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College Football Bowl Staff Picks & Plays: Dec. 16-19

Grant Wells

Grant Wells

Ben Queen-USA TODAY Sports

The 2022 Bowl Season is underway, and the NBC Sports analysts have taken a deep dive into each of the 42 bowl games offering their favorite plays on everything from sides and totals to player props.

The group includes Eric Froton (@CFFroton), Vaughn Dalzell (@VMoneySports), Brad Thomas (@MrBradThomas) and Zachary Krueger (@ZK_FFB). We’ll be rolling them out in four installments, starting with the games from Dec. 16-19, with each segment covering about a quarter of the bowl season - and yes, we are keeping score. So tail (or fade) as you see fit.

From the shores of the Bahamas to the turf at SoFi Stadium, this bowl season is sure to be one to remember. Traditional games and matchups will be rekindled, while new chapters will be written - including (finally) the inaugural playing of the Fenway Bowl in Beantown.

Myrtle Beach Bowl

Marshall Thundering Herd (-10) vs. Connecticut Huskies (Over/Under 41)

Kickoff: December 19 at 2:30 p.m. ET (ESPN)

Site: Brooks Stadium – Conway, SC

Bowl History: Marshall: 12-5, Connecticut: 3-3

Series History: This is the second meeting between these schools. They previously met in the 2015 St. Petersburg Bowl, which Marshall won 20-16.

Note: This is the first trip to the Myrtle Beach Bowl for either of these schools.

Vaughn Dalzell: Game Total UNDER 41

I love what Jim Mora has done since taking over at the University of Connecticut, but the Huskies may be a year early to cash a winning ticket in a bowl game. Marshall University has weathered the storm all season behind the 10th-ranked defense in yards per game and 9th in sacks. This Thundering Herd held 12 of 13 opponents to 24 points or less for a season average of just 16.1 points per game (7th). In all six of UConn’s losses, the Huskies scored 21 or fewer points for an average of 13.6 points per game.

Take the game Under 41 or the Under on UConn’s Team Total as far down as 14.5.

Eric Froton: Game Total UNDER 41 Points

Marshall was riding an emotional high after knocking off the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame in Week 2, but quickly came crashing down to earth after losing three of their next four. The Thundering Herd regrouped in the second half to finish 5-1 down the stretch thanks to a suffocating run defense that allowed just 88 yards per game and 2.8 yards per carry. Marshall’s stout defensive front faces a Connecticut run game that ranks 34th nationally and has to prop up the eight worst passing offense in the country. Huskies HC Jim Mora Jr. wants to slow the game down (125th in pace) and pound the ball with freshman RB Victor Rosa who averaged 6.6 YPC with five rushing touchdowns over the last three games. With both teams sporting run-heavy gameplans it’s easy to see why they are a combined 16-7-1 to the Under so far this year. I’m betting these two teams go Under the 41.5 point total.

Brad Thomas: UConn +10

In his first season at the helm, head coach Jim Mora brought a 1-11 team to their first bowl game since 2015. With UConn’s extended absence from Bowl season, I expect the Huskies to play hard in this game and keep it close.

Zach Krueger: Marshall -10

One of the few teams who appear to have a full roster this bowl season, Marshall not only has their full regular season roster, but also running back Rasheen Ali, who returned for the final two games of the season to rush for 32-181-0 while averaging an impressive 4.16 YCO/ATT. Ali and the Herd get a UConn team that has outperformed expectations in its first year under Jim Mora Jr., despite allowing over 160 rushing yards per game. One of the more run-heavy teams in the nation (60.5%), Marshall will look to use its greatest strength to exploit one of UConn’s biggest weaknesses. The Herd have some solid wins on the season, including an upset road win against Notre Dame in their second game of the season, and a win over James Madison as 9.5-point underdogs. Marshall should come to play on Monday and could overpower a UConn squad that ranked near the bottom in points per game (19.8 and 115th) this season.

