BYU-Western Michigan Betting Guide: Should Cougars Be Favored By This Much in Potato Bowl?

Dec 21, 2018 02:50 PM EST
Credit:

Casey Sapio-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Squally Canada

2018 Potato Bowl Betting Odds: BYU-Western Michigan

  • Odds: BYU -12
  • Over/Under: 50.5
  • Date: Friday, Dec. 21
  • Time: 4 p.m. ET
  • TV: ESPN

>> All odds as of Thursday afternoon. Download The Action Network App to get real-time bowl odds and win probabilities on your bets.


Raise your hand if you expected BYU and Western Michigan to play in a bowl game this season. No one?

The Cougars are a 12-point favorite in the Quick Lane Bowl, which is the largest point spread in a non-New Year’s Six game.

Will BYU’s superior strength of schedule help it win out, or can Western Michigan hit enough big plays on offense to keep it close? Let’s dive in.

Market Moves for BYU-Western Michigan

By Danny Donahue

Minus the playoff matchups, this game trails only the Sugar Bowl as the highest spread this bowl season. That’s drawn bettors — at least a slight majority of them — to the underdog. After opening at +11, 55% of bets and 54% of dollars are behind Western Michigan, which has reached as high as +13 and come all the way back to +11 before settling at the current number of +12.

As for the total, both public bettors and a light dose of sharp action have hit this over, which has moved this number from 48 to 50 (see live betting data here).

Trends to Know for Potato Bowl

By John Ewing

BYU is one of four double-digit favorites this bowl season. Teams favored by 10 or more points are 45-17 (73%) straight up in bowl games since 2005. A 73% win rate might sound impressive, but in the regular season, double-digit favorites win outright 88% of the time.

The difference in win rate has created value betting on the moneyline underdog. The underdog is only 17-45 straight up in these games but a $100 bettor would have returned a profit of $2,473 betting on the upset in each game.

By Evan Abrams

Did you know? BYU is 6-6 straight up this season and a double-digit favorite against Western Michigan, which enters the game 7-5. The last team to have a worse win percentage, but be favored by double-digits in bowl season, was the Auburn Tigers against Central Florida in the 2018 Peach Bowl — UCF won outright, 34-27.

The Nation’s Worst Special Teams Unit

By Stuckey

While BYU doesn’t have great special teams, every team in the country has the edge against WMU’s NCAA-worst unit. The Broncos rank 130th out of 130 teams in Special Teams S&P+ and don’t do anything well in the often-slept on third phase of the game.

Freshman kicker Gavin Peddie, who took over after the second game, is only 9 of 12 on field goals and also missed three extra points. The punting has been even worse, as their 33.04 net yards per punt average ranks in the bottom five in the country.

Still not convinced? WMU is one of 19 teams to allow at least four blocked kicks and one of only five teams to allow three punt blocks.

The only thing WMU does well on special teams is return punts (No. 2 in average with two touchdowns), but this is still one of the worst overall special teams units I’ve ever seen and this weakness should get even more exposed outside of a conference filled with horrid special teams units due to lack of depth.

BYU Should Limit Big Plays

By Stuckey

It’s an interesting matchup in explosiveness here. BYU’s defense ranks No. 1 in IsoPPP+ and top 3 against the pass. That’s an important against a WMU offense that finished in the top 25 in passing explosiveness — even though freshman Kaleb Eleby took over at quarterback, it’s still a part of the offense.

And while the BYU offense defends explosiveness as well as any team in the country, its offense has almost zero (114th overall). As a result, the Cougars might not be equipped to take advantage of one of WMU’s biggest areas of weakness of defending explosiveness (121st in IsoPPP+)

Sacks Everywhere

By Stuckey

Two freshman quarterbacks that didn’t start the year as the starter for their respective teams will face each other in this bowl game. And as you might expect from first-year quarterbacks, both have held onto the ball way too long way too often.

Zach Wilson has been sacked on 10.9% of his drop backs, while Eleby has gone down on 10.5%. For context, Tulsa ranks 125th in the country at 10.8%.

With that said, the WMU defensive front is actually more capable of pressuring the quarterback, ranking in the top 25 in Adjusted Sack Rate and DL Havoc Rate.

In comparison, BYU ranks 94th in Adjusted Sack Rate and 124th in Overall Havoc Rate despite having a better defense overall.

Who’s More Motivated?

By Stuckey

Neither team played in a bowl last year, so you’d think both would be excited for this one.

However, considering how each team ended its respective season, I think WMU will be a little more excited for this bowl game. BYU might still be emotionally hungover and come out flat after blowing that huge lead against rival Utah in the Holy War, which extended its losing streak in the series.

Conversely, WMU pulled off an upset win in the final week against NIU to get to seven wins and ensure their bowl eligibility, as they lost their finale last year and didn’t get invited to a bowl with six wins.

Bet to Watch

By Stuckey