Central Michigan Chippewas (6-6 SU, 5-7 ATS) vs. Tulsa Golden Hurricane (9-3 SU, 8-4 ATS)
Miami Beach Bowl
Date/Time: Monday, December 19, 2016, 2:30 PM EST
Where: Marlins Park, Miami, Fla.
TV: ESPN, DirecTV 206
by Badger, NCAA Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: CMU +11.5/TUL -11.5
Over/Under Total: 68
Two schools that seem to be going in different directions at the close of the regular season will meet in the third year of the Miami Beach Bowl in Marlins Park when the Mid-American Conference’s Central Michigan Chippewas take on the American Athletic Conference’s Tulsa Golden Hurricane on Monday, December 19th on ESPN.
It’s been a long time since the Chippewas scored their signature win of the season in a controversial upset of Oklahoma State on opening day. Since then Central Michigan has struggled including losses in four of their final five games of the season as the Chippewas limp into the bowl season at 6-6 after barely becoming bowl eligible on November 15th.
Meanwhile, Tulsa finished the season on fire winning five of their last six games of the season losing only to AAC rival Navy in early November, 42-20. The Golden Hurricane feature one of the most prolific offenses in the country, one that has averaged over 44 points per game down the stretch of the 2016. Tulsa may be one of the quietest 9-win teams in the country, as their loses have come against Ohio State, Houston and Navy … three teams that are no slouches in their own right as the Golden Hurricane have put together a solid season without a whole lot of publicity.
But there are few secrets or unknown teams in Las Vegas or anywhere else college football fans wager on the game, hence the reason why Tulsa opened the Miami Beach bowl as rather large 11.5-point favorites. With a little over a week of action at the betting window the Golden Hurricane is taking a large majority of the money on this game too (almost 70 percent on Tulsa), which has caused a few sportsbooks to move the number up to minus -12 a little more than a week away from kickoff.
The over/under total opened at 68 and has held firm without any line movement at all since the number went up on the board following the bowl schedule announcement a few Sunday’s ago.
Just how good is the Tulsa offense under head coach Philip Montgomery, the former offensive coordinator at Baylor and Houston? If senior receiver Josh Atkinson gets 73 yards receiving in the Miami Beach Bowl the Golden Hurricane will become the first team in FBS history to feature a 3,000 yard passer (Dane Evans), two 1,000 yard rushers (James Flanders and D’Angelo Brewer) and two 1,000 yard receivers (joining Keevan Lucas).
Central Michigan is also a very senior-laden team including quarterback Cooper Rush who has a 3,000 yard season of his own in his final year at the helm of the Chippewas. Rush has a favorite target in Corey Willis (1,028 yds., 9 TD), but the Chippewas lack a consistent running game (only 119 ypg – 116th in FBS) which has put pressure on Rush to make plays and Rush has struggled at times throwing 13 interceptions this season.
These two schools actually played a home-and-home series back in 1986-87, splitting both games with the home team blowing out the visitor. In ’86, Tulsa destroyed the Chippewas, 42-6, in Oklahoma, while Central Michigan returned the favor the following year beating the Golden Hurricane, 41-18, just one season later.
A look at the betting trends shows a strong lean toward Tulsa as well, as the Golden Hurricane are 5-1 ATS in their last six bowl games, 4-1 ATS in neutral-site games and 5-2-1 ATS in the last eight non-conference games. Central Michigan is also strong in non-conference games (8-2 ATS), but similar to the way they have played down the stretch the Chippewas are just 1-4 ATS in the last five games this year.
Badger's Pick to Cover the Point Spread: I just don’t think Central Michigan will be able to score enough to stay in the game with Tulsa in this one. Neither team will play much defense, so the over is a possible play as well, but at 68 it’s a pretty big number to reach even with both teams going up and down the field at will. I’m taking Tulsa to cover the 11.5 point spread with a 20-point win in a pretty impressive display of offense.
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