Famous Idaho Potato Bowl
December 21, 2017
By Brian Edwards
Editor’s note: Brian Edwards has hit five of his last seven guaranteed plays after easily cashing in with La. Tech on Wednesday. He’s 63-51 for the season (55.3%, +7.26 units). Don’t miss out tonight’s pay-if-it-wins-only selection or you can go ahead and sign up for his entire postseason package!
ESPN’s postseason coverage on Friday afternoon will go from the Bahamas to Boise for the late game. That’s Albertson’s Stadium and the smurf turf that’ll host the Famous Idaho Bowl, featuring Central Michigan from out of the MAC up against Mountain West rep Wyoming.
The Cowboys got good news Wednesday when star QB and NFL prospect Josh Allen was upgraded to ‘probable.’ The junior quarterback missed his team’s last two games due to a shoulder injury and the results weren’t good. Without Allen, Craig Bohl’s squad lost a 13-7 decision at home to Fresno State and came up on the wrong end of a 20-17 decision at San Jose State.
As of late Thursday afternoon, most books had Wyoming (7-5 straight up, 7-5 against the spread) installed as a three-point favorite with a total of 45. The Chippewas were +145 on the money line (risk $100 to win $145).
Central Michigan (8-4 SU, 7-5 ATS) has been an underdog eight times, producing a 5-3 record both SU and ATS. John Bonamego’s team was mired in a 1-4 slump both SU and ATS from mid-September to mid-October, but it finished the regular season with five consecutive victories both SU and ATS. Three of those wins came from the ‘dog role, including a 31-24 win over No. Illinois as a 2.5-point home puppy in the regular-season finale.
Shane Morris hit Corey Willis with a 29-yard scoring strike with 92 seconds left to lift CMU past the Huskies. Morris, the transfer from Michigan, threw for 247 yards and three TDs vs. NIU. RB Jonathan Ward rushed 21 times for 159 yards and one TD, while WR Mark Chapman had three receptions for 74 yards and one TD.
Morris completed 55.5 percent of his passes for 2,908 yards with a 26/13 touchdown-to-interception ratio during the regular season. Chapman was his favorite target, hauling in 54 receptions for 805 yards and five TDs. Willis has 42 catches for 625 yards and nine TDs, while TE Tyler Conklin has 28 grabs for 406 yards and five TDs.
Ward has rushed for a team-high 988 yards and nine TDs while averaging 5.9 YPC. The sophomore RB has also contributed 41 catches for 361 yards and two TDs.
Not surprisingly, CMU’s five-game winning streak coincided with improved QB play from Morris, who has 14 TD passes compared to merely two picks during the win spree. Ward has rushed for seven of his nine TDs in the past five games and has produced three of his four 100-yard rushing efforts.
CMU’s defense is second in the nation in interceptions with 19. The secondary is stout, ranking 23rd in the country in pass defense.
CMU senior CB Josh Cox is tied for fourth nationally with six picks for 118 return yards. Cox also has 82 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss, four passes broken up and one forced fumble. Sophomore DB Sean Bunting has produced 46 tackles, five interceptions, five PBU, two forced fumbles and 0.5 TFL’s. Also, senior CB Amari Coleman has contributed 42 tackles, three interceptions, one pick-six, four TFL’s, seven PBU and one QB hurry.
Wyoming owns a 3-0 record both SU and ATS in trio of games as a single-digit favorite. Before Allen’s injury, Bohl’s club had ripped off seven straight spread covers and had won outright six times. The only loss during this stretch came at Boise State, where Wyoming will face CMU on Friday afternoon.
BSU beat the Cowboys 24-14, but the visitors took the cash as 15.5-point underdogs. Wyoming led 14-10 early in the fourth quarter, but the Broncos scored back-to-back TDs on a Montell Cozart TD run and pass midway through the final stanza.
Allen completed just 12-of-27 throws for 131 yards and one TD, but BSU intercepted him twice. Allen ran for 62 yards and one TD on 18 attempts.
For the season, Allen has completed 56.2 percent of his passes for only 1,658 yards with a 13/6 TD-INT ratio. He has run for 207 yards and five scores. Sophomore WR Austin Conway enjoyed a breakout campaign by catching 58 balls for 520 yards and six TDs. C.J. Johnson has 27 receptions for 468 yards and a team-best six TDs.
