College Bowl Games
Tue, Dec 28 3:45 PM PT
Rotation: 241, Odds: Texas Tech +10, Total: 58.5
Game Analysis view matchup stats
Strong Opinion – Texas Tech (+10) 27 Mississippi State 32
I’m sure that Mike Leach would love to get back at Texas Tech for firing him after the 2009 season, but Leach is also just 5-11 ATS in bowl games and and his former quarterback Sonny Cumbie is the interim head coach for Texas Tech and certainly knows how best to defend Leach’s system. Cumbie may also have his attention diverted by his new job as head coach at Louisiana Tech. I’ll just assume all of that is a wash and stick with the math.
Texas Tech is a pretty good team, and the Red Raiders may have found their quarterback of the future in Donovan Smith, who was impressive over the final 4 games of the season and averaged 7.3 yards per pass play, including 9.4 yppp against Iowa State and 9.8 yppp in the finale against Baylor, who are both good defensive teams. Smith was a bit better than the team pass rating of 1.4 yards per pass play better than average and he threw just 2 interceptions on 111 pass attempts. Top receiver Erik Ezukanma has left the team to prepare for the NFL but his 9.0 yards per target isn’t significantly higher than the 8.5 YPT averaged by the rest of the Texas Tech wide receivers. Texas Tech is 0.8 yards per play better than average entering this game with Smith at quarterback and without Ezukanma (they’d be +0.7 yppl if WR Price doesn’t return from his late-season ankle injury).
Mississippi State has a solid defense, as 5.8 yppl that the Bulldogs allowed to FBS opposition was against teams that would combine to average 6.2 yppl against an average team. Two starters are out, as LB Aaron Brule decided to transfer while CB Martin Emerson decided to opt out to prepare for the NFL combine. I didn’t adjust for either, as the Bulldogs are deep at linebacker and Emerson defended just 3 passes all season – although the cornerbacks in line to take his place have none. Texas Tech is projected to gain 343 yards at 6.0 yppl in this game.
Mike Leach’s offense controls the football with short passes and quarterback Will Rogers completed 75% of his throws this season. However, he averaged only 6.2 yards per pass play against FBS opponents that would allow 6.0 yppp to an average quarterback and the rushing attack was well below average (4.3 yprp against teams that would allow 4.9 yprp). Miss State throws the ball 76% of the time and they were 0.3 yppl better than average offensively while averaging 34.7 minutes of possession per game. The Bulldogs’ offense should work against a Texas Tech defense that allows 67% completions and is 0.9 yppp worse than average against the pass. Tech was only 0.1 yppl worse than average overall because they defend the run well – but that won’t do them much good in this game. Mississippi State is projected to average 7.1 yppp and gain 473 total yards at 6.3 yppl.
Miss State is projected to outgain Texas Tech by 129 yards but by just 0.3 yppl, which equates to about 10 points advantage from the line of scrimmage. However, Texas Tech has a significant advantage in special teams, most of which comes from the 1.7 points per game difference in field-goal kicking, as Tech has one of the best place-kickers in the nation in Jonathan Garibay (13-14 with a 62-yard made FG and only miss from 53 yards) while the Bulldogs’ two kickers combined to miss 11 field goals and were just 2 of 10 from 40 yards plus.
The math favors Texas Tech to stay within the number (Miss State by 7.8 points is the math predicted margin) and the Red Raiders apply to a 61-9-2 ATS bowl big underdog situation that already won once this year with Middle Tennessee State upsetting Toledo as a double-digit dog. Texas Tech is a Strong Opinion at +10 points -115 odds or better.
No Carolina St.
Tue, Dec 28 5:00 PM PT
Rotation: 243, Odds: No Carolina St. -2, Total: 60
Game Analysis view matchup stats
Note: This game has been canceled.
Lean – NC State (-2) 30 Ucla 25
Lean – Under (60)
This is the rare bowl game with no players opting out or key players deciding to transfer.
