Saturday's Bowl Tips
December 22, 2017
By Brian Edwards
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**Texas Tech vs. South Florida**
-- Texas Tech and South Florida will collide Saturday at Legion Field in the Birmingham Bowl at noon Eastern on ESPN. As of late Friday afternoon, most betting shops had USF (9-2 straight up, 5-6 against the spread) listed as a three-point favorite with a total of 66. The Red Raiders were +130 on the money line (risk $100 to win $130).
-- USF missed out on a chance to get into the AAC Championship Game when it lost a heartbreaking thriller at UCF by a 49-42 count, but it still made its backers happy by covering the number as a 10-point road underdog. The spread cover for the Bulls halted a 0-4 ATS slide. The 91 combined points soared ‘over’ the 65-point total to end a 3-0 run of ‘unders.’
-- In the losing effort at UCF, The Knights went in front 35-34 with 7:33 remaining on a 45-yard touchdown pass. Then with 2:21 left, Scott Frost’s squad extended its lead to eight with another TD pass. But with 1:41 remaining, USF senior quarterback Quinton Flowers found Darnell Salomon for an 83-yard scoring strike. The Bulls pulled even when Flowers found D’Ernest Johnson on a two-point conversion pass. However, UCF immediately answered with a 95-yard kickoff return for the go-ahead score, and USF was unable to answer. Flowers generated 605 yards from scrimmage, as his team enjoyed a 653-533 advantage over UCF in total offense. Flowers threw for 503 yards and four TDs with one interception. He also rushed for 102 yards and one TD on 20 attempts. WR Tyre McCants had nine receptions for 227 yards and one TD, while Salomon had five catches for 139 yards and one TD.
-- Flowers needs only 43 rushing yards against Texas Tech to surpass his former teammate, RB Marlon Mack, who turned pro one year early after the 2016 campaign, as USF’s all-time leading rusher. Flowers has rushed for a team-best 972 yards and 10 TDs while averaging 5.3 yards per carry. Darius Tice has run for 878 yards and 11 TDs with a 5.4 YPC average, while Johnson has 745 rushing yards, seven TDs and a 4.2 YPC average.
-- Flowers has completed 53.4 percent of his passes for 2,600 yards with a 21/6 TD-INT ratio. He has a 67/23 TD-INT ratio and 40 rushing TDs during his collegiate career. Flowers’ favorite target is Marquez Valdes-Scantling, who has 50 receptions for 746 yards and five TDs. McCants has 30 catches for 598 yards and five TDs, while Salomon has 28 grabs for 465 yards and four TDs.
-- USF is ranked ninth in the nation in total offense, eighth in rushing yards and 14th in scoring with a 38.3 points-per-game average. The Bulls are ranked 28th in the country in total defense, 22nd versus the run and 36th in scoring ‘D,’ allowing foes to average 22.5 PPG. The stop unit is led by senior LB Auggie Sanchez, who has recorded 76 tackles, two pick-sixes covering 108 return yards, two sacks, seven tackles for loss, two passes broken up and one QB hurry.
-- How soft was USF’s schedule? The Bulls have nine wins and only one came over a team with a winning record, and that’s Temple, which improved to 7-6 with Thursday’s win over FIU in the Gasparilla Bowl in St. Pete. Charlie Strong’s team faced only two other teams with winning ledgers – UFC and Houston. The Cougars went to Tampa and handed USF its first loss by a 28-24 count as 10-point road underdogs. The Bulls had started the season 7-0 with six wins by double-digit margins until falling vs. UH.
-- USF was a double-digit favorite 10 times and an underdog at UCF. The Bulls are in their first single-digit ‘chalk’ spot here.
-- USF is making its ninth postseason appearance in program history. The Bulls are 5-3 in their eight previous bowl games, winning a 46-39 overtime decision over South Carolina at last year’s Birmingham Bowl. However, the Gamecocks took the cash as 10.5-point underdogs.
