Last Updated Aug 30, 2021, 10:00 AM

Saturday's Early Bowl Tips

Editor's Note: Brian Edwards has started the bowl season with a 5-2 record. Ride winners with B.E. all the way into the CFP finals with his bowl package, and make sure to get on his next pay-if-it-wins-only selection!

Memphis vs. Wake Forest

-- These teams will collide at Legion Field at noon Eastern on Saturday for the Birmingham Bowl. ESPN will provide the telecast.

-- As of early Friday, most books had Memphis (8-5 straight up, 8-5 against the spread) installed as a 3.5-point favorite with a total of 73. Some books had moved the number to three with a -120 price tag attached to it. The Demon Deacons were +140 on the money line (risk $100 to win $140).

-- Memphis won’t have star RB Darrell Henderson, who has elected to turn pro and sit out in order to stay healthy for the NFL Draft. Henderson is second in the nation in rushing yards (1,909). He averaged 8.9 yards per carry and rushed for 22 touchdowns. Henderson also had 19 receptions for 295 yards and three TDs.

-- Henderson’s absence will mean more touches for Patrick Taylor Jr., who had a helluva season himself. Taylor rushed for 1,012 yards and 15 TDs with a 5.7 YPC average. He also caught 16 balls for 196 yards and one TD.

-- Mike Norvell went with Arizona St. grad transfer Brady White as his starting QB this year. White completed 63.3 percent of his passes for 3,125 yards with a 25/8 touchdown-to-interception ratio. His favorite target is Damonte Coxie, who has 66 receptions for 1,104 yards and seven TDs. White has another elite weapon in versatile WR/RB Tony Pollard, who has produced 4,542 all-purpose yards in three seasons with the Tigers. Pollard had 1,359 all-purpose yards this season, rushing for 443 yards and five TDs with a 7.3 YPC average. He has 39 catches for 458 yards and three TDs.

-- Memphis won the AAC’s West Division by closing the regular season with four straight wins both SU and ATS. Then in the AAC Championship Game at undefeated UCF, the Tigers raced out to a 38-21 halftime lead. However, their offense went stagnant in the second half – much like when UCF rallied to win 31-30 at Memphis during the regular season – and the Knights won a 56-41 decision as one-point home favorites. Henderson rushed 16 times for 210 yards and three TDs in the losing effort, scoring on runs of 62 and 82 yards in the first half. Henderson also had a four-yard TD pass on a trick play. Taylor had 118 rushing yards and one TD on 15 attempts, while Pollard ran for 45 yards on six carries. White completed 17-of-29 throws for 178 yards with zero TDs and one interception. The Tigers gave up 698 yards to UCF’s electric offense.

-- Memphis went 2-1 both SU and ATS in three games as single-digit favorites this year.

-- Memphis is bowling for a fifth consecutive season, but the Tigers have lost three postseason games in a row. Since Norvell took over for Justin Fuente, his team has lost 51-31 to Western Ky. in the 2016 Boca Raton Bowl and dropped a 21-20 decision to Iowa St. at the 2017 Liberty Bowl.

-- Memphis is ranked fourth in the nation in total offense, third in rushing yards and seventh in scoring with its 43.6 points-per-game average. The Tigers have struggled on the other side of the ball, though. They’re ranked 84th in the country in total defense, 98th at defending the pass, 73rd in run defense and 92nd in scoring ‘D’ (31.5 PPG).

-- Wake Forest (6-6 SU, 4-8 ATS) won each of its last three road games as underdogs to get bowl eligible. Dave Clawson’s squad won 56-35 at Louisville as a 2.5-point ‘dog, then captured a 27-23 win at N.C. St. (in a Thursday night game on a short week) as a 19.5-point puppy and closed the regular season with a 59-7 victory at Duke as a 9.5-point ‘dog. Junior RB Cade Carney blasted through the Blue Devils’ defense for 223 rushing yards and two TDs on 31 carries. Sophomore QB Jamie Newman connected on 18-of-23 passes for 177 yards and four TDs without an interception. Newman also had 50 rushing yards on 13 attempts. Sophomore WR Greg Dortch, who was a third-team All-ACC selection in 2017, had 10 receptions for 124 yards and one TD.

