Thursday's Late Bowl Tips
December 27, 2017
By Brian Edwards
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**Stanford vs. Texas Christian**
-- Stanford and TCU are set to collide Thursday night at the Alamo Bowl in San Antonio, Texas from the Alamodome. As of Wednesday night, most betting shops had TCU installed as a three-point favorite with a total of 49. The Cardinal was +130 on the money line (risk $100 to win $130). For first-half wagers, the Horned Frogs were favored by 1.5 points with the total at 24 or 24.5.
-- Stanford (9-4 straight up, 6-6 against the spread) won the Pac-12 North thanks to a three-game winning streak to close the regular season. Most important, the Cardinal beat Washington 30-22 in Palo Alto to give it the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Huskies. David Shaw’s team won eight of its last nine regular-season games, with the only loss coming at Washington State (24-21) when star RB Bryce Love was playing with an injured ankle.
-- Stanford lost a 31-28 decision to Southern Cal at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, CA., in the Pac-12 Championship Game. However, the Cardinal hooked up its backers (my hand is raised!) as a four-point underdog thanks to a spectacular touchdown catch in traffic by redshirt freshman tight end Kaden Smith. Smith’s roommate K.J. Costello found him on a pair of TD connections against the Trojans, both of which were highlight-reel material. Trailing by three early in the fourth quarter and facing a fourth-and-goal play at USC’s one yard line, Shaw elected to go for it rather than take the short field goal for the tie. This move backfired when USC’s defense produced the stop. Smith’s 28-yard TD grab from Costello with 2:09 remaining secured the backdoor cover. Love ran 22 times for 125 yards and one TD, but he had to leave the game several times with his ankle bothering him.
-- Love is listed as ‘probable’ due to the lingering ankle injury, but he’s had nearly a month to recover and is expected to be at full speed. Love had a sensational season despite missing one game and parts of others due to the injured ankle. The junior RB has rushed for 1,973 rushing yards and 17 TDs, averaging an eye-popping 8.3 yards per carry.
-- Smith had four receptions for 80 yards and two TDs vs. USC. Despite not getting many chances in September and early October, Smith still garnered first-team All Pac-12 honors thanks to his stellar play in November. The Marcus High School product (Dallas area) was the nation’s No. 2 ranked TE in the 2016 class, but he had to redshirt while recovering from a knee injury sustained in high school. Smith had 10 catches for 188 yards and four TDs in his team’s last three contests. Look for Costello to look for his roomie early and often vs. TCU.
-- Costello became the full-time starter in October. He has completed 59.8 percent of his throws for 1,386 yards with an 11/2 touchdown-to-interception ratio. Costello, another RS freshman, has three rushing scores. He has six TD passes without a pick in the last two games.
-- Stanford owns a 3-1 spread record with a pair of outright victories in four games as an underdog this year.
-- Stanford is ranked 77th in the nation in total offense and 73rd in the country in total defense. Nevertheless, the Cardinal is ranked 39th in the nation in scoring with a 32.0 points-per-game average. They’re also solid in scoring defense, limiting opponents to only 21.5 PPG, which ranks 29th in the country.
-- Stanford senior DE Eric Cotton is ‘questionable’ with a foot injury. Cotton has recorded 30 tackles, three sacks, 1.5 tackles for loss and two QB hurries. The Cardinal’s stop unit is led by senior DT Harrison Phillips, who has 99 tackles, seven sacks, 9.5 TFL’s, six QB hurries, two forced fumbles and one blocked kick.
-- Stanford has won three straight bowl games while going 2-0-1 ATS. The Cardinal pushed past North Carolina at last year’s Sun Bowl, winning a 25-23 decision as a two-point ‘chalk.’
-- TCU (10-3 SU, 6-7 ATS) has posted a 4-1 record both SU and ATS in five games as a single-digit ‘chalk.’
-- TCU started the season 7-0 before dropping a 14-7 decision at Iowa State. The Horned Frogs recovered to beat Texas 24-7 as 7.5-point home favorites the following week, but they went down 38-20 at Oklahoma on Nov. 11. With back-to-back victories at Texas Tech (27-3) and vs. Baylor (45-22), Gary Patterson’s team secured a spot in the inaugural Big 12 Championship Game for a rematch with OU.