PointsBet is offering a Boost for those who are tailing Zach and are parlaying it with a play on San Jose State (+4) to cover tomorrow against Eastern Michigan in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl (from +260 to +310).

Game Result: Marshall 28, UConn 14

Completed Games

HomeTown Lenders Bahamas Bowl

Miami (OH) Redhawks vs. UAB Blazers (-10.5) (Over/Under 44.5)

Kickoff: December 16 at 11:30 a.m. ET (ESPN)

Site: Thomas A. Robinson National Stadium, Bahamas

Bowl Records: Miami (OH) 8-5, UAB: 2-3 (First-ever meeting)

Note: This is UAB’s second appearance in the Bahamas Bowl. Their first was 2017 (lost 41-6 to Ohio). Miami (OH) is making their first appearance in the Bahamas Bowl.

Vaughn Dalzell: Game Total UNDER 44.5

Miami is looking for two-straight Bowl wins under Chuck Martin after beating North Texas last season as a 2 point favorite, but now are a +11 point underdog with a different quarterback and a different offense.

The Red Hawks offense is ranked 117th in third-down conversion success and 91st in red zone offense. UAB is ranked 115th in red zone offense, but has a great pass defense at 24th nationally in passing yards per game. This looks like a game with both teams preferring to run the ball. This is especially true for UAB since they have the nation’s leading rusher, Dewayne McBride. I like the chances both offenses stall out a few times and opt for field goals or fourth-down attempts.

Eric Froton: Jermaine Brown (UAB) OVER 70.5 yards rushing

There is a lot of conjecture surrounding whether or not the nation’s leading rusher, Dewayne McBride, will be participating in the contest as he is widely considered to be the most NFL-worthy Group of Five running back in the country. I think it’s incredibly likely that he either hits the portal or declares for the draft before this game, making his change-of-pace backup Jermaine Brown (5'9/185) the ball carrier of choice for UAB’s punishing ground game that ranks second nationally. While Miami does have a respectable run defense for a MAC team, they also gave up 180 yards/2 TDs to Carson Steele and allowed Northern Illinois to put up 200+ rushing yards late in the season, so I am not concerned about their ability to snuff out a top tier rushing attack like UAB. I am recommending Jermaine Brown Over 70.5 Rushing Yards, since he has gone well over 100 yards in two of the last three and now could get a full workload to himself.

Brad Thomas: UAB -10.5

Motivation in bowl games is the best recipe for determining how strong to feel about a side. With Trent Dilfer on the horizon, will UAB be motivated to win for interim Head Coach Bryant Vincent? That thought aside, UAB has a potent offense led by star running back Dewayne McBride and a decent enough defense to give Miami’s struggling offense issues. I am leaning to UAB -10.5, but I want to wait to see if McBride plays or opts out. If he plays, I will also look to take the over on his rushing total against a team allowing 144 yards rushing per game.

Zach Krueger: UAB -11

With just days to go before the game, UAB has yet to report any opt-outs, but all eyes are on running back Dewayne McBride to announce he is making the leap to the NFL. Arguably the best G5 back of this upcoming draft class, McBride opting out could prove problematic for the Blazers, but Jermaine Brown Jr.(142-825-6) should be plenty capable of shouldering the load against a Miami (OH) defense that is allowing 135.8 rushing yards per game. The Redhawks may or may not be without quarterback Brett Gabbert, who appeared in four games this season and subsequently entered, then withdrew from the transfer portal. Neither team was particularly good ATS this season (9-15 combined), but UAB is looking to send interim head coach Bryant Vincent out in style after the program opted not to give him the full-time job. Playing for a bit more than a bowl, I think the Blazers do everything in their power to trounce the Redhawks in this one.

Game Result: UAB 24, Miami (OH) 20

Duluth Trading Cure Bowl

Troy Trojans (-2) vs. UTSA Roadrunners (Over/Under 55.5)

Kickoff: December 16th at 3p.m. ET (ESPN)

Site: Exploria Stadium - Orlando, FL

Bowl History: Troy: 5-3, UTSA: 0-3 (First-ever meeting)

Note: Neither team has appeared in the Cure Bowl.

