COLLEGE FOOTBALL BOWL STAFF PICKS & PLAYS: Quick Lane Bowl AND MORE
And just like that, we are into Week 2 of Bowl Season in College Football.
This week we will travel from Boise to New Orleans and from Tampa to Honolulu. As was the case when we kicked off bowl season, traditional games and matchups will be rekindled this week, while new chapters will also be written.
Our College Football staff at NBC Sports EDGE continue to offer insight on each of the 42 bowl games being played, 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). This is the second installment and it includes the games from Dec. 21-26, 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.
Current Bowl Season (ATS) Records:
Zach Krueger: 10-6
Eric Froton: 9-7
Vaughn Dalzell: 6-9-1
Brad Thomas: 4-12
Quick Lane Bowl
Bowling Green Falcons (-3.5) vs. New Mexico State Aggies (Over/Under 48)
Kickoff: December 26 at 2:30 p.m. ET (ESPN)
Site: Ford Field – Detroit, Michigan
Bowl Histories: Bowling Green: 5-8, New Mexico State: 3-0-1
Series History: This is the first meeting between these two schools.
Note: The Quick Lane Bowl replaced the Little Caesars Bowl at Ford Field in 2014. Bowling Green lost to the Pitt Panthers by the score of 30-27 in this game in 2013. This is the Aggies’ first appearance.
Vaughn Dalzell: Game Total UNDER 48
New Mexico State is 2-5 on the ML as an underdog this year with a win over New Mexico and Liberty (Liberty used three quarterbacks). I am not impressed with the Aggies, but Bowling Green has not been in a bowl game since 2015. More pertinent is the fact this Falcons’ team is just all-around unimpressive. Both offenses rank worse than 80th in points per game and both offenses are 106th or worse in yards per game. We will go with the Under 48. There is no way this game will be fun to watch.
Brad Thomas: New Mexico State +3.5
This bowl will either be fireworks or an absolute dud. Both teams have competed well this season. There is not too much of an edge for Bowling Green on the stat sheet, and both teams struggle to move the ball. This game will be won by whose defense shows up more. I will take the Aggies, who are celebrating their first bowl appearance since 2017 and are 3-0-1 in their previous four bowl appearances.
Eric Froton: Bowling Green -3.5
New Mexico State has been surprisingly respectable this season after going 5-21 over the past three years. It’s a testament to former Minnesota HC Jerry Kill, who has the Aggies bowl-eligible for the first time since 2017. It should be noted that besides an incredible upset of Liberty, NMSU has beaten only UMass, Hawaii and New Mexico who are three of the most moribund FBS programs in the country. Quarterback Diego Pavia was injured in their season finale but it isn’t expected to impact his availability for the game. They face a Bowling Green team that entered 2022 as the most experienced team in the nation, which made a difference in their results as BG has posted just a 4-13 record over the last two years. Their 70th-ranked aerial attack is averaging 257 pass yards per game while the Falcons’ D ranks 63rd in success rate (42%) and 60th in EPA/Play. Their top victories have been against Marshall and Toledo, both quality bowl teams with Marshall having beaten Notre Dame in Week 2. New Mexico State has lived a charmed life this season thanks to two wins against FCS teams, with Bowling Green fielding a veteran team I think they are disciplined enough to cover against NMSU.
Zach Krueger: New Mexico State +3.5
New Mexico State lost its punter to the transfer portal, and may be without starting quarterback Diego Pavia, who suffered an injury in the team’s final game of the regular season. Per a recent report from last week, Pavia has practiced recently with the team and coach Jerry Kill said he should be good to go. Interestingly, this game opened with New Mexico State as one-point favorites and later moved to Bowling Green -3.5. Whether or not this swing had to do with the questionable nature of Pavia, there seems to be a lot of confidence in Bowling Green (6-6, 4-7-1 ATS), who has struggled to cover all season. On the other hand, the Aggies are a solid 7-5 ATS and have covered in five of their last six games while also going 5-1 over that span just to achieve bowl eligibility. New Mexico State averaged 37.2 points per game during their final six games, and gets a Bowling Green defense that’s allowing the 16th-most points per game (33.3) and the 27th-most yards per game (420.7). Assuming Pavia plays, I like New Mexico State to ride the hot hand for one more week, and cover as underdogs. I might even consider taking them outright on the moneyline.
