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College Football Friday Odds & Pick Ball State vs. San Jose State: Back Explosive Offenses in Arizona Bowl

College Football Friday Odds & Pick Ball State vs. San Jose State: Back Explosive Offenses in Arizona Bowl article feature image

David J. Becker/Getty Images. Pictured: The San Jose State Spartans.

  • It's rare for an Arizona Bowl featuring San Jose State and Ball State to arguably be the best bowl game on New Year's Eve, but that's where we're at in 2020.
  • San Jose State's offense has been prolific all season, which will leave Ball State — fresh off a MAC Championship victory over Buffalo — attempting to keep up.
  • Mike Calabrese has settled on a betting position on the total, and shares why in his analysis below.

Ball State vs. San Jose State Odds

Ball State Odds
+9.5 (-105)
San Jose State Odds
-9.5 (-115)
+285 / -375
63.5 (-108 / -112)
Time | TV
Thursday, 2 p.m. ET
Odds as of Wednesday morning and via FanDuel. Get up to a $1,000 risk-free bet at FanDuel today.

Between Cincinnati’s defensive dominance and Coastal Carolina’s mullets, the unheralded play of San Jose State has gotten lost.

It’s not often that a Group of Five school strings together an undefeated season without as much as an eyebrow raise from the college football world, but that’s exactly what the Spartans have done this year.

The Mountain West’s late start, coupled with a pair of midseason cancellations for the Spartans, really took the steam out of the program’s first 7-0 start in 81 years.

But one group paid attention.

The gambling world certainly took notice as they went 6-0-1 against the spread (ATS), and that explains why San Jose State was bet up from -7 at open to -10 as of writing.

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The Spartans’ opponent, Ball State, is coming off of its first conference championship in 24 years after benefiting from the absence of Buffalo running back Jaret Patterson — who earned MAC Player of the Year honors — in the title game.

When you pair that fact with a defense that has surrendered nearly 450 yards per game and six yards per play, it’s easy to envision a track meet getting away from the Cardinals.

San Jose State Spartans

The Spartans took a big step forward offensively this season, averaging three plays of 30-plus yards from scrimmage each game to go along with 6.8 yards per play. Their bread and butter was the pass, but despite throwing the ball on 55% of their plays from scrimmage (17th), San Jose State had the fifth-lowest Sack Rate in the entire country.

In terms of avoiding negative plays, here’s how the Spartans stacked up nationally per game:

  • Tackles for loss allowed: 4.43 (20th)
  • Sacks allowed: 1 (8th)
  • Turnovers lost: .7 (8th)

When you pair an explosive collection of skill-position talent with a unit that doesn’t get behind the sticks or turn the ball over, you have a relatively safe bet.

The Spartans’ receiving corps, in particular, will be an issue for a suspect Ball State secondary that finished 118th against the pass this season. Tre Walker and Bailey Gaither combine to average 11 receptions, 181 yards and a touchdown per game, and they had little trouble giving Boise State’s secondary fits in the Mountain West Championship.

The Broncos fielded one of the best Group of Five secondaries before running into SJSU, so I have little doubt the Spartans will do the same to the Cardinals.

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Ball State Cardinals

The Cardinals will counter with a dynamic passing attack of their own that is finally living up to head coach Mike Neu’s lofty NFL standards.

Drew Plitt ended his season in style, with a 10:2 touchdown-to-interception ratio in his final three games, all while piloting a Cardinal offense that averaged 38 points per game down the stretch.

But to hear Neu tell it, Ball State is going to be up against a problematic defense in the Arizona Bowl.

“The film shows this is the best defense we’ve played,” Neu said this week of San Jose State. “This is a complete defense.”

The Spartans first shut down the running game (3.3 yards per carry, 13th) and then buckle down in the red zone (17th in score percentage). That recipe should play well against a Ball State offense that is good but not great on the ground and middling (51st) in the red zone.

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Betting Analysis & Pick

While the line movement caught the attention of plenty of bettors, I believe the total is the story in this spot.

The total has held strong in the 63-64 point range, but the handle has tilted in favor of the over by a ratio of 65/35. These offenses can both catch fire and have been cooking down the stretch, each averaging over 33 points per game in their last three.

Mild temperatures and calm wind conditions were the last two boxes I needed to check to side with the over in this one, and a combination of 59 degrees and two mph winds at kickoff will do just fine.

Pick: Over 64 (up to 65.5).

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