Vaughn Dalzell: Game Total OVER 55.5

Rumor out of Troy’s camp is that UTSA is the best and most dynamic offense they have seen so far this season... and I agree. This has the potential to be a track meet between these two. UTSA scored at least 30 points in 12 of 13 games this season and Troy scored 27 or more in seven of 13 games. The Trojans are 8-0 to the Over in their last eight Bowl Games. I see fireworks in what could be one of the most entertaining bowl games of the season. Take the Over 55.5.

Eric Froton: Game Total OVER 55.5

What a season it has been for new Troy HC Jon Sumrall who was named Sun Belt Coach of the Year after leading Troy to the SBC Championship. Troy’s defense has been the catalyst for their success all year, ranking 6th against the pass, 25th vs. the run and 15th in EPA/Play. The two teams that gave the Trojans the most trouble were Army (1% win expectancy) and Appalachian State (33%), with both being run-heavy programs. The Trojans are peaking at the right time, averaging 42 PPG over their last three games while posting a dominant 10-3 ATS record.

UTSA also went 11-2 and won the Conference USA and did so by blowing the doors off their opposition, ranking 18th in offensive performance, 9th in EPA/Play and 10th in points per drive (10th). Despite a patchwork rotation at running back the Roadrunners rushed for 200+ yards in 5 of their last 6 contests in addition to averaging 39 PPG on the year and scoring at least 31 points in every game but one (Texas - 20 points). Their defense however ranks 93rd against the pass and 76th in EPA/Play allowed. With both teams’ offenses cresting, and a likely competitive contest between two good teams, I think we see enough back-and-forth scoring to clear the 55.5 Over mark.

Brad Thomas: Game Total OVER 55.5

Both teams are coming into this game riding 10-game winning streaks, so picking a side in this one is difficult for me. From a side perspective, I lean toward UTSA despite Troy’s defense being known for frustrating opposing quarterbacks, holding them to just 255.5 yards per game. However, I just cannot bring myself to fade a 10-3 ATS team who is celebrating its first conference championship since 2017. The weather in Orlando will be nice, and I expect zero defense from UTSA. We know super senior Kevin Harris can light it up as well. Thus, I am backing the Over in this game.

Zach Krueger: UTSA +2

A battle between an 11-2 Troy team and an 11-2 UTSA team has the chance to be one of the best games of this week’s opening slate. With experience in the spotlight and one of the better coaches in the nation in Jeff Traylor, I think the Roadrunners are built to pull off the outright win in this one. Quarterback Frank Harris has already committed to returning for one final season, and wide receiver Zakhari Franklin, while undecided on his future, is expected to play at this time.

UTSA’s offense finished the year ranked 12th in points per game (38.7) and 9th in offensive yards per game, scoring 30+ points in all but one game this season. For all of Troy’s successes this season three of their last four wins came over two teams below .500 (Arkansas State and ULM) and an overmatched backup quarterback (Coastal Carolina). I like experience and explosiveness to win out in this one.

Game Result: Troy 18, UTSA 12

Wasabi Fenway Bowl

Louisville Cardinals (-1) vs. Cincinnati Bearcats (Over/Under 40)

Kickoff: December 17 at 11 a.m. ET (ESPN)

Site: Fenway Park – Boston, MA

Bowl Histories: Louisville: 11-12-1, Cincinnati: 10-11

Series History: Cincinnati leads the series with a record of 30-22-1 with the most recent meeting in 2013 (Louisville won 31-24 in OT).

Note: Do you think Louisville will lead at halftime and win the inaugural Fenway Bowl? If so, get a Boost from PointsBet (from +130 to +150).