Game Result: New Mexico State 24, Bowling Green 19
Famous Idaho Potato Bowl
San Jose State Spartans (-4) vs. Eastern Michigan Eagles (Over/Under 54)
Kickoff: December 20 at 3:30 p.m. ET (ESPN)
Site: Albertson’s Stadium - Boise, Idaho
Bowl Histories: San Jose State: 7-4, Eastern Michigan 1-4
Series History: This is only the second meeting between these two schools. Eastern Michigan won the first game by the score of 30-27 in 1987.
Note: This is the first time either of these schools has played in the 26-year history of this bowl. The Famous Idaho Potato Bowl kicked off back in 1997 as the Humanitarian Bowl.
Vaughn Dalzell: San Jose State -3.5
Eastern Michigan is 0-4 in the last four Bowl Games dating back to 2016, losing by 36, 4, 2 and 4 points, so expect another close effort. However, EMU is so bad at one thing that I cannot back them here.
EMU is ranked 128th in red zone defense, allowing 43 red zone scores on 46 attempts (93.2%). San Jose State is ranked 6th in that same category and 26th in total defense, so I am backing the Spartans, who’s three losses on the season all came to bowl teams. I am “keeping it simple stupid” on this one. KISS baby.
Brad Thomas: San Jose State -3.5
The conditions for this game will be cold and possibly snowy. San Jose State would rather play in sunny California over cold Idaho to finish their season. They are playing against an Eastern Michigan team who thrives in the cold and will embrace the weather. However, San Jose State’s defense has the edge even with the weather advantage. They are 15th in scoring defense and 21st in defensive success rate. They should give Eastern Michigan issues all night.
Eric Froton: Game Total OVER 54
San Jose opened the year 4-1 ATS before losing their last six games ATS despite going 3-3 on the money line. The Spartans had trouble scoring in the first half, with the Under cashing in 5 of their first 6 games. However, down the stretch their offense came alive scoring at least 27 points in all of their last five games, while allowing at least 28 points to Nevada, SDSU and Utah State as the Over went 3-2 in those contests.
Eastern Michigan was quite the opposite, failing to cover the number in five of their first seven games before regrouping in MAC play to finish 4-1 ATS. The Eagles’ offense has come alive during their late season surge, scoring at least 31 points per game in each of their last three to finish on a high note. There isn’t much news on opt-outs at the moment of publication, but there are some prominent defensive players on each side who could hold out. So I’m going to take the Over 54 Points scored.
Zach Krueger: San Jose State -4
In what’s become a rare sight for bowl season, both Eastern Michigan and San Jose State have their primary rosters intact. Outside of a few lightly-used contributors, both sides should have their regular season stars for this week’s matchup. This is a tough one to navigate, as the two sides are a combined 10-13 ATS, while the under is a combined 13-10. San Jose State’s stout defense ranks in the top 30 in several categories, including points allowed per game (20.3), yards allowed per game (333.0) and defensive success rate (38.9%). Quarterback Chevan Cordeiro (2885-20-4) has been solid in his first year with the Spartans, leading them to a 7-4 record. The Spartans are 0-6 in their last six games ATS, but have run the gauntlet of yet another strong Mountain West conference. Despite their recent string of bad luck ATS, I like San Jose to limit Easter Michigan’s offensive output while managing enough points to put the Eagles away handedly.
Game Result: Eastern Michigan 41, San Jose St. 27
RoofClaim.com Boca Raton Bowl
Toledo Rockets (-4.5) vs. Liberty Flames (Over/Under 54)
Kickoff: December 20 at 7:30 p.m. ET (ESPN)
Site: FAU Stadium – Boca Raton, Florida
Bowl Histories: Toledo: 11-8, Liberty: 3-0
Series History: This is the fourth meeting between these two schools. Toledo is a perfect 3-0 in three games against Liberty, having last played in 2007.
Note: This is Liberty’s first appearance in the Boca Raton Bowl. It is Toledo’s second appearance. They defeated Temple 32-17 on December 22, 2015. The Boca Raton Bowl was founded the year prior in 2014.
Vaughn Dalzell: Liberty +4.5
Liberty is undefeated in bowls, having won three straight under Hugh Freeze. They won the Cure Bowl twice (2019, 20) and the LendingTree Bowl (2021). On the other hand, Toledo has lost four straight bowls, losing last year in the Bahamas Bowl (31-24), to FIU (35-32) in 2018 and to App State in 2017 and 2016 (31-28, 34-0).
