The 2019 college football season moves into the bowl games this week. There are two games on Friday, six on Saturday
Bahamas Bowl: Buffalo vs. Charlotte – Nassau, The Bahamas
The two teams in this first bowl game of the season average just over 31 points per game. However, Buffalo allows just over 22 points per game and Charlotte allows nearly 32 points per game. Buffalo has beaten Temple, a team from a better and more powerful conference (the AAC) than Conference USA, the conference Charlotte represents.
Buffalo should be able to score a lot of points in this game. It might limit Charlotte’s point production to an extent, but Buffalo should be able to do most of the point scoring here and carry the game over the number.
Frisco Bowl: Utah State vs. Kent State – Frisco, TX
This game matches two teams which score less than they allow. Utah State averages 28 points per game and gives up an average of 29. Kent State averages just over 27 points per game but allows an average of close to 31 points. The offenses are not spectacular, but the defenses are weak. It creates an interesting question in the battle between these two teams. The cautionary note here is that while the scoring averages are modest for these teams, they have played tough opponents, certainly in Utah State’s case. The Aggies played LSU, BYU, Air Force, and Boise State. Three of those teams won at least 10 games this season. Utah State’s scoring average in those four games was 12 points per game. In Utah State’s other eight games this season, the Aggies averaged over 32 points per game.
One could make the argument that Utah State will be able to unload against Kent State, a generally weaker team from the Mid-American Conference. However, the fact that both teams score less than they allow is still a red flag for anyone wanting to bet the over. The under is still the percentage play.
New Mexico Bowl: Central Michigan vs. San Diego State – Albuquerque, NM
This game is a battle of contrasts. Central Michigan scores 32 points per game and allows 27. San Diego State scores 19 points per game and allows 13. Which side will win the tug of war – the offense-based Chippewas or the defense-based Aztecs? San Diego State games have been very low scoring all season long. The Aztecs won nine games despite averaging under 20 points per game. That should generally indicate that they know how to dictate the tempo and style of a game and that they can impose their will on defense against inferior teams. Central Michigan got involved in some high-scoring shootouts late in the 2019 Mid-American Conference regular season. San Diego State has a very good chance of not allowing Central Michigan to create a shootout here, so one might be tempted to bet the under. The thing to watch out for, though, is that San Diego State might be able to overpower Central Michigan and win a game 31-10 with a good offensive showing against a weak defensive team. That is a possibility here. However, San Diego State’s offense just doesn’t deserve the benefit of the doubt. SDSU might win, but if SDSU wins, it generally wins low-scoring games. Bet the under.
Cure Bowl: Liberty vs. Georgia Southern – Orlando, FL
This game matches two teams which allow roughly 29 points per game. Liberty, though, scores close to 34 points per game while Georgia Southern scores 29. The game should be very close to the actual number, but it can be argued that Georgia Southern – which defeated Sun Belt champion Appalachian State for the second straight year and has responded well in big games – will be able to contain Liberty’s offense. Liberty is coached by Hugh Freeze, who carried Ole Miss to multiple victories over Nick Saban and Alabama a few years ago.
Freeze knows how to coach offense. However, Freeze isn’t coaching Ole Miss here. He is coaching Liberty, and Georgia Southern might be able to keep Liberty in check. This is a close call, but the feeling here is that Georgia Southern can hold Liberty under 30 points, in which case this game is likely to go under the number, not above it.
Boca Raton Bowl: SMU vs. Florida Atlantic – Boca Raton, FL
This game figures to be the big shootout of the bowl season on Saturday. Florida Atlantic scores 35 points per game and allows 22, which offers at least some indication that this game will provide a lot of points from the FAU side. However, the stronger indication that this game will go over the number is SMU. The Mustangs score 43 points per game and allow 32. SMU has been a high-scoring magnet on both sides of the ball. It is true that SMU will not be playing Memphis in this game. The Mustangs and Tigers combined for 102 points in that game. It skewed SMU’s averages to an extent. That having been said, SMU has still scored well against nearly every team it has faced, and Florida Atlantic’s high-powered offense should be able to score a reasonable amount against SMU’s not-that-great defense. The total is low enough that these two offenses should be able to eclipse it in some combination of numbers.
Camellia Bowl: Florida International vs. Arkansas State – Montgomery, AL
The Arkansas State Red Wolves score 34 points per game and allow 35, which offers plenty of reason to think that in a game with a 63-point total, this contest will go over the number. However, Florida International scores 27 points per game and allows 27. Those numbers point to the game going under the number. Which side should you pick? Consider that Florida International limited the Miami Hurricanes of the ACC to just 24 points. A faster, stronger, more talented opponent was nevertheless contained on offense by Florida International’s defense. FIU is coached by former Miami coach Butch Davis, who has consistently been one of the better defensive minds in football. If you are choosing between offense and defense in this game, FIU’s defensive track record suggests that the game will go under the number.
Las Vegas Bowl: Boise State vs. Washington – Las Vegas, NV
This game is the last game Chris Petersen will coach for Washington. Petersen stepped down from the job due to burnout and the need to rest and refresh. He will work behind the scenes with the Washington program but will have no involvement in day-to-day operations of the team. Jimmy Lake, his assistant coach and defensive coordinator, is running the program now and has already performed the duties of head coach. Petersen, though, will be on the sidelines for this game in Las Vegas against the school he once led to the top of college football, Boise State.
This game will be very emotional, since Boise State and its fans love Petersen, the architect of the program’s rise. Expect ferocious defense from a Washington team which did not play up to its potential during the season. Expect Boise State’s defense to bother Washington’s offense, partly because Boise State has a good pass rush, but also because Washington quarterback Jacob Eason struggled a lot in the final month of the regular season. Regardless of whether you think Washington will win, the game is likely to be lower-scoring. Take the under here. This should be a passionate and physical game in which the two defenses on the field make a big stand.
New Orleans Bowl: Appalachian State vs. UAB
The Appalachian State Mountaineers average 39 points per game. They went 12-1 this year with a veteran team which knew how to work together on offense. Coach Eli Drinkwitz inherited a strong roster which, on paper, should be able to score well in this game. Remember that this game will be played in the Superdome, in conditions ideal for lots of offense. This game won’t be affected by weather, which gives Appalachian State a chance to ring up a big number against UAB.
The Blazers are the defense-driven team in this game. Alabama-Birmingham scores 24 points per game and allows 21. If UAB does well in this game, it will probably drag the game under the number. The question is whether Appalachian State is going to be contained by UAB. The intriguing plot point here is that Drinkwitz accepted the open head coaching job at the University of Missouri. Appalachian State had a great season, but we now arrive at a situation in which ASU’s players might grumble through this game, having been abandoned by their head coach and feeling they deserve better. Bowl games are often questions of motivation, and it is reasonable to question App State’s level of interest in this game. Yet, with the number being under 50 points, that still seems a little low. The game is still likely to go over.