Saturday's Late Bowl Tips
December 15, 2017
By Brian Edwards
Editor's Note: Brian Edwards owns a 60-49 record (55.1%, +6.46 units) in college football this season. Don't miss out on any of his pay-if-they-win-only selections, or go ahead and get signed up for his bowl package!
Like I always say, bettors should look at bowl games as completely different seasons for the respective teams. If there are two important factors to keep in mind, they’re location and motivation.
For instance, when one of Lane Kiffin’s USC teams was sent to the Sun Bowl in El Paso to face a Georgia Tech squad that was one game under .500 (6-7 after losing to FSU in the ACC Championship Game, which it somehow made despite its mediocre record since UNC was on probation from the Butch Davis regime), the Trojans skipped the pregame banquet. They had zero interest in being at the game during the holiday season and took a 21-7 loss.
What was Alabama’s motivation vs. Utah at the Sugar Bowl after losing to Florida at the 2008 SEC Championship Game? There was none from the players or the fans, who didn’t show up like the Crimson Tide’s fan base usually does. The result was an outright defeat after the Utes raced out to a 21-0 first-quarter lead.
Motivation can also be impacted by coaching changes. Penn State will be without its offensive coordinator vs. Washington, while Mississippi State’s coach is now recruiting and working on building his staff at Florida. Those are just two examples of many that are in play this postseason.
Location of the game can factor into a team’s morale going into a postseason conteState Will FSU be fired up to be in Shreveport this year? Location can also impact how many fans will show up to support their team and in some cases, schools will literally have homefield advantage. San Diego State has had this benefit at times in the past and Kiffin’s Florida Atlantic squad is in that boat on Tuesday vs. Akron, in addition to Miami in its Orange Bowl game vs. Wisconsin and Navy in the Military Bowl vs. Virginia.
A third factor that has become part of the postseason equation here recently is players skipping the bowl game to stay healthy for the NFL Draft. Some players are still mulling this decision, while other have already made it. We hit on a few of those in Bonus Nuggets.
Let’s now take an in-depth look at the three late games for Saturday…
**Oregon vs. Boise State**
-- These regional rivals will square off at Sam Boyd Stadium in the Las Vegas Bowl on Saturday at 3:30 p.m. Eastern on ABC. As of Friday afternoon, most betting shops had Oregon (7-5 straight up, 6-6 against the spread) installed as a seven-point favorite with a total of 61. The Broncos were +240 on the money line (risk $100 to win $250).
-- Oregon RB Royce Freeman will not play Saturday vs. BSU in order to stay healthy and not negatively impact his status for the NFL Draft. Freeman rushed for 1,475 yards and 16 TDs with a 6.0 yards-per-carry average. He also had 14 catches for 164 yards. OT Tyrell Crosby was mulling over the same thing as Freeman, but he was upgraded from ‘questionable’ to 'probable' on Friday.
-- Oregon went 6-1 SU and 5-2 ATS in the seven games when it had star sophomore QB Justin Herbert healthy, averaging 52.1 points per game. Unfortunately for the Ducks, they won just once when Herbert was injured. The Eugene Sheldon High School product returned for his team’s final two games, leading it to home wins over Arizona (48-28) and Oregon State (69-10). He threw four TD passes compared to only one interception in those two outings. For the season, Herbert completed 66.5 percent of his passes for 1,750 yards with a 13/3 touchdown-to-interception ratio. He also ran for 586 yards and five TDs. Herbert has a 32/7 career TD-INT ratio.
-- Oregon will be without former head coach Willie Taggart, who bolted Eugene after only one season to return to his home state to become the new coach at FSU. This impact probably isn’t going to be felt as much for the Ducks for multiple reasons. First, Taggart had only been in charge for one season and secondly, assistant Mario Cristobal has been named the permanent new HC. This is much different from an interim HC who can’t demand accountability. Cristobal had a successful head-coaching run at FIU and spent time on Nick Saban’s staff at Alabama before going to Oregon with Taggart.
-- Oregon has been a single-digit favorite just once, going 1-0 both SU and ATS with its win over Arizona.
-- Boise State (10-3 SU, 8-5 ATS) has posted double-digit win totals in three of Bryan Harsin’s four seasons on the job since he replaced Chris Petersen. The Broncos lost at Washington State by a 47-44 count in double overtime in a Week 2 showdown. Two weeks later, they got clobbered by Virginia (42-23) at Bronco Stadium on the smurf turf. Since then, however, BSU has won seven of its last eight games with the only defeat coming at Fresno State (28-17) in the regular-season finale.
-- BSU sophomore RB Alexander Mattison was listed as ‘questionable’ as of early Thursday due to a sprained ankle. Mattison has rushed for 1,074 yards 12 touchdowns while averaging 5.1 yards per carry. He also has 28 receptions for 284 yards and one TD. Starting senior TE Jake Roh is ‘questionable’ due to a leg injury that forced him to sit out the Broncos’ last two games. Roh has caught a career-best 39 balls for 410 yards and a team-high nine TDs.
