Toledo Rockets vs. Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders Pick ATS
When: Friday, December 17, Noon
Where: Thomas Robinson Stadium, Nassau, Bahamas
Point Spread: TOL -9/MTSU +9 (BetNow - They offer the BEST signup bonus on the web! You can get a 100% real cash bonus on your first deposit of $100 to $1000!)
Total: O/U 53
Is Middle Tennessee ready to try to win a game that could feature a ton of points? Toledo is used to lighting up the board against MAC defenses, but Middle doesn’t really win games that way (which might have been one reason why the Blue Raiders chose not to pursue MAC membership a month ago), opting to instead use its run defense to slow down its opponents and keep things from getting out of hand.
The problem is, it didn’t really work against Western Kentucky, which picked off Middle five times to pull away in a 48-21 rout. That could be in the cards again, this time because Toledo’s defensive strength is its dominant pass defense, which held opponents to 191.5 yards a game through the air. Considering that the Rockets play in a division that includes the likes of Western Michigan and Central Michigan and Toledo played Notre Dame in the nonconference, that’s no joke. If Nick Vattiato hasn’t learned the lessons that came out of that trip to Bowling Green, it’s hard to see this being a pleasant trip to the Islands for the Blue Raiders.
How the Public is Betting the Toledo/Middle Tennessee Game
The public seems to be siding with Toledo, but the sharps have put money on Middle Tennessee here. The spread has ticked down from -9.5 to -9, despite 70% of bets coming in on Toledo. The total is unchanged.
Wide receiver Bryce Mitchell (undisclosed) is out. Wide receiver Jerjuan Newton (undisclosed) is questionable.
Quarterback Chase Cunningham (leg) is out for the season.
When Toledo Has the Ball
The MAC is often home to at least one dominant runner, and this year, it’s Bryant Koback, who has 1,274 yards and 15 touchdowns on a mere 190 carries. Koback has the speed needed for the big play and the ability to get through contact to create something out of nothing, making him a dangerous weapon for the Rockets. Beyond him, the Rockets’ biggest strength is the fact that they don’t turn the ball over. Toledo has just four lost fumbles on the season, and quarterback Dequan Finn has been outstanding at taking care of the football, tossing just one interception against 16 touchdowns.
Finn is going to have to keep that going because Middle makes its living off opponents’ mistakes. The Blue Raiders rank fifth in the nation with 16 interceptions on the season, so even though you can pass on them for big yardage, all it takes is one mistake to send things the other way. The Blue Raiders’ problem is that if someone doesn’t make the critical mistake against them, they usually have no way to respond. Middle gives up 368.5 yards per game, and the majority of that comes through the air, so if Finn can keep taking care of the ball and let Bryant get rolling, the Rockets should be able to put up points.
When Middle Tennessee Has the Ball
With Chase Cunningham done for the year, Middle has had to turn to freshman Nick Vattiato, which has been a bit of a mixed bag to this point. The game against Western Kentucky was a raging disaster, but the rest of the time with Vattiato has gone relatively well, as the Blue Raiders were able to beat Florida Atlantic and Florida International. That said, that might be a product of the schedule because the Owls ended the year on a four-game losing streak and the Golden Panthers lost 11 in a row to end the season, meaning that Vattiato hasn’t beaten a team who has even one win since October.
The problem is, Middle Tennessee doesn’t really have a Plan C at this point because the Blue Raiders also can’t run the football. Middle doesn’t really try to run it all that much, and when it does run, it’s not particularly successful. Martell Pettaway leads the Blue Raiders with 359 yards on 74 carries, hardly an attack that strikes fear into any run defense. Attacking with the run would be the way to go for Middle if it could do so because Toledo’s pass defense is the best Vattiato has faced all year, which could make it challenging for Jimmy Marshall and Yusuf Ali to find separation in the secondary.
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There’s no history to be had between these teams, but when Middle gets into postseason play, the best bet on the board is usually to bet the over and go against the Blue Raiders. Middle has failed to cover in six of its past seven postseason games, but the over has cashed in four straight bowl appearances for the Blue Raiders. That would fit well with Toledo’s finish to the season, as the Rockets have seen the over cash in four straight contests. Toledo doesn’t have a great history in bowls either, but the Rockets have covered in four of their final five to finish the year.
One thing to note with Middle Tennessee: based on the Blue Raiders’ performances this year, you shouldn’t bother backing them with the nine points. In all 12 of Middle’s games this year, they’ve either both covered and won the game outright, or they’ve failed to cover and lost the game outright. Basically, if you believe Middle can cover the number, get aggressive and back the Blue Raiders on the Moneyline at +310. If you don’t think the Raiders can actually win the game, lay the 9.5 with the Rockets.
Weather isn’t supposed to come into play in the Bahamas, and this is still a time away, but this game may be the exception. Passing could be a nightmare in this game because these teams could be dealing with sustained winds of 21 miles per hour blowing east-northeast and wind gusts of up to 30 miles per hour (based on the long-range forecast). The breeze will feel quite pleasant with temperatures at 79 degrees, but passing and the kicking game might be off.
Dan’s Pick to Cover the Spread
There’s a reason this spread is nine points: everything about this game favors Toledo. The Rockets have their attack in top shape for this contest, and the Blue Raiders haven’t seen a pass defense like this since before Cunningham’s injury. Nothing Vattiato has shown this year suggests that he is ready for this challenge, and that’s before you factor in the 30 miles per hour wind gusts that he’s going to have to deal with in addition to the Toledo defense. Toledo, on the other hand, favors a ground-based attack and shouldn’t be affected by the winds. Give me the Rockets. Did you know that you could be betting your games at -105 instead of -110? This goes for your basketball bets too! Start saving big bucks today by making the switch to reduced juice football betting at BetAnySports!