I was on UCLA early in the season and bet their season win total over 7 wins and the Bruins ended up 8-4 while being about 10 points better than an average FBS team. UCLA is led by experienced quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson and DTR had a strong season, rating at 1.2 yards per pass play better than average (7.5 yppp against teams that would allow 6.3 yppp to an average QB) while adding 745 yards on 110 runs (not including sacks, which are in my passing stats). Zach Charbonnet and Brittain Brown combined for 1752 rushing yards at 5.7 ypr and overall the Bruins’ offense is 1.0 yards per play better than average with DTR in the game (he missed the loss at Utah).
The NC State defense is 0.8 yards per play better than average, having allowed just 5.0 yppl and 19.7 points per game to teams that would average 5.8 yppl against an average defense. The Wolfpack defense struggled a bit mid-season but were better over their final 4 games after moving LB Devon Betty into the starting lineup in week 10 and DE Davin Vann into the starting lineup starting in week 11. The defense allowed just 4.9 yppl to 2 good offensive teams (Wake Forest and North Carolina) and 2 mediocre attacks (Florida State without QB Travis and Syracuse), who would combine to average 6.0 yppl against an average defense (adjusted for Milton at QB for FSU). I project UCLA to gain 384 yards at 6.2 yppl.
NC State also has an accomplished veteran quarterback in Devin Leary, who averaged 7.1 yppp and threw 35 touchdown passes against just 5 interceptions. NC State’s rushing attack is a bit better than average and overall the Wolfpack averaged 6.2 yppl against teams that would allow 5.7 yppl to an average attack. That’s a bit better than a Bruins’ stop unit that yielded 5.7 yppl to teams that would average 6.0 yppl. NC State is projected to gain 402 yards at 5.9 yppl.
These teams are even from the line of scrimmage, but NC State has better special teams and Leary is less likely to turn it over than DTR. The math favors NC State by 3.4 points and 56.2 total points. I’ll lean with NC State and Under partially based on the math and partially based on the situation. UCLA applies to a 29-84-1 ATS bowl situation while NC State applies to a 37-8 Under situation that is a subset of the bowl game under after 3 or more straight overs angle.
Tue, Dec 28 7:15 PM PT
Rotation: 245, Odds: Minnesota -5, Total: 45
Game Analysis view matchup stats
Minnesota (-5) 25 West Virginia 19
West Virginia is only a few points better than an average FBS team and Minnesota is clearly the better team. However, the Mountaineers apply to a 71-14-1 ATS bowl situation that tempers my enthusiasm for backing the Gophers here despite being the better team in every phase of the game.
West Virginia’s offense was 0.1 yards per play worse than average this season, averaging just 5.5 yppl against FBS teams that would allow 5.6 yppl to an average team and the Mountaineers come into this game a bit worse without leading rusher Leddie Brown, who thinks he’s bound for the NFL despite averaging just 4.8 ypr this season, which is worse than average. However, it is better than backup Tony Mathis, who averaged only 4.3 ypr. It’s possible that backup quarterback Garrett Greene, who is a good runner, could see more playing time than normal to try to get the ground game going (Greene ran for 235 yards on 32 runs in FBS games this season).
Minnesota’s defense yielded just 18.3 points and 286 yards per game at 5.0 yppl to teams that would combine to average 5.7 yppl against an average defensive team and West Virginia is projected to gain just 284 yards at 4.9 yppl in this game even with the perfect dome conditions.
Minnesota’s offense picked up considerably after being embarrassed in an upset loss to Bowling Green as a 30-point favorite in which they managed just 10 points and 241 total yards at 4.2 yppl. Even with that outlier, the Gophers managed to rate at 0.2 yppl better than average for the season but they have the potential to be better if they decide to throw the ball more often. The Gophers are 0.1 yards per rushing play better than average running the ball, with each back that forced into duty due to injuries by the back ahead of him performing at the same mediocre level. Quarterback Tanner Morgan, however, has been 1.1 yards per pass play better than average for the season (7.0 yppp against teams that would allow 5.9 yppp) despite averaging only 1.3 yppp in that game against Bowling Green and being without top receiver Chris Autman-Bell for 2 games. West Virginia defends the run well and teams tend to throw the ball more in domed stadiums (or calm weather), so I expect Morgan to throw it more than he usually does (Minny runs it 67% of the time), which will benefit their offense.