-- The results were no different at AT&T Stadium in Arlington than they were in Norman. OU captured a 41-17 triumph over TCU to win the Big 12 title as a 7.5-point favorite. In the losing effort, TCU quarterback Kenny Hill connected on 27-of-37 passes for 234 yards and two TDs with one interception. Hill also rushed for a team-best 51 yards on 13 attempts. John Diarse had five receptions for 66 yards and one TD. Kyle Hicks had five catches for 58 yards, in addition to rushing for 32 yards on eight carries.
-- TCU faced nine teams that made the postseason, going 6-3 SU with impressive road victories at Oklahoma State (44-31), at Kansas State (26-6) and at Texas Tech (27-3).
-- Hill has completed 67.2 percent of his throws for 2,838 yards with a 21/6 TD-INT ratio. The transfer from Texas A&M has also rushed for 266 yards and four TDs. His favorite target is Diarse, who has 33 receptions for 543 yards and three TDs. Jalen Reagor has 28 catches for 407 yards and four TDs, while Desmon White has 38 grabs for 390 yards and four TDs.
-- TCU’s leading rusher is Darius Anderson, who is listed as ‘questionable’ vs. Stanford due to a foot injury that kept him out of his team’s past three contests. Anderson has run for 768 yards and eight TDs with a 6.0 YPC average. Hicks (4.5 YPC) has run for 597 yards and four scores, while Sewo Olonilua has 272 rushing yards and seven TDs with a 4.6 YPC average. Hicks has 22 catches for 266 yards and one TD.
-- TCU is ranked 18th in the nation in total defense, fourth versus the run and 11th in scoring ‘D’ (17.6 PPG). The Frogs struggled defending the pass, however, ranking No. 72 in the country (228.7 YPG).
-- TCU’s stop unit is led by senior LB Travin Howard, who has registered a team-best 98 tackles, one sacks, six TFL’s, one interception for a 19-yard TD return, five PBU and one QB hurry. Senior DE Mat Boesen has produced 57 tackles, 11.5 sacks, three TFL’s, five QB hurries and three forced fumbles.
-- TCU is bowling for a fourth straight season. The Frogs pulled the greatest comeback in postseason history in their 47-41 triple-overtime win over Oregon at the 2015 Alamo Bowl, so they’re returning to friendly confines here. However, they lost a 31-23 decision to Georgia at last year’s Liberty Bowl.
-- The ‘under’ is 8-5 overall for Stanford, going 7-2 in its last nine games. The Cardinal has seen its games average combined scores of 53.5 PPG.
-- The ‘under’ is 10-3 overall for TCU, 8-1 in its last nine outings. The Frogs have seen their games average combined scores of 50.8 PPG.
-- Kickoff is scheduled for 9:00 p.m. Eastern on ESPN.
**Washington State vs. Michigan State**
-- The Pac-12 and Big Ten will collide Thursday night at the Holiday Bowl in San Diego. Washington State will bid farewell to its all-time leading passer in Luke Falk when it takes on Michigan State in Southern California. As of Wednesday night, most spots had the Spartans favored by two points with a total of 47. The Cougars were available for a +105 return if they win outright.
-- This line has been on the move in the last 48 hours. Back in early December, Washington State opened as a three-point favorite. The number moved to 2.5 one week later and was down to two by Dec. 18. The line shifted to 1.5 and then one over the next 5-6 days before hitting pick ‘em on Christmas Day. Then on Dec. 26, MSU became the one-point ‘chalk’ and was 1.5 or two by Wednesday. The total has slowly slithered up to 47 from 45.5.
-- Washington State (9-3 SU, 7-5 ATS) is seeking its first 10-win season during Mike Leach’s six-year tenure and just the fifth in the program’s history. Leach’s club had a chance to make the Pac-12 Championship Game for the first time, but it lost 41-14 at Washington in the Apple Cup regular-season finale. Falk threw for 369 yards and one TD, but he had an uncharacteristic three interceptions. The Cougars lost the turnover battle by a 4-0 margin.
-- Washington State went 5-2 SU and 4-3 ATS in seven games against foes who made the postseason. The Cougars posted a 2-1 record both SU and ATS in three games as underdogs.
