Washington State vs. Central Michigan Odds and Picks for Sun Bowl: Bet Friday’s Underdog

Washington State vs. Central Michigan Odds and Picks for Sun Bowl: Bet Friday’s Underdog article feature image

Steph Chambers/Getty Images. Pictured: Justus Rogers (37).

  • The Washington State Cougars and Central Michigan Chippewas meet in the Tony the Tiger Sun Bowl on Friday.
  • Odds have been moving toward the Chippeawas, as updated odds make CMU +6.5 underdogs.
  • Kody Malstrom thinks that's the right side and explains why below.

Washington State vs. Central Michigan Odds

Friday, Dec. 31
12 p.m. ET
Washington State Odds
-105o / -115u
Central Michigan Odds
-105o / -115u
Odds via DraftKings. Get up-to-the-minute college football odds here.

Give Central Michigan the National Championship for its heroic efforts in keeping bowl season alive.

Originally slated to play in the Barstool Sports Arizona Bowl against Boise State, the Broncos ended up having to withdraw due to COVID-19. At the same time, Miami had to pull out from the Sun Bowl, leaving an opening for CMU to claim.

Agreeing to drive 400 miles east to go against Washington State, we lost a bowl to keep a bowl instead of losing both of them. Thank you, Central Michigan.

With such short notice and opt-outs to maneuver, this makes for quite an interesting matchup to handicap. Let's dive in.

Washington State Cougars

Washington State Offense

Washington State was one win over Oregon away from being in the Pac-12 Championship. Its success was put on the shoulders of the offense, which come in with a balanced attack.

The offense will look a little different this time around, as starting running back Max Borghi was decided to opt out. Borghi led the Cougars to modest rushing ranks of 66th in Rush Success, while the O-line racked up a ranking of 60th in Line Yards.

With a big loss at running back, the Cougars will look to go heavier toward the pass. While Washington State is average in the pass attack, this plays to its advantage, as Central has a weak secondary that has been getting torched all season.

The key metric battle to watch will be in the trenches, as WSU has a top-10 offensive line and is going against a Havoc-minded CMU D-line. If WSU can hold off the rush, it should have no trouble moving the ball through the air on the Chippewas.

Washington State Defense

While the offense nearly led Washington State to a Pac-12 Championship berth, the defense has been holding it back from a potential next step up in success.

The glaring weakness starts in the run game, as Washington State ranks 121st in Def. Rush Success and 112th in Def. Line Yards. It will need to find answers to stop the run, and fast, as CMU has one of the most electric running backs in college football in Lew Nichols III.

While the defensive run game is the glaring weakness, the pass defense hasn't been ideal either. With a rank of 77th in Def. Pass Success, the secondary has been torched all season. Worse yet, multiple players in the back end are opting out as well with potentially more following suit.

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Central Michigan Chippewas

Central Michigan Offense

Over the past few years, Central built its offensive identity around the run game. While the run game is once again above average, the passing game took a drastic leap forward in success.

Behind the arm of quarterback Daniel Richardson, CMU finished the season with pass metrics of 29th in Pass Success. Richardson threw for 2,424 passing yards, 23 touchdowns, and five interceptions.

The success of the passing game could be correlated to the defense having to focus on Nichols in the backfield. Posting one of the best stat lines this season, Nichols ran for 1,710 yards and 15 touchdowns. He will once again be the main focus as WSU has one of the worst rush defenses in football.

With CMU being able to attack the WSU defense in both ways, the focus will come down to what happens past the 40-yard line. Ranked near even with WSU in Finishing Drives, the Chips will have to capitalize on their scoring chances in order to pull off the upset.

Central Michigan Defense

The defense can take a breath of relief as it knows the WSU running game will take a hit with Borghi opting out. While CMU could certainly hold its own on the ground in comparison to WSU, it can now turn its focus a little more toward the pass.

This benefits the Chip,s as their pass defense is below-average nationally, ranking 76th in Def. Pass Success. The secondary will need the defensive line to help it out by generating pressure in the backfield, a tall task as WSU has a top-10 offensive line.

The difference-maker in the outcome of this game could very well be Central Michigan's Havoc. While its defense is slightly mismatched against the Washington State offense, it can neutralize the Cougars by generating Havoc.

Forced fumbles, pass breakups, and tackles for loss will more than slow down the WSU offense to keep Central in this game.

Washington State vs. Central Michigan Matchup Analysis

Toggle the dropdowns below to hide or show how Washington State and Central Michigan match up statistically:

Washington State Offense vs. Central Michigan Defense
Rush Success6667
Line Yards6054
Pass Success5776
Pass Blocking**927
Big Play4484
Finishing Drives4075
** Pass Blocking (Off.) vs. Pass Rush (Def.)

Central Michigan Offense vs. Washington State Defense
Rush Success52121
Line Yards32112
Pass Success2977
Pass Blocking**5788
Big Play3156
Finishing Drives8078
** Pass Blocking (Off.) vs. Pass Rush (Def.)

Pace of Play / Other
PFF Tackling8938
Middle 87558
SP+ Special Teams4971
Plays per Minute10627
Rush Rate47.8% (109)53.7% (75)

Data via College Football Data, FootballOutsiders, SP+, PFF and SportSource Analytics.

Washington State vs. Central Michigan Betting Pick

It's never easy to play someone on short notice — especially when it's bowl season and you have been prepping for a different opponent for weeks. Well, that's the world we live in today.

While both teams come in underprepared in scheming for each other, I tip my cap toward Central Michigan to cover the spread.

It boasts a well-balanced, electric offense behind the arm of Richardson and the legs of Nichols. Washington State has one of the worst rush defenses in football, one that will get run right over by the Chippewas.

On the other end, CMU can shift its focus on the pass defense, as WSU will be missing its stud back. While slightly mismatched in defending the pass, the Chips can neutralize that with Havoc.

I'm expecting Nichols to once again have a big game and lead the Chippewas to an upset in the Sun Bowl. Grab them at +7 or better. I will also be looking to take the under at anything better than 56.

Pick: Central Michigan +7

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