Illinois Fighting Illini (6-6 SU, 5-7 ATS) vs.Louisiana Tech Bulldogs (8-5 SU, 10-3 ATS)
College Football Bowl Game
Date and Time: Friday, December 26, 1:00pm EST
Where: Cotton Bowl Stadium - Dallas, TX
by Bob, Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: ILL +6/LAT -6
Over/Under Total: 61
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Wow, the Heart of Dallas Bowl. I am going to be completely honest… I have never heard of this bowl game til now. I looked more into it and I do not feel as bad I first did once I realized that in just three years, the game had three different name. In 2011, it had a working title called the Dallas Football Classic. The following year, this game was called the TicketCity Bowl, now we have the Heart of Dallas Bowl.
This season, the Heart of Dallas Bowl will be a contest between the Illinois Fighting Illini from the Big Ten, and the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs from Conference USA. Illinois comes in at 6-6 overall, just barely making a bowl game, while the Bulldogs of LA Tech are 8-5 overall and went 7-1 in their conference.
The line opens with the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs favored by six points over Illinois, and the total points set at 61. This season, Louisiana Tech is an impressive 10-3 versus the spread, while Illinois is 5-7 in that department. As of December 13th, 68% of bettors have their money riding on the Bulldogs. On paper and based off the stats in 2014, that appears to be a smart play…but is that too square of a wager?
Being nearly a touchdown favorite in a bowl game typically means you are expected to win the game. Louisiana Tech may not play for a “power five conference,” but the public and the books think they are a better team than Illinois who reps the Big Ten. This season, the Bulldogs went 7-1 in their conference and played one heck of an out of conference schedule. They opened the season against Oklahoma, who at the time was the 4th ranked team in the nation, and then a few weeks later, took on the Auburn Tigers from the SEC. Statistically, LA Tech is actually a pretty solid team. They are ranked 13th in the nation in scoring offense, and on defense they are not too bad, giving up about 24 points per game. To win the Heart of Dallas Bowl, Louisiana Tech needs to play mistake free football. The Illinois offense is not very good, and as long as the Bulldogs can make Illinois try to score on long drives, I just do not see the Illini hanging around in this game.
Illinois to the average college football fan would be the fave in this game. Coming from a bigger, more prestigious conference, playing a better schedule week in and week out, and just being the more popular name, people would assume they are the better team. Well, nope, not the case. Listen to these numbers in regards to the Illini football team: 114th in rushing offense, 83rd in scoring, and 108th in scoring defense. That is why the Illinois Fighting Illini are the underdogs here. Also, I was earlier discussing the schedules of these teams, Louisiana Tech, in my opinion, actually played the tougher schedule overall. Illinois did play Ohio State and Nebraska, but other than that, their schedule was soft. If the Illini want to represent the Big Ten in a big way and get this win, or at least cover the six points, they better play defense. If they allow Louisiana Tech to get in the mid 20s or 30s, they will not have the fire power to hang with them. Illinois wants this game to stay low scoring.
Louisiana Tech is better on paper, they played a pretty tough schedule, and they went 10-3 against the spread this season. Not only that, but nearly 70% of bettors are placing their cash on the Bulldogs. I am going to play contrarian here. I think Illinois comes out and send a message that they are the bigger team, the stronger team, and play in a big boy conference. Illinois will win this game 24-21.
Bob’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: TAKE THE ILLINOIS FIGHTING ILLINI +6 POINTS