Tulsa (-8.5) 29 TEXAS EL PASO 22
Strong Opinion UNDER (59 1/2)
UTEP quarterback Trevor Vittatoe is starting to show the impressive form that he played with his first two years as a starter, as the Miners have averaged 8.3 yards per pass play their last two games (against teams that would allow 7.1 yppp to an average quarterback). Vittatoe started the season playing horribly and is still averaging just 5.6 yppp for the season (against teams that would allow 6.4 yppp).
Vittatoe will have to be at his best tonight to stay close to a solid Tulsa team that has been 0.4 yards per play better than average in 5 games against Division 1A opponents (4.7 yppl allowed to teams that would combine to average 5.1 yppl against an average team). UTEP is 0.2 yppl worse than average offensively but they're improving and should do a decent job moving the ball in this game.
The Miners' defense has been a problem, as that unit has allowed 6.3 yppl to teams that would combine to average 5.3 yppl against an average team, but Tulsa isn't as explosive offensively as they've been in recent years. In fact, Tulsa is just average offensively with 5.4 yppl in 5 games against Division 1A foes that would combine to allow 5.5 yppl to an average team. My math model comes up with a fair line of Tulsa by 9 1/2 points but the Hurricanes apply to a very negative 78-187-2 ATS letdown situation that has a 55% chance of covering at a fair line and UTEP has an overall 53.6% chance of getting the money at +8 1/2 points.
The value on this game appears to be on the Under, as Tulsa is not the explosive offensive team that the public perceives them to be, as the Hurricanes are actually better defensively than they are on offense. In fact, Tulsa's 5 games against Division 1A opponents have resulted in an average of just 47 points, which is lower than the national average of 49.2 points per game and 4.2 points lower than the 51.2 points that is the average total points of their opponents this season.
UTEP's average total points is 59.3 points, but the Miners' opponents' average total points is 54.3 points, so their games have only been 5 points higher scoring than what an average team would yield against the same schedule. That compensated points model projects just 50 total points in this game (Tulsa -4.2, UTEP +5.0, national average 49.2 = 50.0) and a more accurate model using projected stats comes up with 50.5 total points in this game. The only teams that Tulsa's good defense has allowed more than 13 points to are Oklahoma and Boise State and UTEP's sub-par attack obviously isn't in that company. UTEP, meanwhile, has scored more than 20 points only against bad defensive teams New Mexico State and Houston. I just don't see UTEP getting much more than 21 points in this game, which would mean that Tulsa's mediocre attack would have to score close to 40 points for this game to go Over.
The 59 1/2 point listed total is more about reputation than reality. Based on the historical performance of my model, a 9 point difference in a total from my prediction and the actual line is a 56% play. However, if UTEP quarterback Vittatoe's last two games are an indication that he's back to being his old self then the predicted total would be higher. In fact, if Vittatoe were just as good as he was last season (0.7 yards per pass play better than average rather than 1.0 yppp worse than average) then I would get a predicted total of 54 1/2 points, which is still considerably lower than the 59 1/2 point line.
I'll consider the Under a Strong Opinion at 58 points or higher.
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