GMAC Bowl Preview and Pick: Troy Trojans vs. Central Michigan Chippewas Point Spread

GMAC Bowl: Troy Trojans (9-3 SU, 8-4 ATS) vs. Central Michigan Chippewas (11-2 SU, 9-3 ATS), 7:00 p.m. EST, Wednesday, January 6, 2009, Ladd-Peebles
Stadium, Mobile, Ala., TV: ESPN

by Badger of

Point Spread: Troy +3.5/Central Michigan -3.5
Over/Under: 63

Two repeat conference champions will meet for the first time in a game that will serve as the primer the night before the BCS
Championship game, when the Sun Belt Champion Troy Trojans take on the Mid-American Champion Central Michigan Chippewas in the GMAC Bowl in Ladd-Peebles Stadium in Mobile, Alabama, Wednesday night on ESPN.

The Trojans ran the table in the Sun Belt Conference going 8-0 to
earn their fourth straight conference title (or share), with by far
their biggest victory of the season coming all the way back in early
October when they beat Middle Tennessee, 31-7. The Trojans did finish
the season on a mini hot streak, winning two in a row to become the
first team from the state of Alabama to play in a bowl game in their
home state.

The Chippewas come into the game ranked 25th in the last AP poll, the first time in school history they have ever been ranked in the
top-25. They also enter the game as MAC champs for the third time in
the last four seasons, sporting a four-game winning streak in the

But all of that success has its price, as the Chippewas will be
without head coach Butch Jones for the bowl game. Jones was named the
successor to Brian Kelly, again, taking the Cincinnati job a few
weeks back to move up the coaching ladder and into a BCS program.
Associate head coach Steve Stripling will coach the Chippewas in the
GMAC Bowl.

Even with the change at the top of the program, the oddsmakers out in Las Vegas still think the Chippewas are the team to beat in this
matchup, installing Central Michigan as 4-point favorites when the
board lit up for the first time. Early wagering has moved the point
spread down the hook to 3.5 at most offshore sportsbooks, but you can
still find a few 4s here and there (SportsInteraction), and even a
few 3s (5Dimes, Mirage, LV Hilton).

The over/under total opened at 64 and has dropped a point to 63 at a
majority of the sportsbooks on the Web. There are a few 63.5s out
there though if you want the half-point.

Two of the better but unknown quarterbacks in the college game will
be featured Wednesday when Troys Levi Brown and Central Michigans
Dan LeFevour take the field. Both players were named their
conferences player of the year this season, as the pair has combined
for over 7,600 yards passing and 64 touchdowns this season. Both
quarterbacks also lead offensive attacks that average over 33 points
per game, so this game could turn into battle of attrition.

Brown and the Trojans finished the year as the nations 3rd-ranked
offense, amassing 480.7 yards per game with over 300 of those yards
coming via the passing game (331 ypg 4th). Brown threw for 3,868
yards and 22 touchdowns, with his favorite targets being receivers
Jerrel Jernigan (947 yds., 4 TD) and Tebiarus Gill (553 yds., 3 TD).
The Trojans pass the ball so well that their top running back, Shawn
, only had 573 yards rushing on the season despite a 5.8
yards per carry average.

On the other sideline, LeFevour literally IS the Chippewas offense. Not only did the senior throw for 3,042 yards and 27 touchdowns, but he was also the teams leading runner (703 yards) and added 14
rushing touchdowns on the ground too.

Antonio Brown is the LeFavours top target (97 rec., 1,020 yds., 9
TD), but the Chippewas have six players that have at least two
touchdown catches on the season, including their top running back
Bryan Schroeder (5.6 ave., 5 TD).

Its the defensive side of the ball where these two teams seem to separate themselves.

Central Michigan won the MAC title because they were able to play
defense, limiting opponents to just 326.7 yards a game (207.4 ypg
passing) and only 17.2 points per game, the 14th-best scoring defense
in the NCAA.

Troy not so much. In fact, the Trojans allow almost as much yardage (420 ypg 107th) as they put up themselves, and they also allow over
four scores a game (28.6 ppg 87th), so defense is something of a
four-letter word in the land of Troy.

As mentioned, this will be the first-ever meeting between the two
schools. It will be the Chippewas fourth-straight bowl appearance,
but their first in the GMAC Bowl. Troy will also be making their
first appearance in the GMAC, but will be making their second
straight bowl appearance and fourth in the last six years.

As far as betting trends go, there are a few that make you stop and

Troy is 8-2 ATS in their last 10 games overall, but just 1-4 ATS in
their last five non-conference games.

The over is 10-1 in the Trojans last 11 games as an underdog, and its also 11-5-1 in Central Michigans last 17 non-conference games.

Badgers Pick: When in doubt, I gotta go with the team that plays better defense. Both offenses are going to score, but the Chippewas
are better equipped at stopping the Trojans every now and then. Take
Central Michigan minus the 3.5-points.