Holiday Bowl Odds

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The Holiday Bowl features what appears to be a lopsided matchup, at first glance, between the Arizona State Sun Devils and the Texas Tech Red Raiders.  Arizona State finished the season ranked No. 14 in the country with a 10-3 overall record.  They faced five teams that were ranked at the time of play, and seven teams that were ranked at some point throughout the season.  Two of their three losses came on the road, getting crushed by Stanford and losing a tight game against Notre Dame.  They ended the season with an embarrassing loss at home, again to Stanford in the Pac-12 Championship game.

Things really went south for the Red Raiders after opening the season with a perfect 7-0 record.  They ended up losing their final five consecutive games, but faced three ranked teams during that stretch.  That does not excuse the fact that four of those five losses came by a double-digit margin.  With plenty of time to rest and prepare for the Sun Devils, the Red Raiders will be hungry to finish the season on a positive note after an embarrassing second half campaign.

The Holiday Bowl kicks off at 10:15 PM ET on Monday, December 30th.  Television coverage is being provided by ESPN.  Arizona State is currently a 13.5 point favorite over Texas Tech.  The total indicates a potential shootout.  It has been set at a whopping 72-points.

Why Arizona State Covers

There has been no shortage of scoring from the Sun Devils this season.  They are averaging 41 points per game overall, and a very respectable 35 points per game on the road.  The offensive attack is centered around the run, and they face a Red Raiders team that has given up 206 rushing yards per game and 4.5 yards per carry on the road this season.  The Red Raiders are ice cold having lost their last five games to end the regular season.  There is obviously something wrong with this team, and if head coach Kliff Kingsbury hasn’t figured it out in the last five weeks I don’t see why he would have it figured out for this Holiday Bowl showdown.

Texas Tech is 2-9 ATS against good offensive teams that are scoring 31 points per game or more.

The Sun Devils have a big advantage over the Red Raiders defensively.  They are holding opponents to 25.8 points per game, while Texas Tech is allowing over 31 points per game.  In road games the Red Raiders have been even worse, giving up a whopping 34.7 points per game.  Arizona State has held opposing running backs to 133 rushing yards per game on the road, allowing just 3.6 yards per carry.  The secondary might be the strength of this stop unit, allowing opposing quarterbacks to complete just 51.9 percent of their pass attempts in road games for 221 yards.

Why Texas Tech Covers

If any team has the ability to keep pace with Arizona State it is the Red Raiders.  They have averaged 35.7 points per game, and the offense isn’t getting slowed down in road games by scoring 35.3 points per game.  Texas Tech is not a strong running team, but that should not be an issue since they have an almost 2:1 pass bias.  The Red Raiders are completing 63.2 percent of their pass attempts for 392 yards per game.  The offense averages a total of 513 yards per game which is over 50 yards more than the Sun Devils have averaged this season.

This matchup fits into a system to play on a team like Texas Tech that is rushing for 100 to 140 yards per game, against a rushing defense allowing 140 to 190 yards per game after seven or more games in the season, in a non-conference game between two schools from automatic qualifying BCS conferences.  This system is 43-15 (74%) against the spread.

Texas Tech has certainly had their share of issues on the defensive side of the ball, but I have to think they will step up their level of play in the spotlight of a bowl game when they have had over three weeks to prepare.  Even though the Red Raiders are giving up a lot of points, I think this defense is better than they get credit for.  Their opponents have averaged 28.7 points per game, so the schedule has not been soft.  Turnovers have been an issue for Texas Tech, but again, with time to prepare I think that is a problem they can have wrapped up by game time.

My Pick

With a line at a half point less than two touchdowns I think Arizona State is the play in this game.  The Sun Devils and Red Raiders are very comparable teams as far as offensive production is concerned, but Arizona State has the much better defense.  I think the oddsmakers are pretty dialed in on this one.  I am calling for a Sun Devils win, with a 43-28 final score.

Additional Resources

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