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New Mexico Bowl Odds

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The Washington State Cougars won two of their last three games to finish 6-6 overall on the year.  It was good enough to earn a spot in this year’s New Mexico Bowl where they will take on the Colorado State Rams.  The Cougars had several big performances this year, but none more impressive than a week two win on the road over the USC Trojans.  They played a very respectable game against Auburn, but where blown out by the reaming ranked opponents they faced.

Colorado State opened the season losing three of their first four games.  One of those losses was an in-state rivalry game against Colorado, and another came on the road against then ranked No. 1 Alabama.  The Rams finished the season winning three of their last four games.  All seven of Colorado State’s wins came by a touchdown or more.  In fact, six of those seven wins were by a double-digit margin.

Kick-off takes place Saturday, December 21st at 2:00 PM ET with television coverage provided by ESPN.  The Cougars are listed as a 3.5-point favorite over the Rams, and the total has been set at 64.5 points.

Why Washington State Covers

The Cougars may not run the ball well, but they haven’t needed to.  Connor Halliday has thrown for over 4,000 yards this season completing 62.8 percent of his attempts.  He has 28 passing touchdowns on the season.  Halliday has been interception prone at times, but he has the luxury of facing a Rams secondary that is allowing opposing quarterbacks to complete 62.9 percent of their pass attempts for 265 yards per game.  Colorado State has not faced an opponent all season that throws the ball as effectively as Washington State, and that gives the Cougars a very significant matchup advantage.

Colorado State is 4-13 ATS in road games against excellent passing teams that are completing over 62 percent of their attempts on the season.

The Cougars defense has shown flashes of greatness this season.  They have a few games that are really doing damage to their averages, especially in the points allowed category.  This is a team that held USC to a mere seven points.  They have four games in which they have held opponents under 21 points.  If not for blowout losses to Stanford, Oregon State, Oregon and Arizona State this team would look a lot better statistically.  Each of those opponents mentioned is in another class compared to Colorado State, so I don’t see the Rams being able to duplicate their success.

Why Colorado State Covers

Scoring has not been an issue for the Rams this year as they ended the regular season averaging an impressive 35.3 points per game.  They have a strong run bias, but it has suited them well by gaining 204 rushing yards per game on five yards per carry.  The Rams may prefer to run the ball, but they are also a team that can beat you through the air.  Garrett Grayson has thrown for over 3,300 yards this season while completing 62.2 percent of his pass attempts with 21 touchdowns to just 10 interceptions.  I think the Cougars will struggle to stop Ram’s running back Kapri Bibbs.  This year Bibbs has 28 touchdowns on the ground, and he has run for over 1,500 yards averaging 6.2 yards per carry.

This matchup fits into a system to play on a team like Colorado State when they are an excellent rushing team averaging over 4.8 yards per carry, and they are facing a poor rushing team that averages 3 to 3.5 yards per carry.  This system is 108-66 ATS over the last five seasons.

The Rams defense has not been great, but they more than make up for it with outstanding offensive play.  Colorado State has allowed 28.6 points per game this year, but they have also played a tough schedule.  Ram’s opponents average 28.8 points per game on the season, so Colorado State is keeping its opponents right in line with their offensive averages.  The strength of this stop unit is against the run, and shutting down Washington State’s ground attack should be an easy task to accomplish.  The Cougars average just 59 rushing yards per game this season.

My Pick

I don’t think Washington State’s strength of schedule will be a factor this year.  Those losses to Auburn, Stanford and Oregon did noting but tear apart the confidence of this team.  The Cougars struggled defensively throughout the season, and that is a big reason I am taking the points with Colorado State in this game.  I expect this one to be a shootout with a final score of 38-35, so the over looks like a strong play too.

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