Armed Forces Bowl Predictions: Baylor vs. Air Force Pick ATS
Baylor Bears (6-6 SU, 7-5 ATS) vs. Air Force Falcons (9-3 SU, 6-6 ATS)
Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl
Date and Time: Thursday, December 22, 2022 at 7:30PM EST
Where: Amon G. Carter Stadium, Fort Worth, Texas
Point Spread: BAY -6.5/AFA +6.5 (BAS – Betting on games at -105 odds is smart and will save you THOUSANDS of dollars!)
Over/Under Total: 50
The Baylor Bears battle the Air Force Falcons at the Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl on the 22nd in Fort Worth. Things didn’t end well for Baylor, as they land in this spot with a bit of a thud—their last game being a 38-27 loss to Texas on November 25. Air Force, conversely, closed out the season strong at 9-3 with a win on the 26th over San Diego State, 13-3. Who will be able to come off the big break to give us the cover at Amon C. Carter Stadium?
The Urgency and Momentum Factor
Air Force was really picking up steam to close the season, with their win over the Aztecs being their fourth in a row. On paper, they’re one of the more impressive teams in the country, their utter lack of an aerial game notwithstanding. The top-ranked defense allowing just over 13 points per game on average, the Falcons have allowed a scant 18 total points in their last three games combined coming into this spot. And being a military school, this bowl game means something. Unable to take down the Mountain West this season, their sights were never that big, and being in a military-themed bowl game should have them ready to go.
On the other hand is a Baylor team coming off three losses in a row to land at 6-6, arriving in a bowl spot that is far beneath what they had in mind a short time ago when things were going a lot better. Once ranked highly, this season has been a slow unfolding of what ended up becoming disappointment and mediocrity. An optimist could point to the enhanced difficulty playing in the Big 12, whereas Air Force operates in the less-demanding Mountain West. The Bears will also be in-state for this battle, which helps. Make no mistake. It’s only fair to question the way they finished the season, this bowl spot, and other matchup issues that might be too much to overcome, despite the Bears being favored by nearly a TD as of press time.
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Bad Matchup for Baylor?
The Bears’ defense hasn’t been great against the run, a problem we see getting worse over the course of the season. That’s not going to bode well against the high-octane Air Force ground-game. There will be those who point out that it’s easier to run on MWC teams than the big boys the Bears faced week in and week out in the Big 12. Fair enough. But the Bears’ run-defense has been nothing special as of late, and while the sad state of their secondary won’t cost them here, the Air Force run-game is the real deal, averaging 312 yards a game. And who’s to say Air Force QB Haaziq Daniels can’t put forth a few big pass plays?
The top-ranked Air Force defense will be in a different context this week, facing a Big 12 offense that still has some horses on it, with Blake Shapen running a versatile aerial attack, along with backs like freshman Richard Reese who can make a big difference. But is it the kind of offense that will suddenly render the Air Force “D” useless? They’ve been shutting teams down. Still, for those who are unconvinced, they do have in their favor a Baylor offense that, more often than not, delivers a fair amount of offensive production. If, in their second-to-last game, they can put up 28 points and come within a point of beating the College Football Playoff-bound TCU Horned Frogs, a 9-3 Mountain West team isn’t going to be the scariest thing they’ve seen as of late.
The Case for Baylor
Coming off a 12-win season last year and looking good to start, the Bears have fallen off a cliff. That negative inertia and this dicey bowl placement might be something they can’t buck. But there is something called context. You have an Air Force team that has lost to Boise, Utah State, and Wyoming. They were favorites in all those games, and in most of their wins, were favored by a lot. This will actually be the first time this season they aren’t favored which is a new spot for them. It also suggests a certain ease to their schedule that could come back and bite them in this spot. Not that you want to leverage how well they did to be put in that spot against them, but it’s an odd spot for Air Force to be in heading into bowl season. Worse overall results notwithstanding, Baylor has been in with far better company, has higher-quality overall wins, and has shown recently that they haven’t run up the white flag despite a disappointing finish to the regular season.
Take the Points
While showing a lot of fire in their effort against TCU and still being halfway-respectable against Texas in their last game, I wonder how mentally into this Baylor will be coming off a nearly one-month break and getting jettisoned into this spot after a 6-6 finish. Not that motivation alone will enable Air Force to do what they normally could not, but I see a more pumped-up Falcons squad flexing the power of their defense and getting enough done with the run to at least hang in there with Baylor. I’ll take Air Force.
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