-- Texas Tech (6-6 SU, 7-5 ATS) won 27-23 at Texas as a 7.5-point underdog to garner a postseason bid in the regular-season finale for both Big 12 rivals. Kliff Kingsbury’s team railed from two separate double-digit deficits in the second half. Nic Shimonek hit Cameron Batson on a 16-yard scoring strike to provide the winning points with 1:47 remaining. Shimonek came off the bench to spark the comeback with a pair of fourth-quarter TD passes. Star WR Keke Coutee had nine receptions for 1658 yards against the Longhorns, while T.J. Vasher had five catches for 127 yards and one TD.
-- Texas Tech has compiled a 3-3 spread record with a pair of outright victories in six games as an underdog. The Red Raiders captured a 27-24 win at Houston as seven-point road ‘dogs on Sept. 23.
-- Texas Tech is bowling for the third time in Kingsbury’s five-year tenure. In his first season, the Red Raiders smashed 16th-ranked Arizona State 37-23 as 14-point underdogs at the 2013 Holiday Bowl. In the 2015 Texas Bowl, LSU thumped Texas Tech 56-27 as a seven-point ‘chalk.’
-- Texas Tech went 3-6 (SU) this year in nine games against teams that are in the postseason. In addition to the aforementioned victories at Texas and at Houston, Kingsbury’s club also won a 52-45 decision over Arizona State as a 6.5-point home ‘chalk.’
-- Texas Tech is ranked 18th in the nation in total offense, 11th in passing yards and 26th in scoring with a 34.3 PPG average. Shimonek has completed 68.2 percent of his throws for 3,457 yards with a 30/8 TD-INT ratio. Justin Stockton has rushed for a team-best 694 yards and four TDs with a 6.1 YPC average, while Tre King has 588 rushing yards, four TDs and a 4.9 YPC average. Desmond Nisby has a team-best seven rushing scores.
-- Shimonek’s favorite target is Coutee, who has 82 receptions for 1,242 yards and nine TDs. Dylan Cantrell has 67 catches for 790 yards and six TDs, while Batson has 55 grabs for 464 yards and five TDs.
-- Texas Tech’s defense was vastly improved in 2017. This unit had given up scoring averages of 41.3, 43.6 and 43.5 PPG from 2014-16. This year, though, the Red Raiders gave up 31.8 PPG. Although that’s not exactly a quality stat, which is evidenced by TT’s No. 95 ranking in the country in scoring ‘D,’ it still represents some progress on that side of the ball. The Red Raiders are still struggling against the pass, ranking No. 124 out of 130 FBS teams.
-- The ‘under’ is 8-4 overall for Texas Tech, cashing in each of its past three games and five of its last six. The Red Raiders have watched their games average combined scores of 66.1 PPG.
-- The ‘under’ is 7-4 overall for the Bulls, who have seen their games average combined scores of 60.8 PPG.
**Army vs. San Diego State**
-- The Armed Forces Bowl be played in Forth Worth, TX., at Amon G. Carter Stadium on Saturday at 3:30 p.m. Eastern on ESPN. As of late Friday afternoon, most spots had San Diego State listed as a six-point favorite over Army. The total was 46, while the Black Knights were +200 on the money line (risk $100 to win $200).
-- San Diego State (10-2 SU, 8-4 ATS) brings a four-game winning streak both SU and ATS into the postseason. Rocky Long’s squad won each of those four games by margins of 19 points or more. The Aztecs started the season 6-0 with wins at Arizona State (30-20) and vs. Stanford (20-17), only to drop back-to-back home game in mid-October vs. Boise State (31-14) and vs. Fresno State (27-3).
-- One year after losing college football’s all-time leading career rusher in Donnel Pumphrey, San Diego State had the nation’s leader in rushing yards with 2,027 from Rashaad Penny. The senior RB was third in the country in rushing TDs with 19. Penny averaged 7.4 YPC and also had 18 catches for 142 yards and two TDs. That isn’t it, though. Penny also played special teams, returning a punt for a TD and two kickoffs for TDs. He produced 2,698 all-purpose yards.
