Part 3 of our betting preview will cover the Thursday games through Friday’s first two games (4 total).
All lines courtesy of FanDuel Sportsbook
The Independence Bowl
Louisiana Tech (9-3) vs Miami (6-6)
Louisiana Tech is coming off a successful season overall, but one that ended with them dropping two of their final three games and missing out on their conference title game. Statistically, the Bulldogs are an impressive team, ranking 29th in points scored and 45th in points against. The issue with this is they’re ranked dead last in strength of schedule (130th) so there isn’t a lot of credibility with their numbers.
Amik Robertson, the Bulldogs best corner, is sitting this one out in preparation for the draft. Justin Henderson leads the backfield with a 5.8 YPC and 15 total touchdowns, but it’s clear the Bulldogs are a bit of a myster, due to their insanely soft schedule. One thing is for sure; this team can put up points. J’Mar Smith leads the offense with a 17:4 touchdown to interception ratio and an impressive 8.3 yards per attempt.
The Miami Hurricanes are coming off two disappointing losses to finish the season (Duke & FIU). Brevin Jordan (foot) and Jeff Thomas (Draft prep) will likely both be out for the Hurricanes Thursday. Miami’s second leading tackler, Michael Pinckney, will also be sitting out for the upcoming NFL Draft. It’s a depleted roster when you go down the considerable list of players hurt. Like Smith on the Bulldogs side, Jarren Williams had had a solid, efficient season at quarterback (19 TDs & 6 INTs).
To really have an idea of how teams will perform in bowls is three fold. The first part is the matchup. The second is the motivation for both teams. The third part is coaching/game prep. The best way to judge game prep is to look at how the team prepared for it’s conference title game and its first game of the season.
For Louisiana Tech, they were stomped in their opener at Texas. It’s not like many people thought they’d stand a chance, but 45-14 is pretty resounding. For Miami, they opened the season with a tough opening loss against a solid Florida Gators team. Since determining motivation is difficult, we must look at the matchup and the matchup actually favors Miami on the defensive side.
Both teams can put up points, but the Hurricanes have more talent across the board and I can’t imagine they won’t be motivated to finish off the season on a high note. I think Miami’s size and talent will be too much for the Bulldogs to overcome.
Pick: Miami -6
The Quick Lane Bowl
Eastern Michigan (6-6) vs Pitt (7-5)
Eastern Michigan is coming off a very mediocre season, highlighted by a victory over Illinois in Week 3. Eastern Michigan doesn’t run the ball very efficiently (3.9 YPC), but they move the ball through the air relatively well (280 passing yards per game & 2 TDs on average). They’re led on offense by quarterback Mike Glass III. Glass is a threat to run (7 rushing touchdowns on the year), but he does his damage through the air (21 TDs & 10 INT at a 8.1 YPA). The Eagles big weakness is rush defense. They are one of the worst rush defenses in the league (202 rushing YPG, 2.4 TDs, and 4.7 YPC).
Weeks 3 and 4 were the “You’ve arrived” games for Pitt this season. Following a narrow road defeat against Penn State, Pitt knocked off heavy favorite UCF the next week. Pitt is a solid defensive team who struggles on offense. Their 3.5 YPC average as a team is skewed by Kenny Pickett’s 1.2 YPC. The team is actually a more competent rushing team than anyone realizes.
Kenny Pickett has just a 10:9 TD to INT ratio and the Panthers attempt 39 passes per game, compared to their 34 rushes per game. They struggle to score on offense, but it’s clear that a low touchdown percentage per play indicates this team would absolutely take advantage of a rushing matchup disparity.
As we just went over, the Pitt Panthers would love to run the ball more. The Eastern Michigan Eagles are abysmal defending the run and despite Pitt not being a juggernaut on the ground, their schedule and ancillary numbers indicate they should be able to run effectively against the Eagles. I like the Panthers here by two touchdowns.
Pick: Pitt -11.5
The Military Bowl
North Carolina (6-6) vs Temple (8-4)
The North Carolina Tar Heels are probably a better team than their record indicates. They kicked off the season with a victory over their neighboring state rival, South Carolina. From there, they nearly pulled off a big upset over Clemson but ultimately fell short. The Tar Heels have lost six games by a total of just 26 points. It’s kind of amazing how close they actually came to having a very successful season.
Regardless, the weapons are there. North Carolina features a prolific passing offense led by quarterback, Sam Howell. Howell is averaging an impressive 8.6 YPA and touts a TD to INT ratio of 35:7. The Heels are slightly more weighted towards the run this season, averaging 40 rushing attempts per game at an average of 4.5 YPC. Defensively, the Heels are alright overall, but more effective against the pass, averaging one INT per game.
Temple isn’t particularly impressive by any metric. Their biggest issue may be defending the run as they average 152 yards per game on the ground. Their pass defense has limited yardage this season (212 Passing YPG) but has struggled to remain efficient as their turnover margin is even. Temple utilizes an extremely balanced offense (37 rushes & 37 passes per game). They’re led by quarterback Anthony Russo (6.8 YPA, 21 TDs and 11 INT). The rushing attack is spearheaded by Re’Mahn Davis (5.1 YPC and 900 yards rushing).
If games were won and lost on paper, I’d like UNC here, given their expertise with paper classes. Off paper, North Carolina really seems to be the better team. The SMU vs Temple game probably is the closest comp game to me here, given SMU proficiency throwing the ball. In that game, SMU rolled to a 24 point victory and I believe a similar result should come in this one, especially given the stronger defense UNC features.
Pick: UNC -4.5
The Pinstripe Bowl
Michigan State (6-6) vs Wake Forest (8-4)
Michigan State has struggled mightily on offense this season, failing to score more than 10 points in five games this season. Though four of those games were against top 14 ranked teams, it’s still a hard pill to swallow.
Much like Temple, the Spartans operate with a very well balanced offense (35 rush and 35 pass attempts per game). The Spartans average just 3.5 YPC on the ground this season, but lead back, Elijah Collins, averages 4.4 YPC and given the strength of schedule, it’s pretty solid. Quarterback Brian Lewerke has had a rough go of it this season, throwing just 16 TDs to 12 INTs. This team also has an even turnover margin on the season (1.8 turnovers per game on offense & defense). “Balanced” is the perfect word for this team, but it isn’t necessarily a good thing.
Wake Forest has been one of the more entertaining teams to watch this season as their offense averages 473 yards of offense per game but also surrender 409 yards per game on defense. Their rush defense is their weakness as they average 162 yards per game on the ground at a 4.2 YPC average.
The strength of this team is their passing game, which is set up by their high-rate rushing game (45 attempts per game). The passing offense averages 297 yards passing per game and a healthy 175 yards rushing per game. The key to their success this season has been their turnover margin. The offense averages 1.3 turnovers per game, but the defense averages a nice 2 turnovers per game.
Though the paper says Wake Forest is a beast of a team offensively, it’s important to point out they’ll be without leading receiver Sage Surrant for the game due to a shoulder injury. It’s also important to note the disparity on the line for Wake Forest.
Wake Forest will also be without their two leading tacklers on defense for the game. With such a disparity on the line, I can’t help but go with the Spartans in this game. I wouldn’t be surprised if the game were within one score and I also wouldn’t be shocked if either team got blown out here. Wake Forest has a dangerous offense, but I’m just higher on the Spartans rushing advantage in this game.
Pick: Michigan State -3.5