Central Michigan Chippewas (6-6 SU, 5-7 ATS) vs. Tulsa Golden Hurricane (9-3 SU, 8-4 ATS)
Miami Beach Bowl
Date/Time: Monday, December 19, 2016 at 2:30PM EST
Where: MARLINS PARK, Miami, Florida
By Loot, NCAA Football Handicapper, Lootmeister.com
Betting Odds: CMU +11.5/TLSA -11.5
Over/Under Total: 68
The Central Michigan Chippewas take on the Tulsa Golden Hurricane on December 19 in the Miami Beach Bowl. Tulsa was 9-3 this season, winning 5 of their last 6 games, including a regular season-closing win over Cincinnati, 40-37, in overtime. The Golden Hurricane put together a strong run-game this season to forge a strong offense, a big part of their success. They look to upend a Central Michigan team was up-and-down this season en route to a 6-6 mark. The season didn't end on a strong note for the Chipewas, who lost 4 of their last 5 games, including their last one against Eastern Michigan, 26-21.
The Chippewas got off to a 3-0 start this season. They were looking pretty good after wins over Oklahoma State and UNLV. After beating the Cowboys, Oklahoma State went on to win 8 of their next 9 games. It suggested that CMU would do a lot better than they did by losing 5 of their next 7 games. They didn't come close to covering spreads and even lost to Kent State, who only won 2 games in the MAC this season. In conference, Central Michigan was only 3-5 this season. With the poor finish to the season, it's understandable that many are not optimistic about the Chippewas chances heading into this bowl spot.
The Chippewas offense is pretty decent through the air, while their run-game is more of an afterthought. CMU quarterback Cooper Rush threw for a respectable 3292 yards this season, along with 23 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. On the ground, Devon Spalding (questionable) and Jahray Hayes have been productive, but in stretches. Rush depends on Corey Willis, who was over 1000 yards as his leading receiver. But Mark Chapman, Tyler Conklin, Brandon Childress, and other have also played a solid role in the offense. They average only 27.7 points a game, less than they allow on average. Again, things didn't end that well for the Chippewas this season and this side of the ball was not shining come late-season.
On defense, the Chippewas are OK. They have some balance and they were really only embarrassed twice on the season. Against the better teams they played, they were average at best. And they don't have much of a pass-rush, with opposing quarterbacks allowed to become far too comfortable at times. This is what the Chippewas are and for the last 5 seasons, they were either 6-6 or 7-6 each season. They're not very good and they're not very bad. But for what it's worth, they've generally performed well in the bowl games they've made, winning 4 of their last 5.
The Golden Hurricane only lost to very good teams this season, losing to CFP-bound Ohio State lopsidedly, before losing more competitively to Houston and Navy. Among their highlights were lopsided wins over Memphis and Central Florida. After three sub-.500 seasons in a row, head coach Phillip Montgomery whipped this crew into shape in his second season at the helm. With five wins in their last 6 games and their only loss in that span by a mere two points, the Golden Hurricane enter this matchup with some momentum, unlike their opponent the Chippewas.
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The Golden Hurricane offense relied heavily on the run. It's a big reason Tulsa was the 6th ranked overall offense in the nation, averaging a robust 41.4 points per game on the season. On the ground, they are led by James Flanders (1529 yards) and DeAngelo Brewer (1330 yards). As a pair, they've been hard to stop this season. Commandeering the offense is QB Dane Evans. He has thrown for 3044 yards through the air with 27 touchdowns. Through the air, Keevan Lucas leads the way with 1108 yards, followed closely by Josh Atkinson and his 927 yards. Justin Hobbs has also been a useful weapon, In the Tulsa offense, there is room for a lot of productive pieces. It's a lot for opposing defenses to keep track of in a game with so many different ways Tulsa can punish a team.
The Tulsa defense was readily exploitable for a large part of this season, giving up an average of 31.5 points per game and ranked 81st overall in the nation. They got a little more robust over the course of the season, but they weren't that great. On occasion, they were able to rush the passer. But all in all, they didn't make much of an impact on the overall Tulsa team cause. They bear a lot of the blame in why Tulsa wasn't able to make it to the AAC title game. Still, more often than not, they gave the powerful offense some room to breathe. And against middling offenses this season, they were a bit stingy, though even some dicey offenses were able to thrive against them at times this season.
This is a tough spot to pick a team to cover. Tulsa obviously had the better season and closed the season with more momentum. But in this bowl spot, they might not necessarily be shot from a cannon with an opponent that fails to light a fire. I think CMU has shown some scrappiness in the right spots this season and I see them preventing a Tulsa explosion in the Miami Beach Bowl. I'll take the points.
Loot's Prediction to Cover the Point Spread: I'm betting on the Central Michigan Chippewas plus 11.5 points. Tired of your credit card not working for sportsbook deposit? End that problem today and bet the Chippewas vs. Golden Hurricane game by signing up at Bovada Sportsbook where your credit card WILL work and where you'll receive a generous 100% sign-up bonus!