Western Michigan Broncos (7-5 SU, 8-4 ATS) vs. Purdue Boilermakers (6-6 SU, 5-6-1 ATS), 4:30 p.m. EST, Little Caesars Bowl, Tuesday, December 27, 2011, Ford Field, Detroit, Mich., TV: ESPN
by Badger, College Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: WMU +2.5/PU -2.5
Over/Under Total: 60
Two Midwestern teams just happy to be playing in a bowl game in December will get a crack at each other when the Western Michigan Broncos meet the Purdue Boilermakers in the Little Caesars Bowl at Ford Field in Detroit.
Purdue won two of its final three games down the stretch in order to clinch their first bowl birth since 2007, which was coincidently at Ford Field against a Michigan team from the Mid-American Conference (won Motor City Bowl 51-48 over Central Michigan on last second FG).
The Boilermakers needed to win their season finale in order to become bowl eligible for the first time under third-year coach Danny Hope, which they did with a solid, 33-25, win over in-state rival Indiana during rivalry week at the end of November.
Theyll face a Western Michigan that also closed out the season on a roll, winning three of their last four to finish 5-3 in the MAC and earn a birth in the Little Caesars Bowl. The Broncos will get a chance to face a Big Ten Conference team for the third time this season, losing to Michigan and Illinois in September, and a shot at reversing their recent fortunes against the AQ conference (0-6 against the Big Ten since 2008) and in bowl games in general (0-4 in last four bowl appearances).
The oddsmakers opened this MAC-Big Ten tilt at the neutral site of Ford Field with the Boilermakers as 2-point favorites, and despite being open and on the board for a few weeks already the point spread has had little line movement. A majority of the sportsbooks offshore and in Las Vegas are currently listing Purdue at minus -2.5-points, so the action has been balanced on both sides during the early action at the betting window.
The over/under total opened at 60 and hasnt moved at all in either direction, since its still currently sitting at 60 at all of the sportsbooks on the Internet and out in Las Vegas.
Offensively this game should have plenty of offense.
Purdue had over 500 yards of total offense in the season-ending win over Indiana, with nearly 300 of it coming from the running game (175 ypg on season 39th in NCAA). But the Boilermakers also lost their top runner Ralph Bolden in the Indiana win when he reinjured his surgically repaired knee (listed as doubtful), so the bulk of the carries in this game will likely go to freshman Akeem Hunt (10 carries, 100 yards vs. Indy).
Purdue will need to get Hunt and the running game going because their two-headed quarterback duo of Caleb TerBush and Robert Marve has been very inconsistent all season. Neither quarterback is exceptional, which is why they rotate plays throughout the game, and its hurt the Boilermakers continuity in the passing game throughout the year (197 ypg passing 83rd).
The Boilermakers will also like to get their running game going to eat clock and keep the Western Michigan offense off the field.
The Broncos and quarterback Alex Carder feature one of the most prolific passing games in the MAC and in college football. Carder has thrown for nearly 3,500 yards and 28 touchdowns during the year, and as a team the Broncos spread the field at attack on the perimeter to the tune of 329 yards a game (8th in NCAA).
Carders top target is Jordan White, who leads the country with 1,646 yards and 16 touchdowns, but White is far from a one-man show. Western Michigan has 11 different players who have caught a pass this season, six of them average over 11 yards a catch, and 10 of them have at least one score on the season too. When its all working well, the Broncos can score with anyone (35.6 ppg 18th).
Both offenses should have a good game because neither team plays a whole lot of defense either.
Western Michigan gave up an average of 434 yards a game, which was second to last in the MAC, a conference thats not known for its defensive prowess. What will be the focus of the Purdue attack will likely be the Broncos weak run defense (216 ypg 107th), which could become a huge problem if the Broncos offense has a few three-and-outs early in the game.
Purdues defense is statistically a better unit (388 ypg 68th), and on paper their pass defense could be strong enough to limit the damage the Broncos will like to inflict (203 ypg 37th). But the Boilermakers give up a lot of big plays, which causes them to give up a lot of points (26.4 ppg 65th) and puts them in catch-up mode too often.
These two schools have met twice before in recent history, with Purdue hosting them both and winning both of them at home in West Lafayette. Purdue beat the Broncos 28-13 back in 1993, and 28-24 in 2002, but both games turned into covers for the Broncos who came into both games as 17-point underdogs.
If you follow betting trends, then you might want to pass on a wager in this game.
Not only has Western Michigan had a hard time beating the Big Ten on the field (0-6 SU), but they havent done very well for bettors either (1-5 ATS). The Broncos are also 2-7-1 ATS in their last 10 non-conference games and 5-13-2 ATS in their last 20 games as the underdog.
But Purdue has been far from a lock as a favorite (4-9-1 ATS in L14), theyve been bad against the MAC (1-5 ATS in last six), bad in non-conference games (0-5 ATS in L5) and bad in bowl games too (0-4 ATS in last four trips).
The under could be the trend play to make, since the under is 5-2 in the Broncos last seven games versus the Big Ten and the under is 5-2-1 in the Boilermakers last eight non-conference games.
Badgers Pick to Cover the Point Spread: Both teams will be jacked to play in a bowl, so I dont think there is an angle of one team being more motivated than the other. I also think both defenses will have a hard time stopping the other teams offense, especially the Broncos stopping the Purdue rushing attack. This game should break the trend and go over, but Im going to take the Boilermakers to cover and keep the Big Ten jinx alive for the Broncos. Im taking Purdue minus the 2.5-points.
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