-- Wake Forest is in the postseason for the third straight season. From 2009-2015, the Demon Deacons had seven straight losing seasons and went bowling just once. Clawson went 3-9 in each of his first two seasons, but he led Wake to 7-6 and 8-5 records in 2016 and ’17, respectively. The Deacs have won both bowl games on Clawson’s watch, beating Temple 34-26 as 12-point underdogs at the 2016 Military Bowl. Then in last year’s wild Belk Bowl affair, they won a 55-52 decision over Texas A&M as three-point ‘chalk.’

-- Wake Forest posted a 3-6 record both SU and ATS in nine games as an underdog.

-- Newman started the last three games after starting QB Sam Hartman went down with a season-ending injury. Hartman had thrown for 1,984 yards with a 16/8 TD-INT ratio. Newman has completed 62-of-101 throws for 755 yards with an 8/3 TD-INT ratio. He has 156 rushing yards, one TD and a 3.8 YPC average. Newman is hoping to have his best WR Dortch, who is ‘questionable’ due to an injured finger. Dortch has 89 receptions for 1,078 yards and eight TDs. Sage Surratt has 39 catches for 568 yards and three TDs, while Alex Bachman has 30 grabs for 370 yards and six TDs.

-- Carney has rushed for a team-best 954 yards and eight TDs while averaging 5.4 YPC. Matt Colburn has 739 rushing yards, five TDs and a 5.1 YPC average.

-- Wake Forest junior cornerback Amari Henderson is listed as ‘questionable’ with an undisclosed issue. Henderson started nine games, recording 42 tackles, eight passes broken up and 0.5 tackles for loss.

-- The ‘over’ has hit in five of the Tigers’ past six games to improve to 8-5 overall. Their games have averaged combined scores of 75.2 PPG.

-- The ‘over’ is 7-5 overall for the Deacs, but they’ve seen the ‘under’ go 3-1 in their past four outings. Their games have averaged combined scores of 65.8 PPG.

Houston vs. Army

-- These teams are set to square off in the Armed Forces Bowl at Amon G. Carter Stadium in Ft. Worth, TX. As of Friday, most spots had Army listed as a five-point favorite with a total of 60. The Cougars had +180 odds to win outright (risk $100 to win $180).

-- Army (10-2 SU, 6-4-2 ATS) brings an eight-game winning streak to Texas. Jeff Monken has his team bowling for a third straight season and with its second straight 10-win campaign. The Black Knights have won both bowls on Monken’s watch, including a 42-35 triumph over San Diego St. as 6.5-point underdogs at last year’s Armed Forces Bowl. In 2016, they beat North Texas 38-31 in overtime but failed to cover as 11-point ‘chalk.’

-- Army lost its opener 34-14 at Duke as a 14-point underdog and took its only other ‘L’ in overtime at Oklahoma. The Sooners slipped past the Black Knights 28-21 as 30-point home favorites.

-- Monken’s club was a single-digit favorite six times this year, going 6-0 SU and 2-2-2 ATS.

-- Army is off a 17-10 win over Navy as a seven-point favorite. QB Kelvin Hopkins threw for 61 yards and ran for 64 and two TDs on 18 carries. The defense limited the Midshipmen to 208 yards of total offense and forced four turnovers.

-- Hopkins has completed 48-of-90 passes (53.3%) for 956 yards with a 6/3 TD-INT ratio. He also has 852 rushing yards, 12 TDs and a 4.3 YPC average. Darnell Woolfolk has a team-high 885 rushing yards and 14 TDs with a 4.2 YPC average. Jordan Asberry has nine receptions for 197 yards and three TDs.

-- Army beat three bowl-bound opponents, including a 28-21 home win over Hawaii, a 42-13 win at Buffalo and a 37-22 win at Eastern Michigan.

-- Houston (8-4 SU, 6-6 ATS) started the season 7-1 with its only loss coming in a 63-49 setback at Texas Tech in non-conference play. However, the Cougars lost three of their last four games both SU and ATS, including a 52-31 loss at Memphis that decided the AAC West on Nov. 23.

