By Charles Jay
The Washington State Cougars made a living this season the way they always have during the Mike Leach regime. That is, they throw the ball more often than anyone else. The Air Force Falcons make their living the way they have done for years and years, which is to run the ball almost as frequently as anyone else.
So something has to give.
And that is what we have to look at as we analyze this game as part of the greatest gaming competition in the world – WagerWAR. It’s the Phoenix Bowl, which is slated to begin at 10:15 PM ET at Chase Field.
Let’s give a shout out to our friends at BetAnySports, who enable their patrons to place wagers while the game is in progress, using Sports Betting Ultra.
Washington State (6-6 SU, 4-8 ATS) puts the ball in the air 77.5% of the time, which is not only the highest percentage of any other FBS (Division I) team, it is head and shoulders above the next team (San Jose State, at 63.9%). And that may be a little unfortunate for Air Force, which has been really good at defending the run (12th nationally and 3.5 ypc allowed).
Only Navy runs the football more frequently than the Falcons, and that brings Wazzu’s ability to stop the run into focus. And in that regard they haven’t done a particularly good job, yielding 4.9 yards per carry. Can they improve on that figure?
Let’s see if they can put the clamps on Donald Hammond, who may not be as dynamic a signal-caller as Navy’s Malcolm Perry, but can do an awful lot nonetheless.
Here are the numbers we’ll be using for WagerWAR on this Friday night in the Phoenix Bowl (also known as the Cheez-It Bowl):
Air Force Falcons -2.5
Washington State Huskies +2.5
Over 70.5 points -110
Under 70.5 points -110
Look, it’s obviously going to be difficult for Air Force to prepare for the Air Raid offense of Washington State, since they don’t recruit that kind of personnel. And few schools have somebody who can sling it quite like Anthony Gordon, who threw for 5228 yards this season. The approach Mike Leach takes is to get the ball out his QB’s hands quickly, hitting the first receiver he can find that is open. And they have been able to minimize sacks – the WSU offensive line has given up only 18 all season.
Still, Air Force (10-2 SU, 7-5 ATS) is reasonably proficient at defending against the pass, ranking in the top 40 nationally. And I think that since the Falcons’ option is something that is very difficult to properly get ready for, Wazzu’s D is the one that is going to have a harder time.
For all the offense the Cougars were able to put together, they also gave up 49 touchdowns. And that, essentially, is what kept them at the .500 mark. It didn’t make a real fundamental difference that they fired coordinator Tracy Claeys, the former head coach at Minnesota. And what might exacerbate the situation is that Air Force can actually make it count when they throw the ball. Of course, part of it is the element of surprise, but Hammond nonetheless averaged almost 25 yards per pass completion, and that was highest in the nation. They can at least do that well enough so that Wazzu can’t stack people up at the line.
In this one, the overall matchup favors Air Force, so as we continue with WagerWAR, the battle for the World WagerSport Championship, I’ve got no problem laying the small number.
And by the way……
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