Liberty is 9-1 ATS and 7-3 on the ML in the past 10 as an underdog, while Toledo is 2-7 ATS versus teams with winning records in the last nine. The Flames have been inconsistent all season with injuries and finished the season on a three-game losing streak (lost to two bowl teams). This is one final chance to right their late season wrongs against a team that lost two-straight before winning a conference championship in an overrated MAC.
If Liberty can stop the run, they can cover - but that is a big if.
Brad Thomas: Toledo -4.5
Betting on a MAC team in a bowl game is a recipe for disaster. However, it’s hard to find anything to like about Liberty in this game. Head Coach Hugh Freeze has left to take over at Auburn. The first- and second-string quarterbacks have missed substantial time this season, and Liberty is on a three-game losing streak. Most importantly, they lost 49-14 against New Mexico State. Toledo is 5-0 when they score more than 35 points. Take that with a grain of salt because none of those teams had a winning record. I can’t trust Liberty in this situation. Too many issues for me to put my hard-earned money on them. Give me Toledo.
Eric Froton: Liberty +5
It’s almost eerie how statistically similar these teams are, finishing virtually tied in rushing yards (179), total yards (459), yards per play (5.9), rushing yards allowed (145) and points allowed (25). They’ve each dealt with quarterback injuries and won eight games despite struggling against the spread, with Toledo going 1-5 ATS in the second half with Liberty sputtering to 2-5 ATS. Though Liberty’s HC Hugh Freeze has left town for Auburn, the Flames’ wins were far more impressive than Toledo’s - beating BYU, UAB and Arkansas while losing narrowly to Virginia Tech and SMU by less than a field goal each. I know the staff turnover is a detriment, but Liberty is a better team with all things being equal, so I’m going to take the five points and light the Flames.
Zach Krueger: Game Total OVER 54
Liberty has been absolutely railroaded as of late, going 0-3 to close out the season, capping their losing streak with a 49-14 loss to New Mexico State despite being 24-point favorites. Recent injuries to the quarterback position certainly contributed to Liberty’s recent demise, but they’re supposed to have all of their top passers back for this one. Toledo, who has almost it’s entire roster ready to roll for this one, will be led by quarterback Dequan Finn (2127-22-12 passing, 113-608-8 rushing) who has helped make the Rockets the 39th highest-scoring team in the nation (32.1 PPG). They boast a three-headed rushing attack that has seen four players rush for 300+ yards on the season and should have plenty of scoring opportunities against a Liberty defense that’s allowing 36.0 points per game in their last three contests. With both teams at near full strength, they also rank in the top-half in the nation in points per play and are top-35 in pace of play. If I’m picking a spread here, I’d take Toledo at -5, but I like this one to turn into a shootout for my official play.
Game Result: Toledo 21, Liberty 19
R&L Carriers New Orleans Bowl
South Alabama Jaguars (-4.5) vs. Western Kentucky Hilltoppers (Over/Under 56)
Kickoff: December 21 at 9:00 p.m. ET (ESPN)
Site: Caesars Superdome – New Orleans, Louisiana
Bowl Histories: South Alabama: 0-2, Western Kentucky: 5-3
Series History: This is the second meeting between these two schools. South Alabama defeated Western Kentucky 31-24 in 2013 in their initial encounter.
Note: Neither of these schools have played in the New Orleans Bowl, which began back in 2001.
Vaughn Dalzell: Western Kentucky +4.5
South Alabama closed the season with five straight wins and eight of the last nine entering this Bowl Game, while WKU has won three of the past four. WKU is 4-0 ATS versus teams with winning records this season but are 0-2 on the ML as an underdog in that spot. WKU doesn’t need to win, just cover. South Alabama has not been in a Bowl since 2016 and has yet to win a Bowl Game since joining the FBS.
I don’t think South Alabama should be laying points in a bowl game yet, and they were 5-5 ATS as favorites this season, so give me WKU.
Brad Thomas: Western Kentucky +4.5
Western Kentucky was given a massive bowl boost by quarterback Austin Reed, who took his name out of the transfer portal and announced he would play in the bowl game. The line had ballooned to -8 for South Alabama. After his announcement, I missed out on the steam, but I’m still comfortable taking Western Kentucky +4.5. Western Kentucky is coming in with a little moment, and the high-octane passing attack should give South Alabama issues.