Vaughn Dalzell: Game Total UNDER 40

A number of factors have to be considered as you decide your play for this game. Both teams have made coaching changes with the Louisville coach now roaming the sidelines at Cincinnati. Both teams are putting their backup QBs under center due to injuries to their respective starters. Top players at the skill positions have opted out of the game for the Bearcats. All those issues and changes have combined to drop this total from 44.5 to 41.5. One or both of these teams will struggle to reach 20 points. As mentioned, given that Louisville’s Head Coach from this season, Scott Satterfield is now the Cincinnati Head Coach, his understanding of his former team should allow for the Bearcats to keep the Cardinals’ offense in check. Cincy may struggle to score themselves so expect a low-scoring affair.

Eric Froton: Game Total UNDER 40

It’s the Satterfield Bowl, with former Louisville HC Scott Satterfield leaving for Cincinnati’s coaching vacancy in the wake of Luke Fickell‘s departure. He’s taking several assistants, but secondary coach Keary Colbert is staying on to coach the team until new HC Jeff Brohm takes over. Cincinnati starting QB Ben Bryant is out for the season, leaving former four-star dual-threat QB Evan Prater to lead their 49th ranked passing offense despite several productive wide receivers either hitting the portal or opting out. It’s not much better on the Louisville side, as Brock Domann (57.4 PFF pass grade/54% comp rate) takes over from Malik Cunningham as starting QB while 1,000-yard wideout Tyler Hudson has opted out. Three prominent UL RBs have left campus, so it’s just Jahwar Jordan as the last man standing from the original group. Neither team has much continuity in the passing game, while their defenses are allowing just 20 points per game each with top-25 overall defenses. Throw in the potential for devastating New England weather in Fenway Park, and I’m strongly backing the Under 40 points.

Brad Thomas: Game Total UNDER 40

Both head coaches, Scott Satterfield and Luke Fickell have left their respective programs, taking quite a few assistants with them. Quarterback Malik Cunningham and star corner Kei’Trel Clark will miss the game for the Cardinals after opting to sit out and prepare for the NFL Draft. Cincinnati will be without tight end Josh Whyle, receiver Tre Tucker, and center Jake Renfro. From players to coaching personnel, there are too many questions surrounding this game to be eager to bet on a side. I am not particularly fond of either quarterback, Evan Prater or Brock Domann, especially with expected cold and rainy weather conditions. Louisville (4-8 O/U) and Cincinnati (6-6 O/U) both have top-23 scoring defenses. If you want to bet against uncertainty, the under seems like a solid option.

Zach Krueger: Game Total UNDER 40

It is hard to love either side in this game. Both of these teams have lost their head coaches – with Louisville’s Scott Satterfield leaving for Cincinnati after Luke Fickell took the job at Wisconsin, and neither team is entering the game with their QB1. To make matters worse for Cincinnati, they have seen two key contributors on offense in tight end Josh Whyle (32-326-3) and wide receiver Tre Tucker (52-672-3) opt out to prepare for the NFL Draft. Ideally, I would stay far away from this game given the unknowns between player personnel and coaching staff. Officially, I have no play on this. However, if I were to pick a slight lean, I would go with the Under, which is a combined 14-10 between these two teams on the season. It is also a total that has dropped five points since opening at 45.

Game Result: Louisville 24, Cincinnati 7

SRS Distribution Las Vegas Bowl

Florida Gators vs. Oregon State Beavers (-10.5) (Over/Under 52.5)

Kickoff: December 17 at 2:30 p.m. ET (ESPN)

Site: Allegiant Stadium – Las Vegas, NV

Bowl History: Florida: 25-22, Oregon State: 9-7

Series History: This is the first meeting between these schools.

Note: The Beavers (1-1) are making their third trip to the Las Vegas Bowl (won 2003 vs. New Mexico, lost 2009 vs. BYU) while the Gators are appearing for the first time.

Vaughn Dalzell: Florida +10.5

Oregon State has covered six-straight games, the longest active ATS streak in the country, but they are laying -10.5 versus Billy Napier who is on a 17-3-1 ATS run as an underdog, including a 5-0 mark this season. However, Florida is 0-4 ATS in their last four Bowl Games, but just one of those happened on Napier’s watch. Florida lost as 7 point favorite against UCF and are +10.5 point dogs in this game.

