The MAC champion enjoys something of a home-conference advantage in the Little Caesars Bowl as that conference's championship game is played at Ford Field. But over the last six Little Caesars Bowls, the MAC's representatives are just 1-5 and 2-4 against the spread.
The Bowling Green Falcons, who just won the MAC Championship Game and then lost their head coach, will try to put the brakes on that skid when they take on the Pitt Panthers in the Little Caesars Bowl on Thursday, December 26 at Ford Field.
Point spread: Falcons opened as 6-point favorites; the total was 48.5. (Line updates and matchup report)
Odds Shark computer prediction: 43.0-22.8 Falcons
Why the Panthers can cover the spread
Pittsburgh was no guarantee to make a bowl this year, after having lost its starting quarterback, leading rusher, and leading receiver from last season, and competing in a new conference for the first time. But with wins over—among others—Notre Dame, Duke and Syracuse, the Panthers are playing in a bowl for the sixth straight season.
Pitt only went 6-6, but of their six losses, at least four could be categorized as “tough.” The Panthers are a bit pedestrian on offense, averaging 115 yards per game on the ground and 237 YPG through the air.
But defensively—anchored by Outland Trophy winner Aaron Donald, who racked up 26 tackles-for-loss this season—Pitt ranked fifth in the ACC overall. And they got better as the season progressed.
Why the Falcons can cover the spread
Bowling Green returned 18 starters from an 8-5 team last season, and went off this season as the favorite to win the MAC's East Division. And on the strength of a four-game winning streak to end the regular season, in which they gave up a total of just 17 points, the Falcons did just that.
BGU then pulled off a nice upset in the MAC Championship Game, bombing previously undefeated Northern Illinois 47-27.
Outside of that conference championship victory, the Falcons didn't really beat anybody of any note, they just beat everybody they had to along the way. And of their three losses, one came by one point at bowl-bound Mississippi State and another on a score with a minute left against Toledo.
Bowling Green ranks No. 23 in the country in total offense, averaging 265 YPG passing, 208 YPG rushing and eighth in total defense, allowing just 309 YPG. The computer doesn't believe this game will be close, projecting a 43-23 final for the Falcons.
After losing its head coach and also both coordinators, Bowling Green will be piloted in this bowl by Adam Scheier, who most recently was in charge of special teams. Don't expect any major changes in what the Falcons have been doing.
On the other side of this matchup, Pitt should consider itself lucky to be in a bowl, needing wins over New Mexico and Old Dominion just to become bowl-eligible. Bowling Green should consider this a chance at a signature win against a BCS conference team. And that wouldn't hurt Scheier's chances of removing the “interim” tag from in front of his name.
The Falcons have lost their last three bowl games, but that streak should come to an end. Despite the coaching situation and the MAC's recent record in this bowl, give the points with the Falcons.
- UNDER is 9-3 past 12 Little Caesars (Motor City) Bowls
- Bowling Green is 1-4-1 ATS past six bowl games
- UNDER is 6-1 past seven Pitt bowl games
- Underdog 5-1 ATS past six games
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