-- Houston lost star QB D’Eriq King to a season-ending knee injury in its 48-17 win over Tulane as a 7.5-point home favorite on Nov. 15. King had enjoyed a spectacular year, completing 63.5 percent of his passes for 2,982 yards with a 36/6 TD-INT ratio. He also ran for 674 yards and 14 TDs with a 6.1 YPC average.

-- UH head coach Major Applewhite went with true freshman QB Clayton Tune in place of King at Memphis. Tune completed 18-of-43 passes against the Tigers for 256 yards and three TDs with one interception. In four games, Tune has connected on just 38-of-85 throws for 565 yards with a 7/2 TD-INT ratio. He will make his second career start vs. Army.

-- Houston is in the postseason for a program-record sixth straight time. The Cougars are 2-3 both SU and ATS in their past five bowl games, including a 33-27 loss to Fresno St. as two-point favorites at last year’s Hawaii Bowl.

-- Houston will be without all four of its starting defensive linemen when it faces the nation’s second-best ground attack. Ed Oliver is sitting out to stay healthy for the NFL Draft and is expected to be a Top-10 pick in the first round. Oliver played in eight games this year, producing 54 tackles, 11.5 TFL’s, three sacks, nine QB hurries, two PBU and one forced fumble. For his career, he had 193 tackles, 54 TFL’s and 13.5 sacks in 33 games. The Cougars will also be sans Jerard Carter, Payton Turner and Isaiah Chambers.

-- Tune might not have two of the team’s best wideouts, as Keith Corbin (undisclosed) and Courtney Lark (knee) are both listed as ‘questionable.’ Corbin has 39 catches for 669 yards and a team-best 10 TDs, while Lark has 32 grabs for 509 yards and five TDs. Also, WR Bryson Smith is ‘out’ for undisclosed reasons. Smith has 30 receptions for 285 yards and four TDs, in addition to rushing for 84 yards on 18 carries. Smith is also UH’s primary return guy on special teams. He has returned 12 punts for 93 yards and has 126 yards on six kickoff returns.

-- Houston RB Terrence Williams (228 rushing yards, 1 TD & 5.7 YPC) is ‘questionable’ for undisclosed reasons.

-- Houston’s leading rusher is Patrick Carr, who has 816 rushing yards and five TDs with a 5.7 YPC average. The Cougars’ top WR is Marquez Stevenson, who has 67 receptions for 947 yards and nine TDs.

-- UH was only an underdog once this season in the non-cover at Memphis. The only other ‘dog situation since Applewhite took over prior to the 2017 campaign came at USF last year where the Cougars beat the Bulls 28-25 as 10.5-point ‘dogs.

-- The ‘over’ hit in five of UH’s last six regular-season games to improve to 8-4 overall. The Cougars have seen their games average combined scores of 80.8 PPG.

-- Totals have been an overall wash (6-6) for the Black Knights, but they’ve seen the ‘under’ go 3-1 in their past four games. Their games have average combined scores of 47.7 PPG.

-- Kickoff is scheduled for 3:30 p.m. Eastern on ESPN.

B.E.’s Bonus Nuggets

-- With Kyle Shurmur set to complete his eligibility in Vandy’s bowl game vs. Baylor, it looks like Derek Mason has found his next QB for the 2019 campaign. Ball St. QB Riley Neal will head to Nashville as a grad transfer and be able to play right away. Neal has 7,393 career passing yards and a 46/25 career TD-INT ratio. As I’ve stated repeatedly, Shurmur is vastly underrated and enjoyed fantastic junior and senior seasons for the Commodores.

-- Michigan RB Karan Higdon has joined teammates Rashan Gary and Devin Bush as Wolverines who will skip the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl vs. Florida on Dec. 29 in order to stay healthy for the NFL Draft.

-- According to multiple reports, Ohio St. is the frontrunner to land Georgia QB Justin Fields, who elected to transfer late last week. Fields was a five-star dual-threat QB when he signed with UGA last fall.

-- According to a report on Thursday, Urban Meyer will teach a class at Ohio St.’s business school this spring. The class is about….. (wait for it…..) “integrity and leadership.” OSCAR!!! What a joke! Only in America…

Follow Brian Edwards' sports gambling opinions on Twitter at @vegasbedwards.

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