Air Force vs Baylor Odds & Prediction | How to Bet Armed Forces Bowl
Ron Jenkins & Ethan Miller/Getty Images. Pictured (Left to right): Baylor’s Richard Reese and Air Force’s Aiden Calvert.
Air Force vs Baylor Odds
|Air Force Odds|
-115o / -105u
-115o / -105u
Air Force and Baylor will meet for the first time since 1977 in the Armed Forces Bowl on Thursday.
In a matchup between two teams that love to run the ball and control time of possession, which will have more success? Let's take a closer look at each squad and then determine where the betting value may lie.
As you likely already know, Air Force runs a triple-option offense.
Consequently, the Falcons have one of the highest rush rates in the country and obviously play on the slower side. It's a very experienced bunch, led by quarterback Haaziq Daniels and running back Brad Roberts, who won Mountain West Offensive Player of the Year.
That duo also benefits from playing behind an outstanding offensive line that serves as the engine that makes the car go.
On the other side of the ball, the Air Force defense is extremely underrated and comes in with plenty of momentum. After dealing with some key injuries early in the season, the unit really came together over the second half of the season, holding the final six opponents to an average of 8.5 points per game.
The Falcons excel against the run and can really get after opposing quarterbacks. On the season, they rank in the top 25 in both Line Yards and Sack Rate.
The one vulnerable area of the defense lies in the secondary, where they can be exploited by potent passing attacks. The numbers don't look egregious, but Air Force played one of the softest schedules of opposing pass offenses in the nation.
Heading into the final three weeks of the season, Baylor still had a path of getting back to the Big 12 Championship with a chance of defending its title. However, the Bears instead closed the season on a three-game losing streak to finish with a disappointing 6-6 record.
Baylor has a rush-first offense that leans on a three-headed monster of Richard Reese, Craig “Sqwirl” Williams and Qualan Jones in the backfield. All three averaged over 5.0 yards per carry for a unit that ranked 20th in Rush Success Rate.
Quarterback Blake Shapen had an up-and-down year after Baylor had to replace a plethora of skill position talent from last year's roster. He spread the ball around effectively but really missed someone stepping up as the go-to man on the outside.
Baylor's defense also lost a lot of talent from 2021, and it never quite figured out a way to replace those losses, allowing over a touchdown more than it did last year. Adjusting for opponent, I actually had Baylor's defense finish the regular season as a slightly below-average defense nationally.
As a result, it didn't shock me to see the Bears fire defensive coordinator Ron Roberts and safeties coach/special teams coordinator Ronnie Wheat after the season.
It's also worth noting Baylor won't have the services of at least a pair of key contributors.
Starting left guard Micah Mazzccua and safety Devin Neal both entered the transfer portal. Neal started two games and played in 11, while the 330-pound Mazzccua started 11 and will be sorely missed in the run game.
Air Force vs Baylor Matchup Analysis
Toggle the dropdowns below to hide or show how Air Force and Baylor match up statistically:
Baylor Offense vs Air Force Defense
|** Pass Blocking (Off) vs. Pass Rush (Def)|
Air Force Offense vs Baylor Defense
|** Pass Blocking (Off) vs. Pass Rush (Def)|
Pace of Play / Other
|SP+ Special Teams||59||69|
|Seconds per Play||26.6 (70)||32.0 (131)|
|Rush Rate||58.0% (33)||90.2% (1)|
Data via CollegeFootballData.com (CFBD), FootballOutsiders, SP+, Pro Football Focus and SportSource Analytics.
Air Force vs Baylor Picks & Prediction
I love Air Force at anything over a field goal.
Motivation is obviously always a key in bowl games. From that standpoint, Air Force has the edge, as you can always count on a service academy showing up in a bowl game.
Per Action Labs, the three service academies — Army, Navy and Air Force — have a combined 21-9 ATS record (70%) in bowls since 2005, covering by an average margin of just under a touchdown per game. That same cover percentage holds up if you even go back further to look at a sample size that spans over 30 years.
While Baylor has the luxury of playing close to its campus, I'm not sure how excited it will be to play a Group of Five team in TCU's stadium — especially just one season removed from playing an SEC team in the Sugar Bowl.
Plus, this will mark the fourth time Air Force will play in the Dallas-Fort Worth area over the past 14 months. That includes last year's First responder Bowl victory over Louisville.
Most importantly, I really like the matchup for Air Force's triple-option rushing attack.
Its elite offensive line ranks in the top 10 nationally in Line Yards, Power Success Rate and Opportunity Rate. That spells trouble for a Baylor defense that has struggled to stop the run in the trenches, ranking outside the top 100 in Rush Success Rate, Line Yards and Power Success Rate.
I did originally have some major concerns about Baylor's passing attack finding success due to the talent advantage on the outside. However, I'm not as worried seeing a weather forecast that includes temperatures in the teens with consistent winds around 20 MPH and gusts over 40.
That obviously negatively impacts Baylor much more in this particular matchup.
From a total perspective, I don't see enough value to get involved at the current over/under. However, I could only look at the under in a game where the clock should speed throughout with heavy rush volumes, especially with the current weather forecast.
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