While the Gators are without QB Anthony Richardson, Florida has enough talent to keep this respectable and potentially win outright.

Eric Froton: Game Total UNDER 52.5 Points

You have to give credit to Oregon State for their incredible run this season, as two of their losses against USC (87% win expectancy) and Washington (73%) came in games they easily could have won. Their sound defeat at the hands of Utah (2%) was the Beavers’ only concise loss, with their ball-control oriented (122nd in pace) power-run offense led by Damien Martinez allowing OSU to post a suffocating 48.5% success rate (16th) while their lock-down secondary ranks 10th in pass defense, allowing just 6.3 yards per pass attempt (15th in FBS). Florida will be starting backup QB Jack Miller with Anthony Richardson opting out. His absence could drastically affect Florida’s 9th rated rushing offense that HC Billy Napier used to cover for their 99th rated defense. With OSU playing slow and showing the ability to bend the game to their style of play, coupled with Jack Miller attempting to throw on OSU’s suffocating secondary, I am backing the Under 52.5 Points.

Brad Thomas: Game Total Over 52.5 Points

With Florida’s star quarterback Anthony Richardson opting out to prepare for the NFL draft, third-stringer Jack Miller will be making his first start for the Gators. A third-string first-time starter under center doesn’t have me running to the window to bet the Gators, but even with the Gators’ bowl opt-outs, I don’t want to bet Oregon State’s inflated line. The one constant of this Gators team has been their subpar defending. They have allowed 26 or more points eight times this season. I still believe that Miller will put points on the board, and Oregon State’s Damien Martinez will get the ball moving on the ground. I am backing over 52.5 points in this game.

Zach Krueger: Oregon State -10

The Gators find themselves without quarterback Anthony Richardson (declared for NFL Draft), backup quarterback Jalen Kitna (dismissed from the team) and their top offensive lineman (O’Cyrus Torrence). Even at full strength, the Gators struggled their way to a 6-6 record in Head Coach Billy Napier‘s first season while ranking 43rd in points per game (31.8) and 91st in points allowed per game (28.8). Oregon State, whose three losses on the season came against teams that went a combined 31-8, lost starting tight end Luke Musgrave (declared for NFL Draft), but have most of its core pieces intact. Playing this game feels more like a formality than it does a compelling contest – as indicated by the double digit spread. With the Gators debuting Jack Miller at quarterback, I like the Beavers to run away with this one.

If you agree with Zach and like the Beavers to score 35 points and win, get a Boost from PointsBet (from +140 to +160).

Game Result: Oregon State 30, Florida 3

Jimmy Kimmel LA Bowl

Fresno State Bulldogs (-3.5) vs. Washington State Cougars (Over/Under 52.5)

Kickoff: December 17 at 3:30 p.m. ET (ABC)

Site: SoFi Stadium – Inglewood, CA

Bowl History: Fresno State: 13-13, Washington State: 8-9

Series History: This is the fifth meeting between these schools. Washington State leads the series 3-1, winning the last meeting 24-3 in 1994.

Note: This is the second playing of the LA Bowl.

Vaughn Dalzell: Game Total OVER 52.5 - Wait and Get the Best Number

If Jake Haener and Cameron Ward are playing, sign me up for the Over. Despite both defenses being stellar at points, especially Fresno State down the stretch, these quarterbacks can stretch the field and sling it. Fresno State is 6-3 to the Over as a favorite this season and Washington State allows 30.6 points per game as an underdog (1-5 on ML). I will wait to get the best number possible as I expect this to drop, but I like the unpopular Over in this one.