Eric Froton: South Alabama -4.5
This game has really turned around for me in recent days, with Western Kentucky receiving “opt-ins” from QB Austin Reed and WR Malachi Corley who returned from the transfer portal. That’s a vital development for WKU’s up-tempo, precision passing offense that ranks 16th nationally in yards per play and 31st in EPA/Play. Defensively their secondary is exceptional allowing just 1.8 points per drive (32nd) and 6.6 yards per pass (28th) while rating 29th in EPA/Play against.
On the other side South Alabama has been one of the hottest teams in the country this season, winning 10 games with their two losses coming in a 32-31 thriller to UCLA and a 10-6 slog against SBC Champ Troy. Though their passing attack is the 27th best in the country, the backbone of their team has been a stifling defensive unit that ranks 14th in points per drive (1.6), 17th in success rate (37%) and 16th in EPA/Play allowed.
With two teams that have performed so well on both sides of the ball in the regular season, both are top-10 in net-yards per play, something has to give. Though the return of Reed and Corley tilt the scales a bit back towards Western Kentucky, South Alabama has been a complete team all season long and has yet to throw up a game where they’ve been drastically outplayed. I’m going with the Jaguars laying the -4.5 points.
Zach Krueger: Game Total OVER 56
Western Kentucky quarterback Austin Reed wasn’t expected to play in this one after he entered the transfer portal shortly after the season ended. Now, back in the fold, Reed is expected to return to the Hilltoppers and play in their bowl game, but he’ll do so without several key players, including wide receiver Daewood Davis (63-863-7), who was the team’s No. 2 receiver. Reed also loses two starters along the offensive line, but the line on this one has moved from South Alabama being favored by as many as eight points, down to the -4.5 line we are seeing now. South Alabama may be without wide receiver Devin Voisin (53-718-4), who is third on the team in receiving yards, but it’s not a guarantee he sits out with his injury. The Hilltoppers rank 18th in pace of play, while South Alabama is slightly below average in pace, ranking 76th. Both also rank in the top-50 in points per play, thanks in part to their efficient offenses. The over is a combined 12-12-1 between these two teams this season. On 11 occasions, either team has been involved in a game that combined to go for 60+ points. This game opened with a projected total of 60.5 and has since dropped by 3.5 points. I would have flirted with the over at 60. I love this current number.
Game Result: Western Kentucky 44, South Alabama 23
Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl
Baylor Bears (-5.5) vs. Air Force Falcons (Over/Under 48.5)
Kickoff: December 22 at 7:30 p.m. ET (ESPN)
Site: Amon G. Carter Stadium – Fort Worth, Texas
Bowl Histories: Baylor: 14-12, Air Force: 14-13-1
Series History: This is the fourth meeting between these two schools. Baylor has won each of the first three games. These two schools last met in 1977.
Note: This is Air Force’s sixth trip to the Armed Forces Bowl (originally the Fort Worth Bowl). They are seeking their second win.
Vaughn Dalzell: Air Force +5.5 and ML
In the past 10 years, service academies have gone 13-3 ATS and 5-1 ATS as an underdog, so give me the Falcons. Everyone will see a -5.5 for Baylor and be tempted to grab them to win by at least a touchdown, but Air Force has a defense that can match up with Baylor.
The Falcons’ defense ranks first in the country with 256.4 yards per allowed per game and the Bears are 60th (370.3). Air Force’s defense allows 13.2 points per game (3rd), while Baylor’s is 65th (26.5).
I lean the Under as Baylor will have time to prepare for the triple-option, however, they don’t quite have the players to replicate what Air Force can do. Take the dogs because I think Air Force wins outright.
Brad Thomas: Air Force +5
Army has had a great history in this bowl, but the last time Air Force participated in this bowl was in 2015, when they got waxed 55-36 by California. I’m backing the Falcons this time around. They are playing against a Baylor team who have struggled defensively all season. They have allowed 142 rush yards per game and 169 in their last three. Baylor is 109th in defensive success rate and 110th in rush defensive success rate. Much of their inefficiencies come from their early down success or the lack thereof. Air Force is strong on the defensive side of the ball and should slow the game down and stay in it throughout. They are a live dog in this contest.
