Frisco Bowl Pick: Kent State vs. Utah State

by | Dec 16, 2019 | cfb

Kent State Golden Flashes (6-6 SU, 8-4 ATS) vs. Utah State Aggies (7-5 SU, 7-5 ATS)
When: Friday, December 20, 7:30 p.m. EST
Where: Toyota Stadium, Frisco, Texas
TV: ESPN2

Point Spread: KENT +7.5/USU -7.5 (GTBets)
Total: O/U 65

Outlook

The fact that Kent State is in a bowl game after going 2-10 last year is pretty incredible. It’s also pretty unlikely to happen again in the next two years, because the Flashes’ future schedules are simply brutal, including three Power 5 teams a year in both 2020 (Penn State, Kentucky, Alabama) and 2021 (Texas A&M, Iowa, Maryland). So not only is Kent State going into its first bowl game since 2012, but it might also be the Flashes’ last bowl game until at least 2022.

At Utah State, everything old is new again, with Gary Andersen now back in Logan as the coach for his second tour of duty. The Aggies are in their third straight bowl game and looking to claim their second straight bowl win after hammering North Texas last season. Their 7-5 season was a bit of a disappointment in relation to expectations, as they were coming off an 11-win campaign.

How the Public is Betting the Kent State/Utah State Game

The line opened at -9.5 for the Aggies, but Kent State has the public on its side, with the line dropping two points. The total has dropped along with it, as the numbers have fallen from 67.

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Injury Concerns

Kent State: The Golden Flashes report no injuries.

Utah State: Linebacker David Woodward has an unspecified injury and will not play.

When Kent State Has the Ball

For Kent State, everything the Flashes do runs through Dustin Crum. Crum has proven to be a great decision-maker, as he’s willing to take what the defense gives him and take off and run if nothing’s there. For the year, he’s only thrown two interceptions against 17 scores, and over the past four games, he’s finished in single digits for incompletions. Against Ball State, he had one of his best days in a Kent State uniform, tossing for 369 yards and three scores to help his side outlast the Cardinals.

When he doesn’t have the ball, Will Matthews probably does. Matthews is a reliable, unspectacular back when he gets the ball, but Crum calls his own number more than he does Matthews, who has 514 yards on 106 carries this year. Isaiah McKoy is the main target for Crum, hauling in 767 receiving yards this year.

When Utah State Has the Ball

This is the final collegiate game for quarterback Jordan Love, who announced that he would forgo his senior season and enter the NFL Draft. Love takes more risks than some teams might like with 16 interceptions, but when things go well, he’s as good as any quarterback in the country, tossing for 3,085 yards and 17 scores. He’s not adept at making plays with his legs, but running backs Gerold Bright and Jaylen Warren do more than enough of that, combining to gain 1,388 yards on the ground this season. Bright is the Aggies’ top rushing threat, and he should have plenty of room to run against a Kent State defense that’s one of the worst in the nation against the run, giving up an average of 249 yards a game on the ground.

Siaosi Mariner is the primary receiving threat for the Aggies with 874 receiving yards, but he might be a lesser factor in this game, given that the Flashes’ run defense is so poor that teams don’t usually have to throw much against them.

Betting Trends

When it’s bowl season, Utah State brings out the defense. The Aggies’ defense has hit the under in seven consecutive bowl games, which is a pretty staggering number considering that Utah State has only played in 13 bowls in its history. The Aggies are also pretty solid at hitting the under when they face an opponent from the MAC, having done it on their past four occasions. There’s not as much to glean from the Flashes’ history, but in their previous five non-conference games, they’ve also been reliable under bets, hitting the under in four of them.

As far as the spread goes, underestimate Kent State at your peril. The Flashes have covered in each of their past four games, including one against Buffalo that they trailed by three touchdowns with 10 minutes to go and had no business covering, yet somehow won. When they’ve been the underdog, the Flashes have covered five straight. That fits well with Utah State’s success allergy this season, as the Aggies have covered just one out of five when coming off a straight-up win.

Weather Report

A shower could reach North Texas by game time, as temperatures forecast 60 degrees weather with possible rain on game day.

Dan’s Pick to Cover the Spread

I like the way the Flashes are playing lately, and if this line had stuck at the original 9.5 points, I probably would have gone with them. But I think Utah State is the better team and has faced better competition this year than Kent State. The MAC was the weakest conference in FBS this year, and Kent State’s success came from handling its league foes. Utah State played in a tougher league and has been here before, and the Aggies are going to want to send Love out a winner.

Throw in Kent State’s weak run defense, and I just can’t see enough to justify taking the Flashes with the line where it is. Give me the Aggies here.

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