Toledo Rockets (8-4 SU, 7-5 ATS) vs. Air Force Falcons (7-5 SU, 5-7 ATS), 4:30 p.m. EST, Military Bowl Presented by Northrop Grumman, Wednesday, December 28, 2011, RFK Stadium, Washington, D.C., TV: ESPN
by Badger, College Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: Tol. -3/AF +3
Over/Under Total: 70
Its probably not at the top of the list of games that people are itching to watch this bowl season, but the Military Bowl pitting the Toledo Rockets against the Air Force Falcons at RFK Stadium in the nations capital of Washington D.C. will sure have plenty of story lines.
Toledo, who ended up tied for first in the Mid-American Conferences West Division, will be playing with a new head coach in the Military Bowl. Offensive Coordinator Matt Campbell was promoted to head coach a few weeks ago when Tim Beckman left to take the Illinois job.
Campbell will bring his high-flying Rocket offense into the bowl game riding a three-game win streak, including a 45-28 victory over Ball State in the regular-season finale back on November 25th. With an offense that scores 42 points a game and averages nearly 500 yards a game, the Rockets will try and put on a show for the folks outside of the MAC in the 32-year-old Campbells debut at the helm.
Air Force didnt become bowl eligible until their season-ending victory on the road at Colorado State, 45-21. But even then they werent sure they would get a bid into the Military Bowl until bowl officials made some maneuvering to drop a Mountain West Conference affiliation with the Independence Bowl and allow the Falcons to instead play in the armed forces affiliated Military Bowl.
Air Force, who won the Commander-in-Chiefs trophy this season, comes into the game as winners of two straight and four of their last five to turn a losing season into a winning one. With a chance to represent the military in the namesake bowl, you know the Falcons will show up ready to play against Toledo in their fifth straight bowl appearance in the five-year tenure of coach Troy Calhoun.
Oddsmakers are expecting a good contest at RFK, listing the Rockets as 3-point favorites when the point spread opened up weeks ago. The number is either spot on perfect, or the betting public just isnt interested in wagering on this game yet, since the line has yet to move in either direction since it opened.
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The oddsmakers are also figuring on a shootout, listing the opening over/under total at 70. The total has also had very little line movement since it opened, although there are a few offshore sportsbooks that have dropped the number to 69.5 or up to 70.5 moving the hook in both directions.
With the total opening as high as it is you can expect to see a lot of offense in the Military Bowl.
Toledo of course will be the headliner on offense. With a versatile quarterback in Terrance Owens who has improved leaps and bounds in his sophomore year throwing the ball (1,812 yards, 71.4 %, 15 TD, 3 INT), and a plethora of dangerous receivers (14 different players with over 10 ypc ave.) led by Eric Page (1,114 yards, 10 TD) the Rockets can spread teams out and throw it very well (272 ypg 29th in NCAA).
But then you add into the mix a three-headed running attack of Adonis Thomas (955 yards, 11 TD), Morgan Williams (670 yards, 11 TD) and David Fluellen (473 yards, 4 TD), who all average over five yards a carry for a team that averages 222 yards a game on the ground (14th), and the Rockets become a very hard team to stop. In fact, at 42.2 points per game, Id dare say that the only team that has stopped the Rockets this season is the Rockets themselves.
Of course Air Force is one of the nations top running teams on offense with their multiple option attack that accounts for a huge 370 yards per game on the ground alone. Quarterback Tim Jefferson, Jr. (10 TD rush) and running backs Asher Clark (1,096 yards, 6 TD) and Mike DeWitt (543 yards, 10 TD) are all tough to bring down when the scheme is clicking, and when one of them needs a rest the Falcons can bring in Wesley Cobb or any number of other running backs that can keep the chains moving.
What is sort of surprising is how well Jefferson and the Falcons have thrown the football this season, with the senior QB throwing for nearly 1,500 yards and 12 TDs (60.9 %) with only six interceptions.
There will also be a lot of offense in this game because neither defense is very good.
Air Force gives up massive yardage on the ground (228 ypg 112th), and they have yet to play against a team with the diverse offensive talent that the Rockets possess.
Likewise, Toledos defense is a sieve (401 ypg 76th; 30.9 ppg 89th) that has forced their offense to try and outscore everyone all season long. Plus, they have not faced an option attack like the Falcons, and with little experience duplicating it on scout team in practice, I expect the Rockets to have major troubles defending the Falcons option attack from the opening whistle.
These two schools have never faced each other, so theres no history to go on when looking for betting angles and trends.
Toledo has been good as the chalk favorite in the recent past (8-3 ATS in L11), but not when facing teams from outside the MAC (1-4-1 ATS in last six non-conference games).
Air Force is solid in the underdog role (5-2 ATS in L7), but they are surprisingly weak when playing on grass (2-7 ATS in L9) and didnt cover a single game this season against quality competition (Wyoming, San Diego St., Notre Dame and TCU were all ATS losses).
The lone betting trend favoring the under in this game is the fact that the under is 4-1 in Toledos last five neutral site games. The rest of the over/under trends for these teams are all about the over.
Badgers Pick to Cover the Point Spread: If you like offense then this is the game for you, because I dont know how either team is going to stop the other one. With a heavy lean toward Toledo, this game just might go over the total before halftime. Im taking the over of 70.
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