Eric Froton: Game Total OVER 48
Baylor felt the sting of some pivotal departures from their defensive backfield, losing star DBs Jalen Pitre, Kalon Barnes anD.J. Woods to the NFL along with 1st-team All-Big 12 LB Terrell Bernard. Their defense lapsed from allowing 18 points per game in 2021 to 27 PPG this year, as the Bears fielded the 70th best unit in the country resulting in the dismissal of DC Ron Roberts as well as ST Coach Ronnie Wheat. Offensively they rode a true committee backfield to the 29th best rushing performance as QB Blake Shapen provided a steady hand under center, though somewhat lacking in execution as is exhibited in his 16-10 TD/INT ratio. They limped into the postseason losing their last three to Kansas State/TCU/Texas, with tough losses to TCU (77% Win Expectancy) and West Virginia (61%).
Air Force has one of HC Troy Calhoun‘s textbook teams that leads the nation in both rush attempts (61) and rush yards (331) per game. However, the Falcons have also been deadly on the rare occasion when they do opt to air-it-out, averaging 9.5 yards per pass, third most in FBS. Defensively they are a top-flight unit that allows just 1.32 points per drive (5th overall) and 4.8 yards per play (15th). Air Force plays at the slowest pace in the nation, calling a play every 32 seconds.
While AIr Force has been able to stifle their MWC opponents, Baylor has proven that they can put points on the board against power five defenses and their defense is in disarray, so I don’t think they stop Air Force. With Baylor having gone Over their number in 7 of their last nine games, I’m taking the Over 48 points.
Zach Krueger: Game Total UNDER 47.5
Both of these teams run at a high rate. The Falcons lead the nation with an 86.9% rush rate, while Baylor ranks 30th in the nation with a 55.1% rush rate. Additionally, Air Force is also dead last in the nation in pace of play, while Baylor ranks 79th in pace. It’s interesting to note that Baylor hasn’t been in a game projected to go below 50 points since Week 1 when they faced Albany – unsurprising when you consider the offensive power that exists in the Big 12. However, playing against a run-heavy Air Force team, Baylor shouldn’t have to break from it’s own run-heavy approach unless this game gets out of hand. The under is 7-5 in games Air Force has played this season, but is 4-8 in games Baylor has played in. On two of those occasions, it hit in out of conference games. Unless either side is able to breach the other’s stout defense, (Air Force is allowing the third-fewest points per game – 13.2), this has a chance to be a low-scoring game that features a clock that is constantly running. With Baylor not being forced to keep pace with a high-powered Big 12 offense, I expect this one to be on the short end of this total.
Game Result: Air Force 30, Baylor 15
Radiance Technologies Independence Bowl
Houston Cougars (-7) vs. Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns (Over/Under 58)
Kickoff: December 23 at 3:00 p.m. ET (ESPN)
Site: Independence Stadium – Shreveport, Louisiana
Bowl Histories: Houston: 12-16-1, Louisiana: 5-2
Series History: This is the 10th meeting between these two schools. Houston has won six of the first nine with the most recent win occurring in 2006.
Note: This is the first time either school has played in the Independence Bowl which began, not surprisingly, in 1976.
Vaughn Dalzell: Louisiana +7 or Louisiana Team Total Over
There is no way in H double-E hockey sticks that I am backing Houston. This team was so terrible and Dana Holgorsen should probably get fired after this game. There were times in the season where Holgorsen and his team looked disconnected and when you have a defense that’s allowed 27 or more points in 10 out of 12 games, you become a fade.
Houston’s defense ranks 110th in total yards (430.0), 117th in scoring defense (33.5 ppg), 117th in third-down defense (44.3%) and 130th in red zone defense (94.1%). The Cougars have allowed 39 red zone scores on 41 attempts, only Rutgers is worse. Give me Louisiana Lafayette, and I will probably take the Ragin’ Cajuns Team Total Over too.
Brad Thomas: Game Total Over 58.5
I’m not overthinking this one. Houston is 10-2 to the over this season, and they are blowing the overs out of the water by a margin of +11.6. They are allowing 33.5 points per game while scoring 37.2. Luckily for the Cougars, star receiver Tank Dell will play despite declaring for the NFL Draft. Their defense is atrocious, and they couldn’t stop a nosebleed. Louisiana’s backup quarterback Chandler Fields has proven that he can move the ball down the field and score points for the Ragin’ Cajuns.
