San Jose State Spartans vs. Bowling Green Falcons Point Spread – Pick Against the Spread

No. 24 San Jose State Spartans (10-2 SU, 10-2 ATS) vs. Bowling Green Falcons (8-4 SU, 8-4 ATS)
Military Bowl
Date/Time: Thursday, December 27th, 2012, 3:00 p.m. EST
Where: RFK Stadium, Washington, D.C.
TV: ESPN/DirecTV 206
by Badger, Football Handicapper,

Point Spread: SJSU -7/BGU +7
Over/Under Total: 47

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The 24th-ranked San Jose State Spartans will try and notch their first 11-win season since the late 1930s when they travel across the country to RFK Stadium in Washington, D.C., to take on the Bowling Green Falcons in the Military Bowl on December 27th on ESPN.

The Spartans have been one of the biggest surprises in all of college football this season, notching their first 10-win campaign since 1987, with their two losses coming against two 11-win teams, Stanford and Utah State. The success has come at a big price however, as head coach Mike MacIntyre has been plucked away following the season to become the new head coach at Colorado, leaving defensive coordinator Kent Baer to run the team in the bowl game.

They’ll face a Bowling Green squad that was alive for a chance at a Mid-American Conference (MAC) division title up until the middle of November, but a close loss at the hands of Kent State gave them their only loss in the final eight weeks of the season and cost them a shot at the MAC title game. The Falcons also lost to some quality teams throughout the season, including Florida, Virginia Tech and Toledo, so don’t be deceived by the 4-loss record thinking this game will be an easy one for the Spartans.

With San Jose State being the first-ever ranked team to play in the Military Bowl, it’s no surprise that oddsmakers installed them as 7.5-point favorites when the game went on the board in early December. With most of the early money coming in on the Spartans, the number has since dropped to minus -7 at most sportsbooks, although you can still find a few sitting still at -7.5 if you look for it.

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The over/under total opened at 47 and has yet to move in either direction since it went up on the board.

When handicapping this game, at least on paper, it looks like your classic offense-vs.-defense matchup. San Jose State features one of the country’s top throwing quarterbacks in David Fales, while Bowling Green has been the bizzarro-team of the MAC riding the nation’s 7th-ranked defense all the way to eight wins and a bowl bid this season.

It’s not much of a secret really, because this game is really going to turn on whether or not Fales can throw on the Falcons. Fales hits on 72 percent of his passes, finished 7th in FBS with 3,797 yards passing and also added 31 touchdowns to just nine interceptions. He’s got two excellent targets in Noel Grigsby 1,172 yards, 9 TD) and Chandler Jones (10 TD), and when they are combined they finished 11th in the country with over 327 yards passing a game.

But Bowling Green features the 7th-ranked pass defense in the land, allowing just 173 yards a game. While the real strength of the Falcons defense is in their linebacking core, with Gabe Martin, Dwayne Woods and Paul Swan all possessing excellent range and open-field tackling ability, the Falcons also boast the MAC’s defensive player of the year in DT Chris Jones, who finished 7th in the country with 12.5 sacks.

With the Spartans attack that averaged 35 points per game, another big question that will need to be answered is whether or not the Falcons can score enough points on offense to win the game. Quarterback Matt Schilz is a three-year starter, but he’s had his issues with protecting the ball (14 TD-to-12 INT), and the Falcons offense certainly won’t be confused with being high-powered since the finished 11th in the 13-team MAC at only 374 yards a game and only 23 point a game.

San Jose State can also play a little bit of defense, with WAC defensive player of the year DE Travis Johnson (12 sacks) and defensive back Bene Benwikere (7 INT) both capable of making game-changing plays for the Spartans.

As you would expect, these two schools have never met on the gridiron since the come from the WAC and the MAC, respectively.

Both have proved to be excellent wagers all season long, with San Jose State only failing to cover twice and they were forced to chase some big numbers against some of the weaker teams in the WAC (-21.5 to Idaho, -20.5 to New Mexico St.). Bowling Green was essentially in the same boat, chasing some big numbers against bad MAC teams (-19.5 to UMass, -14 to Eastern Mich.), but ironically their four ATS losses came in all of their four SU losses, and they were underdogs in all three of the four games.

A look at the betting trends also shows that the Spartans have been an excellent wager outside of the WAC, going 10-1 ATS in their last 11 non-WAC games. San Jose State has also played under the total in five of their last seven non-WAC games, and when combined with the Falcons tough defense and their own strong record of playing under the total (under is 20-8 in L28 overall), the under may prove to be the best wager on the board in this game.

Badger’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: Normally I’d be all over San Jose in this game, because I think they are more talented with the better offense and a solid enough defense to keep Bowling Green off the board. But losing their head coach is a variable that makes me throw those things out the window you just can’t measure how important MacIntyre not being on the sidelines is going to be for this one. In the end I think San Jose State won’t score as much as they are used to on a solid Falcons offense, but Bowling Green won’t blow them out either. I’m taking the under of 47.

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