First Responder Bowl 2021: Odds, Daily Fantasy Tips for Air Force vs. Louisville

Joe Tansey@JTansey90Featured ColumnistDecember 27, 2021

Louisville quarterback Malik Cunningham (3) looks to pass against Duke during the first half of an NCAA college football game in Durham, N.C., Thursday, Nov. 18, 2021. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
Gerry Broome/Associated Press

The Louisville Cardinals were handed one of the worst possible bowl matchups for a Power Five squad.

The 6-6 ACC side was drawn against the Air Force Falcons and their triple-option offense in the First Responder Bowl.

Air Force averages 341.4 rushing yards per game, and it is going up against a defense that was gashed for 362 yards on the ground in its regular-season finale.

Louisville has the best individual talent in the matchup in quarterback Malik Cunningham, but his defense needs to put him in a respectable position to attempt to win the game.

Air Force is 3-1 in its past four bowl appearances. The most recent win, in the 2019 Cheez-It Bowl, came over a Power Five squad in the Washington State Cougars. Louisville is 2-3 in its past five postseason appearances. It has not faced a Group of Five school in a bowl since the 2010 Beef 'O' Brady's Bowl against the Southern Miss Golden Eagles.

Louisville is listed as the slight favorite for Tuesday's contest, but it needs a much better effort from its rushing defense to feel comfortable about leaving Dallas with a victory.


First Responder Bowl Info

Date: Tuesday, December 28

Start Time: 3:15 p.m. ET 


Live Stream: ESPN.com and ESPN app


Game Odds

Spread: Louisville (-1.5) 

Over/Under: 55

Moneyline: Louisville -120 (bet $120 to win $100); Air Force +100 (bet $100 to win $100)


Daily Fantasy Tips

Put Faith In Air Force's Rushing Offense

Air Force is just going to run the ball.

The Falcons do not mix in many passes with their offensive approach. They attempted 104 throws as a team in 12 games.

Quarterback Haaziq Daniels has less than 1,000 passing yards, but he is the team's second-leading rusher, with 705 yards on 140 carries.

Daniels and leading rusher Brad Roberts should be the most common Air Force players in daily fantasy football contests for Tuesday's five-game slate. They are going up against a Louisville defense that was crushed by the rushing power of the Kentucky Wildcats in its regular-season finale.

It is hard for any defense to pick up the triple-option concepts in a month, which should help Air Force early in the contest as it tries to dictate the tempo.

Roberts should receive a bulk of the carries after going for 366 rushing yards and five touchdowns in the past three games. He had seven 100-yard performances in 12 appearances.

Daniels has 574 fewer yards on the ground than Roberts, but he is close to the running back in touchdowns. The Air Force quarterback found the end zone on nine occasions.

DeAndre Hughes could grab your attention from a DFS standpoint as well. He averages 8.6 yards per carry, and he might break a few big plays against the Louisville defense.


Take Malik Cunningham to Counter Air Force's Rushing Attack

Cunningham is one of the best do-it-all quarterbacks in the FBS.

The Louisville junior had 37 total touchdowns—19 came on the ground and 18 were through the air. He is one of the most dynamic playmakers you will see outside of the College Football Playoff and has the potential to post high totals.

Air Force has a solid defense, but it has not faced a dual-threat Power Five quarterback all season. The lack of experience against programs from the top conferences could hurt Air Force, especially if its ground game stalls at any point.

Cunningham has nine passing touchdowns and six ground scores in his past four games. He had two 100-yard rushing performances in that span as well.

Louisville will call on Cunningham to do a ton offensively Tuesday, so that makes him one of the best individual options for a DFS slate.

If Louisville wins, Cunningham should finish with multiple touchdowns and have around 250-300 total yards.


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