College Football Bowl Game Best Bets for Friday & Saturday (12/16 – 12/17)

Dec 14, 2022 - 4:16 PM

Here’s a look at the bowl-game spreads and totals for Friday and Saturday along with my projections. You can also find my best bets.

2022: 82-66-3 ATS (55.4%) | 2014-2021: 706-620-17 ATS (53.2%)

Note: Spreads are from the favorite’s perspective. ATL stands for “Adjusted Thor Line.” ATT stands for “Adjusted Thor Total.”

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Bahamas Bowl | Nassau, NP
Friday, December 16 | 10:30 AM
UAB (-11) vs. Miami (OH) | Total: 44.5
ATL: UAB -11.3 | ATT: 45

No absences reported

Miami (OH)
QB Brett Gabbert (Uncertain)
OT Ryan O’Hair (Transfer portal)
OG Caleb Shaffer (Transfer portal)

QB1 Gabbert, limited to four games this year due to an upper-body injury, entered the portal after the season but reversed course and returned to Miami. Between that injury and his abrupt change-of-heart, Gabbert’s status for the bowl is unclear and unclarified. QB2 Aveon Smith, who filled in for an injured Gabbert throughout the season, would draw another start if Gabbert can’t go. At publication time, Smith starting is the outcome I expect. OG Shaffer was the team’s best interior offensive lineman. OT O’Hair played only one snap this season.

Coaching news
UAB bypassed interim HC Bryant Vincent – who filled in this season following the sudden retirement of former HC Bill Clark – to hire former NFL quarterback Trent Dilfer as HC. This move upset players, who had advocated the administration to remove Vincent’s interim tag. Hurt feelings aside, for this game, this is a development that probably favors UAB. The Blazers figure to give a spirited effort in Vincent’s swan song. UAB never finished below 6-6 under Clark – his first team finished 6-6 and was bowl eligible but didn’t get selected.

Miami QB Aveon Smith played more than double the snaps that QB Brett Gabbert did in the regular season. Smith gained experience, and also turned in a large enough sample size to judge.

Even though Gabbert’s PFF grade dropped from 82.9 last season to 65.0 in this year’s limited sample size – playing with limited practice time and ostensibly through injury – Gabbert still graded out appreciably better than Smith. Smith’s 58.0 grade ranked No. 137 out of 159 qualifiers.

Smith really struggles as a thrower. His 39.9 PFF passing grade ranked No. 155 out of 159 (Gabbert ranked No. 89 in the same category). But Smith is a far better runner. In that area, Smith is dangerous. Smith’s 85.4 PFF run grade ranked No. 4 out of 159 qualifying QBs.

Smith actually led the team in rushing despite taking only two-thirds of the offensive snaps. So assuming Smith is starting again, Miami’s run game will be by degrees more dangerous at the cost of play-called predictability and the neutering of the Redhawks’ aerial attack.

Smith is also more turnover-prone than Gabbert. In 240 dropbacks this season, Smith had 14 turnover-worthy throws. That’s exactly as many as Gabbert had the past two seasons combined over neary 400 dropbacks. Smith’s relative effectiveness can be seen in Miami’s No. 129 SP+ offensive ranking this fall.

Here’s the good news for Miami if Smith is starting: UAB’s pass defense is one of the best in the G5, while UAB’s run defense is shoddy. The Blazers’ run defense ranks No. 105 in success rate. That’s what you’d choose to attack.

The unfortunate thing for Miami is their conventional running game stinks. It features an uninspiring paint-by-numbers RB rotation behind what was an underachieving offensive line. And that line just lost its best run-blocking starter on the interior in OG Caleb Shaffer.

But while the Blazers will get nicked by Smith on scrambles and designed runs, and perhaps cede consistent short gains to the running backs, they aren’t likely to be hurt by much more offered by Miami’s offense.

UAB’s offense this season was about as big of a disappointment as Miami’s defense was a pleasant surprise. But some of UAB’s struggles in that area can be traced to QB Dylan Hopkins’ mid-season injury.

When Hopkins is in the lineup – as he is now – UAB’s passing attack must be respected. And that makes the job of stud RB Dewayne McBride much easier. McBride is No. 3 in PFF grade among running backs. UAB ranked No. 31 in rushing success rate and No. 2 in rushing explosiveness.

