Washington State vs. Air Force Odds, Betting Picks, Predictions: Cheez-It Bowl Over/Under a Popular Bet
Nick Oza, USA Today Sports. Pictured: Mike Leach
- The updated betting odds for the 2019 Cheez-It Bowl between Air Force and Washington State make the Falcons a slight favorite (spread: Air Force -2.5). The over/under is at 72.5 after opening much lower.
- Unsurprisingly, bettors are flocking to bet on the total with these two offenses having decided advantages against their opposing defenses.
- How should you be betting this line and total? Our college football betting experts make their picks for Air Force vs. Washington State.
Washington State vs. Air Force Odds & Betting Picks: 2019 Cheez-It Bowl
- Odds: Air Force -2.5
- Over/Under: 72.5
- Time: 10:15 p.m. ET
- TV: ESPN
- Location: Phoenix, Ariz.
Games like Air Force vs. Washington State are what bowl season is all about. And it should be much, much better than the debacle that was the 2018 Cheez-It Bowl.
Friday night’s game pits an efficient triple-option offense against a dynamic Air Raid attack. The Cougars fell off a bit from last year’s stellar season, but still posted huge offensive numbers.
Who has the edge in the Cheez-It Bowl? Let’s break it down.
Odds as of Thursday night and via FanDuel, where Action Network users get a risk-free bet up to $500.
Cheez-It Bowl Line Movement
This line is back to where it started, but did touch Air Force -3 at one point before bettors knocked it back down to -2.5. A slight majority of bets are on the Falcons.
The total has risen 1.5 points to 68.5 with 88% of bets and 97% of money on the over. — Steve Petrella
Collin Wilson: Will Rust Play a Factor?
My first play on this game was Washington State +2.5 for a couple of reasons. First of all, Air Force struggles against the pass. The Falcons rank 83rd in passing success rate and 90th in passes defensed, so the Cougars should be able to have their way in the air.
Secondly, our projected line for this game is Washington State -4.5, so the numbers indicate some value on the Cougars.
After digging into the matchup further, it’s also hard to envision the Cheez-It Bowl going south of the total.
As mentioned, Air Force has been a pushover against pass-first offenses. Colorado State, Hawaii and San Jose State combined for over 1,000 passing yards against the Falcons. Air Force will have its hands full with a Washington State offense that ranks sixth in finishing drives.
The same thing can be said of the Washington State defense against Air Force’s triple-option offense. The Falcons rank first in power success rate, third in stuff rate and ninth in line yards.
The Cougars struggle to stop the run and Air Force ranks 18th in finishing drives, so it’s possible that the Falcons to match Washington State score for score.
There are factors that are keeping me off the over, however.
First is Air Force’s pace of play. The Falcons are 126th in seconds per play, which means they should be able to dictate the clock. If Air Force falls behind early, however, we can expect plenty of passing plays from both teams.
Additionally, you must be concerned about Washington State’s air raid being in sync after a few weeks off — Mike Leach is 1-4 against the spread in bowl games with the Cougars and 5-10 ATS in bowls overall.
The number is well over our projected total of 61, but there’s too much volatility in this matchup to back the full-game under. Instead, I’m banking on Washington State being out of rhythm and Air Force playing slow while the game is still tight.
Pick: First-half under 34.5
Stuckey: Polar Opposites Collide
These two teams couldn’t be more different.
Air Force runs the ball on 85.25% of its plays. That’s the second-highest rate in college football. Meanwhile, no team runs the ball less than the Cougars, who pass on 78.85% of their plays. What makes this matchup even more intriguing is that both of these offenses match up very well with the opposing defense.
Air Force’s defense creates very little havoc and takes on an offense that doesn’t make many mistakes. The Cougars’ air raid is characterized by quick, low-risk passes so it’s no wonder they rank second in sack rate and third in havoc allowed. Mike Leach’s bunch should methodically move the ball through the air against Air Force throughout the game.
As Collin noted, there is reason to be a little concerned about how long it will take the Cougars to get going. This type of offense is all about being on the same page, which contributes to Leach’s poor bowl record.
That’s not the greatest sample size, but if you dig a little deeper you can see further evidence of Leach’s struggles after a long layoff. Leach is 82-73-2 (52.9%) ATS since 2005.
When he has more than eight days in between games he is 8-16 ATS and failing to cover by almost five points per game. When Leach has under eight days in between games, he is 68-52-2 (56.7%) against the number.
Air Force’s triple-option attack should also feast against a Washington State defense that is allowing 4.9 yards per carry (104th) this season. Almost identical to the mismatch of the Washington State passing attack against the Air Force secondary, Air Force ranks seventh in rushing success rate and will benefit from going up against a Wazzu defense that ranks 93rd in that same category.
This matchup will feature an enormous mismatch in the trenches where Air Force should get a huge push on almost every play and rarely end up behind the chains. Expect its offense to march up and down the field on the ground while mixing in a few surprise deep shots (Air Force ranks No. 1 in pass explosiveness) against a Washington State defense that ranks outside the top 100 in explosive passing.
One other reason I will back the over is that both of these teams will be aggressive on fourth down, so don’t expect many punts near midfield — an under bettor’s worst nightmare.
As for the side, I love betting service academies in bowl games, which often come down to motivation. You can almost always count on the service academies to show up. It’s part of the reason that Army, Navy and Air Force are a combined 36-14 (74%) against the spread in bowl games since 1980.
Instead of playing the spread, take a look at the moneyline (or parlay it with another team to win, I am looking at Louisiana-Lafayette or Florida) instead of laying -2.5. The reason to avoid giving 2.5 points is that teams are more likely to go for two at the end of games instead of forcing overtime. And these two teams in particular would each be prime candidates to do just that.
The Pick: Over 68.5, Air Force Moneyline
Kyle Miller: The Most Interesting Matchup of Bowl Season?
The 2019 Cheez-It Bowl is easily the game I’m looking forward to the most this bowl season. Any time you get a service academy team facing off against the air raid, there’s sure to be plenty of intrigue. Add in the quirky Mike Leach and his poor bowl record and the storylines are plentiful.
As far as the football goes, I expect a ton of points in this matchup. Overall, Air Force has a good defense, but its glaring weakness comes when defending the pass, which isn’t a good thing against the team that throws the most passes in the country. Wazzu does a great job of limiting havoc and protecting the quarterback, two ways an air-raid team could possibly trip up.
Air Force and its triple-option attack is going to be a huge challenge for Washington State. The Cougars have one of the worst defenses in the entire nation and it’ll be tasked with stopping one of the most efficient offenses out there.
While Air Force hasn’t hit many long running plays this season, Washington State will be the team to allow them to finally get loose. The main barrier for points in this game will be the tempo of Air Force. The Falcons know that they have an athlete disadvantage on defense, so they’ll look to play ball control. I just don’t think the Cougars will do enough tackling to keep their offense off the field.
This is going to be a weird football game, but I expect both offenses to put on a clinic. In addition, these teams feature some of the best kickers in the nation so even if drives stall out, we should still get some points. I can’t wait to watch these two teams light up the scoreboard on Friday night.
Pick: Over 68.5