The Memphis Tigers (8-5) will take on the Wake Forest Demon Deacons (6-6) in the 2018 Birmingham Bowl. Kickoff is set for 12:00 EST on Saturday, December 22nd at Legion Field. The game will be televised on ESPN.
Most books have the Tigers listed as a 3-point favorite, but there are some that still have them at -3.5, so be sure to shop for the best line. The total for this matchup is currently 73 points.
Birmingham Bowl Point Spread & Preview: Wake Forest vs Memphis
The Demon Deacons had to scratch and crawl their way to a bowl game, as they didn’t become eligible until a 59-7 win at Duke in the finale game of the season. On the downside, Wake Forest did finish T-5th in the ACC Atlantic with Florida State, who they to 38-17 during the year.
It’s a minor step back from last year, when they went 8-5, but they were able to cap it off with a 55-52 bowl win over Texas A&M. Dave Clawson is now 2-0 in bowl games with the Demon Deacons and there is plenty of motivation for them to finish 7-6 instead of 6-7.
The Tigers won the AAC West and got a chance to get their revenge from a 31-30 loss to UCF in the title game. Memphis looked well on their way to doing just that, that is until they were outscored 35-3 in the final 2 quarters and lost 56-41.
If that wasn’t enough to overcome, All-American running back Darrell Henderson, has opted to sit out the game to prepare for the NFL draft. Memphis also lost both their offensive and defensive coordinators. The Tigers are 0-2 in bowl games under Mike Norvell, losing 21-20 last year as a 3-point favorite against Iowa St.
2018 Birmingham Bowl Free Picks & Odds Prediction: Wake Forest +3.5
My early lean here would have to be taking the points with Wake Forest, as I have a hard time not seeing the Demon Deacons winning this game outright. I also think there’s a chance it might not even be close.
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I just really question what kind of motivation does Memphis have in this game. They so desperately wanted that rematch against UCF and to be the team that snapped their winning streak. It would be one thing if they were just outplayed from the start, but they had a 24-7 lead at the end of the 1st quarter and were up 17 at the half. There’s not many worse ways to lose a conference championship game and there’s no question it hurt them in terms of what bowl they are playing in.
I think Henderson sitting out this game is pretty good indicator of how little this game means to the Memphis players. Throw in they got zero continuity in terms of play calling with both coordinators gone, it’s hard to see them showing up for this game.
With all that said, I think another huge key here is that I would probably of taken Wake Forest and the points if Memphis has won the ACC and Henderson was playing. I just think the Demon Deacons are a lot better than people realize. The defense improved dramatically over the course of the season and the offense can light up the scoreboard. Wake scored 50+ in 3 different games and will be facing a really bad Memphis defense. If the Tigers defense had been just average this year they might have gone 12-1 and been playing on New Year’s Day.
Memphis is 1-5 ATS last 6 bowl games and a mere 3-7 ATS in their last 10 non-conference games overall. Wake Forest is 4-1 ATS last 5 bowl games. Give me the Demon Deacons +3.5!