Miami counters with a strong run defense that ranks No. 33 in success rate and No. 17 in efficiency. Where UAB can exploit that unit is with home runs – Miami’s run defense ranks No. 104 in explosiveness.

The margins are very close in this one, admittedly. But I’m taking the points with Miami. Miami has the better defense – the second-best defense UAB will have played this year behind LSU – and also the better special teams in this matchup. I don’t like Miami’s offense, but this isn’t a bad matchup with Smith at quarterback.

RedHawks HC Chuck Martin is 3-0 ATS in bowl games and 5-1 ATS over his career in neutral-site games. His teams do a good job of keeping things close against superior competition to give themselves a chance to steal it late.

The pick: Miami +11

Cure Bowl | Orlando, FL
Friday, December 16 | 2:00 PM
Troy (-1.5) vs. UTSA | Total: 55.5
ATL: Troy -0.8 | ATT: 48.5

WR Jabre Barber (Injury)
WR Marcus Rogers (Injury)

WRs Barber and Rogers both missed the Sun Belt Championship. Barber has been out since October but remains No. 4 on the team in receptions. The bowl statuses for each are unclear.

RB Brenden Brady (Injury)
WR De’Corian Clark (Injury)

RB Brady missed the CUSA title game with an arm injury suffered in the finale against UTEP. Part of the RB rotation, Brady has rushed for 699 yards this season. RB Kevorian Barnes shredded North Texas for 175 yards and a TD over 28 carries with the increased usage. WR Clark was knocked out for the year in October.

Both teams are 11-2 conference champions that come in on heaters – each started 1-2 before ripping off 10-straight wins. They have nearly identical strengths of schedule and resume rankings. It’s no surprise this line is essentially a pick ‘em.

Despite qualitative similarities and spread-the-field predilections on offense, these teams are constructed in opposite ways. UTSA has an awesome offense (No. 15 SP+) and a bad defense (No. 92). Troy has a bad offense (No. 101) but an awesome defense (No. 10).

To beat UTSA, you need to have a good secondary, and you need to be able to tackle in space. If you aren’t equipped to do both, dual-threat UTSA QB Frank Harris will get the ball into the open field and abuse you. Against a poor strength of schedule, UTSA averaged 38.7 PPG.

Fortunately for Troy, it checks both boxes. Troy’s secondary is led by CB Reddy Steward, one of the nation’s best cover men. Steward ranks No. 5 out of 947 qualifying CBs in PFF grade. Targeted 80 times this season, Steward allowed a mere 4.2 yards per target while intercepting three passes, breaking up seven more, and allowing only one touchdown.

Steward should put the clamps on star UTSA WR1 Zakhari Franklin. That’ll make Harris’ life a lot more difficult. Especially with UTSA WR Clark out for the year, which turned UTSA’s three-headed monster at receiver into a two-man show.

Troy’s defense ranks No. 9 in tackling success rate. It is led by undersized banshee LB Carlton Martial, who has already broken the FBS’ all-time record for tackles. Martial and crew will ensure UTSA’s run game and Harris’ scrambles don’t turn into brush fires with the field spread.

Flipping the field, Troy’s offense is inefficient (No. 78 success rate), but super-explosive (SP+ No. 4 marginal explosiveness). I think UTSA’s strong run defense can address a surging Troy run game – RB Kimani Vidal averaged 137.4 YPG rushing over the last five games.

But the Roadrunners’ tackling issues (No. 123 tackle success rate) and back-end issues concern in a matchup like this. These are the reasons UTSA’s defense ranked No. 122 in explosiveness, an issue likely to come to the fore against Troy.

The pick: Troy -1.5

Fenway Bowl | Boston, MA
Saturday, December 17 | 10:00 AM
Louisville (-1.5) vs. Cincinnati | Total: 41.5
ATL: Cincy -0.7 | ATT: 35.5

QB Luther Richesson (Transfer portal)
QB Ben Bryant (Injury)
WR Nick Mardner (Transfer portal)
WR Jadon Thompson (Transfer portal)
WR Tre Tucker (Opt-out)
TE Josh Whyle (Opt-out)
OC Jake Renfro (Transfer portal)
CB JQ Hardaway (Transfer portal)

QB1 Bryant has been ruled out for the season with a foot injury. QB2 Evan Prater draws the start for Cincy. TE Whyle and WR Tucker, declaring for the NFL Draft, combined for 84 catches this fall. WR Mardner and WR Thompson combined for 46 receptions. In sum, Cincy is without four-of-their-top-five pass catchers.

