AAC Championship Odds & Picks: Our Staff Best Bets for Tulane vs. UCF
Peter G. Aiken & Julio Aguilar/Getty Images. Pictured from left: Michael Pratt (7) of the Tulane Green Wave and RJ Harvey (22) of the UCF Knights.
AAC Championship Odds
#18Tulane vs. #22UCF
-110o / -110u
-110o / -110u
UCF and Tulane meet for the AAC Championship game on Saturday with the winner earning a bid to the Cotton Bowl.
Tulane entered the season as one of the biggest longshots to make a conference championship game, as it sat at +6000 to win the AAC before the season.
UCF beat Tulane, 38-31, in New Orleans less than a month ago, which marked the Green Wave’s only conference loss this season.
UCF, meanwhile, almost had the biggest meltdown of last weekend. The Knights held a 28-0 lead on rival USF and ended up needing a one-handed catch for a go-ahead touchdown on third down with only 20 seconds left to win, 46-39.
Will Tulane avenge that defeat on Nov. 12? Or will UCF win its third AAC title in the last six years?
Tulane vs. UCF Point Spread
What’s really concerning for Tulane in this matchup is its inability to stop UCF’s rushing attack. The Golden Knights ran wild in the previous meeting, going for 336 yards on the ground at 6.2 yards per carry.
For Gus Malzahn’s offense to be successful, it needs to have a quarterback who can be a threat in the read option, and John Rhys Plumlee is just that.
Plumlee is averaging 6.2 yards per carry and has 11 touchdowns on the ground to go along with 25 runs of at least 10 yards. He torched Tulane in their previous meeting, carrying the ball 18 times for 176 yards and two touchdowns.
UCF also has a pair of outstanding running backs in Isaiah Bowser, the short-down back, and RJ Harvey, the speed back.
Harvey especially has been a big-play machine, averaging 6.8 yards per carry with 21 runs of 10 yards ore more on only 105 attempts.
The duo is also running behind an outstanding offensive line, as UCF ranks 20th in Offensive Line Yards and 24th in terms of a PFF run-blocking grade.
Tulane sits outside the top 50 defensively in Rushing Success Rate Allowed, EPA/Rush Allowed and Defensive Line Yards, so there’s no reason why UCF can’t run the ball just like it did in the first meeting.
The Green Wave did move the ball effectively in the first game against UCF, averaging 5.8 yards per play. However, Tulane sits just 46th in Success Rate and 34th in EPA/Play, so its offense is good but not elite.
Plus, UCF is a top-30 defense in Finishing Drives Allowed. It’s also outstanding against the run, ranking in the top 30 in Rushing Success Rate Allowed, Defensive Line Yards and Stuff Rate. That’s bad news for Tulane, which runs the ball on 58.3% of its offensive plays.
So, we like the value here on UCF +4.
Staff Pick: UCF +4
Tulane vs. UCF Over/Under
The first game between these two ended with 69 points, and there’s no reason this game can’t end up in the 60s again.
As I mentioned above, UCF’s dynamic rushing attack put up a ton of explosive runs against Tulane in their previous meeting, which was no surprise considering the Green Wave rank outside the top 50 in a lot of key defensive rushing categories.
The pace of that previous game was quite fast, with a play being run every 24 seconds. Tulane played much faster than its usual 26.1 seconds per play, as the Green Wave battled from behind for most of the game.
UCF is especially vulnerable in the secondary, and that’s where Tulane can take advantage just like it did in the first meeting.
Green Wave quarterback Michael Pratt is averaging 8.2 yards per attempt with 21 touchdowns and only four interceptions. He threw for three touchdowns and posted an 84.4% adjusted completion percentage against UCF.
There’s no reason why he can’t do it again, as UCF ranks 79th in Passing Success Rate Allowed and 69th in EPA/Pass Allowed.
The total is simply too low with the advantages both of these offenses have, so we like the value on over 56.5.