West Virginia’s defense is only 0.3 yppl better than average overall, and Minnesota is projected to gain 358 yards at 5.8 yppl in this game.
Aside from being the better team on offense and defense, the Gophers are also better in special teams and are less likely to turn the ball over. It all adds up to a predicted margin of 9.6 points (and 45.0 total points), but that 71-14-1 ATS situation that applies to West Virginia will keep me off this game.
Wed, Dec 29 8:00 AM PT
Rotation: 247, Odds: Virginia PK, Total:
Wed, Dec 29 11:15 AM PT
Rotation: 249, Odds: Virginia Tech +3.5, Total: 54.5
Game Analysis view matchup stats
Maryland (-3.5) 31 Virginia Tech 25
My math was leaning with Maryland by 2.5 points when the opening line of Virginia Tech -2.5 was posted, and the math still leans with the Terrapins by the same amount after adjusting for all of Virginia Tech’s defections.
The Hokies will be without quarterback Braxton Burmeister, top two receivers Tre Turner and Tayvion Robinson (also averaged 13.7 yards on 24 punt returns) and 3 defensive starters in DT Jordan Williams, DE Amare Barno, and CB Jermaine Waller, who led the team with 9 passes defended, including 4 interceptions.
Virginia Tech’s offense will be significantly worse. Burmeister was not a good passer (just 6.3 yppp against teams that would allow 6.7 yppp to an average quarterback) but he ran for 718 yards on 91 runs (7.9 yprp). The Hokies will start #3 quarterback Connor Blumrick (#2 QB Kadum decided to transfer), who has shown nothing as a passer (29 yards on 18 pass plays) but ran for 244 yards on 39 runs (6.3 yprp). It’s likely that Blumick’s passing will be better than he’s shown so far but not having Turner and Robinson, who combined for 8.3 yards on 149 targets. The rest of the receivers combined for just 7.1 YPT, which equates to 0.6 yards per pass play. I dropped the Hokies’ yppp rating another 0.6 yppp, which is the typical drop-off between the starter and a backup, but it could be more than that.
Maryland is much better defending the run (0.2 yprp better than average) than they are defending the pass (0.8 yppp worse than average). I expect the Hokies to run the ball at least two-thirds of the time and Virginia Tech running it more makes the Maryland defense relatively better than it is. Virginia Tech is projected to gain 355 yards at 5.3 yppl, but I can certainly imagine the Hokies being even worse.
Maryland’s offense is led by Taulia Tagovailoa, who completed 68.4% of his passes for 6.9 yards per pass play against FBS opponents that would combine to allow just 6.0 yppp to an average quarterback. The aerial attack hasn’t been quite as good the second half of the season after losing big-play WR Dontay Demus, who averaged 101 receiving yards and 14.5 yards per target in 5 games before getting injured. I have Maryland rated at 0.5 yppl better than average without Demus and project 447 total yards at 6.6 yppl in this game against a Hokies’ defensive that was just 0.1 yppl better than average in the regular season and will be missing 3 of their best defenders (I rate the unit at 0.3 yppl worse than average heading into this game).
My math favors Maryland by 6 points with a total of 56 points.
Wed, Dec 29 2:45 PM PT
Rotation: 251, Odds: Iowa St. +2.5, Total: 44.5
Game Analysis view matchup stats
Lean – Iowa State (+2.5) 23 Clemson 21
Clemson outgained their FBS opponents by just 26 total yards per game yet managed to outscore those opponents by 8.2 points per game (excluding that fluke final play defensive TD vs Florida State). The Tigers usually outplay what their stats project, as their average point differential is 2.6 points per game better than what their stats would predict over the last 10 years. This year that difference was +4.1 points per game because the Tigers allowed just 3.2 points per opponents redzone opportunity, which is much better than would be projected. The top 5 defenses in the nation, including Clemson, allowed a combined 4.0 PPRZ, which is usually what the Tigers allow. So, the Tigers have experienced some defensive redzone variance this season and now they’ll be without the guy calling the defensive plays, as DC Brent Venables has taken the head coaching job at Oklahoma and won’t be with the team for this game. I suspect that Clemson won’t be better than their stats would project in redzone defense without Venables and thus won’t continue to outplay their projected scoring margin by 4.1 points per game – although I will adjust their long-term outperformance level of 2.6 points.