QB Malik Cunningham (Opt-out)
RB Trevion Cooley (Transfer portal)
RB Jalen Mitchell (Transfer portal)
CB Derrick Edwards (Transfer portal)

QB Cuningham, who was banged up throughout the campaign, aggravated his previous shoulder injury in the regular season finale against Kentucky. He’s chosen to opt-out. QB2 Brock Domann, who threw for 866 yards this year in relief of Cunningham, will draw another start.

Fall 2022 CTA

Coaching news
Louisville’s staff was blown up following Satterfield’s defection to Cincinnati. Satterfield announced he won’t coach either of these teams in the bowl. Louisville named Deion Branch interim HC for this game. Not only that, but the assistants coming with Satterfield to Cincy – co-DCs Wesley McGriff and Brian Brown and QB coach Pete Thomas – also won’t participate in this game. In addition, Louisville OC Lance Taylor accepted Western Michigan’s HC gig, while strength coach Ben Sowders left for Arkansas.

On the other side, Cincinnati, obviously, also had to cobble together an interim staff for this game – former HC Luke Fickell, who accepted the Wisconsin job, will not coach in it. Instead, DC Kerry Coombs will serve as interim coach.

So much to unpack, here!

While Cincinnati lost more contributors, I actually think the defections on both sides more or less amount to a wash. The reason for that is the drop-off from Louisville QB1 Malik Cunningham to QB2 Brock Domann is much, much larger than the drop-off from Cincinnati QB1 Ben Bryant to QB2 Evan Prater.

Louisville’s staff also took a much-heavier short-term hit during the Satterfield-swap. And though it’s fair to question whether Satterfield was the right coach for Cincinnati moving forward, it’s inarguable that Louisville is a motivation question after the entire roster unloaded on Twitter and to the media about its feelings over how Satterfield left.

QB2 Prater gave Bryant everything he could handle in the summer camp battle before ultimately losing the competition. But Prater has been a solidly above-average FBS quarterback when playing this fall. His 76.6 PFF grade isn’t far off from Bryant’s 80.4.

While Bryant is the clearly superior thrower (82.8 grade to Prater’s 66.6), Prater is the clearly superior runner (75.2 grade to Bryant’s 48.9). With Prater on the field, the defense needs to worry about another running threat.

Cincinnati’s run offense disappointed this season. But it ticked way up when Prater was behind center, as did calls for designed quarterback runs. It’s unfortunate for Prater that Cincy’s receiving corps and tight end corps suffered a mass-exodus after the regular season.

But this will encourage Cincy to run all the more – and this is exactly the area where Louisville’s defense is weakest. While Louisville’s pass defense is solid, you can nick the Cardinals on the ground – Louisville ranked outside the top-70 in both run defense success rate and marginal explosiveness, and the Cards rank a ghastly No. 119 in tackle success rate.

On the Louisville side, Cunningham’s loss hurts both Louisville’s passing and running games, and it makes the Cardinals less efficient while depriving them of the explosive element that made the Cunningham offenses so dangerous. Domann is a cement-footed pocket passer who isn’t there as a thrower yet. Domann ranks No. 139 out of 159 qualifying QBs in PFF grade.

Cincinnati’s defense remains nasty – No. 17 SP+ – and that unit didn’t lose anything of note. The Bearcats pass defense is elite, its run defense is stout, and Cincy has a top-30 tackling success rate.

I see a low-scoring, grind-it-out game coming. This, too, favors the Bearcats. Louisville better not fall behind by double-digits, because Domann throwing into that Cincy secondary is a turnover waiting to happen.

The picks: Cincy +1.5 | UNDER 41.5

New Mexico Bowl | Albuquerque, NM
Saturday, December 17 | 1:15 PM
SMU (-5.5) vs. Brigham Young | Total: 64.5
ATL: SMU -8.5 | ATT: 63

RB TJ McDaniel (Transfer portal)
WR Rashee Rice (Injury)

WR Rice will sit with a toe injury. One of the nation’s most dangerous receivers, Rice dropped a 96-1355-10 receiving line during the regular season. RB McDaniel was a rotational back that SMU has the depth to cover for without issue.

