Miami Hurricanes (8-4 SU, 7-5 ATS) vs. Washington State Cougars (8-4 SU, 9-3 ATS)
Hyundai Sun Bowl
Date/Time: December 26, 2015 2:00 PM EST
Where: Sun Bowl Stadium, El Paso, TX.
by WILSON, Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: MIA +2.5/WASH ST -2.5
Over/Under Total: 62
This yearís Hyundai Sun Bowl could very easily be renamed the Quarterback Bowl if both QBs play the way they did in the regular season. The Miami Hurricanes will take on the Washington State Cougars in El Paso in a game that features two dynamic QBsóMiamiís sophomore QB Brad Kaaya and Washington Stateís sophomore QB Luke Falk. Falk was one of three candidates nominated for the Burlsworth Trophy, which is given each year to the most outstanding college football player who began his career as a walk-on. He did not win the trophy but if itís any kind of indication what type of player he is well, he is definitely outstanding. In addition, Falk, along with Cougarís WR Gabe Marks and OL Joe Dahl were named to the All-Pac 12 Conference First Team. The Hurricanes are certainly the more storied program of the two considering all of their history and bowl game appearances but WSU will bring the Mike Leach Air-Raid Offensive attack ready to give El Paso a show. This should be a great bowl game matchup between two decent teams who are trying to get their programs on the future-recruiting map as well as bring home a bowl victory.
Washington State will depend on the play of their QB Luke Falk to lead the attack. Falk has 36 TD passes on the season and does a great job of running the offense. Falk also has a decent cast of receivers to choose from and most notably Gabe Marks (Marks was named on the injured list but he will likely be ready by game day). The Cougar offense averages 32.4 points per game with 397 yards through the air and 79 yards on the ground. The Cougs also have a 94.3% Red Zone efficiency. Defensively, Washington State allows 28.8 points per contest with 223 yards in the air and 199 on the ground (not the best numbers against the rushing game but they make up for it by outscoring opponents).
The Miami Hurricanes finished 5-3 in the ACC and 8-4 overallósomehow. It has been a rough go in South Florida the last few years, and this season the Hurricanes barely escaped what could have easily been a ďno-bowlĒ ending. After squandering a 23-point lead versus Nebraska the Caneís managed to hang-on for the win in overtime, then they lost on a last minute touchdown against rival Florida State, but the darkest day of their season is when they experienced the worst loss in program history against Clemson 58-0! However, Miami QB Brad Kaaya ranks 9th all-time for Miami football in passing which is certain to make for a gun-slinging affair versus Luke Falk and the Washington State Cougars.
Miamiís defense allows the same amount of points as their offense scores per gameó28. Equally, Washington State also allows 28 points per game but they are 4 points better offensively, so this game, if scored on paper, slightly favors the Cougs who are -2.5 currently. Another factor to consider in this contest is the red zone efficiency where Miami has an 84% efficiency compared to WSUís 94.3%
The key to this bowl game will be the play of the QBs, but also the defensive line on both sides to pressure the passing games. WSU may be favored but Miami should have the advantage in the trenches for a couple reasons; WSUís offensive line is not the best as evident from Falkís multiple knockdowns and concussion suffering sacks; even with the air raid in place, the Cougs running game should be stronger but itís difficult to run when your O-line is suspect.
This will be a close game throughout and likely come down to which QB and team can execute the best. Figure in that this is Mike Leachís 11th bowl game (he is 6-4 lifetime in bowl games) while Miami Interim Coach Larry Scott will be coaching in his first bowl game. When itís all finished I like the Washington State Cougars to welcome back their star QB Luke Falk and beat the Hurricanes in a thriller of bowl 42-38! Luck to ya.
WILSONís Pick to Cover the Point Spread: Washington State covers the spread.
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