-- San Diego State junior QB Christian Chapman has completed 59.8 percent of his passes for 1,848 yards with a 13/3 TD-INT ratio. WR Mikah Holder is his favorite target, catching a team-best 43 balls for 602 yards and two TDs.
-- San Diego State went 4-2 SU and 3-3 ATS in six games as a single-digit favorite during the regular season. The Aztecs played five teams that are in the postseason, producing a 3-2 SU record.
-- During Long’s seven-year tenure, the Aztecs are 3-3 in bowl games. They’ve won back-to-back postseason contests and three of their last four, including last season’s 34-10 win over Houston at the Las Vegas Bowl.
-- Army (9-3 SU, 6-6 ATS) has won seven of its past eight games with the only loss coming at North Texas (52-49). The Black Knights capped the regular season with a 14-13 win over Navy as 2.5-point underdogs. QB Ahmad Bradshaw rushed for 94 yards and one TD on 21 attempts.
-- Army is No. 1 in the nation in rushing yards, producing 355.8 yards per game. On the flip side, the Black Knights are ranked No. 130 (last) in passing yards with only 29.6 per game. They average 29.8 PPG.
-- Bradshaw has rushed for a team-best 1,566 yards and 12 TDs while averaging 7.5 YPC. Darnell Woolfolk has rushed for 725 yards and 12 TDs with a 5.3 YPC average. Bradshaw has completed merely 13-of-40 passes (32.5%) for 279 yards with a ½ TD-INT ratio.
-- Army owns a 4-2 spread record with three outright victories in six games as an underdog. The Black Knights went 3-2 (SU) in five games against teams that made the postseason, with their victories coming over Navy, Duke and Temple.
-- The ‘under’ is 7-4-1 overall for San Diego State, but the ‘over’ has hit in two of its last three games. The Aztecs have seen their games average combined scores of 48.8 PPG. They’ve watched the ‘under’ go 4-2 in their six games that have had totals in the 40s. If this total stays at 46, it will be the lowest the Aztecs have seen all year. Their previous low total was 46.5.
-- Totals have been an overall wash for Army (6-6), but the ‘under’ went 3-1 in its last four games. The Black Knights have seen their games average combined scores of 50.7 PPG.
**Appalachian State vs. Toledo**
-- ESPN’s Saturday tripleheader will conclude in Mobile, AL., where Appalachian State and Toledo will square off in the Dollar General Bowl at Ladd-Peebles Stadium. As of late Friday afternoon, most books had Toledo installed as a 6.5-point favorite with a total of 61.5. The Mountaineers were +200 on the money line (risk $100 to win $200).
-- This is a rematch of last year’s Camellia Bowl, where Appalachian State won a 31-28 decision over Toledo as a one-point ‘chalk.’ The 59 combined points slithered ‘under’ the 60.5-poin tally. ASU QB Taylor Lamb threw for 119 yards and one TD without an interception, in addition to rushing for 126 yards and one TD on nine attempts. Marcus Cox ran for 143 yards and one TD on 22 carries, while Jalin Moore was held to 35 rushing yards on 16 totes. In the losing effort, Toledo QB Logan Woodside threw for 247 yards and two TDs without an interception. Kareem Hunt rushed for 120 yards and two TDs on 22 carries.
-- Toledo (11-2 SU, 7-6 ATS) won the MAC Championship Game by thumping Akron 45-28, but the Rockets let a 38-0 lead get away and the Zips went on a 28-7 run to post the backdoor cover as 20.5-point underdogs. Senior QB Logan Woodside threw for 307 yards and four TDs, but he was intercepted twice. Senior RB Terry Swanson ran 21 times for 180 yards and a pair of TDs. Diontae Johnson had nine receptions for 118 yards and two TDs, while Jon’Vea Johnson had six catches for 103 yards and one TD.
-- Toledo is in the postseason for the fourth consecutive season. The Rockets are 10-6 in 16 postseason games in their program’s history.