QB Jacob Conover (Transfer portal)
QB Jaren Hall (Injury)
WR Keanu Hill (Injury)
OL Campbell Barrington (Transfer portal)
LB Keenan Pili (Transfer portal)
LB Payton Wilgar (Injury)
LB Max Tooley (Injury)

QB Hall suffered a right ankle injury in the finale against Stanford. X-rays were negative. But while Hall said after the game that he was okay and would “100%” play in the bowl game, BYU HC Kalani Sitake has been noncommittal about Hall’s status. I heard early Monday morning that Hall was likely going to be out.

My co-host for the live Saturday handicapping shows, Mike Farrell, heard from his own sources that Hall was out barring a “miracle.” Between Sunday night and Monday morning, this line jumped from SMU -1.5 to -3.5, and it has now crossed over the key -4 and -4.5 thresholds – clearly multiple heavy hitters in the market heard what we heard.

If Hall indeed can’t go, BYU is in a precarious position. QB2 Jacob Conover entered the transfer portal and is out of the picture. Sitake said last week that backup QBs Cade Fennegan, Nick Billoups, and Sol-Jay Maiava-Peters would be competing in practice to determine who will take Conover’s old spot on the two-deep. Whoever that is would start assuming Hall can’t. QB Fennegan has attempted 28 career passes, the other two have no experience.

WR Hill had 36 catches this fall. LB Pili was No. 2 on the defense in snaps taken, while injured LBs Wilgar and Tooley were Nos. 3 and 4 among the linebacking corps in snaps taken. The Cougars’ bad defense has had its linebacking corps decimated in advance of this game.

Coaching news
BYU’s staff got a serious shake-up after the regular season. BYU associate HC Ed Lamb, who also coached special teams, took the HC job at FCS Northern Colorado. Lamb is bringing the following coaches with him: BYU DE/S coach Preston Hadley, analysts Blair Peterson and Justin Walterscheid, and defensive graduate assistant DJ Williams.

This comes after BYU pushed out longtime DC Ilaisa Tuiaki immediately after the season. Tuiaki returned 10 starters on defense but his unit sagged to No. 93 in yards allowed. In addition, strength and conditioning coach Nu’u Tafisi quietly left the program without an announcement from the university in early-December.

BYU’s defense was one of the nation’s most disappointing units. Change was coming, and it happened immediately. But the blowing-up of the staff on that side of the ball isn’t likely to improve the problem for the bowl game. Against a high-powered SMU offense, that’s Problem No. 1.

Problem No. 2 is that defense won’t be at its best on-the-field, either. LB Pili was No. 2 on the defense in snaps taken, while injured LBs Wilgar and Tooley were Nos. 3 and 4 among the linebacking corps in snaps taken. The Cougars’ bad defense has had its linebacking corps decimated in advance of this game.

Problem No. 3 for BYU is the expected loss of QB Jaren Hall. When I was told about that, on Monday morning, I bought an SMU -3.5 ticket. In the days since, this line has continued to tick up. More movement is on the way when the official announcement drops.

Assuming Hall’s absence, BYU is in big trouble on the offensive side of the ball. With QB2 Conover out the door to transfer, BYU would be looking at a craterous downgrade from one of the FBS’ best quarterbacks (Hall graded out PFF No. 22 among FBS quarterbacks) into the unknown. None of backup QBs Cade Fennegan, Nick Billoups, and Sol-Jay Maiava-Peters has thrown a pass this season.

The offense was the reason BYU remained viable this fall despite the defense’s no-show. Without QB Hall, that likely won’t be the case against SMU, even against the Mustangs’ poor defense. BYU RB Christopher Brooks will be able to churn out yards, but if BYU’s backup QB can’t get the ball to WR Puka Nacua, the Cougars will become one-dimensional and predictable immediately.

BYU’s No. 103 SP+ defense is equally generous against the run and pass. The loss of WR Rashee Rice hurts SMU’s offense, sure, but it doesn’t kill it. SMU QB Tanner Mordecai will be looking to put on a show in his swan song, and the Ponies’ depth at the RB and WR positions should ultimately shine through with a barrage of yardage and points.