Clemson’s defense is among the nation’s best, at 1.3 yards per play better than average, which is the same rating as the Iowa State offense this season (6.7 yppl against teams that would allow 5.4 yppl to an average team). However, I rated that unit at +1.1 yppl after adjusting for the 10.7 yppl in their final game against TCU, which skewed their average rating up. The Cyclones are led by veteran quarterback Brock Purdy, who completed 73% of his passes and was 1.1 yards per pass play better than average. Purdy will be without receivers Tarique Milton and Joe Scates, who combined for 423 yards on 37 targets, and All-American RB Breece Hall has opted out of this game. Hall was averaging a modest 5.2 ypr prior to that TCU game, when he scampered for 242 yards on 18 runs to end the season with 1472 yards at 5.8 ypr. Over the past 3 seasons Hall’s 5.5 ypr has not been much better than the 5.4 ypr of the #2 and #3 backs over those 3 seasons. I rate Iowa State’s offense at 0.8 yppl better than average heading into this game and project 380 yards at 5.4 yppl for the Cyclones.
Clemson’s offense has been worse than average all season and averaged only 5.1 yppl against 11 FBS opponents that would combine to allow 5.5 yppl to an average attack. It appears as if the offense improved down the stretch by averaging 35.2 points over their last 5 games (excluding the fluke TD vs FSU), but they really only had one strong offensive game during that stretch – the 535 yards at 7.3 yppl in their 48-27 win over Wake Forest. In the other 4 games down the stretch the Tigers averaged just 5.1 yppl vs teams that would allow 5.4 yppl to an average attack, so they aren’t much improved at all. They just had one great offensive game and quarterback D.J. Uiagalelei averaged 5.8 yards per pass play or less in 9 of the 11 games against FBS opponents. Iowa State (0.6 yards per rushing play better than average) should contain a Clemson rushing attack that is just 0.3 yprp better than average and Uiagalelei will likely have another bad game against a good Iowa State defense that I rate at 0.4 yppp better than average even after accounting for the absence of starters Young and King. Iowa State was 0.7 yppl better than averaged defensively this season and I rate that unit at 0.5 yppl with current personnel, which is more than good enough to contain Clemson’s sub-par attack. I project 309 total yards at 5.0 yppl for the Tigers in this game.
The math favors Iowa State by 2.7 points based on the projected box score and including special teams, but I adjusted the math model prediction by 2.6 points in Clemson’s favor based on their long-term trend of outperforming their statistical projections. That makes this game even and Clemson applies to a 9-39 ATS bowl situation that plays against favorites that ended the regular season on a winning streak. I’ll lean with Iowa State plus the points.
Wed, Dec 29 6:15 PM PT
Rotation: 253, Odds: Oklahoma -7, Total: 60.5
Game Analysis view matchup stats
1-Star Best Bet – *Over (61) – Oklahoma (-7) 38 Oregon 31
My math model would have projected 63.3 total points in this game before adjusting for all of the opt-outs and transfers affecting both teams. Most of the damage was on the defensive side of the football, as potential #1 overall pick DE Kayvon Thibodeaux is one of 5 Oregon defensive starters that won’t play in this game while Oklahoma will be missing 4 NFL-bound defenders. Those defensive absences far outweigh the loss of 4 Oregon receivers, as only Devon Williams is a difference maker among that group.
Oregon’s offense will be missing CJ Verdell, who’s been out since week 6, and wide receivers Devon Williams, Johnny Johnson, Jaylon Redd, and Mycah Pittman. Verdell averaged a modest 5.2 ypr on 78 runs and his absence opened the door for Travis Dye (1118 yards at 5.8 ypr) and Byron Cardwell (500 yards at 7.3 ypr), so I have no concern about a Ducks’ rushing attack that averaged 215 yards at 5.9 yards per rushing play (against teams that would allow 5.0 yprp). Quarterback Anthony Brown averaged 6.9 yards per pass play against FBS teams that would allow 6.1 yppp to an average QB and the absence of Williams is worth 0.3 yppp, as his 10.3 yards per target is not easily replaced. However, Johnson, Redd, and Pittman combined for just 7.8 YPT on 90 targets and the rest of the wide receivers, excluding Williams, combined for 8.6 YPT on 79 targets, which is why I don’t think they’ll be missed at all. I rate Oregon’s offense at 0.7 yppl better than average heading into this game.