-- WSU is bowling for a fourth time in Leach’s six years at the helm. The Cougars are 1-2 both SU and ATS in those three previous bowl games, including last year’s 17-12 loss to Minnesota at the Holiday Bowl as 10-point favorites.
-- Falk won’t have his two best WRs vs. MSU because junior Tavares Martin and sophomore Isaiah Johnson-Mack were both dismissed from the program earlier this month. Martin had 70 receptions for 831 yards and nine TDs during the regular season, while Johnson-Mack had 60 catches for 555 yards and five TDs.
-- Falk has connected on 66.9 percent of his passes for 3,593 yards with a 30/13 TD-INT ratio. For his career, Falk has thrown for 14,481 yards with a 119/39 TD-INT ratio.
-- The loss of Martin and Johnson-Mack certainly hurts, but it isn’t a deal breaker for potential Washington State backers. The Cougars are deep at the WR position with six other players (not counting Martin or Johnson-Mack) making at least 31 catches. Renard Bell has 36 receptions for 525 yards and three TDs, while Kyle Sweet has 50 grabs for 481 yards and two TDs.
-- Senior RB Jamal Morrow has a team-best 522 rushing yards and four TDs with a 6.1 YPC average. He also has 56 receptions for 479 yards and five TDs. James Williams has run for 381 yards and one TD with a 4.3 YPC average. Williams can also catch it out of the backfield, making 61 grabs for 417 yards and three TDs.
-- Washington State has its best defense under Leach. This unit is ranked 13th in the nation in total defense and eighth versus the pass. However, this unit could be without a pair of LBs in Nate DeRider and Derek Moore. DeRider, who is listed as ‘questionable,’ had 21 tackles and 1.5 TFL’s in the team’s first six games. Moore, who is also a question mark, had 11 tackles, 0.5 sacks, two QB hurries and 2.5 TFL’s in WSU’s first seven outings. Also, junior DE Hercule Mata’afa must sit out the first half after being flagged for targeting in the second half of the loss at UW. Mata’afa has 43 tackles, 9.5 sacks, 12 TFL’s, four QB hurries and two forced fumbles.
-- Michigan State has been a single-digit ‘chalk’ five times, posting a 4-1 SU record and a 3-2 ATS mark. The Spartans have faced six opponents who made the postseason, going 3-3 both SU and ATS in those six outings.
-- Mark Dantonio did a remarkable job in 2017, leading his team to a six-win improvement after limping to a 3-9 record last season. Making it more impressive is the fact that the Spartans returned only eight of 22 starters. They lost at home vs. Notre Dame and on the road at Northwestern (in triple overtime) and at Ohio State. MSU’s best wins came at home over Iowa and Penn State, and it also won 14-10 at Michigan in a driving rainstorm.
-- Michigan State is led by its defense that’s ranked ninth in the country in total ‘D,’ fifth at defending the run, 31st in pass defense and 25th in scoring ‘D’ (20.2 PPG). This unit’s leading tackler is sophomore LB Joe Bachie, who has 94 tackles, three interceptions, 3.5 sacks, five TFL’s, two forced fumbles and two PBU.
-- MSU sophomore QB Brian Lewerke had a solid campaign, completing 58.8 percent of his throws for 2,580 yards with a 17/6 TD-INT ratio. He can also run it, producing 489 rushing yards and five TDs. L.J. Scott is the primary ball carrier, rushing for 785 yards and six TDs with a 4.3 YPC average.
-- Lewerke’s favorite target is Felton Davis III, who has 51 receptions for 658 yards and eight TDs. Darrell Stewart Jr. has 48 catches for 486 yards and two TDs, while Cody White has 32 grabs for 449 yards and two TDs.
-- The ‘under’ is 7-5 overall for the Cougars, but the ‘over’ has hit in back-to-back games and three of their last four. They’ve seen their games average combined scores of 55.8 PPG.
-- The ‘under’ is 7-5 overall for the Spartans, but the ‘over’ is 3-2 in their last five outings. They’ve seen their games average combined scores of 43.3 PPG.
Follow Brian Edwards' sports gambling opinions on Twitter at @vegasbedwards.
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