The pick: SMU -5.5

Jimmy Kimmel LA Bowl | Inglewood, CA
Saturday, December 17 | 2:30 PM
Fresno State (-3) vs. Washington State | Total: 54.5
ATL: Wazzu -3.7 | ATT: 43

Washington State
WR De’Zhuan Stribling (Transfer portal)
WR Donovan Ollie (Transfer portal)
WR Renard Bell (Injury)
OT Jack Wilson (Left team)
LB Francisco Mauigoa (Transfer portal)
LB Travion Brown (Transfer portal)
LB Daiyan Henley (Opt-out)
CB Armani Marsh (Injury)

The oft-injured WR Bell missed five games this season with injuries and has already been ruled out for the bowl game. WRs Stribling, Ollie, and Bell are Nos. 1, 2, and 4 on the team in receiving yards. Their losses are significant for Wazzu’s pass-happy offense.

Wazzu nickel CB Marsh is expected to play after missing the Apple Cup due to an unspecified injury. That’s notable because Washington picked on his backup and poured on 485 passing yards. OT Wilson, a backup tackle and also a basketball player, left the team to join WSU’s basketball program. LB Henley, a first-team All-Pac-12 linebacker who ESPN ranks as a top-60 overall NFL draft prospect, is headed to the Senior Bowl. LBs Mauigoa and Brown were the team’s top-two middle linebackers.

Wazzu will start two backup LB who’ve never started a game – Ben Wilson and Kyle Thornton – in place of Henley and the Mauigoa/Brown rotation. Depth at the LB position is so bad that HC Dickert said backup SS Jordan Lee shifted to LB for bowl practices to serve as Wilson’s backup in this game.

Fresno State
DB Cole Sanders

Sanders played the 12th-most defensive snaps for Fresno State this fall and finished with 32 tackles. Sanders had the fourth-worst PFF grade of the 12, so perhaps he won’t be overly missed.

Coaching news
Wazzu DC Brian Ward took the same job at Arizona State.

Fresno State has won nine-straight. The Bulldogs are a different team with QB Jake Haener, who returned from injury to start the last seven of those wins. Expect a strong showing in Haener’s last collegiate game.

You can move the ball on Wazzu’s pass defense. While the Cougars rank No. 55 in success rate in that area, they’ve sagged to No. 78 in marginal efficiency and No. 118 in explosiveness. Fresno State is No. 1 in the country in completion percentage – despite QB2 Logan Fife playing one-quarter of the season – and will be taking aim at a Wazzu defense that ranks No. 90 in the same category.

Wazzu’s defense ranked No. 18 SP+ despite ceding its fair share of yards per play – mostly because that unit was very good situationally. It was strong in the red zone (No. 34 points per scoring opportunity), it created havoc (No. 22), and it took the ball away (tied for No. 20 in turnovers forced).

It’s fair to wonder if those three areas sustain at current levels with outstanding DC Brian Ward off to Arizona State, and with the linebacking corps absolutely decimated. Two linebackers who’ve never started before will draw their first-career starts for Wazzu in this game (see above).

On the other side of the ball, Wazzu is even more pass-happy than Fresno State. Unfortunately for them, the Bulldogs’ pass defense is the unit’s strength. FSU ranks No. 13 in pass defense success rate and PFF grades its coverage No. 16.

This is an especially big problem for Wazzu after its receiving corps was decimated following the regular season. Wazzu QB Cam Ward is overrated. PFF graded him No. 121 out of 159 qualifying quarterbacks – and that was with his full complement of receivers. I think Fresno shuts down Wazzu’s offense, here.

My system loves the under. I’ll be playing that in addition to Fresno State.

The picks: Fresno -3 | UNDER 54.5

LendingTree Bowl | Mobile, AL
Saturday, December 17 | 4:45 PM
Southern Miss (-6.5) vs. Rice | Total: 46.5
ATL: USM -14.8 | ATT: 46

QB Wiley Green (Injury)
QB T.J. McMahon (Injury)
WR Luke McCaffrey (Injury)

Rice’s QB room was ravaged with injuries late in the year. QB1 McMahon hasn’t played since Nov 12th. He is questionable. QB2 Wiley Green missed the first nine games, and then reinjured his right throwing arm in Game 10 – he’s likely out.

QB3 AJ Padgett started the regular season finale against North Texas, and QB4 Shawqi Itraish saw field action the week prior (before getting yanked for Padgett). The status of WR McCaffrey – an off-the-radar breakout performer in 2022 – is up in the air after he missed the last two games with injuries.