Oklahoma’s defense was only 0.3 yppl better than average this season and the Sooners are likely to be worse than average without 4 NFL-bound starters that opted out. That list of players is leading tackler LB Brian Asamoah and defensive linemen Nik Bonitto, Isaiah Thomas, and Perrion Winfrey, who are the top 3 on the team in sacks and total tackles for loss. Those 3 linemen accounted for 20.5 sacks and 37.5 total tackles for loss and the absence of the top 4 Sooners’ defenders is worth 3.8 points according to my algorithms. I rate Oklahoma’s defense at 0.3 yppl worse than average with current personnel and project Oregon to gain 441 yards at 6.8 yppl, which includes a boost for this game being played in a domed stadium.
Oklahoma’s offense averaged 38.4 points and 445 total yards per game at 6.9 yppl (against teams that would allow 5.6 yppl to an average team) and the offense improved when Caleb Williams took over at quarterback mid-season. The pass attack was better with Williams, who threw the ball down the field more than Spencer Rattler did (14.5 yards per completion to 10.6 ypc for Rattler) and Williams is incredibly effective running the ball, as he gained 549 yards on 52 runs. The transfer of leading receiver Jadon Haselwood is likely to help the pass attack, as he averaged a poor 6.7 yards per target with a 49% success rate while the next 4 wide receivers combined for 10.2 YPT and a 59% success rate. The Sooners were 2.0 yppl better than average offensively with Williams at quarterback, which equates to about 4 points per game better than their season rating.
Oregon had a very good defense this season, as the Ducks yielded 5.4 yppl to FBS teams that would combine to average 6.4 yppl against an average defensive team. However, that defense gave up 612 yards at 7.2 yppl to Ohio State when Thibodeaux was out of the lineup in week 2 and fellow starters CB Mykael Wright (opted out to prepare for NFL draft), CB DJ James (transfer), S Steve Stephens (leg injury), and 1st-Team All-Pac 12 DT Popo Aumavae (not practicing and reportedly confirmed to be out) are also out for this game. Four backup defensive players are also not with the team (I didn’t adjust for those players). The 5 starters that are out are worth a combined 3.6 points and Oregon’s defensive rating heading into this game is 0.5 yppl better than average. I project Oklahoma to gain 501 yards at 7.5 yppl in this game (adjusted for perfect dome conditions).
The math favors Oklahoma by 5.1 points with a total of 69.5 points and Oregon applies to a 9-36 ATS bowl game situation and could be worse than projected given their depth issues (31 of 88 scholarship players have not been practicing or didn’t make the trip). The Over is a 1-Star Best Bet at 63 points or less.
Thu, Dec 30 7:30 PM PT
Rotation: 261, Odds: Arizona St. +6, Total: 41
Game Analysis view matchup stats
Lean – Wisconsin (-6) 27 Arizona State 17
Wisconsin started the season 1-3 while averaging just 18.5 points per game before freshman back Braelon Allen took over as the main ball-carrier. The Badgers averaged only 4.1 yards per rushing play and just 4.7 yards per play in those first 4 games with Jalen Berger (3.7 ypr) and Chez Mellusi (4.7 ypr) running the ball. Allen ran for 1060 yards at 7.3 ypr over the final 8 games after getting just 12 total carries in the first 4 games and the Badgers won the first 7 games with Allen as the lead back before losing their finale to Minnesota.
The Badgers were 0.7 yards per pass play better than average over those final 8 games while scoring an average of 29.5 points. Arizona State’s defense was 0.8 yppl better than average during the regular season but they’ll be playing this game without both starting cornerbacks and star LB Darien Butler. CB Chase Lucas is not a difference maker in my opinion, but fellow departed CB Jack Jones led the team in passes defended and interceptions while Butler was the #2 tackler, tied for the team lead in total tackles for loss and defended 6 passes (3 of them interceptions), which was #2 on the team and very good for a linebacker. I rate ASU’s defense at 0.5 yppl better than average heading into this game and project 391 yards at 6.0 yppl for the Badgers.