Wyoming’s ground attack has been an immense disappointment all season. True freshman RB Trey Woods is team’s leading rusher, but he managed merely 474 rushing yards and two TDs with a pedestrian 3.6 YPC average.
Despite the presence of Allen, who many draftniks consider a future first-round pick, Wyoming’s offense has been an unmitigated disaster. The Cowboys are ranked No. 126 out of 130 FBS teams in total offense, No. 101 in passing yards, No. 119 in rushing yards and No. 107 in scoring with a 22.3 points-per-game average.
On the flip side, Wyoming’s stop unit is ranked 12th nationally in scoring ‘D,’ limiting opponents to a 17.8 PPG average. The Cowboys are fifth in the country in pass defense and 22nd in total defense.
This unit is led by junior safety Andrew Wingard and sophomore LB Logan Wilson. Wingard and Wilson shared team-high honors in tackles with 111 apiece. Wilson recorded an 18-yard fumble return for a TD, one sack, seven tackles for loss, two forced fumbles and one pass broken up. Wingard has registered one sack, four interceptions, one sack, six TFL’s, three PBU and one forced fumble.
Junior DE Carl Granderson has produced 72 tackles, two interceptions, 7.5 sacks, 7.5 TFL’s, four QB hurries and a pair of forced fumbles.
Some of Wyoming’s issues can be attributed to injuries along the offensive line. Three o-linemen are unlikely to play Friday. Junior OT Brinkley Jolly is ‘out,’ while OG Jace Webb and OG Kaden Jackson are ‘doubtful.’
Wyoming is bowling for a second straight season and the 15th time in the program’s history. The Cowboys are 6-8 in 14 postseason games, including last year’s 24-21 loss to BYU at the Poinsettia Bowl. However, they did cover the number in the narrow defeat as 10.5-point underdogs.
CMU is making a fourth straight postseason appearance and its fifth in the last six years. The Chippewas have dropped three straight bowl games, including last year’s 55-10 defeat vs. Tulsa at the Miami Beach Bowl. They did, however, post one of the most miracle spread covers in postseason history at the 2014 Bahamas Bowl.
I obviously remember this game vividly because I was heavily invested in Western Kentucky as a three-point ‘chalk’ vs. CMU on that day. The Hilltoppers held a 49-14 lead with less than nine minutes left in the third quarter. That advantage was trimmed to 49-28 with less than seven minutes left, but Western Kentucky was in the red zone only to fumble.
CMU would score with 1:10 remaining to get to within 49-42, but the ensuing onside kick failed. Western Kentucky was forced to punt from midfield with 10 seconds left. The punt went into the end zone with one second remaining. From its own 20, CMU QB Cooper Rush heaved a Hail Mary that would only get to the WKU 30, but it was caught by a Chippewa.
The CMU player immediately lateraled to a teammate and three laterals eventually ended up in Titus Davis’s hands. Davis sprinted to the pylon and made it for an unfathomable TD. In this scenario, gamblers like me on the ‘Tops still had a chance to push or cover in overtime.
However, CMU head coach Dan Enos, who would resign weeks later to become Bret Beliema’s OC at Arkansas, opted to go for two. The conversion failed, but CMU covered as a three-point ‘dog in the 49-48 loss. This is my third-worst Bad Beat ever, behind only Northwestern-Ohio State (2013) and a VCU at Nevada basketball game back in 2009 when college hoops used to have the BracketBuster Weekend. I had Nevada -1.5 and Luke Babbitt was going to the free-throw line to shoot two with 1.8 seconds left and a three-point lead. Babbitt made the first for a four-point lead, so the only way to lose was a missed FT and an 80-foot heave from VCU. Of course, that’s exactly what happened with Joey Rodriguez taking the honors to give the Rams a backdoor cover in the 71-70 loss.
Let’s get back to Friday’s bowl game and examine the total. CMU has seen the ‘over’ hit in five straight games after the ‘under’ was a winner in six of its first seven contests. The Chippewas have watched their games average combined scores of 56.4 PPG.
The ‘under’ has been a lucrative money maker in Wyoming games, cashing in six straight games. The Cowboys have seen the ‘under’ go 10-2 overall, with their games averaging combined scores of 40.2 PPG.
Kickoff is scheduled for 4:00 p.m. Eastern on ESPN.
According to weather.com, temperatures at kickoff will be in the low 30s or upper 20s. The forecast is for cloudy skies and some snow flurries.
Follow Brian Edwards' sports gambling opinions on Twitter at @vegasbedwards.
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