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Utah State vs Memphis Odds, Picks | First Responder Bowl Betting Guide

Utah State vs Memphis Odds, Picks | First Responder Bowl Betting Guide article feature image
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Mark Goldman and Brandon Sloter/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images and. Pictured from left: Seth Henigan (5) of Memphis and Michael Anyanwu (22) of Utah State.

Utah State vs Memphis Odds

Tuesday, Dec. 27
3:15 p.m. ET
ESPN
Utah State Odds
Spread Over/Under Moneyline
+8.5
-110
57.5
-108o / -112u
+265
Memphis Odds
Spread Over/Under Moneyline
-8.5
-110
57.5
-108o / -112u
-335
Odds via FanDuel. Get up-to-the-minute college football odds here.

There may be a track meet in Dallas on Tuesday when Memphis and Utah State play in the First Responders Bowl.

Both of these teams will be extremely motivated to win this game, as the winner will be above .500 while the losers will finish below .500. This won’t be a bowl game in which one team doesn’t come to play.

For the Tigers, a loss would mean ending their season with a losing record for the first time since 2013. Memphis has been a power in the highly entertaining American Athletic Conference in recent years and surely does not want to relinquish that status this offseason.

Yes, it has six losses, but four of those came by one score or less. It’ll be looking to cap off a frustrating season in style in Dallas with a convincing win over a gritty Aggies team.

Meanwhile, Utah State is looking to continue its streak of winning records as well, as it has finished above .500 every season since 2018 (not counting the 2020 COVID-19 season).

This season has been particularly impressive, as it lost starting quarterback Logan Bonner early on and has been rolling with Cooper Legas for the back half of the year.

Despite this setback, Utah State managed to reach bowl eligibility with 35- and 41-point performances against San Jose State and Hawaii.

Give a ton of credit to Blake Anderson and his staff for continuing to put this squad in positions to win.


Utah State Aggies

The Aggies will be without star running back Calvin Tyler Jr. (draft opt out) as well as backup Robert Briggs (injury). This will only hinder an offense that struggles on the ground, ranking 114th in Rushing Success Rate.

The Memphis defense is stout against the run and should have no problem shutting down this anemic rushing attack without its best player. The Tigers rank 50th in Rushing Success Rate Allowed and 29th in Rush EPA/Play.

The bad news for Aggies fans is that this passing attack led by Bonner is not much better, ranking 104th in Passing Success Rate and 130th in EPA/Play.

The bright side? This Tigers defense is just as bad, ranking 95th in Passing EPA/Play Allowed and 104th in Passing Success Rate Allowed. In addition, Bonner should have plenty of time to throw, as the Tigers rank 117th in Havoc.

Despite all of this, I don’t see this Aggies offense finding much success without Tyler, particularly as they struggle to score touchdowns inside the 40.

They rank 110th in points per opportunity, and while the Tigers own an awful 126th ranking in points per opportunity allowed, they were facing much better offenses in the American all year.

They shouldn’t have a problem holding the Aggies to field goals.


Memphis Tigers

The Tigers come into this game ranked 50th in our betting power ratings, a respectable number that coincides with their .500 record. Their against-the-spread record? Also .500.

However, they are unsurprisingly hitting the over in two-thirds of their games this season. Why is this unsurprising? Since the program’s return to relevance, the offense has been the hallmark of the Tigers with quarterbacks such as Paxton Lynch and Brady White lighting up American defenses.

This year has been no different, as Seth Henigan has been putting up good numbers culminating in a 78 PFF passing grade.

This is reflected in their slightly above-average advanced metrics in Passing Success Rate (42nd) and EPA/Play (59). However, Utah State’s defense ranks extremely similarly on that side of the ball, ranking 35th in Passing Success Rate Allowed and 62nd in Passing EPA/Play Allowed.

As my colleague, BJ Cunningham noted in his early bowl game bets article, Henigan excels at throwing the deep ball (85 PFF grade on passes 20+ yards in the air), which could be an area the Tigers can exploit. The Aggies rank 123rd in explosive passing allowed.

Meanwhile, on the ground, the Tigers tend to grind it out more than in recent years, ranking 38th in Success Rate but 70th in EPA/Play.

This Aggies defense is slightly below average at 75th in Rushing Success Rate Allowed, and yet, they are 90th in Rushing EPA/Play Allowed.

I think the Tigers will stick to passing the ball and try to exploit a leaky Aggies secondary.

They will also be able to score touchdowns — not field goals — as they have an extremely favorable matchup inside their opponents’ 40-yard line when on offense. They rank 44th in points per opportunity, while Utah State ranks 94th in points per opportunity allowed.

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Utah State vs Memphis Matchup Analysis

Toggle the dropdowns below to hide or show how Utah State and Memphis match up statistically:

Memphis Offense vs Utah State Defense
Offense
Defense
Edge
Rush Success 38 75
Line Yards 84 59
Pass Success 42 35
Pass Blocking** 48 50
Havoc 57 44
Finishing Drives 43 94
** Pass Blocking (Off) vs. Pass Rush (Def)

Utah State Offense vs Memphis Defense
Offense
Defense
Edge
Rush Success 114 50
Line Yards 51 39
Pass Success 104 103
Pass Blocking** 33 106
Havoc 55 117
Finishing Drives 110 126
** Pass Blocking (Off) vs Pass Rush (Def)

Pace of Play / Other
PFF Tackling 44 83
PFF Coverage 22 86
SP+ Special Teams 9 70
Seconds per Play 24.9 (35) 23.6 (16)
Rush Rate 51.1% (86) 57.9% (34)
Data via CollegeFootballData.com (CFBD), FootballOutsiders, SP+, Pro Football Focus and SportSource Analytics

Utah State vs Memphis Betting Pick

So, while it may seem like I set up this to be an easy Memphis pick, I think we have to take the market into account. Despite the majority of bets coming in on the Tigers, this number has moved from Memphis -10.5 to Memphis -7.5 since opening.

Because of this, I am admittedly hesitant to take the Tigers against the spread. Let’s attack this a different way and back the Aggies to struggle offensively.

Pick: Utah State Team Total Under 26.5 (-115)

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