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Air Force vs. Louisville Updated Odds, Picks & Predictions: How to Bet the First Responder Bowl (Dec. 28)

Air Force vs. Louisville Updated Odds, Picks & Predictions: How to Bet the First Responder Bowl (Dec. 28) article feature image

Mark Goldman and Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured, from left: Air Force Falcons linebacker Demonte Meeks (38) and Louisville Cardinals running back Trevion Cooley (23).

Air Force vs. Louisville Odds

Tuesday, Dec. 28
3:15 p.m. ET
Air Force Odds
-120o / +100u
Louisville Odds
-120o / +100u
Odds via DraftKings. Get up-to-the-minute college football odds here.

First Responder Bowl
Tuesday, Dec. 28 · Dallas, TX

Air Force looks to win its third straight bowl game when it matches up with Louisville in the First Responders Bowl.

The Falcons finished the season 9-3 with all three losses coming by one possession. In its nine wins, Air Force won by an average score of 33-15. The group owned the most dominant rushing attack in the country and will look to lean on that ground game against Louisville.

The Cardinals opened the season 3-1 with wins over UCF and Florida State. But the wheels fell off after that, and Louisville limped into a bowl game after finishing the remainder of the season with a 3-5 mark.

Scott Satterfield’s has relied solely on quarterback Malik Cunningham for its offensive production.

Whichever defense can generate a few stops will have the edge in the First Responders Bowl.

Air Force Falcons

To no surprise, Air Force owns the most dominant rushing attack in the nation, ranking first in Success Rate. The group owns a rush rate of 88% and averaged 5.2 yards per carry while gaining over 340 yards per game on the ground.

The triple option is spearheaded by running back Brad Roberts, who rushed for 1,279 yards and punched in 13 touchdowns on the season. Quarterback Haaziq Daniels had the second-most carries on the team and averaged 5.0 yards per attempt while punching in nine touchdowns of his own.

The duo was complemented by three other ball carriers who averaged over six yards per carry.

The Air Force offense ranked second in the nation in Havoc Allowed and rushed for over 400 yards in five of its 12 games this season. It should have a field day against Louisville, which ranks outside the top 100 in Rushing Success Rate and Defensive Line Yards.

The Cardinal defense allowed 4.6 yards per carry against FBS opponents, good for 90th nationally.

In the rare occurrence that Daniels steps back to pass, he’s been extremely efficient, averaging 9.9 yards per pass attempt. Louisville’s defense has been subpar against the pass, allowing over 250 yards per game through the air (97th).

Don’t be surprised to see Daniels take some deep shots to Brandon Lewis, Air Force’s leading receiver who is averaging 28 yards per reception this season.

The Falcons offense thrived down the stretch, putting up over 41 points and 500 yards of total offense over its final three games. They will have every opportunity to continue to roll offensively in this matchup.

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Louisville Cardinals

Louisville’s offense is reliant on Cunningham, who has put up numbers reminiscent of Lamar Jackson. Cunningham passed for over 2,700 yards while averaging 8.7 yards per attempt.

He was even was more efficient as a runner, as he led Louisville with 968 rushing yards on six yards per carry this season. Cunningham accounted for 37 total touchdowns this season — 18 through the air and 19 with his legs.

Louisville averages 5.4 yards per rushing attempt and ranks 22nd in Success Rate. But running the ball against the Air Force defense will be no easy feat, as the Falcons allows just 3.3 yards per rush attempt, which is top-10 in the nation.

The Air Force defense is eighth in the nation in Success Rate and tackling, according to PFF.  That will be critical in containing Cunningham and not letting him run wild as he has all season.

The Air Force defense will own the edge against the pass behind strong cornerbacks in Tre Bugg III and Corvan Taylor. Both have totaled over 50 tackles on the season while combining for five interceptions and 15 pass breakups.

Louisville will also be without wide receivers Jordan Watkins and Justin Marshall, who decided to hit the transfer portal.

Air Force vs. Louisville Matchup Analysis

Toggle the dropdowns below to hide or show how Air Force and Louisville match up statistically:

Air Force Offense vs. Louisville Defense
Rush Success1101
Line Yards16110
Pass Success11842
Pass Blocking**100103
Big Play101116
Finishing Drives26108
** Pass Blocking (Off.) vs. Pass Rush (Def.)

Louisville Offense vs. Air Force Defense
Rush Success228
Line Yards3843
Pass Success4329
Pass Blocking**88
Big Play1946
Finishing Drives2141
** Pass Blocking (Off.) vs. Pass Rush (Def.)

Pace of Play / Other
PFF Tackling868
Middle 85342
SP+ Special Teams8368
Plays per Minute12394
Rush Rate88.3% (1)57.7% (42)

Data via College Football Data, FootballOutsiders, SP+, PFF and SportSource Analytics.

Air Force vs. Louisville Betting Pick

Cunningham will need to channel his inner Thanos and single-handedly carry this Cardinals offense for Louisville to come out victorious.

Louisville QB Malik Cunningham leads the team in passing, rushing and receiving yards…

Probably not how the Cardinals drew it up 😬

— Yahoo Sports (@YahooSports) September 7, 2021

Meanwhile, Air Force will lean on its disciplined triple-option offense with everyone doing its part to find success each play.

The Falcons’ No. 1-ranked rushing attack will prove to be too much for Louisville’s defense to handle. Air Force’s offense has caught fire the last month, scoring 35, 41, and 48 points over the final three weeks of the season. That trend will continue against a Cardinals defense that ranks outside the top 100 in Rushing Success Rate and Defensive Line Yards.

Air Force will dominate the time of possession and keep Cunningham watching from the sideline.

Louisville limped through the second half of the season, winning just three of its final eight games. It will be without some key offensive weapons for Cunningham, and the load will be too much for him to carry by himself.

Pick: Air Force +1.5 (Play to -1.5)

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