Southern Miss
None reported

Rice’s quarterback injuries are a real problem. The Owls – who had improved from 3-9 to 2-4 to 4-8 over the previous three seasons – began the campaign as a feel-good story, opening 5-4. But ever since QB TJ McMahon got hurt, Rice’s fortunates changed.

The Owls lost three-straight to close the campaign. The Owls were blasted by an average of 34.5 PPG in the first two, and in the finale Rice wasn’t able to take advantage of a lethargic North Texas team clearly looking ahead to the CUSA title game the next week.

The injury to breakout WR Luke McCaffrey didn’t help matters. The former quarterback posted a 51-656-6 receiving line in his first season after transitioning positions, despite missing the last two games with injuries. His status is unknown, but he isn’t likely to push it if not 100-percent, and McCaffrey is also a rumored potential transfer candidate.

In lieu of all that, Rice’s passing game has been neutered. Rice’s rushing attack is decent but not special, ranking No. 76 in success rate and No. 24 in explosiveness.

The good news for Rice is that Southern Miss’ offense (No. 107 SP+) is nearly as bad as Rice’s defense (No. 111). The very bad news for Rice is that its poor-as-was offense, now compromised, is about to go up against an unforgiving Southern Miss defense (No. 40).

The Golden Eagles’ defense is extremely active, ranking No. 13 in havoc rate. Not only is Rice out-manned on the skill side of things, but the Owls are going to have a very tough time keeping Southern Miss out of the backfield. Rice is also very likely to lose the turnover battle – the Owls ranked No. 128 in turnover margin during the season, and this is an especially bad matchup for that particular bugaboo.

As it sits now, my system is higher on Southern Miss than any other side over the entire bowl slate. Southern Miss has covered five-of-six and keeps the good times rolling by blasting Rice in the season finale.

The pick: Rice -6.5

Las Vegas Bowl | Las Vegas, NV
Saturday, December 17 | 6:30 PM
Oregon State (-10) vs. Florida | Total: 52.5
ATL: OSU -14.3 | ATT: 47.5

Oregon State
QB Chance Nolan (Transfer portal)
CB Ron Hardge (Transfer portal)
TE Luke Musgrave (Opt-out)
CB Rejzohn Wright (Injury)

RB Damien Martinez, a CFN Freshman All-American, suffered an injury in the finale against Oregon but will play, according to reports. CB Wright’s season is over following thumb surgery. He was one-half of Oregon State’s strong cornerback duo. If there’s a silver lining, it’s that the Beavers are well-stocked with depth at that position.

QB Anthony Richardson (Opt-out)
QB Jalen Kitna (Dismissed from team)
RB Lorenzo Lingard (Transfer portal)
WR Trent Whittemore (Transfer portal)
WR Justin Shorter (Opt-out)
TE Nick Elksnis (Transfer portal)
OG O’Cyrus Torrence (Opt-out)
OL Josh Braun (Transfer portal)
LB Diwun Black (Transfer portal)
LB Ventrell Miller (Opt-out)
DB Kamar Wilcoxson (Transfer portal)
DB Corey Collier (Transfer portal)

QB1 Richardson is off to the NFL Draft. QB2 Jalen Kitna was kicked off the team following his arrest on child pornography charges. That leaves QB3 Jack Miller III, an Ohio State transfer, to make his first career start. OG Torrence was one of the nation’s best interior offensive linemen. WR Shorter was the team’s second-best receiver. LB Miller was the team’s best linebacker.

Florida’s defense has struggled over the past few years when Miller has missed time due to injury. DT Gervon Dexter declared for the NFL Draft, but announced that he will play in this game.

Florida stumbles in losers of two straight, one of those losses coming against Vanderbilt. Then the Gators kept on losing in the immediate aftermath of the regular season, getting decimated as badly as any team in the country with opt-outs and declarations.

This would already have been a bad matchup for Florida, and it’s all the more so now. The Gators’ shoddy defense ranked just No. 78 SP+ at full strength. That defense is particularly bad against the run. LB Miller’s absence will hurt against the run-heavy Beavers.

