No more betting Thursday Night Football until next season? That’s somewhat unfortunate for NFLbets this year, but, let’s face it, relative lack of knowledge aside, betting on college football bowl games is about a zillion times more fun than ponying up cash to bet on TNF.
(For posterity’s sake, let the record read thusly: NFLbets’ record, Thursday Night Football Best Bets in 2018: 9-2-1, with both losing wagers placed on Carolina in the Panthers-Steelers game. For all the whinging yours truly does about betting TNF, we certainly had the gift this season.)
NFLbets does not at all advise betting every single college bowl game; that way lies madness (and a high losing percentage). However, the bowl season is one our favorite times of the football year to wager, as time allows just enough research to make things, as they say, interesting. Just don’t mortgage the Xmas presents to bet this stuff. Bet responsibly, and bet our choices in two bowls playing out this weekend.
The Armed Forces Bowl – Saturday, December 22
Army -4½ vs Houston, over/under 60½ points
The 2018 Armed Forces Bowl is an exemplar of what makes bowl games so fascinating for the football fan with above casual-level interest, a proverbial contrast of styles so utterly different as to make this game incredibly difficult to predict purely mathematically. Perhaps this is what accounts for the point spread and over/under line, completely contradictory as will soon be shown.
Houston brings a high-flying, quick-moving passing attack so representative of the American Athletic Conference and which runs up huge numbers. The Cougars offense generated some 529 yards per game (ranking no. 6 in the country among FBS teams), including 300.9 in passing ypg (good for 14th). This resulted in a whopping 46.4 points per game, fewer than only Oklahoma, Alabama and Utah State.
If you think Houston sounds like the college version of the Kansas City Chiefs or a poor man’s version of the Sooners, your instincts may be correct, right up to the, likesay, porous defense. The Cougars twice in 2018 put up 49 points and lost. This defense gave up 36 points to Navy, a team which otherwise averaged 20.9 per. It is upon gaudy statistics like these that the oddsmakers have created a scenario in which Army wins by a score of about 32-28.
Except that Army is good, very good. They’re even historically good, at least against the measure of the program’s history, in a couple of areas. Tops among these is time of possession: The deliberate and disciplined Army offense has held onto the ball for over 39 minutes per game – that’s some four minutes, or 11%, better than the next-best in the statistic – while turning the ball over just *seven times* in 12 games, second-best in college ball, and all while running the QB option offense.
This ball-control mastery has allowed the Black Knights to run up a 10-2 mark, including four Ws while scoring 28 or fewer. And, in case you think Army doesn’t face quality offenses as the rare independent college football team, check out their game 3 vs Hawaii and game 4 at Oklahoma, two matches against quality offenses. In the former, QB Kelvin Hopkins Jr. accounted for 272 yards of offense and two TDs while throwing just 10 passes in a 28-21 win.
In the following week’s 28-21 overtime loss to BCS Playoff tournament team Oklahoma, Hopkins Jr. was stifled, managing just 142 total yards and throwing two of his four interceptions of 2018 – yet the Sooners were held to their lowest point total of the season.
The conclusion seems pretty clear: If Army wins this game, they won’t need to score 32. If Houston wins, we’ll likely see more than 60 points in the Armed Forces Bowl. NFLbets believes that these Black Knights are special even beyond some incredible numbers – heck, they’re ranked no. 22 in the regular season ending AP poll. Take Army -4½ vs Houston in the Armed Forces Bowl and take the under on an O/U of 61½ points.