Last Updated Dec 26, 2022, 12:27 PM

First Responder Bowl Picks, Predictions and Odds: Air Force vs. Louisville

Dec. 28, 2021
Dan Dobish
VI Betting Expert

This year's First Responder Bowl features the Air Force Falcons taking on the Louisville Cardinals. Kick off is set for 3:15 p.m. ET and will air on ESPN from Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in Annapolis, Maryland.

Score Prediction

Air Force 37, Louisville 31

Best Bets

Air Force -1 (-110) at Golden Nugget

Over 54.5 (-118) at FanDuel

First Responder Bowl Predictions

The Louisville Cardinals weren’t a great team in 2021, but they could have been much better than 6-6. They nearly knocked off Wake Forest, Virginia, and Clemson, and all of their wins were by at least seven points. Scott Satterfield and the Cardinals will look to end the season with a win over Air Force in the First Responder Bowl after a brutal showing against Kentucky in the Governor’s Cup.

The Air Force Falcons are the Pittsburgh Steelers of college football. They have had just two coaches since 1984 as Fisher DeBerry and Troy Calhoun are both legends that took their teams to a combined 22 bowl games. Calhoun is trying to run down DeBerry, and he will be able to inch closer to the icon with a shootout win over the Louisville Cardinals in the First Responder Bowl.

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First Responder Bowl Betting Odds

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First Responder Bowl Betting Resources

  • Matchup: Mountain West vs. ACC
  • Date: Tuesday, December 28, 2021
  • Venue: Gerald J. Ford Stadium
  • Location: Dallas, Texas
  • TV-Time: ESPN, 3:15 p.m. ET

Air Force Falcons Betting Analysis

Straight Up - SU, Against the Spread - ATS, Over-Under (O/U)

  • SU: 9-3
  • ATS: 8-4
  • O/U: 5-7

The Falcons run the ball more often than any other team in the country. Air Force ran the ball on over 87% of its plays from scrimmage this year, and they ranked first in rushing offense with 338.9 YPG on the ground.

Haaziq Daniels proved to be an excellent option quarterback. He ran for 705 yards (5.0 YPC) and nine touchdowns, and he made the right read nearly every time. Daniels isn’t much of a passer, completing just 45.7% of his throws, so the Falcons can’t afford to get behind against Louisville.

Brad Roberts was one of the best running backs in the MWC. Roberts ran for 1,279 yards and 13 touchdowns in this offense. He was the feature back much more often than we see at the other service academies, but Deandre Hughes and Emmanuel Michel also had more than 400 rushing yards.

Air Force ranks 14th in scoring defense (19.5 PPG) and fifth in total defense (289.0 YPG). The Falcons aren’t as strong on this side of the ball as you might think though, as they rank first in time of possession. This pass defense ranks outside the top 50, so Malik Cunningham should put up numbers against Air Force’s secondary.

Louisville Cardinals Betting Analysis

Straight Up - SU, Against the Spread - ATS, Over-Under (O/U)

  • SU: 6-6
  • ATS: 6-6
  • O/U: 5-7

Cunningham had a fine season as Louisville’s starting quarterback. Cunningham completed 62% of his passes for 8.7 YPA with 18 touchdowns and six interceptions, and he is also 32 yards short of 1,000 rushing yards. Cunningham ran for 19 touchdowns in the regular season, so he must be shadowed in the red zone.

Tight end Marshon Ford was one of the top players at his position in the ACC. Ford had 47 receptions for 530 yards and two touchdowns. Freshman Jordan Watkins is another receiver worth watching with 35 catches for 529 yards and four scores.

Freshman Jalen Mitchell had a solid season as Louisville’s top running back. Mitchell ran for 722 yards (4.7 YPC) and five touchdowns, and interior lineman Caleb Chandler did a great job blocking for him.

Louisville had two Second Team All-ACC selections on defense in linebacker Yasir Abdullah and cornerback Kei’Trel Clark. However, the Cardinals ranked outside the top 80 in both scoring defense and total defense. They might not have the proper motivation needed to focus on stopping the triple option either.

Inside the Stats - Air Force Falcons

  • Record: 9-3
  • VI Ranking: 34
  • Points Scored: 372
  • Points Allowed: 229
  • PS/G: 31 (46th)
  • PA/G: 19.1 (13th)

Inside the Stats - Louisville Cardinals

  • Record: 6-6
  • VI Ranking: 44
  • Points Scored: 383
  • Points Allowed: 324
  • PS/G: 31.9 (40th)
  • PA/G: 27 (76th)

Key Players to Watch

  • AF: Haaziq Daniels - QB (139 carries, 698 yards, 9 TD)
  • AF: Brad Roberts - RB (279 carries, 1,279 yards, 13 TD)
  • UL: Malik Cunningham - QB (196/316, 2,734 yards, 37 Total TD, 6 INT)
  • UL: Jordan Watkins - WR (35 catches, 531 yards, 4 TD)

First Responder Bowl Betting Conclusion

The over is the best bet in this game. Both these offenses should be able to put points on the board, but Air Force will be able to control the clock and consistently move the ball to get the win.

First Responder Bowl Betting Trends

  • Louisville has gone UNDER in five of its last six Bowl Games.
  • Air Force has covered the spread in seven of its last eight games when facing a non AP-ranked school.
  • Air Force has covered the spread in five straight games when playing away from home.
  • Air Force has covered the spread in three straight games.

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