During bowl season we’ll break down some of the underlying mismatches, hoping to give you an inside edge when handicapping the schedule. Here are five of the biggest NCAAF betting mismatches for the pre-New Year’s Day bowl games:
Poinsettia Bowl: BYU Cougars vs. San Diego State Aztecs (+2.5, 49)
Cougars’ coach Bronco Mendenhall vs. Aztecs’ 3-3-5 blitzing schemes
One of San Diego State’s biggest strengths is its whacky 3-3-5 setup on defense. The alternative package causes chaos and confusion for most opponents, but won’t baffle BYU head coach Bronco Mendenhall, who's familiar with the blitzes and SDSU head coach Rocky Long.
The two worked together at Oregon and New Mexico, where Long taught Mendenhall the defense. Mendenhall brought the 3-3-5 to BYU as the defensive coordinator but later switched to a more standard 3-4 set. There’s no doubt he’s been showing his offense the inner workings of the Aztecs’ schemes in preparation for this teacher-versus-student showdown.
Military Bowl: San Jose State Spartans vs. Bowling Green Falcons (+7, 47)
Spartans’ accurate kicking vs. Falcons’ erratic kicking
Chances are if you’re betting on this bowl game, each team's kicker will have a say in how your wager plays out. San Jose State freshman kicker Austin Lopez had a solid first year, going 15-for-15 on field goal attempts, 51 of 54 on extra points, and earned a FoxSportsNet.com first-team Freshman All-American nod.
Bowling Green doesn’t have that stability in the kicking game. The Falcons have juggled two kickers, Stephen Stein and Tyler Tate, with the pair combining to go 7-for-15 on FG attempts - 46.67 percent – and ranks fifth worst in the nation. In fact, Bowling Green is just 3-for-6 on FG attempts in its last four games.
Belk Bowl: Cincinnati Bearcats vs. Duke Blue Devils (+7, 58.5)
Bearcats’ coaching change vs. Blue Devils’ position shuffle
The Bearcats bid farewell to head coach Butch Jones this month, watching him leave the program for Tennessee before the Dec. 27 Belk Bowl. Cincinnati will lean on its remaining coaching staff to make the calls versus Duke instead of allowing new head coach Tommy Tubberville to kick the tires. Most of those assistants will be more worried about their job security than the Blue Devils.
Duke head coach David Cutcliffe won’t make it easy on them. He’s planning to shuffle his roster and make major position changes before the Belk Bowl in order to evaluate for next year. The Blue Devils have been known to move guys around, and those matchups could slip through the cracks when it comes to Cincinnati’s preparation.
Armed Forces Bowl: Rice Owls vs. Air Force Falcons (-1, 61)
Owls’ run defense vs. Falcons’ triple-option
No matter how good your defense is, Air Force’s triple option will test you. The Falcons’ relentless ground-and-pound style carried the ball for more than 329 yards per game – second in the land behind Army’s triple-option – and throws a wrench in opponents’ defensive schemes. Not only that, but the constant rush can wear down defenses without the depth up front.
Rice trots out an undersized defense that has been bullied on the ground this season. The Owls, who allowed 192.8 rushing yards per game (92nd overall), watched pass-heavy offenses flip their game plans and exploit them with the run. Marshall, Houston, UCLA and Louisiana Tech all top their season averages on the ground versus Rice – all of which were losses on the Owls’ resume.
Sun Bowl: USC Trojans vs. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (+10, 64)
Trojans’ lack of motivation vs. Yellow Jackets’ bowl begging
You’d think after two years of banishment that Southern Cal would be jacked up for a bowl game. However, the Trojans failed to live up to their national title expectations and were relegated to a New Year’s Eve bowl. Since being penciled in to the Sun Bowl, USC head coach Lane Kiffin has been on damage control – a rare role for him – with coaches voicing their disappointment with the game, stars ripping on one and other, and his stud QB thinking about his NFL stock instead of Georgia Tech.
The Ramblin’ Wreck, on the other hand, are more than happy to be playing this postseason. After finishing at 6-7, Georgia Tech got down on its hands and knees and begged to be part of bowl season, filing a waiver to the NCAA in order to become eligible. The Yellow Jackets got in and now unleash their tricky spread offense, which ranked fourth in rushing, on a disinterested USC program.