Wake Forest To Grind Out Cover In Birmingham Bowl Vs. Memphis

Tuesday, December 11, 2018 6:38 PM UTC

Tuesday, Dec. 11, 2018 6:38 PM UTC

Get the latest college football picks on the Birmingham Bowl between Memphis and Wake Forest. The game from Birmingham, Alabama, is on Saturday, December 22, at noon ET on ESPN. Bet confidently with tips from SBRpicks.com.

Birmingham Bowl: Wake Forest (6-6 SU, 4-8 ATS) vs. Memphis (8-5 SU, 8-5 ATS)Saturday, Dec. 22, noon ET (ESPN)Legion Field, Birmingham, AlabamaFree NCAAF Picks: Demon Deacons ATS and 'Under'Best Lines Offered: 5Dimes

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Dave Clawson will put his undefeated bowl record as Wake’s head coach on the line. He upset Temple as 12-point underdogs and pushed against Texas A&M as three-point favorites. Conversely, Memphis is 0-2 SU and ATS in bowl games under coach Mike Norvell.

How They Got Here

Wake Forest went through one defensive coordinator and one quarterback change. It was 5-6 until it smashed Duke 59-7 in the final game of the regular season to clinch bowl eligibility. Quarterback Jamie Newman threw for four touchdowns against Duke’s respectable secondary. Memphis’ bowl eligibility was never in doubt, but it arguably had loftier goals. The Tigers blew an enormous lead in the AAC title game against UCF, which will get to play high-profile LSU.

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Why Memphis Can Win/Cover

Memphis has one of the highest-scoring offenses. It has produced at least 50 points in six different games and ranks eighth in averaging 41.8 points per game. It features a quarterback who looks solid on paper. Brady White has passed for more than 3,000 yards and 25 touchdowns and boasts a 153.4 passer rating. In the backfield, Darrell Henderson is close to 2,000 yards and has 22 touchdowns on 8.9 YPC. Patrick Taylor averages 5.7 YPC and has 15 rushing touchdowns. At receiver, Damonte Coxie has accrued 1,104 receiving yards. The Tigers are 5-1 ATS when scoring 50+, only failing to cover as 31-point favorites to South Alabama.

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Why Wake Forest Can Win/Cover

With the exception of 1,000-yard receiver Greg Dortch, the electric All-American playmaker, the Demon Deacons’ offense doesn’t look so amazing on paper because it plays in a Power Five conference. Still, Cade Carney and Matt Colburn average 5.4 and 4.8 YPC, respectively. They’re not explosive, but they are consistently effective and help Wake rank highly in short-yardage situations. They should thrive against a porous Memphis defense that allowed 515 rushing yards on 99 rush attempts (5.2 YPC) in two games against UCF and allowed Missouri to run for 273 yards while averaging 6.8 YPC. In that game, Larry Rountree beat his second-highest YPC total by 5.8 yards. Wake ranks six spots ahead of Memphis in rushing offense. Wake has scored 50+ points on four different occasions and is 4-0 ATS when doing so.

Common Opponents/Series History

Tulane beat Memphis 40-24. Memphis’ offensive game plan was highly questionable because Henderson and Taylor ran the ball only nine times combined. Without the ground game going, Memphis couldn’t score enough to keep pace with a Tulane offense that ran for more than 300 yards. Wake beat Tulane 23-17. It limited Tulane running back Darius Bradwell to 24 yards on 11 carries, whereas Bradwell ran for 143 yards on 19 carries against Memphis.

The Verdict

Memphis will need to rely on Henderson to have a chance. The Tigers are 1-2 ATS when he runs for fewer than 100 yards, the one non-cover coming against SMU, although Memphis scored only 28 points in that one. Henderson, though, may skip the bowl game to declare for the draft.

Either way, Memphis quarterback Brady White’s numbers are very deceiving. He’s 78/150 (52%) for 6.5 yards per attempt, four touchdowns and four interceptions in Memphis losses compared to 9.8 yards per attempt and 21 touchdowns to four interceptions in Memphis wins. It’s telling that he struggled against Tulane and Navy because both secondaries rank outside the top 100 in opposing passer rating. He had found some initial success against UCF but struggled when UCF stacked the box. White lacks the quality to do anything when his ground game doesn’t thrive and even when it does, he’s unreliable against even the worst secondaries. Forty percent of his touchdowns have come against Mercer and Georgia State. White is overrated and Memphis can easily become one-dimensional on offense.

A key problem with Memphis is that it ranks 93rd in opposing time of possession. Wake dominated TOP in its last game against Duke and it has the tools to do this against a Memphis offense that is susceptible to being brought out of rhythm as it was against Navy’s bottom-ranked defense, when Memphis put up only 21 points. Even disregarding the TOP factor, Wake’s run defense has strongly improved under its new defensive coordinator. Defensive linemen Willie Yarbary and Zeek Rodney have been amping up their sack and solo tackle numbers. Wake is averaging 2.8 opposing YPC in its past three games. It limited Pitt’s top-ranked rush attack to 3.3 YPC and can also contain Memphis, so back the Demon Deacons and the "under" with your college football picks.

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