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Last Updated Aug 30, 2021, 13:55 PM

Monday's Bowl Tip Sheet

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First Responder Bowl (ESPN, 12:30 p.m. ET)

Western Kentucky vs. Western Michigan

First Responder Bowl Betting History

-- The Western Kentucky Hilltoppers (8-4 straight up, 8-4 against the spread) from Conference USA will tangle with the Western Michigan Broncos (7-5 straight up, 6-6 against the spread) from the Mid-American Conference in the ServPro First Responder Bowl in Dallas, Tex. at Gerald J. Ford Stadium.

-- The Hilltoppers of WKU finished up the season with three straight wins, including a road rout of Arkansas on Nov. 9, 45-19. They also won seven of their final nine outings, including victories over bowl teams Southern Miss, Charlotte and UAB, and the Hilltoppers ended up covering seven of their final nine outings, too.

-- Western Kentucky doesn't have an extensive bowl history. This will be their sixth-ever postseason showing, and they're looking for their fourth bowl victory. After losing the Little Caesars Bowl to Central Michigan in their bowl debut in 2012, they avenged that loss in a 49-48 shootout vs. CMU in the 2014 Bahamas Bowl. That kicked off a three-game bowl win streak which also included a 45-35 win over South Florida in the 2015 Miami Beach Bowl and a 51-31 win over Memphis in the 2016 Boca Raton Bowl. They were tripped up 27-17 by Georgia State in the Cure Bowl on Dec. 16, 2017 in their most recent bowl showing.

-- The Broncos have appeared in nine bowl games all-time, but they have just one win to show for their efforts. Their lone win was in the 2015 Bahamas Bowl over Middle Tennessee. They coughed up a 49-18 loss to BYU last season in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl, and they suffered a 24-16 loss to Wisconsin on Jan. 2, 2017 in the Cotton Bowl, easily their most impressive season to date.

-- Western Michigan no longer rows the boat for P.J. Fleck, but they have continued to be relevant since his departure for Minnesota. They blew a chance at the MAC Championship Game last time out on Nov. 26, losing at Northern Illinois by a 17-14 score as a 10-point favorite. That snapped a season-high three-game win streak which included victory over Bowling Green, Ball State and Ohio. One interesting thing about Western Michigan this season is that they alternated covers and non-covers in each of their 12 games this season, failing to cover last time out.

-- The Broncos had a powerful offense, ranking 23rd in the nation with 457.3 total yards per game while ranking 56th in passing yards (244.6) and 24th in rushing yards (212.7). They were also 25th in the country with 34.2 points per contest. Defensively, WMU wasn't very good, ranking 82nd with 414.6 total yards per game allowed, while ranking 69th in passing yards allowed (228.1) and 94th in rushing yards allowed (186.5) per game. They also yielded 26.2 PPG to check in 57th.

-- The 'Toppers struggled on offense, ranking just 87th with 380.0 total yards per game, while posting 251.1 passing yards per game to finish 52nd in the land. They also posted a dismal 128.9 rushing yards to rank 109th in the nation, while managing 25.6 PPG to end up 90th. On defense, they yielded 337.8 total yards to rank 29th, they were 32nd in passing yards (200.2) and 40th in rushing yards (137.7) per game, while allowing 20.1 points per game to rank 21st in the country.

 -- Western Kentucky is 7-2 ATS in the past nine games overall and 5-1 ATS in the past six against winning teams. However, they're 5-13 ATS as a favorite.

-- Western Michigan is 2-5 ATS in the previous seven neutral-site appearances, while going 2-8 ATS in the past 10 as an underdog, and 1-6 ATS in their past seven showings in the month of December.

-- The over is 4-1 in Western Kentucky's past five overall, and 5-1 in the past six neutral-site games. The over is also 7-2 in the past nine as a favorite, but the under is 5-2 in their past seven tries against winning sides.

-- The over is 4-1 in WMU's past five bowl games, and 6-1 in the past seven as an underdog. However, the under is 5-2-1 in their past eight games overall.

Music City Bowl (ESPN, 4:00 p.m.)

Mississippi State vs. Louisville

Music City Bowl Betting History

-- The Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl will pit the Mississippi State Bulldogs (6-6 straight up, 5-7 against the spread) against the Louisville Cardinals (7-5 straight up, 7-5 against the spread) at Nissan Stadium in Nashville, Tenn. in a rematch of the 2017 TaxSlayer Bowl, which went to Mississippi State 31-27.

-- The Bulldogs might have made the cut for a bowl by the slimmest of margins of any team in this season's postseason field. They won 21-20 at home against Mississippi in the Egg Bowl on Thanksgiving night thanks to a missed extra point. That missed PAT came after an unsportsmanlike penalty on that nonsense where the wide receiver who scored the touchdown imitated a dog urinating while celebrating in the end zone. Hey, however you get it done. Mississippi State did win three of their final four games, while covering in those three wins, and the 'under' cashed in the final three.

-- The Cardinals didn't need any late-game antics in the finale to get into the bowl field. They clinched bowl eligibility on Nov. 16 with a 34-20 win at N.C. State, and they followed it up with a 56-34 win over Syracuse the next week. However, the Cardinals might be champing at the bit after getting throttled 45-13 in their season finale against rival Kentucky of the SEC.

-- Mississippi State has a lengthy bowl history which dates back to an Orange Bowl loss in 1936, a 13-12 loss to Duquesne, by the way. They also beat Georgetown 14-7 in the 1941 Orange Bowl, so yeah, they've been around. In more recent times, they have won three of their past four bowl showings, but they lost in the Outback Bowl last season to Iowa in a 27-22 nailbiter. They have appeared in the Music City Bowl once before, topping Wake Forest 23-17 back on Dec. 30, 2011.

