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Louisiana Tech Bulldogs vs. SMU Mustangs Point Spread - Pick

Louisiana Tech Bulldogs (6-6 SU, 6-6 ATS) vs. SMU Mustangs (7-5 SU, 6-6 ATS)
Frisco Bowl
Date/Time: Wednesday, December 20, 2017 at 8PM EST
Where: Toyota Stadium, Frisco, Texas
TV: ESPN

By Loot, NCAA Football Handicapper, Lootmeister.com

Point Spread: LT +5/SMU -5
Over/Under Total: 70

The Louisiana Tech Bulldogs take on the SMU Mustangs in the Frisco Bowl on December 20. The AAC's SMU Mustangs finished the season 7-5, with their last game being a November 25 win over Tulane, 41-38. Meanwhile, the Conference USA's Louisiana Tech were 6-6, winning their last two games to get to this spot, including a 20-6 win over Texas San Antonio, also on the 25th. These teams are rested and both squads would love to add a bowl win to give the season an air of success.

It has been an up-and-down season for the Skip Holtz-led Louisiana Tech Bulldogs this year. The 2-game win streak they enter this game with is their longest of the season, but they also haven't lost more than two in a row this season. Their best result may have been a one-point loss to a good South Carolina team earlier in the season. And a two-touchdown win over UTSA to close the season and become bowl-eligible was a big win, as well. They're pretty much in the meaty part of the curve. There's nothing they do terribly well, but there's nothing they do too badly, either.

The Louisiana Tech offense is pretty balanced, but not altogether explosive with an average of 28.8 points a game. Seven times this season, they have scored in the twenties, with a few assaults on some of the lesser teams they have faced. Sophomore quarterback J'Mar Smith is in his first season as a starter and he's been okay. He hasn't thrown a pick in five games and on the right day, he can be fairly prolific. He is an effective runner and has hit the end zone on the ground five times this season. Aerially, he connects well with Teddy Veal, who has 69 catches and 832 yards receiving. Also chipping in with production in the passing-game has been Rhashid Bonnette, and Marlon Watts. On the ground, they are led by Boston Scott, who closed the season very strongly and looks to finish his college career with a bang. Jarred Craft and Jaqwis Dancy were also effective in spots this season. Most of these guys will need to produce in this game.

Giving up a combined 27 points in their last two games, albeit against offenses that only offer a fraction of SMU's firepower, shows Louisiana Tech is in decent form on defense heading into this bowl game. Only conference-power Florida Atlantic and the SEC's Mississippi State really embarrassed this defense in 2017. Inside their own conference, they have been respectable and sometimes pretty good. They have some playmakers on this side of the ball, with linebacker Dae'Von Washington making a lot of plays. In the secondary, they get a nice playmaking component from Secdreck Cooper, Amik Robertson, and Darryl Lewis. On the season, they have 16 interceptions.

Southern Methodist wasn't that great in the second half of the season and their regular season-closing win over Tulane snapped a 3-game losing streak. Then again, in the AAC, they are a little more-exposed to explosive teams than Louisiana Tech is in Conference USA. They lost a couple high-octane shootout losses at the end of the season, with Western Kentucky and Navy putting up a lot of points, but SMU hung in there gamely. They have an offense that averages over 40 points a game, but their defense has been readily exploitable. They are less-dependable than Louisiana Tech, but far more-explosive. Their head coach Chad Morris left to take the job at Arkansas, also taking his top assistant. SMU hired Sonny Dykes to take over and in an unusual move, he will actually start his gig right away, coaching the Mustangs in this bowl game. He was actually Louisiana Tech's head coach for three years, before taking the Cal job.

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Redshirt Sophomore Ben Hicks is in his second season as a starting quarterback and he had a big season with 3442 yards and 32 touchdowns, 12 of them coming in his last three games. Hicks works nicely with a pair of 1000-yard receivers in Trey Quinn and Courtland Sutton. The pair has combined for over 2200 yards and 24 touchdowns. Also useful aerially is speedy James Proche (questionable), who is over 800 yards receiving. On the ground, they are led by Xavier Jones, who was over 1000 yards on the ground with 9 touchdowns. Running back Ke'Mon Freeman had a knack for finding the end zone this season with 11 TD runs. As one can see, there are a lot of different weapons on this side of the ball for SMU.

Unfortunately for SMU, a talented and versatile offense has been undermined by a defense that has been solidly substandard. Opposing quarterbacks have feasted on this group, with the run-stop not being much better. In their last five games heading into this bowl matchup, they have given up 34 or more points four times. That includes a combined 104 points in their last two games, not exactly the kind of form you want to be seeing from a defense at the end of a season. They have good playmaking on this side of the ball. S Mikial Onu has been very active and DE Justin Lawler has been a force as a pass-rusher. In the secondary, Jordan Wyatt has scored three touchdowns on defense this season, so missing him will be a big loss, as he is out with a knee injury.

Location-wise, this works out a lot better for SMU, with Frisco about a half-hour drive, while the Bulldogs are almost 300 miles from this bowl game. The coaching twist with Morris taking another job and Dykes coming right in to start in this game could have an uplifting affect on SMU, with Dykes having shown his handiwork with powerful offenses like this before. I like the balance and dependability of Louisiana Tech, but I see the greater horsepower of the Mustangs giving them the separation they need to cover the spread.

Loot's Prediction to Cover the Point Spread: I'm betting on the SMU Mustangs minus 5 points. Tired of your credit card not working for sportsbook deposit? End that problem today by signing up and betting the Bulldogs vs. Mustangs bowl game at Bovada Sportsbook where your credit card WILL work and where you'll receive a generous 50% sign-up bonus!

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