BYU On Mission To Cover Spread In Potato Bowl Against Western Michigan

Tuesday, December 11, 2018 1:08 PM UTC

Tuesday, Dec. 11, 2018 1:08 PM UTC

Get the latest college football picks on the Potato Bowl between BYU and Western Michigan. The game from Boise, Idaho is on Friday, Dec. 21 at 4 p.m. ET on ESPN. Bet confidently with tips from SBRpicks.com.

Potato Bowl: BYU (6-6 SU, 8-4 ATS) vs Western Michigan (7-5 SU, 8-4 ATS)Friday, Dec. 21, 4 p.m. ET (ESPN)Albertsons Stadium, Boise, IdahoFree NCAAF Pick: Cougars ATSBest Line Offered: Heritage

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As the heavily favored team, BYU is in a role that it likes to be in. It is 4-0 ATS when favored by double digits. Conversely, Western Michigan is a double-digit dog for just the second time all season and is 0-1 ATS in the role.

How They Got Here

BYU endured a sluggish start offensively, which motivated it to start freshman quarterback Zach Wilson. BYU is 5-1 ATS in his starts, compared to 3-3 ATS before he became the starter. BYU’s biggest win came at Wisconsin. After losing its first two games, Western Michigan won six in a row to clinch bowl eligibility. Then, the Broncos got blown out in two straight games and lost to Ball State as 10-point favorites. They ended the season upsetting a Northern Illinois squad that had clinched its spot in the MAC title game the week before.

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Why Western Michigan Can Win/Cover

The Broncos have a solid offense, led by running back LeVante Bellamy who has gained 1,172 rushing yards while averaging 6.2 YPC. His backup Jamauri Bogan has added 702 yards on 4.5 YPC. Spearheaded by this duo, without being limited too much by a statistically mediocre offensive line, Western Michigan runs with the 31st-highest frequency and has achieved at least 200 rush yards on six different occasions, scoring at least 34 points every time.

They also experienced a quarterback change when starter Jon Wassink went down. His backup, Kaleb Eleby, was the starter in WMU’s final four games of the season, during which the Broncos went 1-3 SU and ATS. His passing numbers, though, are extremely similar to Wassink’s and would place him third in the conference in passer rating.

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Why BYU Can Win/Cover

The Cougars boast a solid defense, particularly because of its linebacking crew, which was its expected strength coming into the season. Its depth has been tested by multiple injuries, but it has still achieved solid numbers. BYU ranks 35th in opposing YPC. For example, it shut down Boise State’s Alexander Mattison to fewer than four YPC in what was his worst game of the second-half of the season. Stopping the run is crucial against WMU, which is 0-5 ATS when running for fewer than 150 yards.

Common Opponent/Series History

BYU lost to Northern Illinois 7-6. NIU’s top-ranked rushing defense shut down the Cougars' run game, making them one-dimensional on offense. Western Michigan beat NIU 28-21. WMU likewise couldn’t run the ball, but wore NIU out enough by dominating time of possession and running a ton of plays on offense.

The Verdict

Stopping BYU’s rush attack, like NIU did, is crucial because the Cougars are 7-0 ATS when running for 100+ yards. Western Michigan, though, ranks 83rd in opposing YPC. BYU has had health issues at running back and will miss Matt Hadley. But Squally Canada, who averages 4.5 YPC, will return. BYU would get big help if leading rusher Lopini Katoa returned as well. He is listed as "questionable." Still, the Cougars can get help from bruiser Riley Burt, who has been effective against weaker defenses.

Also, its quarterback Zach Wilson is a threat with his legs. The Broncos have repeatedly been vulnerable against mobile quarterbacks, allowing Ohio’s Nathan Rourke to rush for 7.6 YPC, 1.1 above his season average, Toledo’s Mitchell Guadagni to obtain a season-high YPC, conceding 101 rushing yards to EMU backup quarterback Mike Glass and so on.

Unlike NIU, the Cougars excel at maintaining time of possession, ranking 43rd in the category. If WMU focuses on stopping BYU’s run game, it will struggle to limit Wilson with its secondary that ranks outside the top 100 in opposing passer rating and allowed Ball State backup quarterback Drew Plitt and Bowling Green’s interception-prone Jarret Doege to achieve season highs in passer rating.

The Broncos won’t have the opportunity to wear down BYU’s defense, which is anyhow used to stopping the rush attacks of run-heavy teams like Utah. The Cougars also rank 26th in opposing passer rating, holding Boise State quarterback Brett Rypien to 214 passing yards on 35 attempts.

Read About Potato Bowl History & Betting Trends

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