Arizona State’s offense was 0.7 yppl better than average during the regular season but the top two running backs are no longer with the program, as dual-threat back Rachaad White is headed for the NFL while #2 back DeaMonte Trayanum has transferred. Those two combined for 5.4 ypr and new #1 running option Daniyel Ngata has a career 5.6 ypr, so I didn’t adjust the rushing numbers. White’s biggest impact was in the pass game, as he was #2 on the team in receiving yards while averaging 9.3 yards per target at a team high 56% success rate. While White’s absence hurt the pass attack (0.3 yppp adjustment) the return of big play TE Curtis Hodges, who missed most of 4 games after a car accident, makes up for some of that loss. Hodges averaged 13.3 yards per target and should get 3 or 4 targets in this game, possibly more without White as a safety valve out of the backfield.
Wisconsin’s defense was among the nation’s elite, yielding just 16.4 points per game and just 4.2 yppl with their starters in the game this season. The Badgers will be without injured safety Collin Wilder, which his impact isn’t that significant, and the Badgers were a bit better than their 1.6 yppl better than average season rating in the 10 games that 1st-Team All-American LB Leo Chenal played in. Chenal has 106 tackles, including 17 for a loss (7 of them sacks) despite missing two games. I project just 258 yards at 4.7 yppl for the Sun Devils in this game.
Wisconsin is a better team now than they were during the early part of the season and ASU’s defense isn’t going to be as good without three starters, including two of their best defenders, and my math favors the Badgers by 11.6 points. Wisconsin does apply to a 9-36 ATS bowl situation but I’ll still lean with the Badgers at -6.5 points or less.
Thu, Dec 30 8:30 AM PT
Rotation: 255, Odds: South Carolina +10, Total: 57
Game Analysis view matchup stats
Lean – Under (57) – North Carolina (-10) 31 South Carolina 21
South Carolina is once again forced to use graduate assistant coach Zeb Noland at quarterback with Luke Doty injured and Jason Brown transferring. Noland averaged only 5.4 yards on 99 pass plays against teams that would allow 6.9 yppp to an average quarterback, which is 0.7 yppp worse than the Gamecocks’ team rating. The rushing attack also takes a hit with the absence of ZaQuandre White, who opted out after averaging 6.0 yards on 76 runs against FBS teams this season. The other 3 running backs combined for just 3.9 ypr and that difference drops South Carolina’s rushing rating from -0.6 yards per rushing play to -1.1 yprp. South Carolina’s offense was 0.6 yards per play worse than average this season but the Gamecocks rate at 1.1 yppl worse than average heading into this game and I don’t see that difference (worth about 3 points) reflected in the total on this game. North Carolina’s defense is 0.1 yppl worse than average, which is more than good enough to contain South Carolina’s pedestrian attack. I project just 279 yards at 4.5 yppl for the Gamecocks, which includes a slight downward adjustment for the weather (10 mph winds and 33% chance of rain is worth 0.1 yppl).
South Carolina does have a better than average defense, as that unit yielded 5.8 yppl to teams that would combine to average 6.1 yppl against an average stop unit. The absence of edge rusher Kingsley Enagbare, who opted out to prepare for the NFL combine, is worth 0.2 yppl and 1.2 points and a good North Carolina offense (1.0 yppl better than average) is projected to gain 447 yards at 6.5 yppl.
North Carolina averaged 36.6 points in 11 FBS games but that average was skewed up by 3 games of 58 points or more against below average defensive teams. The Tarheels’ median scoring was 34 points and the math projects 33 points for this game. North Carolina allowed 33.2 points to FBS teams because they couldn’t stop good offenses from scoring. That’s not a problem here, as South Carolina is a bad offensive team and the Tarheels allowed just 12 ppg to the two bad offensive FBS teams that they faced (17 to Georgia State and 7 to Duke) – and 14 points to FCS team Wofford, who has the same offensive rating that South Carolina has entering this game. The math projects 19.6 points for the Gamecocks.
