- Coming off an upset win over Northern Illinois to end its regular season, Western Michigan has reason to feel confident that it can cover a double-digit spread in its bowl game against BYU.
Potato Bowl: Western Michigan Broncos vs. BYU Cougars (-12)
Fri. December 21, 4:00 p.m. ET
Three things to know before betting on Western Michigan-BYU:
1. BYU is a double-digit favorite in this game, but there are a few reasons to believe that the line is set too high. The 6-6 Cougars won four games by double-digit margins this year, but those victories came against a lackluster group that included McNeese State, Hawaii, Massachusetts and New Mexico State. Of that slate, Hawaii was the only bowl-eligible team. UMass and New Mexico State combined to go 7-17 in lower-tier conferences, and McNeese State barely finished above .500 as an FCS team.
With the nation's 95th-ranked scoring offense (25.4 points per game), the Cougars seem ill-equipped to pull off a multi-touchdown win over a solid team like Western Michigan. BYU lost outright as a favorite three times this season, taking Ls against Cal, Utah State and Northern Illinois.
2. BYU's biggest strength is its defense. The Cougars were 21st in the country in total defense (4.79 yards allowed per play) and 28th in scoring D (21.7 points allowed per game). Western Michigan matches up well against good-defense, bad-offense teams like BYU. WMU had straight-up wins over Northern Illinois, Eastern Michigan and Miami-Ohio this season, three of the four top scoring defenses in the MAC. The Cougars fit the profile of a team that Western Michigan absolutely can take down—and certainly cover a 12-point spread against.
3. One reason that Western Michigan is getting 12 points (instead of, say, 9.5 or 10) is that the Broncos lost quarterback Jon Wassink to injury in late October. Wassink was second in the MAC in passing yards per game (221.6) and passer rating (146.65) entering bowl season, but freshman QB Kaleb Eleby has given the team hope. In his four games for WMU, Eleby has completed 64.9% of his passes and 8.3 yards per attempt. Facing an elite Northern Illinois defense in the regular season finale, Eleby threw for 285 yards and led Western Michigan to a 28-21 upset win as a 6.5-point underdog. With stud running backs LeVante Bellamy and Jamauri Bogan behind him (1,874 combined rushing yards), Eleby will be able to keep the Broncos within striking distance of the Cougars.
Pick: Western Michigan +12
Confidence Level: High (on a scale of Low/Moderate/High/Very High/Extremely High)