-- Louisville's bowl history dates back to 1958, a 34-20 win over Drake in the Sun Bowl. More recently, the Cardinals have dropped two straight bowl games, including that TaxSlayer Bowl in 2017 to the Bulldogs. They won the 2015 Music City Bowl over Texas A&M by a 27-21 score in their only other previous appearance at Nissan Stadium. 

-- The Cardinals ranked 35th in the nation with 442.8 total yards per game, while ranking 70th in the pass with 227.7 yards per game. Rushing was a strong suit, ranking 23rd with 215.2 yards per game, as RB Javian Hawkins rumbled for 1,420 yards and eight touchdowns. They ended up with 32.7 points per game to check in 40th. Defensively, the Cardinals had a lot of issues, ranking 107th in total yards (446.3), 84th in passing yards (235.3), 115th in rushing yards (211.0) and 111th in points allowed (33.8) per game.

-- The Bulldogs were rather so-so in most facets of the game, which isn't surprising since they ended up 6-6. They were just 67th in total yards (402.9), 112th in passing yards (176.0) and 75th in points scored (27.6). However, they were 18th in rushing yards per game at 226.9, as Kylin Hill posted 1,347 yards and 10 touchdowns. Defensively, they were also rather marginal, ranking 68th in total yards (390.1), 92nd in passing yards (241.3) and 55th in rushing yards (148.8) allowed per game. They also yielded 28.1 PPG to rank 68th.

-- MSU is 10-4 ATS in the past 14 non-conference games, but they're 2-5 ATS in the past seven appearances on a grass surface and 0-4 ATS in the past four against winning teams.

-- Louisville has covered in just one of the past five neutral-site games, while going 0-4 ATS in the past four tries vs. SEC. They're also a dismal 4-12-1 ATS in the past 17 games out of conference.

-- The Bulldogs have hit the under in five of their past seven games overall, but the over is 4-1 in the past five non-conference games and 5-2 in the past seven neutral-site contests.

-- The over cashed in the final four for the Cards. However, the under is 5-0 in their past five bowl appearances, while going 6-2-1 in the past nine neutral-site affairs.

Redbox Bowl (FOX, 4:00 p.m.)

California vs. Illinois

Redbox Bowl Betting History

-- The Redbox Bowl has the California Bears (7-5 straight up, 6-6 against the spread) from the Pac-12 Conference meeting the Illinois Fighting Illini (6-6 straight-up, 8-4 against the spread) from the Big Ten Conference at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif.

-- Cal fired out of the gate at 4-0 SU/2-2 ATS in their first two games, including road wins at Washington and at Mississippi. Things were humming right along, but then injuries reared their ugly head, particularly to QB Chase Garbers, and the Bears took a big step back. They lost four in a row to Arizona State, Oregon, Oregon State and Utah, and suddenly bowl eligibility didn't look so certain. They posted perhaps a season-saving 33-20 win over Washington State as 8.5-point underdogs before finishing off the season with wins at Stanford and at UCLA, covering three of the final four.

-- Illinois was stumbling to a 2-4 SU start, although they did give Michigan a scare Oct. 12 in a 42-25 loss which was much closer than the score indicates. That gave them confidence heading into the next week, as they won outright as 28.5-point underdogs for one of the biggest upsets across college football in a 24-23 win over Wisconsin. They rattled off four straight wins to attain bowl eligibility, winning at Purdue, home to Rutgers and at Michigan State in a game with a monster comeback. They won that game in East Lansing 37-34 as 11-point underdogs, their third win of the season as a double-digit 'dog. They also finished up 6-1 ATS in the final seven. An inexplicable 29-10 loss at home to rival Northwestern won't splash cold water on their season. The Illini are going bowling.

-- The Illini are playing in a bowl for the first time since the Heart of Dallas Bowl on Dec. 26, 2014, a 35-18 setback to Louisiana Tech. Their last win in a bowl came over UCLA in the Fight Hunger Bowl on Dec. 31, 2011. They're 0-4 SU in their past four bowl games against the Pac-12 since topping Washington 17-7 in the Rose Bowl on Jan. 1, 1964.

-- Cal is making a bowl appearance for the second straight season, and they hope to find a little more offense than they had in a 10-7 loss to TCU in the Cheez-It Bowl last season. The Golden Bears will be playing their 14th bowl appearance in school history in the state of California. They're 4-8-1 SU in their past previous 13 bowl appearances inside the confines of the Golden State.

-- The Illini managed just 319.7 total yards per game to rank 120th, and they were 110th with 177.0 passing yards per game, with WR Josh Imatorbhebhe leading the way with 634 receiving yards. They did manage to post 27.3 points per game to rank 78th. Defensively, they allowed 410.7 total yards per game to rank 79th, while allowing just 208.0 passing yards per game to finish 39th. On the ground, they struggled, giving up 202.7 yards per game to check in 110th, but they still allowed just 25.4 points per game to finish 53rd. Defensively, Oluwole Betiku Jr. cashed in with eight sacks.

-- Cal is 1-4 ATS in their past five games as a favorite, 1-4 ATS in the past five non-conference tilts and 1-4 ATS in the past five bowl games. They're also a dismal 1-6 ATS in the past seven neutral-site battles.

-- Illinois is 5-0 ATS in the past five as an underdog, while hitting in six of the past seven games overall. They're also 4-1 ATS in the past five against winning teams, and 6-2 ATS in the past eight neutral-site contests.

-- The under is 7-2 in Cal's past nine non-conference battles, while going 20-7 in the past 27 games overall. They have hit the over in seven of their past 10 bowls, and 6-1 in the past seven against the Big Ten conference.

-- The under is 5-1 in Illinois' past six non-conference tilts, 4-1 in the past five against the Pac-12 Conference and a perfect 6-0 in their past six neutral-site battles.

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