BYU Cougars (8-4 SU, 5-7 ATS) vs. Memphis Tigers (9-3 SU, 7-5 ATS)
Miami Beach Bowl Preview
Date and Time: Monday December 22nd, 2014. 2:00PM EST
Where: Marlins Park Miami, F.L.
by Jay, Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: BYU +1/MEM -1
Over/Under Total: 58
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The inaugural Miami Beach Bowl will debut this year when the BYU Cougars meet the Memphis Tigers inside Marlins Park on December 22nd. Both BYU and Memphis ended their seasons on high notes and are looking to keep their momentum going this postseason. The Cougars won their last 4 games including an upset over California 42-35 in the season finale. Memphis also ended the season strong winning their last 6 games in route to an American Athletic Conference Championship. The 9-3 Tigers had quite the turnaround from their 3-9 2013 campaign and will have the chance to reach 10 wins for the first time in school history.
The Tigers big turnaround this season was aided by the return of 17 starters on both side of the ball which was tied for the 6th most in college football at the beginning of the season. Primarily the returning experience was felt on the defensive side of the football more than it was on offense. The defensive unit returned 9 starters and was among the best groups in the country this season holding opponents to a mere 17.1 points per game (5th in FBS). In the final 6 games of the year, the defense did not allow a single opponent to score more than 20 points in any game. The Memphis defense will look to lead the way again when the Tigers meet a talented BYU offense in the Miami Beach Bowl.
The Cougars put up a lot of points this season averaging 36.2 points per game as the 20th best scoring unit in the FBS. If you remember, BYU was one of the hottest teams in the country back at the early part of the season behind quarterback Taysom Hill who was gaining some early Heisman Trophy talk. However Hill was lost for the season in the Utah State game after fracturing his leg and sustaining ligament damage. BYU not only lost their first game of the season in that Utah State game but lost their next 3 straight games as it took BYUs offense time to adjust with backup quarterback Christian Stewart. However Stewart eventually got up to speed and so did the rest of the offense during the 2nd half of the season. Stewart turned into a dangerous passing threat as the season progressed and finished with 22 touchdowns and just 6 picks.
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The question entering this Miami Beach Bowl matchup is which of the two units will continue to progress? Will the Tigers defense continue to show their experience and exit with another convincing performance? Or will BYUs offense continue to show their improvement with Stewart behind center? Currently odds makers find this a pretty even matchup with Memphis listed as a minute 1 point favorite. In fact, even the betting public is just as balanced with their picks. Since opening, betting action has been virtually 50/50 on both teams and the betting line has yet to move.
Ultimately I believe this game will be decided by the throwing ability of BYUs Christian Stewart. Despite the fact Memphis has the 5th best scoring unit in the country, the defense has still relinquished a lot of yards against the pass. The Tigers have given up 218 yards per game which ranks 48th in the FBS and a lot of those yards have come against rather average passing teams. Therefore I believe BYUs offense will have their share of opportunities to hit plays down the field. Of course opportunities are just opportunities unless Stewart is able to hit his receivers down the field and that will be the telling story of how this game unfolds in Miami.
Jay’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: This is a rather tough game to predict but I think BYU will make just enough plays to pull out the victory. During the final few games of the season, the offense was picking up steam and these extra few weeks of preparation should only help their cause. Take BYU +1