Best bowl bets: Take Liberty to cover against Coastal

If you’re a true college football fan, you have to be thrilled to watch Liberty (9-1) and Coastal Carolina (11-0) in Saturday’s Cure Bowl.

If there was a Group of 5 Heisman Trophy, Chanticleers quarterback Grayson McCall (69.3 completion percentage, 23 touchdowns, 2 interceptions, 473 rushing yards, 6 rushing TDs) and Flames quarterback Malik Willis (64.0 percent, 20 TDs, 4 interceptions, 807 rushing yards, 10 rushing TDs) would merit serious consideration.

Liberty came within a blocked field goal of going 3-0 against the Atlantic Coast Conference. Coastal Carolina beat Brigham Young, Louisiana-Lafayette and Appalachian State and embarrassed Kansas.

Coastal Carolina snaps the ball every 30.5 seconds, which ranks 120th out of 127 teams. Liberty is 96th in that same stat.

Both teams should be able to run the ball. Coastal Carolina’s defense is 74th in defensive rushing success rate. Liberty’s defense is 73rd.

A healthy Willis is too talented a runner to be a one-touchdown underdog in a game featuring teams not separated by all that much.

In a game with limited possessions, take Liberty +7½.

Four more plays (home team in CAPS):

Texas-San Antonio (+14) over UL Lafayette: UTSA is 4-2 ATS as an underdog, including 2-0 plus double digits. It covered in a 21-13 loss at Alabama-Birmingham as a 21-point underdog and in a 27-20 loss at Brigham Young as a 34-point underdog.

It’s UTSA’s second-ever bowl appearance. UTSA running back Sincere McCormick is one of the most underrated talents in the country. He’s compiled 2,644 yards of total offense on 5.9 yards per touch the last two seasons.

The Ragin’ Cajuns are the better team, but may not be excited about this game.

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Texas (-9½) over Colorado: Handicapping bowl games often is more involved than a typical matchup breakdown. Texas coach Tom Herman will enter next season on one of the hottest coaching seats in college football.

I expect him to take the bowl practices seriously and to try to generate some positive headlines.This is probably senior quarterback Sam Ehlinger’s final game in a Texas uniform.

Meanwhile, Colorado’s 4-1 record is false advertising. The Buffaloes beat UCLA, Stanford, San Diego State and Arizona. Texas should beat this team by at least two touchdowns.

Oklahoma (+3) over Florida: A motivated Florida team put together a supreme offensive performance in the Southeastern Conference championship. But the Gators still gave up 52 points in a 52-46 loss to Alabama.

Texas A&M, the second-best team Florida has played, scored 41 against the Gators. Tight end Kyle Pitts, perhaps the toughest matchup in college football, is skipping the bowl game.

We’ve seen an SEC team disappointed with the way the season finished lose to Oklahoma in a bowl game before. The Sooners, on a 5-1 ATS run, won’t have a problem scoring on Florida’s defense.

Oklahoma State (-2) over Miami: I’m not a big trends guy, but I can’t help but note that the Hurricanes are 1-8 straight up and ATS in their last nine bowl games. Miami had a nice season at 8-2, but the team’s best win may have come against Conference USA’s UAB.

Oklahoma State features a defense ranked 13th in SP+ and, strangely, should have an easier time moving the ball against Miami than it did against the likes of Iowa State (a win), Oklahoma and West Virginia.

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Last week: 5-0

Season: 36-36

Christopher Smith of and BetOnline is providing college football analysis for the Las Vegas Review-Journal. Follow @cfblocksmith on Twitter.

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