Eric Froton: Game Total OVER 58
When it comes to Houston and HC Dana Holgerson, they do one thing especially well - create shootouts. Through the regular season the Cougars are 9-2-1 to the Over despite being a brutal 4-8 ATS, leading my colleague Vaughn Dalzell to lament “i’m NEVER betting on Houston again!” on our Saturday morning 11 AM NBC Sports YouTube Q&A show. QB Clayton Tune has been incredible, producing 42 touchdowns while piloting the offense to 475 yards and 37 points per game, while their porous defense allows 33.5 PPG. For their part Louisiana is averaging a respectable 27 PPG on the year, but have hit their stride over the second half, posting at least 36 points in 4 of their last 6 games despite their starting QB Ben Wooldridge being knocked out for the year and Chandler Fields taking snaps for the last two games. I really like the Over 58 points play between these two surging offenses.
Zach Krueger: Game Total OVER 58.5
Chandler Fields has started each of the last two games for the Ragin’ Cajuns with quarterback Ben Wooldridge sidelined. He’s expected to draw the start here, and has seen significant run this season, throwing for 949 yards, 10 touchdowns and four interceptions in seven starts this season. Through the first five weeks of the season, the Cajuns went 2-3 under Fields and were held to 21 or fewer points in each of their losses. Now, they’ll match up against a Houston team that has their top receiver in Nathaniel Dell (102-1355-15) and quarterback Clayton Tune (3836-37-10). The over is a combined 15-8-1 for these two teams this season, with Houston carrying a significant portion of that (9-2-1). Additionally, both teams rank in the top 50 in pace of play, while the Cougars are allowing the 22nd-most yards per game (430.0) and the 14th-most points per game (33.5). This total opened at 60.5 and has since dropped to 58.5. The total has surpassed 60 points in nine of Houston’s 12 games this season. I’ve no reason to believe that can’t happen against this week.
Game Result: Houston 23, Louisiana 16
Union Home Mortgage Gasparilla Bowl
Wake Forest Demon Deacons (-1) vs. Missouri Tigers (Over/Under 60)
Kickoff: December 23 at 6:30 p.m. ET (ESPN)
Site: Raymond James Stadium – Tampa, Florida
Bowl Histories: Wake Forest: 10-6, Missouri: 15-19
Series History: This is the first meeting between these two schools.
Note: This is the first time either school has played in the Gasparilla Bowl which began in 2008.
Vaughn Dalzell: Sam Hartman Over Passing Yards
Whatever it is, give it to me. Sam Hartman tossed 304 yards and 318 yards in two Bowl starts and combined for six touchdowns and four interceptions as well. The Demon Deacons quarterback has 3,421 passing yards (12th) and 35 passing touchdowns (T-5th) this season and threw for 300-plus yards in four-straight games and eight out of 11 this year.
Missouri’s passing defense ranks 42nd, but the two best quarterbacks they faced this year terrorized them. Stetson Bennett threw for 312 yards and Hendon Hooker tossed for 355 yards. Neither quarterback threw an interception either. Go out in style, Sam.
Brad Thomas: Game Total OVER 61.5
I hate backing the over in this game because it reeks of chalk, but Wake Forest has allowed the opposition to score 30 or more points in each of their last five games. Missouri improved defensively this season, but they will be without Isaiah McGuire, DJ Coleman, and Martez Manuel after all three have opted for the NFL Draft. Even with all that talent on the field, the Tigers allowed 35.7 points per game in their last three. With the beautiful weather in Tampa, this has the makings of a classic shootout.
Eric Froton: Game Total OVER 60 (with Hartman) or Missouri +1 (without Hartman)
In the early going we’ve seen teams with waves of opt outs/transfer portal entries struggle against more in-tact programs. So, you can understand my trepidation with taking Missouri here in light of their top receiver Dominic Lovett entering the transfer portal along with three key starters for the Tigers’ 20th ranked defense. Will they be able to contain Wake Forest’s patented slow-mesh offense that ranks fourth nationally in passing? Wake started the season 6-1 before spoiling it by going 1-4 down the stretch, with their lone win being a squeaker against Syracuse where they only had a 36%-win expectancy. If Sam Harman and A.T. Perry opt to play, then I like the Over 60 points a lot. If it comes out that Hartman is sitting/transferring - take Missouri (+1).