-- Harsin’s team would avenge the loss at Fresno State on week later in Boise, where the Broncos captured a 17-14 non-covering triumph over the Bulldogs as 10-point home favorites. Junior QB Brett Rypien connected on 16-of-30 passes for 246 yards, while Cedrick Wilson hauled in eight receptions for 148 yards. Trailing 14-10 with 4:42 left in the fourth quarter, BSU got the game-winning score on a two-yard TD run by Ryan Wolpin. Mattison rushed for 50 yards and one TD on 14 attempts.
-- Boise State has been an underdog twice this year, going 2-0 ATS with one outright win. The outright victory was a 31-14 triumph at San Diego State as a four-point road ‘dog.
-- Rypien, a two-time first-team All Mountain West Conference selection, has completed 63.3 percent of his passes for 2,495 yards with a 14/4 TD-INT ratio. He has a 58/20 career TD-INT ratio. Wilson is his favorite target with 73 catches for 1,290 yards and six TDs. When Rypien was injured in September, Montell Cozart played well enough in his absence to earn spot playing time for the rest of the season. The gran transfer from Kansas has connected on 64.2 percent of his throws for 767 yards with a stellar 10/1 TD-INT ratio. Cozart provides a scrambling dynamic, evidenced by 361 rushing yards and four TDs with a 4.2 YPC average.
-- The ‘under’ is 8-5 overall for BSU after cashing in six of its last eight games. The Broncos have seen their games average combined scores of 54.5 PPG.
-- The ‘under’ went 7-5 overall for the Ducks, 5-2 in their last seven games. However, we should note that the ‘over’ cashed at a 4-3 clip in the seven games Herbert started. This is the lowest total for Oregon in the games when Herbert was healthy. The Ducks’ 12 games have averaged combined scores of 64.9 PPG.
-- According to weather.com, the forecast for early Saturday afternoon in Vegas calls for temperatures in the mid-50s with mostly cloudy skies but no precipitation.
**Marshall vs. Colorado State**
-- Conference USA and the Mtn. West will be represented in the New Mexico Bowl at Dreamstyle Stadium in Albuquerque. As of Friday afternoon, Colorado State (7-5 SU, 4-8 ATS) was listed as a 4.5-point favorite with a total of 58. The Thundering Herd was +170 on the money line (risk $100 to win $170).
-- Mike Bobo has now taken CSU to the postseason in all three years of his tenure. The Rams are bowling for the fifth consecutive time and they’re looking to end a three-game losing streak in bowl games. They haven’t tasted victory in December since beating Washington State 48-45 at the 2013 New Mexico Bowl. CSU was also in the 2008 New Mexico Bowl, beating Fresno State by a 40-35 count.
-- Colorado State has been a money burner for its backers going back to early October. The Rams have failed to cover the number in six straight games. They snapped a three-game (SU) losing streak by knocking off San Jose State 42-14 in their regular-season finale, but they were unable to cover as 32.5-point home ‘chalk.’ Senior QB Nick Stevens stole the show on Senior Day, completing 26-of-32 passes for 305 yards and three TDs without an interception. Senior RB Dalyn Dawkins ran for 138 yards and one TD on 24 carries, while redshirt freshman RB Rashaad Boddie ran five times for 44 yards and a pair of scores. Senior WR Michael Gallup had seven receptions for 47 yards.
-- Stevens has completed 63.6 percent of his throws for 3,484 yards with a 27/10 TD-INT ratio. Gallup has caught 94 balls for 1,350 yards and seven TDs, while Dawkins has 23 catches for 310 yards and one TD. Dawkins has run for 1,349 yards and eight TDs with a 6.2 YPC average. Izzy Matthews has run for 588 yards and eight TDs, averaging 4.8 YPC. Matthews missed CSU’s last two regular season games with a collarbone injury, but he’s probable’ vs. Marshall.
-- Colorado State is ranked 10th in the nation in total offense and 29th in scoring with a 33.8 PPG average.
-- CSU owns a 3-3 spread record in six games as a single-digit favorite.
-- CSU starting safety Jamal Hicks is ‘out’ with an arm injury. Hicks had recorded 33 tackles, two interceptions and one forced fumble before sustaining the injury in CSU’s eighth game in late October.
-- Marshall (7-5 SU, 8-4 ATS) finished in a third-place tie in C-USA East behind FAU and FIU. Nevertheless, eighth-year HC Doc Holliday has the Herd back in the postseason after a disastrous 3-9 campaign in 2016. Holliday had led Marshall to 33 wins in a three-year stretch from 2013-2015. He owns a 4-0 record both SU and ATS in the postseason during his tenure at the school in Huntington, West Virginia.
