- With quarterback Gardner Minshew, the Washington State offense relies on precision passing. That could be trouble for a Cyclones D that allowed opposing QBs to complete 61.6% of their passes this season.
Iowa State Cyclones vs. Washington State Cougars (-3.5)
Fri., December 28, 9:00 p.m. ET
Three things to know before betting on Iowa State-Washington State:
1. Washington State coach Mike Leach did a masterful job this season, leading Washington to a 10-2 record both straight up and against the spread. The Cougars' ATS mark was the best in college football. And Leach has Washington State well-positioned for another cover as a 3.5-point favorite over Iowa State in the Alamo Bowl. His Cougar teams are 33-14 against the spread after rushing for 125 yards or less in two consecutive games and 18-8 ATS after winning two of their last three. With the most important matchups in this game tilting toward Washington State, the Cougars are a good value at -3.5.
2. Washington State's Gardner Minshew has had as good of a year under Leach as any quarterback—which is saying something. After throwing for 373.1 yards per game (first in FBS) and 36 touchdowns (fifth), Minshew finished sixth in Heisman voting. He should have success against Iowa State as the Wazzu passing game relies on precision and getting the ball out quickly. Minshew was third in the country in completion percentage (70.6%) and the Cougars O-line led the country in rate of sacks allowed (1.7%). That style of play takes advantage of an Iowa State weakness (61.6 opposing completion percentage, 94st in FBS) and negates a big strength (7.9% sack rate, 31st). Plus, Iowa State has a rash of injuries in its defensive backfield that should allow the Cougars to move the ball effectively and find the end zone.
3. Washington State's defense matches up well against the Cyclones. Many may look at Wazzu's average rushing defense, which allowed 4.02 yards allowed per carry, 47th in FBS despite a schedule light on strong ground attacks, as a feast-in-waiting for Iowa State running back David Montgomery. Montgomery has rushed for more than 1,000 yards in back-to-back seasons. But other numbers tell a different story. Playing largely against porous Big 12 defenses in 2018, Iowa State managed a minuscule 3.49 yards per carry, ranking 114th in the country in that category. WSU's defense has fared just fine against better running games this year.
Pick: Washington State -3.5
Confidence Level: High (on a scale of Low/Moderate/High/Very High/Extremely High)