Zach Krueger: Wake Forest -1
Wake quarterback Sam Hartman (3420-35-11) reportedly plans to play in this one. We’ve yet to receive word on wide receiver A.T. Perry (70-984-11), but with the game just days away, we’ll assume he suits up until we hear otherwise. While Wake and Missouri are both without key contributors in this one, the loss of Mizzou wide receiver Dominic Lovett (56-828-3) is a significant one. Lovett has accounted for 32% of the team’s receiving yards, even though the Tigers would much rather run it if it were up to them (52.9% rush rate). Hartman has orchestrated a Demon Deacons offense that ranks 15th in points per game (36.8) and 29th in yards per game (447.1). Wake is also 7-5 ATS, and stood up well against a Clemson defense in a 51-45 loss. Assuming Hartman/Perry play, I like Wake to cover in this near pick ‘em.
Game Result: Wake Forest 27, Missouri 17
EasyPost Hawai’i Bowl
San Diego State Aztecs (-7) vs. Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders (Over/Under 49.5)
Kickoff: December 24 at 8:00 p.m. ET (ESPN)
Site: Clarence T.C. Ching Athletics Complex – Honolulu, Hawaii
Bowl Histories: San Diego State: 7-8, Middle Tennessee State: 3-6
Series History: This is the first meeting between these two schools.
Note: This is the second time each school has played in the Hawaii Bowl. San Diego State defeated Cincinnati in 2015. Middle Tennessee State lost the following year to Hawaii and was scheduled to play this game last year before their opponent (Hawaii) opted out because of COVID-19.
Vaughn Dalzell: San Diego State -7
We have one final chance to back our Aztecs of San Diego State and you know I won’t miss it! This SDSU defense gets a positive matchup against Chase Cunningham who has nine interceptions on the season with five of those coming on the road and five in losses.
The Blue Raiders defense ranks 98th in total yards allowed (413.2) and 82nd in points per game (28.0), which should bode well for Jalen Mayden and San Diego State who is coming off the only game without a touchdown (against Air Force).
Last year, the MWC went 5-0 in bowl season and San Diego State has won seven of the last 10 postseason game versus Middle Tennessee who is 3-7 in the the previous 10 postseason contests. Back the better defense and more dynamic quarterback in SDSU. Go Aztecs!
Brad Thomas: San Diego State -7
Outside of their 13-3 loss in the final game of the season, San Diego State was rolling. They were an NBC College Football Q&A betting favorite for most of the season. They won five of their last seven and have shut down inferior opponents all season. They only give up 21.4 points per game and have a defensive success rate of 35.6%. Middle Tennessee has struggled to move the ball all season. They are over-matched in this contest; take the favorite here.
Eric Froton: Game Total UNDER 49.5
San Diego State’s season really turned around when the fired their OC Jeff Hecklinski in October after a brutal 2-3 beginning to the season. The Aztecs have righted the ship after associate HC Jeff Horton took over offensive play calling duties and inserted QB Jalen Mayden into the starting role. SDSU has taken five of their last seven decisions with their losses coming to upper-tier Mountain West programs Air Force and Fresno State. The Over/Under is 49.5 for this game, which I think is a reaction to Middle Tennessee’s ability to create a back-and-forth type contest. However, I think this line underrates SDSU’s propensity to slow the game down (126th in Pace) and force a more methodical game script. With San Diego having produced games with totals Under 50 points in 9 of their last 11 games, I’m taking the Under 49.5 points in the Hawai’i Bowl.
Zach Krueger: Game Total UNDER 49.5
Neither of these teams appear to have any significant players out. This game opened with the Aztecs as 3.5-point favorites and has since moved to San Diego State -7. With the spread taking a 3.5-point leap, taking Middle Tennessee and the points feels like a safe bet. However, the total is of greater interest to me here. After opening at 47, the total has since jumped to 49.5. The under is a combined 12-12 between these two teams, and San Diego State has kept the total below 50 in nine of their 12 games this season. The Blue Raiders are running at the 12th-fastest pace in the nation, while the Aztecs rank 126th in pace of play. In a true battle of contrasts, I like the Aztecs’ stout defense (20.2 points allowed per game) to put the clamps on Middle Tennessee and control the pace throughout.
Game Result: Middle Tennessee State 25, San Diego State 23