-- Marshall has been an underdog five times this year, compiling a 5-0 spread record with a pair of outright victories.
-- Marshall junior QB Chase Litton has completed 60.6 percent of his passes for 2,853 yards with a 23/12 TD-INT ratio. His favorite target is Tyre Brady, the transfer from Miami who has 56 receptions for 777 yards and seven TDs. Marcel Williams has made 41 catches for 512 yards, while senior TE Ryan Yurachek has 47 grabs for 430 yards and a team-best nine TDs. Brady was held out of his team’s last two regular-season games for undisclosed reasons, but he is ‘probable’ vs. CSU.
-- Without Brady, Marshall suffered back-to-back losses to close the regular season. Both defeats came by three combined points, including a 28-27 home loss to Southern Miss as a two-point home favorite its last time out. In fact, the Herd dropped four of its final five games. Trailing 28-21 with 1:15 left against the Golden Eagles, Litton found Yurachek for a nine-yard scoring strike. Holliday opted to go for two to go ahead by a point, but the pass on the conversion attempt failed. Litton threw for 308 yards and four TDs with one interception vs. So. Miss. Yurachek had seven receptions for 56 yards and three TDs.
-- Marshall splits carries between junior RB Keion Davis and freshman RB Tyler King, who has a team-best 714 rushing yards and six TDs with a 4.7 YPC average. Davis has run for 671 yards and five TDs, averaging 4.2 YPC.
--Marshall is ranked 17th in the nation in scoring defense, limiting opponents to 19.2 PPG. The Herd is 19th in the country at defending the run and 24th in total defense.
-- The ‘under’ is 7-5 overall for Marshall, 6-2 in its last eight games. This is the second-highest total the Thundering Herd has seen this year. Holliday’s squad had a 63-point total that resulted in an ‘under’ in its 30-25 loss at FAU. The next-highest tally during the regular season was 55. Marshall’s games have averaged combined scores of 45.6 PPG.
-- Totals have been an overall wash for CSU (6-6). The Rams have seen their games average combined scores of 61.3 PPG. If the total stays at 58, it’ll be in a tie for their third-lowest total of the season.
-- Kickoff is scheduled for 4:30 p.m. Eastern on ESPN. According to weather.com, the first half should be played under sunny skies with temperatures in the upper 40s. Those temperatures will likely dip into the 30s as darkness falls in the second half. There is zero chance of precipitation in the forecaState
**Middle Tennessee vs. Arkansas State**
-- The Raycom Media Camellia Bowl will pit C-USA vs. the Sun Belt in Montgomery, Alabama. As of Friday afternoon, most spots had Arkansas State (7-4 SU, 7-4 ATS) listed as a 3.5-point favorite with a total of 62. The Blue Raiders were available for a +150 return on the money line (risk $100 to win $150).
-- Arkansas State finished the season third in the Sun Belt with its 6-2 record in league play. The Red Wolves dropped their regular-season finale to Troy by a 32-25 count as one-point home underdogs. Blake Anderson’s team fell behind 24-13 when Troy’s Marcus Jones scored on a 100-yard interception return with only 7:46 left in the fourth quarter. ASU answered, however, when QB Justice Hansen hit Omar Bayless for an 11-yard TD pass with 2:56 remaining. The Red Wolves would regain the lead with 1:28 left on Hansen’s 39-yard TD pass to Christian Booker, but the Trojans scored the game-winning points with only 17 ticks remaining on Brandon Silvers’ 14-yard scoring strike to Deondre Douglas. ASU lost outright despite a 606-293 advantage in total offense. Although Hansen threw for 437 yards and two TDs, his three interceptions were costly. Hansen also ran for 52 yards and one TD.
-- ASU is ranked 11th in the nation in total offense, sixth in passing yards and 15th in scoring with its 38.5 PPG average.
-- Arkansas State owns a 3-0 spread record in three games as a single-digit ‘chalk’ this year.
-- For the season, Hansen has connected on 63.7 percent of his passing attempts for 3,635 yards with a 34/15 TD-INT ratio. He has also produced 380 rushing yards and six TDs. Hansen’s favorite target is Justin McInnis, who has 42 receptions for 698 yards and three TDs. Chris Murray has 45 catches for 645 yards and a team-high nine TDs, while Blake Mack has 46 grabs for 609 yards and six TDs. Bayless has 30 receptions for 417 yards and six TDs.
-- Junior RB Warren Hand paces ASU in rushing yards with 660. He has six rushing scores and a 5.3 YPC average.
-- Arkansas State will be without injured starting sophomore LB Trent Ellis-Brewer, who had 35 tackles, 3.5 TFL’s, two PBU, two QB hurries and one forced fumble.
