo will turn to the run more than usual, even with the good passing conditions (just 3 mph winds expected). The Eagles are terrible defending the pass too (7.6 yppp allowed to quarterbacks that would combine to average 6.3 yppp) so the Bulls may not be as bad throwing as they’ve been lately. I project 441 yards at 5.7 yppl for Buffalo in this game. I did not adjust for Georgia Southern DB Derrick Canteen transferring out despite him leading the team in passes defended (12 in 11 games) and being 5th in tackles, as the Eagles actually played better defensively in the two games that he didn’t start (one he barely played in and the other he missed). I also didn’t adjust for Buffalo being without their starting center.

Georgia Southern’s up tempo, pass-heavy attack averaged 31.4 points per game and 6.2 yppl in 11 games against FBS teams that would allow 5.7 yppp to an average attack. However, the Eagles have lost 3 starting wide receivers over the course of the season, including Amare Jones, who led the team in yards per target (9.2 YPT in FBS games), and Derwin Burgess, who still ranks second on the team in receiving yards despite missing the final two games. Marcus Sanders, who averages just 4.9 YPT, hasn’t had a pass thrown to him over the last two games, which helps some. I rate the Eagles’ offense at 0.3 yppl better than average heading into this game and they should thrive against a horrible Buffalo defense that’s been 0.7 yppl worse than average this season. The Bulls are not as bad defending the pass (0.4 yppp worse than average) and I do think that Georgia Southern will run more than usual given how bad Buffalo has been defending the run (1.0 yprp worse than average), as the Eagles have run more in games against bad run defenses. Even with more running I project 477 yards at 6.9 yppl for Georgia Southern.

Overall, my math favors GSU by 5.3 points, with a total of 67.6 points, but the Eagles apply to a 7-35 ATS bowl situation that plays against bad defensive teams as favorites (makes sense). I’ll pass this game.

Memphis vs
Utah St.

Tue, Dec 27 12:15 PM PT

Rotation: 239, Odds: Utah St. +7.5, Total: 60.5

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Memphis (-7.5)  32   Utah State  25

I commend Utah State for rallying from a 1-4 start to win 5 of their last 7 games and I also would like to commend them for not upsetting Boise State in the finale, which allowed me to cash my Under 7 wins team total Best Bet on them.

Despite the surge in conference play, the Aggies weren’t any better in their last 7 games than they were at the beginning of the season. Utah State’s offense is 0.8 yards per play worse than average for the season and they were 0.7 yppl worse than average in their final 7 regular season game (also -0.7 yppl in 7 games with Cooper Legas at quarterback). Not having RB Calvin Tyler Jr. (opt out) isn’t much of a negative, as Tyler only averaged 4.4 ypr – although not having him in the pass game is worth nearly 0.1 yppl, as his 7.5 yards per target is better than the 3.4 YPT of backup Robert Briggs, who also may not play after missing the final two regular season games.

The Aggies’ defense is 0.5 yppl worse than average for the season and 0.8 yppl worse than average during their 5-2 run so there is no sign of improvement at all during their recent run.

Memphis is 0.2 yppl worse than average offensively and 0.2 yppl better than average defensively and their ability to defend the run (4.1 yards per rushing play allowed to teams that would average 4.9 yprp) matches up well against a Utah State offense that prefers to run the ball but isn’t good at doing so (-0.7 yprp). Without Tyler (and possibly his backup) I am expecting more passing and more runs from Legas, who averaged 4.9 yards on his 78 scrambles this season.

That math favor Memphis, as I project the Tigers to win by 10 with an advantage of 99 total yards and 1.4 yppl. However, Utah State applies to a 74-32-2 ATS Bowl underdog situation and laying 7 points or more in the December (non-major) bowl games has traditionally been a bad idea (83-133-7 ATS; 2-2 this year so far and I leaned with one of the one of the big favorites that covered – Marshall). I’d lean with the Under if it gets back up to 61 points or more but I suggest passing at current numbers.

Coastal Carolina vs
East Carolina

Tue, Dec 27 3:45 PM PT

Rotation: 241, Odds: East Carolina -7, Total: 63.5

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Lean – Over (63.5) – East Carolina (-7)  37   Coastal Carolina  32

Coastal Carolina’s star All-American caliber quarterback Grayson McCall announced that he’d be transferring, and the line shot up to 13 points. He then added that he would stay to play in this bowl game before entering the transfer portal. When I saw that I texted out an unofficial Strong Opinion on Coastal Carolina +13, as some books still had the line up while others dropped it down to +10 initially and some took it off the board. Based on some emails, it seems like a good number of you were able to grab a +13 but I obviously can’t count that as an official play given the circumstances.

The line has now settled back down to 7 points, which is a fair number based on my calculations, but I do see value on the over in this game.

McCall had a less talented supporting cast this season, but he still completed 69% of his passes for 8.3 yards per pass play while throwing just 2 interceptions in 10 games. The Chanticleers managed just 33 total points in the 2 games that he missed and having McCall behind center makes Coastal’s offense 0.4 yards per play better than average. However, I think they’ll be even better in this game, as the Chanticleers tend to throw the ball more in competitive games and running a lot against ECU is a foolish thing to do given that the Pirates’ defense is 0.6 yprp better than average against the run while being 1.7 yppp worse than average defending the pass (7.9 yppp allowed to quarterbacks that would combine to average only 6.2 yppp against an average defense). East Carolina’s opponents have thrown the ball 5% more often against the Pirates than they have overall, and I expect Coastal to do the same. Throwing more will boost the Chanticleers’ attack given that they are 0.4 yards per rushing play worse than average while McCall is 1.4 yards per pass play better than average.

East Carolina’s offense is also better than their season rating of +0.7 yppl, as the Pirates got a boost mid-season when RB Rahjai Harris got injured. Harris’ 3.55 yards per run on 67 runs through 5 games was dragging down a rushing attack that should have been featuring more of Keaton Mitchell, who ran for 1325 yards on just 179 carries (7.4 ypr!) in just 11 games. With Mitchell getting the ball more often the Pirates’ run attack rates at 0.9 yards per rushing play better than average and veteran quarterback Holton Ahlers has had a strong season as well (7.4 yppp against teams that would allow 6.6 yppp with just 5 interceptions). Coastal Carolina’s run defense was 0.2 yprp worse than average for the season but I rate them at 0.2 yprp better than average after adjusting for the outlier against Old Dominion (319 yards at 10.6 yprp allowed). The Chanticleers are dreadful against the pass, allowing 7.9 yppp to quarterbacks that would combine to average only 5.9 yppp against an average defense, and their opponents have also thrown the ball 5% more than they normally do against Coastal Carolina. ECU probably won’t throw it that much more, but the low winds usually lead to more passing and I do expect the Pirates to throw the ball a bit more than normal.

Both teams are without their starting centers, but Coastal Carolina will have to make do without DE Josaiah Stewart, who has 10 total tackles for loss. The net of those transfers  is 0.8 points against Coastal and to the under but the math still projects 69 total points in this game (and favors ECU by 7 points). East Carolina does apply to a negative 2-25 ATS bowl situation but that’s not enough to get me leaning with the Chanticleers. I think the best play in this game is the over, which is a lean at 64.5 points or less.