This preview integrates a combination of point spreads, advanced statistics, motivational angles and coaching changes. You can follow all of my plays for free on the SportsAction App through the [App Store] or [Google Play].
All lines taken from Pinnacle as of December 18th
Cheribundi Tart Cherry Boca Raton Bowl
Teams: Akron vs. Florida Atlantic
Location: Boca Raton
Date: December 19th, 7:00 PM EST
|FAU -22.5||FAU -20||FAU -22.0||63.5|
Notes: There was a lukewarm reception by Florida Atlantic when they were given a bowl in their home stadium. The Owls just hosted the Conference USA Championship Game in the same location, so it’s only natural the players feel robbed of a bowl travel experience. On the flip side, motivation should be high for Akron quarterback Kato Nelson, as he played in the 2015 Florida Class 5A High School Championship for Flanagan High School. Nelson’s family and friends will only have a short 38-mile trip to FAU Stadium.
Motivation or not, there is not much of a fight on paper in the advanced stats matchup between the Owls and Zips. Akron ranks outside of the top 100 in a number of S&P+ categories, including Offensive S&P+, Defensive Passing Success Rate, Adjusted Sack Rate (on both sides of the ball) and special teams (125th). The Zips are tasked with trying to stop a Florida Atlantic offense that ranks first in finishing drives, 15th in efficiency and 23rd in explosive plays. No matter how much of a motivational edge Akron has, this FAU offense could put up 40 points on its worst day with ease. If you plan to back Akron, consider waiting until kick for any steam or just playing it live.
— Cheribundi Tart Cherry Boca Raton Bowl (@BocaBowl) December 7, 2017
- Florida Atlantic is 7-2 ATS in its last nine games
- Akron is 5-1 ATS in its last six road games
- FAU is 8-2 as a favorite in 2017, covering by a margin of 14.8 points
The Pick: Florida Atlantic -22
DXL Frisco Bowl
Teams: Louisiana Tech vs. SMU
Date: December 20th, 8:00 PM EST
|SMU -5||SMU -4.5||SMU -3.5||70|
Notes: There could be an entire side betting pool on who will be calling plays for SMU, as that has already changed three times since the Ponies were announced as participants in the Frisco Bowl.
Source: New SMU head coach Sonny Dykes will coach the Frisco Bowl as associate head coach Jeff Traylor will be leaving to take a position under Chad Morris at Arkansas
— Adam Grosbard (@AdamGrosbard) December 12, 2017
Head coach Chad Morris accepted the same position at Arkansas, leaving behind offensive coordinator Jeff Traylor. There was plenty of player support for Traylor to get the interim head coaching position for their bowl before Sonny Dykes was named head coach on Dec. 11. This left Traylor in limbo after the bowl, with other programs gauging interest.
Report: SMU interim coach Jeff Traylor ‘has significant traction’ as possible Missouri OC https://t.co/AkEsxQTsb1
— Michael Carvell (@Michael_Carvell) December 11, 2017
Now that the dust has settled, Sonny Dykes will coach a roster of players he has never met with a slightly different scheme. Chad Morris’ SMU offense was based upon a smashmouth wildcat spread, similar to the successful scheme Gus Malzahn has run over the years. Sonny Dykes, a former offensive coordinator for Mike Leach at Texas Tech, will continue an up-tempo pace, but may start to install his personal playbook for this bowl.
Lost in all of this is the fact that Louisiana Tech has made the postseason in the Dallas Metro area for the third time in four years, which is critical to their recruiting. The question is if Louisiana Tech’s defense can contain SMU’s two 1,000-yard receivers, Trey Quinn and Courtland Sutton. I think the Bulldog offense can help with this task by eating clock with a ground attack ranked 13th in rushing success rate. Louisiana Tech should be able to put up points with ease against an SMU defense that allows more yards per play than any other bowl team.
As for the Bulldogs’ defense, they rank 24th in limiting explosiveness and 35th in the nation in limiting explosiveness on passing downs. Sonny Dykes has plenty of Texas ties that should continue growth in the SMU program, but I will side with the better ground team in this spot, especially since they can limit the explosive plays, a major key against SMU.
- SMU is 1-6 ATS in their last seven games
- Louisiana Tech is 4-1 ATS in their past five bowl games
The Pick: Louisiana Tech +5
Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl
Teams: Florida International vs. Temple
Location: St. Petersburg
Date: December 21st, 8:00 PM EST
|Temple -7||Temple -8||FIU +0.5||56|
Notes: Is there motivation on the Temple side after losing their past two bowl games? The Owls’ upperclassmen have expressed plenty of enthusiasm in advance of this trip to St. Pete. Temple head coach Geoff Collins has also made it public that recruiting the state of Florida is a top priority in the offseason. Collins is a former defensive coordinator at FIU who was there in 2010 for the Panthers’ only bowl victory. Florida International has motivation as a program since they have not been to a bowl since 2011. This is also a bit of a homecoming for senior quarterback Alex McGough, a Tampa native.
Temple’s play improved over the second half of the season after the switch at quarterback to Frank Nutile, who threw for over 1,300 yards with an 11-to-7 touchdown-to-interception ratio. Nutile should have no issues moving the football through the air, as FIU ranks 124th in Passing S&P+ Defense and 81st in defense adjusted sack rate.
The significant advantage that FIU possesses in this game is finishing drives and red zone scoring percentage. Temple has been terrible at finishing drives offensively, ranking 123rd. Florida International ranks 36th in the same category, and also second in the nation in red zone scoring points per attempt. Temple’s ranking of 53rd and 54th in defensive rushing and passing success rate should keep FIU in their own territory for the majority of the game.
We will back an Owls team with a more dynamic offense, sufficient motivation and a favorable defensive matchup.
— FIU Football (@FIUFootball) December 7, 2017
- Temple is 4-1 ATS in their last five games
- The over has hit in Temple’s last five games and five of the last six for FIU
The Pick: Temple -7
Looking for more Bowl Mania
Check the Bowl Confidence Pool for comments on all bowls through the New Year’s Six and College Football Playoff.