-- Toledo is ranked eighth in the nation in total offense (511.2 YPG), 10th in scoring (39.2 PPG), 21st in passing yards and 26th in rushing yards.
-- Woodside has enjoyed a remarkable career. He has 93 TD passes compared to only 22 interceptions. As a junior in 2016, Woodside threw for 4,129 yards with a 45/9 TD-INT ratio. He lost last season’s leading receiver Cody Thompson to a season-ending injury in early October, yet still threw for 3,758 yards to surpass Bruce Gradkowski as the school’s all-time leading passer. Woodside had a 28/5 TD-INT ratio during the regular season.
-- With Thompson going down, Diontae Johnson was provided with more opportunities. He took advantage by snaring 72 receptions for 1,257 yards and 13 TDs. Jon’Vea Johnson has 41 catches for 675 yards and five TDs.
-- Swanson enjoyed a breakout campaign replacing Hunt, who has enjoyed an outstanding rookie season with the Kansas City Chiefs. Swanson has run for a team-best 1,319 yards and 14 TDs with a 5.7 YPC average. Shakif Seymour has run for 704 yards and 12 TDs with a 6.2 YPC average, while Art Thompkins has 618 rushing yards, two TDs and a 6.1 YPC average.
-- Toledo has been a single-digit ‘chalk’ four times, producing a 3-1 SU record and a 2-2 ATS mark. The Rockets won outright in four of six games against foes that made the postseason.
-- Appalachian State (8-4 SU, 5-7 ATS) compiled a 1-1 spread record in a pair of games as an underdog. Scott Satterfield’s squad lost 31-10 at Georgia as a 12.5-point underdog in its season opener. The Mountaineers covered the spread and should’ve won outright in a 20-19 loss to Wake Forest as five-point home underdogs. Lamb threw for 372 yards and two TDs without an interception in the losing effort. ASU had a potential game-winning field goal blocked on the game’s final play and it also missed an extra point in the first half.
-- Appalachian State took its other two defeats at UMass (30-27 in overtime) and at ULM (52-45) in consecutive weeks. The Mountaineers won by double-digit margins in five of their eight victories. They closed the regular season with three straight wins both SU and ATS. Each of those W’s came by 21 points or more, including a 63-14 win over Louisiana as a 14-point home favorite.
-- Lamb, a four-year starter, is closing out a stellar collegiate career just like Woodside is. He is second in program history with 9,655 passing yards, behind only Armanti Edwards, who orchestrated the famous upset over fifth-ranked Michigan at The Big House in 2007. Lamb posted career-best numbers this year in completion percentage (61.7%), passing yards (2,606), rushing yards (539), YPC average (7.7) and interceptions (actually a career-low six). The senior signal caller threw 27 TD passes and rushed for five scores. For his career, Lamb has a 90/32 TD-INT ratio and 23 rushing TDs.
-- Moore led ASU in rushing with 912 yards and nine TD while averaging 5.7 YPC. Terrence Upshaw has run for 314 yards and four TDs with a 4.6 YPC average.
-- Lamb’s favorite targets are Ike Lewis and Thomas Hennigan. Lewis has 47 receptions for 666 yards and eight TDs, while Henningan has 44 catches for 556 yards and seven TDs.
-- ASU is in just its fourth season competing at the FBS level in the Sun Belt Conference. Nevertheless, it’s going bowling for a third straight year. The Mountaineers are 2-0 in bowl games, defeating Ohio by a 31-29 count at the 2015 Camellia Bowl.
-- The ‘over’ is 7-6 overall for the Rockets, who have watched their games average combined scores of 64.8 PPG.
-- Totals have been an overall wash for ASU (6-6), but the ‘over’ hit at a 4-2 clip in its last six games.
-- Kickoff is scheduled for 7:00 p.m. Eastern on ESPN.
Follow Brian Edwards' sports gambling opinions on Twitter at @vegasbedwards.
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