-- Middle Tennessee (6-6 SU, 5-7 ATS) saw star junior QB Brent Stockstill go down with a shoulder injury in early September. The head coach’s son would miss six straight games, with the Blue Raiders losing four of those six contests. Stockstill returned in November to lead his team to a 3-1 SU record. Middle Tennessee won all three of those games by 14 points or more, while the lone defeat came in a 41-38 overtime setback at Western Kentucky.
-- In the four games since returning, Stockstill has a 10/3 TD-INT ratio. For the season, he has completed 58.3 percent of his throws for 1,440 yards with a 14/5 TD-INT ratio. Stockstill hasn’t had junior WR Richie James at his disposal since returning. James, the junior who was a third-team All-American choice in 2016, went down with a season-ending shoulder injury that limited him to only five games played this season. James had 31 receptions for 290 yards and three TDs.
-- With James injured, sophomore WR Ty Lee emerged as the Blue Raiders’ go-to wideout. Lee, a Freshman All-American in ’16, has 74 catches for 916 yards and five TDs.
-- Middle Tennessee’s leading rusher is true freshman Brad Anderson, but he is listed as ‘questionable’ vs. ASU due to a leg injury. Anderson has run for 491 yards with a 5.5 YPC average. He also has 33 receptions for 338 yards and three TDs.
-- Middle Tennessee is playing in the postseason for a third straight season and just the seventh time in school history. The Blue Raiders are 1-5 in bowl games with the lone victory coming at the 2009 New Orleans Bowl, where they beat Southern Miss 42-32 as 3.5-point underdogs. They lost 52-35 to Hawaii in a true road game at the Hawaii Bowl last year.
-- Middle Tennessee compiled a 1-4 spread record in five games as an underdog this year, although we should note that it went 1-1 in two such spots when Stockstill was healthy.
-- The ‘under’ is 9-2-1 overall for the Blue Raiders, but they saw both ‘overs’ appear in their last three outings. They’ve seen their games average combined scores of 49.0 PPG. This is the second-highest total for Middle Tennessee this year, as only its 72-point tally in a 30-23 Week 2 win at Syracuse was higher.
-- The ‘under’ is 7-4 overall for ASU, cashing in five of its last contests. The Red Wolves have seen their games average combined scores of 63.5 PPG.
-- ESPN will provide the broadcast at 8:00 p.m. Eastern. The weather forecast is calling for partly-cloudy skies, zero precipitation and temperatures in the low 40s.
**B.E.’s Bonus Nuggets**
-- West Virginia RB Justin Crawford is not going to play in his team’s Heart of Dallas Bowl game vs. Utah in order to stay healthy for the NFL Draft. Crawford rushed for 1,060 yards and seven TDs during the regular season. Star QB Will Grier is ‘doubtful’ against the Utes due to an injured finger, but he announced earlier this week that he’ll be back in Morgantown for his senior campaign.
-- Texas All-American OT Conor Williams is another player who’s going to sit out his team’s bowl game to stay healthy for the NFL Draft. Williams was a first-team All-American in 2016.
-- Central Florida OT Aaron Evans is 'out' for the Peach Bowl showdown vs. Auburn due to an undisclosed injury. Evans had started 36 of UCF's last 37 games. This is a huge loss for the Knights, who will be at a disadvantage in the matchup between their offensive line and AU’s vaunted d-line is.
-- Troy will be without five players for Saturday’s New Orleans Bowl vs. North Texas, including a pair of starting WRs and DBs. Blace Brown (five interceptions and six passes PBU) and Kris Weatherspoon won’t play for undisclosed reasons (the guess here being academic or disciplinary suspensions). Weatherspoon had 43 tackles, two INT’s, two PBU and two TFL’s during his senior campaign. WRs Emanuel Thompson (38 catches for 420 yards), Tray Eafford (17/312 & 3 TDs) and Clark Quisenberry (9/96 & 2 TDs) are also ‘out.’
-- Penn State LB Manny Bowen remains suspended and won’t play vs. Washington.
-- Antonio Callaway has signed with an agent and will enter the upcoming NFL Draft. Callaway provided the only offense of Jim McElwain’s tenure at Florida, scoring the game-winning TD in a come-from-behind win over Tennessee in 2015. He also had punt returns for TDs at LSU and vs. Alabama at the SEC Championship Game as a true freshman. He’ll unfortunately be more remembered for his off-the-field woes at UF, however. He was suspended for the entire 2017 campaign. Florida DT Taven Bryan announced earlier this week that he’ll forego his senior year to enter the NFL Draft. The Gators are still awaiting decisions from safety Marcel Harris, DE CeCe Jefferson, OT Martez Ivey and kicker Eddy Pineiro.
Follow Brian Edwards' sports gambling opinions on Twitter at @vegasbedwards.
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