Buffalo Bulls (8-4 SU, 8-4 ATS) vs. San Diego State Aztecs (7-5 SU, 6-6 ATS)
College Football 2013 Famous Idaho Potato Bowl
Date and Time: Saturday, December 21, 2013, 5:30 pm EST
Where: Broncos Stadium, Boise, Idaho
by Badger, Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: Buf -1/SDSU +1
Over/Under Total: 53
Two of college footballs stronger non-AQ conferences get a chance to earn
some valuable bragging rights for recruiting when the Mid-American Conference
(MAC) Buffalo Bulls and the Mountain West Conference (MWC) San Diego
State Aztecs continue the start of Bowl Week on ESPN in the Famous
Idaho Potato Bowl on the Smurf Turf of Broncos Stadium this Saturday in
Buffalo put together a strong run in the MAC this season, losing the MAC East title game against Bowling Green in their regular season finale on Black Friday, 24-7. The Bulls eight win season matches the schools best record as a member of the MAC (joined in 1999) and is their first bowl bid since the 2008 season, but it also puts a nice finish to the career of a few standout seniors like LB Khalil Mack, RB Bo Oliver and CB Najja Johnson.
San Diego , who won seven of their last nine games to get bowl eligible and garner an invite to Boise, finished a few games back of Fresno State in the MWC West at 6-2 in conference. The Aztecs also lost their finale to UNLV, 45-19, so many outside the football offices on campus think the Aztecs should be thanking their lucky stars to even be in the Potato Bowl. Their prize, another game for the boys from sunny Southern California in Boise, where game time temps are projected to be snowy and warmer than usual in the high 30s.
It may be because of the obvious advantage Buffalo will have playing in the weather in Boise, but oddsmakers set the opening point spread for this intriguing matchup with Buffalo as 3-point favorites. A flood of early money on San Diego State has moved the number to as low as a pick em at some sportsbooks, but for a large majority of them the Bulls as still considered a slim 1-point favorite.
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The over/under total opened at 54 and has hung tight for the most part, dropping to 53.5 at some books to take the push out of the mix. There are a few 53s on the board at some of the offshore sportsbooks on the Web, so shop around if you feel the need to move the total a point up or down.
Buffalo is probably the only team in the MAC that doesnt spread the field on offense and try and outscore the opponent in a last-possession-take-all approach. The Bulls use Oliver (1,421 yards, 15 TD) to try and wear out opponents on the ground, rushing for 172 yards a game as a team. QB Joe Licata is solid (2,600 yards, 21 TD) and can take advantage of mismatches, usually with WR Alex Neutz who set a school record for touchdowns with 11 more this season.
What separated Buffalo from the pack in the MAC this year was defense, led by MAC Defensive Player of the Year Mack at linebacker who will no doubt be hearing his name called early in the NFL draft in May. Johnson is a shutdown corner, and the Bulls have a deep front seven due to plenty of experience in last seasons injury-riddled campaign.
San Diego State went 3-1 in overtime this season, and they needed several comeback victories to get to the postseason in the first place, so the Aztecs are playing with house money at this point. QB Quinn Kaehler relies on the play-action game due to a lack of accuracy and arm strength, and the Aztecs offensive line has been questionable in recent weeks in getting the running game and RB Adam Muema (1,015 yards, 12 TD) going on the ground.
What could be the biggest weakness for the Aztecs is their defense though, ranked dead-last in the country in red zone defense and near the bottom-10 in the BCS in turnover margin. The Aztecs lost stud LB Jake Fely early in the season and NG Sam Meredith a few weeks ago, so the middle of the defense will be extremely vulnerable to Buffalos Oliver pounding away inside the tackles.
These two have never met on the gridiron, so history is non-existent.
Buffalo was an excellent wager this season, but they are just 5-11 ATS in their last 16 non-conference games. San Diego State has been a terrible finisher too, going 1-4 ATS in their last five games in December (bowl games) and 1-6 ATS in non-conference games.
Badger’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: Fans of San Diego State have pushed this line in the direction that I want it to go, which always makes me take a step back and wonder. But even if its a trap, I think Buffalo is still matches up better with the Aztecs weaknesses and are just the better team overall. Take Buffalo as low as you can get it, pick, or minus -1.
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