Overall, the math favors UNC by 13.4 points with a total of 52.6 points, but the situation favors the big dog, as is usually the case in minor bowl games. South Carolina applies to a 52-21 ATS bowl game underdog situation that plays on the better defensive team getting points and North Carolina applies to a 6-30 ATS big favorite situation. I’ll pass on the side and lean with the Under.
Thu, Dec 30 12:00 PM PT
Rotation: 257, Odds: Purdue +6.5, Total: 65
Game Analysis view matchup stats
Tennessee (-6.5) 37 Purdue 28
I was eager to bet over 58.5 in this game when the bowl lines were posted on Sunday the 5th but the total moved through the key number of 59 points before 6 am Pacific on Monday and kept going up. Since then, Purdue’s best two receivers have opted out, as has the Boilermakers’ best defensive player and a starting cornerback. Tennessee’s only two losses are RB Tiyon Evans, who transferred after missing half the season with an injury, and offensive lineman Cade Mays, who’s dealing with a leg injury and won’t suit up.
Purdue’s offense went from average to very good when Aidan O’Connell took over for Jack Plummer at quarterback on a full-time basis in week 5. Plummer tended to settle for the easy pass (just 9.8 yards per completion) and averaged just 6.0 yards per pass play (against teams that would allow 6.4 yppp to an average QB) while O’Connell not only threw the ball down the field more often (11.0 ypc) but he’s completed 73.5% of his passes and has averaged 7.5 yppp against teams that would allow 5.8 yppp to an average QB. Top receivers David Bell and Milton Wright have opted out and those two, along with Abdur-Rahmaan Yaseen and Mershawn Rice, who were both injured in the first half of the season, accounted for 2180 yards on 228 passes thrown to them (9.6 yards per target). The 3 remaining healthy wide receivers that were part of the rotation combined for 135 targets at just 7.4 YPT, which is significantly worse than the receivers they’re replacing. So, even while O’Connell was 0.5 yppp better than the team’s season rating, the Boilermakers are projected to be 0.7 yppp better than average, which is 0.5 yppp worse than their season rating. Purdue is a horrible running team (3.8 yprp), and they won’t run often, and overall the Boilermakers rate at just 0.1 yppp better than average with their current personnel. Tennessee has a solid defense that was 0.7 yppl better than average in the regular season (5.2 yppl allowed to teams that would average 5.9 yppl against an average defense) and Purdue is projected to gain 453 yards at a sub-par 5.4 yppl.
Tennessee’s offense also got better after a quarterback change, as Hendon Hooker averaged 8.2 yppp (against teams that would allow 6.1 yppp) with 26 touchdown passes against just 3 interceptions. Opening day starter Joe Milton averaged just 4.5 yppp on 61 pass plays (excluding garbage time against Florida’s backups) and was 1.6 yppp worse than average. Tennessee’s offense is 1.4 yppp better than average with Hooker at quarterback (+1.0 yppl overall) and they rate at 1.2 yppl better than average heading into this game after accounting for the absence of Evans, who averaged 6.5 ypr on 81 runs and gained 74 yards on just 6 passes thrown to him.
Purdue’s defense allowed just 20.5 points per game, but the Boilers were just 0.2 yppl better than average defensively (5.6 yppl allowed to teams that would average 5.8 yppl) and will likely be worse without projected 1st-round NFL draft pick George Karlaftis and starting CB Dedrick Mackey. I rate Purdue’s defense at 0.1 yppl worse than average with current personnel and Tennessee is projected to gain 479 yards at 7.0 yppl.
The math favors Tennessee by 11.3 points with a total of 65.9 points, but the Vols apply to a 6-32 ATS bowl situation that applied to Oregon State and Mississippi State so far this bowl season (both lost straight up as big favorites). If you’re in a bowl pool then I’d still use Tennessee, but I suggest passing this game. The total applies to a 37-9 Under situation based on Tennessee having gone over in their final 5 games of the regular season (the market tends to overreact to late-season results and teams on an over streak tend to go under in their bowl game).