Ohio Bobcats (8-5 SU, 7-6 ATS) vs. Troy Trojans (9-3 SU, 6-6 ATS)
Dollar General Bowl
Date/Time: Friday, December 23, 2016, 8:00 PM EST
Where: Ladd-Peebles Stadium, Mobile, Ala.
TV: ESPN, DirecTV 206
by Badger, NCAA Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: OHIO +4/TROY -4
Over/Under Total: 49
Two conference champion runner-ups will renew a bowl “rivalry” that started when they met six years ago in the New Orleans Bowl in 2010, when the Ohio Bobcats of the Mid-American Conference (MAC) take on the Troy Trojans of the Sun Belt Conference inside Ladd-Peebles Stadium in Mobile, Ala., on December 23rd on ESPN.
Ohio put up a good fight, but fell to MAC champion Western Michigan in the MAC title game the day after Thanksgiving, 29-23. Unlike most of the teams in the MAC, the Bobcats have improved all season due to the steady and strong play of their defense, which includes MAC defensive player of the year Tarell Basham who led the conference with 11.5 sacks and 13.5 tackles for a loss from his defensive line position. The Bobcats can reach nine wins with a bowl victory, their first nine-win season since 2012, but in order to do it they will have to reverse their bad mojo in bowl games since Ohio is just 2-7 all-time in extra games played in December.
Troy started off the season with an 8-1 record which included seven wins in a row after giving Clemson all they could handle in a week two scare before falling, 30-24. But the Trojans have lost two of their last three games including an upset at the hands of Georgia Southern, 28-24, in the Sun Belt title game. But despite the loss, the Trojans have a lot to be happy about since they improved five wins over last year in the second year after head coach Neal Brown was brought in to turn things around.
As mentioned, this game will be a rematch of the 2010 New Orleans Bowl, a game the Trojans took the Bobcats to the woodshed in a, 48-21, whoopin’. In the 2010 game, the Trojans closed as 2-point favorites and the end result sailed way past the closing total of 56.5.
So it’s a little curious that oddsmakers have installed Troy as 4-point favorites in this year’s Dollar General Bowl in Mobile. Not only is this the first bowl game for the Trojans since the beat Ohio in 2010, but considering that they have also struggled in bowl appearances (2-3 all-time) and the fact that Ohio brings one of the best defensive fronts in mid-major college football, it does appear to be an inflated number.
The Ohio defense could be one reason why the over/under total opened at 49 and has held firm throughout most of the early betting. However, like most totals, several sportsbooks have added the hook to make it 49.5 to take away the push as an end result.
As far as offenses go, the Trojans feature the Sun Belt’s top passing offense (5,263 yards) and the top scoring offense with 49 touchdowns. But they are not just a pass-happy unit, since junior running back Jordan Chunn led the Sun Belt with 13 rushing touchdowns to go along with his 1,232 yards. For Ohio, the Bobcats have gone with the hot hand at QB rotating between freshman Quinton Maxwell and senior Greg Windham in the final games of the season. Windham came into the MAC title game in relief of Maxwell and nearly led the Bobcats the upset, throwing for 214 yards and three TDs in just over a half of action before throwing the game-sealing interception in the final minute. But it’s no secret to anyone who has watched Ohio play this season that their offense feeds off their defense. The Bobcats total of 42 team sacks finished 5th in all of FBS this season and the four teams in front of them (Florida State, Clemson, Alabama and Michigan) is enough to show you just how good the Bobcats defensive front seven really is at getting after the passer.
One trivial statistic to note is the fact that these two schools have a common opponent this season, Texas State. Ohio lost to Texas State in the regular season opener in overtime, 56-54 back on September 3rd … a long, long time ago. While Troy pounded Texas State, 40-7, just a few weeks ago on the day after Thanksgiving. So take that factoid for what its worth.
Ohio is 9-2 ATS in non-conference games and 4-1 ATS against teams in the Sun Belt, but that lone loss came against Troy in the 2010 bowl game. Troy is an unimpressive 1-3-1 ATS versus teams from the MAC and 5-2 ATS in non-conference games. The over may be the surprise, best value wager on the board in this game since the over is 5-0 in Troy’s five bowl games and the over is actually 8-0-1 in Ohio’s last nine games versus the Sun Belt.
Badger's Pick to Cover the Point Spread: I don’t think Troy has seen a defense as good as the one Ohio will put on the field in this game. I think the Bobcats will surprise a few people with how good they are, but in the end I think a lack of offensive firepower may hurt the Bobcats chances in this one. I like Ohio plus the 4-points, and I also think this game goes over the total of 49 as a straight trend play.
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