Eric Froton: Fresno State -3.5

Fresno State lost their first four games to Oregon State/USC/UConn/Boise State before QB Jake Haener healed up allowing the Bulldogs to rattle off eight straight victories to close out the season, including a 28-16 defeat of Boise State in the Mountain West Championship to avenge their lone MWC loss. Fresno State is most comfortable in passing situations on both sides of the ball, slotting as the 26th pass offense and 37th pass defense, which should be an advantage against Wazzu’s 82nd rated coverage unit. Offensively the Cougars rank 85th in passing offense and could be without three starting receivers depending on the health status of Renard Bell at gametime. With Wazzu losing several top playmakers and Fresno State looking to put a bow on the legendary Jake Haener era, I’m riding with the Bulldogs -3.5.

If you agree with Eric and like the Bulldogs to lead at halftime and win, get a Boost from PointsBet (from -105 to +115).

Brad Thomas: Fresno State ML and Game Total OVER 48 (alt line)

I am really excited to bet Jake Haener‘s passing total Over once the lines are released. Washington State’s defense has struggled through the air. They are 98th in defensive success rate against the pass and have allowed 271.7 passing yards per game. While I wait for that number to be posted, I am on Fresno State to win and the Game Total to go Over 52.5 points. Washington State will get their points with Cam Ward at the helm, but with receivers DeZhuan Stribling, Donovan Ollie, and Renard Bell out for the game, we could see some timing issues with Ward and the rest of the receivers. It also helps Fresno State’s offense that Washington State will be without two starting linebackers. This plus odds option gives us more value on a team whose spread is now inflated.

Zach Krueger: Fresno State -3.5

The Cougars opened as the favorites in this one, but losing three of your top four receivers to injury/the transfer portal will do funny things to your chances of winning. Washington State is fortunate enough to still have quarterback Cameron Ward (3091-23-8), but the books do not think that is enough to overcome the loss of three key offensive players. Fresno State on the other hand is down players who provided added depth, but all key role players appear to be ready to play. Defensively, Fresno State was stout all season, ranking 25th in points allowed per game and 40th in yards allowed per game. Unless the Cougars are about to unveil their next great offensive playmaker in this one, I like the Bulldogs and their familiar core group of players to take advantage of a gutted Wazzu team.

Game Result: Fresno State 29, Washington State 6

LendingTree Bowl

Rice Owls vs. Southern Miss Golden Eagles (-6.5) (Over/Under 46.5)

Kickoff: December 17 at 5:45 p.m. ET (ESPN)

Site: Hancock Whitney Stadium – Mobile, AL

Bowl History: Rice 7-5, Southern Miss 11-13

Series History: This is the 13th meeting between these schools. The series is tied 6-6, with Rice winning the most recent matchup 24-19 in 2021.

Note: Southern Miss is undefeated in two appearances in the LendingTree Bowl (2000 over TCU, 2007 over Ohio). Rice is making its first appearance.

Vaughn Dalzell: Rice +7

Neither of these teams can really be trusted in what I view as the worst bowl game of the season. As a result, give me the dog and ML for a potential upset to make this one entertaining. Christian McCaffrey‘s brother, Luke McCaffrey has been an animal this season for the Rice Owls. The wideout has 62 total touches for 793 yards and 8 touchdowns over nine games. We will likely dabble on McCaffrey’s touchdown prop too. Southern Miss being just 1-6 in their last seven bowl games gives me added confidence in the play.

Eric Froton: Southern Miss -6.5

Southern Miss’ defense has been one of the better units in the G5, ranking 23rd in EPA/Play and 15th in Success Rate allowed. A potent defense was vital to the Golden Eagles’ success, since their offense ranks 124th in Rushing and 111th in yards per play. On the other side, the Owls lead the nation with 30 turnovers while rating 105th in net points per drive. They have also lost four of their last five games heading into bowl season. Rice will likely be forced to rely on their 68th rated ground game due to a banged up Luke McCaffrey and instability at the QB position. With USM fielding the one elite unit in this matchup, their defense ranks 16th in rush defense according to PFF, I think Rice’s one dimensional offense will be dead in the water so I will lay the 6.5 points and take the Golden Eagles to cover.