Meanwhile, Florida all season was able to overcome inefficiency on offense through explosive plays. Mostly because of the play-making ability of QB Anthony Richardson. Richardson is gone and his backup is incarcerated, leaving the starting gig to QB3 Jack Miller III. This is an enormous downgrade. Not only that, but OG Torrence was one of the nation’s best offensive linemen and WR Shorter was a valued starter.

The Beavers should be able to run the ball at will, here. And Oregon State’s top-25 SP+ defense will have no problem shutting down Florida’s depleted offense.

This game reminds me of the bowl a few years ago when Florida suffered numerous opt-outs and got blasted by Oklahoma. Facing similar uphill odds here, HC Billy Napier, 1-3 ATS in postseason games, isn’t likely to pull a rabbit out of his hat.

The pick: Oregon State -10

Frisco Bowl | Frisco, TX
Saturday, December 17 | 8:15 PM
Boise State (-10.5) vs. North Texas | Total: 58
ATL: BSU -7.2 | ATT: 63

Boise State
QB Hank Bachmeier (Transfer portal)
RB George Holani (Injury)
WR Stefan Cobbs (Injury)
WR Cole Wright (Injury)
WR Austin Bolt (Injury)
TE Tyneil Hopper (Transfer portal)
LB Marco Notarainni (Injury)

RB Holani hurt his shoulder in the MWC title game. But he returned to practice last week and is expected to play. WR Cobbs missed the last two games of the regular season. He, along with WR Wright, are both questionable. WR Bolt and LB Notarainni, meanwhile, will both miss this game after suffering season-ending injuries.

North Texas
RB Oscar Adaway (Injury)

UNT QB Austin Aune will play in this game. But he’s already announced that he’ll declare for the NFL Draft after it. RB Adaway was North Texas’ RB1 up until suffering an injury against WKU in late-October. He hasn’t played since. His status for this game is unknown.

Coaching news
North Texas fired HC Seth Littrell despite reaching the CUSA title game. The program named DC Phil Bennett interim head coach for this game.


North Texas has a strong offense, a top-20 special teams unit, and an awful defense. When they have the ball, the Mean Green are looking to hit home runs – they rank No. 1 in the nation in marginal explosiveness.

North Texas spreads the field with a deep receiving corps. QB Aune’s counting stats are flattered by his supporting cast and strength of the defenses he faced. But the former minor league baseball player, in his late-20’s, sufficiently shuttles the ball off to his playmakers and watches them make plays in space.

Defenses are concerned enough by UNT’s receiving corps that boxes tend to be a bit thin. The Mean Green’s equally-deep RB room – four-deep before RB Adaway went down – generally takes advantage.

Boise State’s defensive numbers are also a bit flattered. The Broncos had a run of good luck facing backup quarterbacks during the regular season. But the Broncos have a strong unit that is top-10 in efficiency. What Boise State struggles with is explosive plays – they rank No. 83 in explosiveness.

On the other side of the ball, Boise State’s passing game is mediocre. But its rushing attack is very good when dual-threat QB Taylen Green and RB Holani are on the field together. Those two are going to tee-off on UNT’s horrid run defense, which ranks No. 121 in success rate.

Aune, playing in his last collegiate game, is going to connect on a few explosive passes at least. And UNT’s rushing attack is similarly going to rip off a few long runs. Boise State is going to force UNT into some three-and-outs, but UNT’s explosion guarantees at least a few quick-scores for the Mean Green.

In contrast, Boise State likely won’t have the explosive plays, but it’s difficult to envision UNT’s rancid defense making the Broncos punt much.

I struggled with the side handicap. My numbers lean North Texas. And this game is being played very close to North Texas’ campus. But I’m concerned about UNT’s mindset after the Littrell firing, and I know the Mean Green won’t be able to stop BSU’s run game.

I’m not concerned by BSU’s mindset. Due to canceled bowl games and the COVID season, BSU has only played in one bowl game in four years. More than half of the roster has never played in one, period. And with numerous players on the roster from Texas – including QB Green – you’d figure the Broncos’ native Texans are looking to put on a show.

But BSU’s offense is far more one-dimensional, and their defense, despite its lofty rankings, has a troubling knack for allowing explosive gains that plays right into UNT’s hands.

Instead of rolling the dice on a side, I’m going to take the over. The point total has already come up three points since the opener, and I think that line movement is correct with a clear path for each offense to have success on its own respective terms.

The pick: Over 58

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