Merry Christmas, everyone! I’m going through the brutal process of cranking the numbers for all 43 bowl games of the postseason over here. And, you’re in luck, those games begin tomorrow!
There are actually about 6-7 contests scheduled between Friday and Saturday, as the season and post-season increasingly meld into one big amorphous Winter Football Blob.
Please enjoy these three for the weekend. And, I’ll either see you over there, or see you next week on these pages, when I come back with some games for the Christmas week:
TOXIC SPREAD OF THE WEEKEND:
Liberty -8.5 vs. EMU, 12/18, Lending Tree, Mobile
Liberty has regressed this year, and has particularly been poor on the road — blame Malik Willis, as well as a defense that has been unable to stop mobile quarterbacks (turnabout is fair play, eh, Hugh?!)
EMU is better than you would expect for 7-5 MAC team. The Eagles play hard, and have a fairly chippy defense and an offense that can exploit mistakes. If you let EMU score, they will.
As a result, EMU games against quality foes have been played very close to the vest, and all-but-one contest vs. teams .500 or greater were within a touchdown either way. EMU also comes into this game on a nice streak, covering 4 of their last 6, including outright Ws vs. Toledo and Western.
Expect a TD game, more or less, either side. Your reticence is understandable though: Both are hovering right at .500 ATS this season, and there’s just not much to like about the Flames road play or the Eagles talent level.
Liberty -7.91, 48.2% CI to cover.
PRETTY DECENT GAME
Toledo -10 vs. MTSU, Bahamas Bowl, 12/17
Congratulations for sucking. Your reward is a nice Christmas vacation in Nassau. What a great landing for mediocre teams.
Despite the spread, these two are actually pretty evenly matched. They both suck on 3rd down, are decent at stopping 3rd downs, neither are particularly explosive, they both do a good-to-decent job stopping long gainers, they’re both outstanding at forcing turnovers (7th and 10th in the country), MTSU is bad at taking penalties, the Rockets are worse (dead last in America in YPG).
The Rockets slightly better offense vs. the MTSU slightly-worse defense is an advantage in favor of Toledo. But, the real difference here is when the Blue Raiders have the ball. Toledo’s defense is just flat-out better than MTSU’s offense. That’s about the sum of it.
So, nothing in the cards (or spreadsheet) suggests that these two teams, who have played erratic and close games all season, who suffered inexplicable wins and losses, and who are pretty evenly matched, should be a 10+ point affair.
Another data point I like is that Toledo is just 1-3 ATS in games where they have been favored by 7-14 points, and went 1-3 straight up in those contests. MTSU was the exact opposite: They went 4-1 ATS in games with a 7-14 point spread, and posted a 4-1 straight up record to boot.
Weird, huh? But, kids, we call that a bidirectional trend, and it’s hard to ignore.Rockets by a touchdown; but take the Raiders +10.
MTSU +7.24, 84% CI to cover
CAN YOU EVEN HAVE A MORTAL LOCK IN THE PLAYOFFS?
Jackson State -11.5 vs. SC State
Jackson State is going to win this game with their ball-control passing offense; it’s one that uses short passes as running game stand-ins. But they’ll cover the spread with their defense, specifically on 3rd down, as a very pedestrian SCSU offense faces ones of the nation’s best at stopping conversions, and on the road no less.
It will not surprise you to know that, for a team coached by Prime Time, on 3rd down, Jackson State allows an unreal 38% pass completion rate and has picked off 7 third down attempts to lead the SWAC in INTs forced and 3rd down INTs forced.
To beat JSU, you have to get ahead of the chains, because it becomes a no-fly zone on 3rd and long. And SCSU doesn’t appear capable of being able to do so — not when they face a SWAC team that allows just 1 out of 4 conversions on third down. Oh, and just for funsies, JSU also leads the SWAC in NOTs, and are 5th in FCS in that stat — they score from all over the field.
JSU -16.7, 90.6%
We’ll see you next week, bone apple teeth!