Brad Thomas: Southern Miss -7

This is a game between one team who earned bowl eligibility on the last game of the season and another who earned bowl eligibility because there were not enough teams .500 or better. I slightly lean toward Southern Mississippi. The Golden Eagles finished the season 9-3 ATS and have done well in covering non-conference games (7-0 ATS in the last seven). Southern Mississippi also upset #14 Tulane in New Orleans. Frank Gore Jr. should have no issues running all over Rice and leading Southern Miss to an easy cover.

Zach Krueger: Game Total OVER 45.5

Southern Miss has yet to report any players opting out, while Rice is dealing with multiple injuries on the offensive side of the ball that has left their status in doubt. The Owls won just five games this season and have lost four of their last six. This game opened at its current line (Southern Miss -6) and could remain there up until kickoff, but I find the total more enticing than the spread. With a total of 45.5, these two teams have been in games that combined for 50+ points 14 times this season. This game opened with a projected total of 48.5 points and has since dropped by a field goal. The run-heavy approach between both teams is somewhat concerning, but this number feels low given what we have seen this season.

Game Result: Southern Miss 38, Rice 24

New Mexico Bowl

SMU Mustangs (-3.5) vs. BYU Cougars (O/U 64.5)

Kickoff: December 17 at 7:30 p.m. ET (ABC)

Site: University Stadium – Albuquerque, New Mexico

Bowl History: SMU: 7-9-1, BYU: 16-22-1

Series History: This is the fourth meeting between these schools. BYU leads the series 3-0, last winning 19-16 in 1997.

Note: BYU’s only previous appearance in the New Mexico Bowl was in 2010, when they defeated UTEP 52-24. This is SMU’s first appearance in Albuquerque.

Vaughn Dalzell: Game Total OVER 64.5 (pending Jaren Hall‘s status)

BYU’s QB Jaren Hall could be out for this game and that makes all the difference. With Hall, the BYU offense is more explosive. Also, know that neither SMU or BYU play defense. If Hall is playing for BYU, grab the Over 64.0 in this game, which has dropped from the opening line of 71.5. If Hall is out, we will update this play with the best bet for this game, whether it is a prop or game pick.

Eric Froton: Game Total UNDER 64.5 Points

Each team will be compromised, with WR Rashee Rice opting out for SMU and potentially BYU QB Jalen Hall who is dealing with an injury, along with several other Cougars players. Brigham Young’s defense has been atrocious, ranking 122nd overall, 99th vs.the pass and 104th defending the run. Their offense has been BYU’s savior, posting 6.6 yards per play (17th) while rating 14th in EPA/Play. SMU’s strengths/weaknesses are a mirror image of BYU with their 120th rated defense and pass-oriented offense that ranks 26th in EPA/Play. The loss of key offensive players has me leaning Under 68 points.

Brad Thomas: Game Total OVER 64.5

If this game were to be played at full strength, it would be one of the better early bowl matchups. Unfortunately, that is not the reality we live in. SMU will be without star wide receiver Rashee Rice, and BYU will be without impactful linebacker Keenan Pili. There is also a strong indication that BYU quarterback Jaren Hall will miss the game. Regardless of who starts at quarterback for BYU, they should still be able to score on this SMU defense. Mustangs’ QB Tanner Mordecai will undoubtedly put up points as well. The Total is high, but I am backing the Over.

Zach Krueger: SMU -3.5

He has not been fully ruled out yet, but the status of quarterback Jaren Hall is very much up in the air. Hall suffered an ankle injury in the team’s season-finale against Stanford, but all indications are he is rehabbing in hopes of taking the field for the Cougars. That said, BYU coach Kalani Sitake is on the record as saying that Hall is trending toward “not performing.” Assuming Hall is out, BYU will be starting a quarterback who has yet to throw a pass this season. SMU will be without top receiver Rashee Rice (96-1344-10), but should have most of its roster intact. The Mustangs opened as 1.5-point underdogs but have now been favored by as much as 5.5. Currently sitting at 3.5-point favorites, I like the Mustangs to cover here, and would not be surprised to see the line move more in their favor if Hall is officially ruled out before the game.

