This Week’s NCAAF Bowls Best Bets: It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Offense

This week on the college football odds board, we get bowl games to help lead us into the holiday weekend, with some intriguing offensive matchups and some games that were not too badly impacted by the large number of transfers and opt-outs following football’s regular season.

Baylor travels across Texas to Fort Worth to face Air Force in the Armed Forces Bowl, which will match a pair of powerful run-based ball-control offenses.

Meanwhile, in Shreveport, the Independence Bowl should see plenty of air miles as Houston’s passing attack faces home-state representative, the Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin’ Cajuns. And Wake Forest will try to get its explosive offense back on track in a showdown of Power Five teams as the Demon Deacons face Missouri in Tampa’s Gasparilla Bowl.

Armed Forces Bowl

Baylor Bears vs. Air Force Falcons

Thursday, December 22, 2022 – 07:30 PM EST at Amon G. Carter Stadium

The Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl is a classic bowl matchup between a power conference team coming off a disappointing season and a mid-level team capping a successful one.

The key questions in matchups like this center around the motivation level of the Power Five team—are they looking to salvage something from the year or just get things over with?

Baylor finished 6-6 in the regular season after losing its last three games. The Bears were 4-5, tied for fifth in the Big 12. Air Force had a 9-3 season, finishing 5-3 and tied for second in the Mountain West Mountain Division. The Falcons have won four in a row heading into their postseason game.

At least on the surface, Baylor seems dialed in for the game. The Bears have suffered relatively few defections from the transfer portal or players opting out to preserve themselves for the NFL draft. Baylor will be without safety Devin Neal. A backup quarterback and reserve running back joined Neal in the portal, but otherwise, Baylor remains intact.

The Pick

The game will be an old-school affair, with Air Force leading the country in rushing at 330.9 yards per game, and Baylor coming in at 34th at 194.1.

Both teams also are among the national leaders in time of possession, thanks in large part to their rushing game.

The difference may be on defense. Air Force leads the country in total defense, while Baylor fired coordinator Ron Roberts after a disappointing year. Look for Air Force to control the ground and grind out a win.

NCAAF Pick: Air Force +4.5 (-106) at FanDuel

Independence Bowl

Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin’ Cajuns vs. Houston Cougars

Friday, December 23, 2022 – 03:00 PM EST at Independence Stadium

After American Conference rival Cincinnati crashed the playoff last year, Houston was hoping to carry the Group of Five baton this year, but the Cougars struggled to a 7-5 mark, finishing fourth in the league at 5-3. They draw a Louisiana team that benefitted from the large number of bowl games, getting in with a 6-6 record, 4-4 and tied for third in the Sun Belt West.

Houston seems focused on the game. Two players –receiver Nathaniel Dell and corner Jayce Rogers– plan to leave for the NFL, but so far, both have committed to playing in the game.

Louisiana, meanwhile, has two players opting out: Receiver Michael Jefferson and defensive end Andre Jones. The Ragin’ Cajuns also will be without starting quarterback Ben Wooldridge, who went down with a season-ending injury two games ago.

The Pick

Jones’ absence could be the key, as even with their pass rush specialist, Louisiana was going to struggle to slow down a Houston passing attack that averages 321 air yards and 37 points a game.

Look for the Cougars to light things up against the Cajuns.

NCAAF Pick: Houston -6.5 (-110) at FanDuel

Gasparilla Bowl

Wake Forest Demon Deacons vs. Missouri Tigers

Friday, December 23, 2022 – 06:30 PM EST at Raymond James Stadium

First of all, Gasparilla is a Tampa-area festival that is pirate-themed, named after legendary (in the bay area anyway) pirate John Gaspar. Tampa will be celebrating with a team that was in the top 10 at midseason in Wake Forest.

The Demon Deacons were 6-1 with their only blemish a double-overtime loss to Clemson, and they boasted one of the most explosive offenses in college football. Quarterback Sam Hartman suddenly became turnover-prone, and the Deacs lost three straight and four of their last five to finish at 7-5, 3-5 and second-to-last in the ACC Atlantic Division.

Missouri won its last two to get bowl eligible at 6-6, also tied for second to last in their division, the SEC East, at 3-5.

Second-leading rusher Christian Turner and defensive back Gavin Holmes are the only Wake players expected to miss the game after transferring. Missouri has been hit hard by defections, losing receiver Dominic Lovett and his 846 yards to the transfer portal. Two defensive linemen (Isaiah McGuire and D.J. Coleman) and a safety (Martez Manuel) are also opting out to prepare for the draft.

The Pick

The depleted Missouri defense will struggle to keep up with a Wake Forest offense that should benefit from a month of tweaking by coach Dave Clawson.

Look for Wake to run up the score.

NCAAF Pick: Wake Forest -1.5 (-108) at FanDuel is your sports betting command center. Read featured betting strategy compiled from a panel of leading sports betting experts.

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