BYU (6-6) vs Western Michigan (7-5)
When: Friday, December 21st 2018
Where: Albertsons Stadium,
Time: 4:00 ET | TV: ESPN
Opening Odds: BYU -11/48
Both the BYU Cougars and Western Michigan Broncos should be motivated despite having to travel to cold Boise, Idaho for the Potato Bowl, as both teams missed the postseason in 2017. The Cougars finished 4-9 last season, missing a bowl game for the first time since 2004, and were able to sneak in this year with a 6-6 mark that should have been 7-5 if not for a total collapse in the season finale at rival Utah. BYU held a 27-7 lead in the third quarter, only to see the Utes steam back for the win. There were some social media posts prior to the bowl selections that had players campaigning for a warm weather site, but the committee chose them for the blue turf in Idaho. BYU players insist they are happy to be here. The Broncos are happy to be here for sure after earning enough wins last season (6-6) for a bowl, but were left out of the postseason. Western Michigan dropped the first two games of the year to Syracuse and Michigan, but won the next six before dropping three straight. A 28-21 upset in over Northern Illinois in the season finale all but guaranteed them a postseason berth. Both teams are expected to start freshman quarterbacks, with BYU going with Zach Wilson, who replaced benched senior Tanner Mangum for the October 13th game against Hawaii. Wilson has accounted for 10 total touchdowns and three interceptions on the season while guiding the Cougars to a 3-3 finish. The Broncos’ Kaleb Eleby replaced injured junior Jon Wassink (ankle surgery) in the first quarter of an October 25th loss to Toledo and has accounted for six TDs and two interceptions over the last four games.
The Broncos lost to Air Force in this bowl game back in 2014 and it will be head coach Tim Lester’s first and Western’s fourth in five year. Western Michigan ranked third in the MAC in total offense (447.2 yards per game) and rushing (204.6), thanks to All-MAC First-Team running back LeVante Bellamy (conference-best 97.7 yards) and Third-Team selection Jamauri Bogan (58.5). Freshman Jayden Reed leads all receivers with 55 catches, 792 yards, and eight touchdowns. Defense is an issue for the Broncos, as they allow 33.3 points (10th in the 12-team MAC) and 378 yards (sixth) per game and are led by linebacker Drake Spears (6.8 tackles per game) and defensive lineman Ralph Holley (eight sacks).
The Cougars have been a hard team to figure this year, starting 3-1 including a 24-21 road win over then-No. 6 Wisconsin in September, but have lost five of eight games since, including the collapse in Salt Lake City. No player finished with more than 459 rushing or receiving yards thanks to some injuries, but the Cougars do expect to have senior running back Squally Canada (412 rushing yards, five TDs) available after he missed the last two games with a concussion. As of Thursday night, he’s listed as questionable, though. Tight end Matt Bushman (25 receptions, 459 yards, two touchdowns) and wide receiver Talon Shumway (20, 319, three) are the leading receivers. The defense was solid this year, allowing 21.7 points and 325 yards per game and are led by senior linebacker Sione Takitaki (99 total tackles, 8.5 for loss).
BYU is the better team, but double-digit favorites don’t tend to fare well in these early bowl games. The Cougars have shown me nothing lately to warrant a 12.5-point favorite and I believe the Broncos will have a little more motivation in this one and will keep it close.
Pick: Western Michigan +12.5
- Broncos are 5-2 ATS in their last 7 games after allowing less than 275 total yards in their previous game.
- Broncos are 15-7 ATS in their last 22 games after accumulating more than 280 yards passing in their previous game.
- Broncos are 4-9 ATS in their last 13 games after accumulating less than 100 yards rushing in their previous game.
- Broncos are 2-5 ATS in their last 7 non-conference games.
- Broncos are 2-6 ATS in their last 8 games overall.
- Broncos are 3-9 ATS in their last 12 games on fieldturf.
- Broncos are 2-7 ATS in their last 9 games following a ATS win.
- Broncos are 1-4 ATS in their last 5 games following a straight up win.
- Broncos are 1-5 ATS in their last 6 games in December.
- Cougars are 4-0 ATS in their last 4 games overall.
- Cougars are 7-1 ATS in their last 8 games following a straight up loss.
- Cougars are 7-1 ATS in their last 8 games on fieldturf.
- Cougars are 10-4 ATS in their last 14 non-conference games.
- Cougars are 4-9 ATS in their last 13 games after allowing less than 170 yards passing in their previous game.
- Cougars are 2-6 ATS in their last 8 neutral site games.
- Cougars are 1-6 ATS in their last 7 Friday games.
- Cougars are 0-4 ATS in their last 4 bowl games.
- Cougars are 0-4 ATS in their last 4 games in December.
- Cougars are 0-4 ATS in their last 4 Bowl games.
- Over is 4-0 in Broncos last 4 games overall.
- Over is 4-0 in Broncos last 4 games on fieldturf.
- Over is 5-0-1 in Broncos last 6 games after accumulating less than 100 yards rushing in their previous game.
- Under is 5-1 in Broncos last 6 games after accumulating more than 280 yards passing in their previous game.
- Over is 5-2 in Broncos last 7 games following a ATS win.
- Over is 17-8 in Broncos last 25 games after allowing less than 275 total yards in their previous game.
- Under is 5-1 in Cougars last 6 games after allowing less than 170 yards passing in their previous game.
- Under is 13-3 in Cougars last 16 games following a ATS win.
- Under is 4-1 in Cougars last 5 games on fieldturf.
- Under is 12-4 in Cougars last 16 vs. a team with a winning record.
- Under is 20-7 in Cougars last 27 Friday games.
- Under is 24-9 in Cougars last 33 games overall.
- Under is 21-8 in Cougars last 29 non-conference games.
- Under is 7-3 in Cougars last 10 neutral site games.