The team agrees this will be a high scoring game. If you like SMU to score 40+ and win the game, get a Boost from PointsBet (+155 to +175).

Game Result: BYU 24, SMU 23

Frisco Bowl

North Texas Mean Green vs. Boise State Broncos (-10.5) (Over/Under 59.5)

Kickoff: December 17 at 9:15 p.m. ET (ESPN)

Site: Toyota Stadium – Frisco, TX

Bowl Histories: North Texas: 2-10, Boise State: 12-7

Series History: This is the seventh meeting between these schools. The series is tied 3-3, with Boise State winning the most recent meeting (59-0) in 2000.

Note: This is the first appearance by either Boise State or North Texas in the Frisco Bowl.

Vaughn Dalzell: Boise State Team Total OVER 35.5

North Texas fired their head coach before the bowl game and there is no telling how that will affect the team entering their game against a talented Boise State team. The Broncos are coming off a conference championship loss just like North Texas. The Broncos have a defense that could limit the Mean Green and I am not sure I can say the same for the North Texas defense.

Boise State has played three non-Power 5 schools since 2000 in a Bowl Game and scored 38, 38, and 55 points. Take the Boise Team Total Over 35.5 because of the unknowns from North Texas. I lean Boise State -10 as North Texas is 0-4 ATS in their past four Bowl Games, hence why they fired Seth Littrell.

If you agree with Vaughn and like Boise St. to score 35+ points AND cover the spread, get a Boost from PointsBet (from +140 to +160).

Eric Froton: Boise State -10.5

Boise State limped to a 2-2 start with QB Hank Bachmeier under center, suffering an opening week loss to a strong Oregon State team before bottoming out in a 27-10 loss to UTEP in a game where they were a 16.5 point favorite. QB Taylen Green took over and stabilized the offense, leading the Broncos on a 7-2 run culminating with a 28-16 loss to a strong Fresno State team in the MWC Championship. North Texas just fired seven year HC Seth Littrell despite the Mean Green actually making the Conference USA Championship game, losing 48-27 to UTSA. Littrell was sent packing in large part due to the major problems UNT had defensively, allowing 33 points and 470 total yards per game. They also lacked a real signature win, getting throttled by SMU/UAB/UTSA/UNLV/Memphis while beating up on the soft underbelly of the C-USA. While Boise should be able to move the ball consistently against North Texas’ 119th ranked defense, I sincerely doubt UNT will be able to penetrate Boise State’s 15th overall defensive unit. I’m laying the -10.5 and taking the Broncos to easily handle a UNT program that is transitioning coaching staffs.

Brad Thomas: Boise State Team Total OVER 35.5 Points

Once Boise State fired offensive coordinator Tim Plough and switched to Taylen Green at quarterback, they became a lethal team. North Texas has been terrible defensively, ranking 116th in defensive success rate and 108th in defensive touchdown rate. They have given up 36 points or more on five occasions this season, one being 58 to UNLV. I like Boise State to win, but this game screams shootout, which leads me to betting Boise State’s team total over.

Zach Krueger: North Texas +10.5

Both teams should have most of their regular season roster dressing for this one. North Texas will be without head coach Seth Littrell, who was dismissed after the team’s 48-27 loss to UTSA in the CUSA championship game. Defensive coordinator Phil Bennett is expected to serve in Littrell’s absence, but the Mean Green will have quarterback Austin Aune (3306-32-13) for one more game before he departs for the NFL as a 29-year-old rookie. North Texas is 7-6 ATS this season, and 3-0 ATS as double-digit underdogs. It is tempting to ride with Boise State, who found success with redshirt freshman Taylen Green under center, but North Texas and Aune will have something to prove in their final game.

Game Result: Boise State 35, North Texas 32