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Burke: Breaking down four more early bowl games

By Adam Burke  (VSiN.com) 

December 7, 2021 11:49 AM
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Monday was moving day for some lines on the college football bowl games and I would expect we see another round of it today before things calm down a bit. Transfer portal news has been part of the equation, along with some coordinators moving around.

Before I dig into the games, I want to really harp on the coordinators point. Head coaches have their hands in a little bit of everything, but the coordinators are the ones coming up with the game-plans. Those are the ones that usually have a closer rapport with the players than the head coaches. Everybody reacts to the loss of a head coach because it makes a lot of news, but I believe that coordinators are even more important in some cases, at least for the bowl game.

Boca Raton Bowl: App State (-3, 68) vs. Western Kentucky

This is the game I was talking about. Not only did hotshot OC Zach Kittley go back to Texas Tech, where he was a grad assistant under Kliff Kingsbury, but co-OC Bryan Ellis also went to become the OC at Georgia Southern.

To add more fuel to this fire, WKU WR Mitchell Tinsley is in the transfer portal after catching 83 passes for 1,676 yards and 16 TD. Now, what I find most interesting is that neither side nor total have really moved on this game. Perhaps there is news that one of Kittley or Ellis will still coach the bowl game, but I couldn’t find any and I doubt it, since recruiting is still going on.

I’d keep a close eye on this one. Some shops here in town are already at -3. Books in faraway places and even a couple here remain -2.5.

New Mexico Bowl: UTEP vs. Fresno State (-11, 50)

Usually I’d look at this game in Albuquerque and try to fade a team not accustomed to elevation. Both UTEP and Fresno State are, as El Paso is about 3740 feet in elevation and Fresno State plays in the Mountain West. So, we don’t have that angle. Running backs coach Lee Marks is the interim head coach for Fresno State after Kalen DeBoer went to Washington.

It isn’t true all the time, but sharp bettors tend to bet favorites early and dogs late. This is a dog that got bet early, coming down from 13.5 to 11 and you may even see a rogue 10.5 out there. We’ll see more movement on game week, but I do think the early move is pretty telling here.

Edit: Fresno State QB Jake Haener is in the transfer portal. It was announced before the bowl matchup, so it is factored into the line, but still a huge development.

Independence Bowl: UAB vs. BYU (-7, 54)

Tyler Johnston, who has battled a ton of injuries, is in the transfer portal, leaving UAB with Dylan Hopkins as the only QB with experience for the matchup against BYU. Hopkins played well with a 15/6 TD/INT ratio, but you do worry a bit about depth, even for a team that runs far more than it throws.

This is another game with a slight move down on the number, probably due to the UAB defensive projection. The travel is also much easier for the Blazers. BYU fans will travel, but maybe not in large groups to Shreveport. This may have just been a numbers grab north of a touchdown. I don’t think this is all that true of a position like some of the games I talked about yesterday.

LendingTree Bowl: Eastern Michigan vs. Liberty (-8.5, 59)

This is the college swan song for Malik Willis, who is projected to be a first-round pick in the upcoming NFL Draft. Liberty has underwhelmed and underperformed in a lot of ways this season, butt his line has gone up with early action and so has the total. Liberty has allowed 50 sacks this season, but EMU only has 22 sacks in 12 games, so that could explain a higher projection for Willis.

EMU also has a negative yards per play differential. Keep YPP differential in mind. It drives a LOT of early line moves during bowl games. I use CFBStats.com and the Total Offense and Total Defense pages to calculate that.

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