Duke Blue Devils vs. Temple Owls (-3.5)
Thu., December 27, 1:30 p.m. ET
Three things to know before betting on Duke-Temple:
1. Geoff Collins's two-year tenure as head coach of Temple was a big success. Temple went 15-10 against the spread under Collins and won the Gasparilla Bowl last season. Collins was so good that Georgia Tech hired him away from Temple in the middle of the team's preparation for this bowl game.
The lack of Collins is nudging some bettors toward Duke in this one. But Collins's absence won't all of a sudden Duke better. The Blue Devils barely managed to cover as 29.5-point underdogs in a 35-6 loss to Clemson and then were trampled 59-7 at home by Wake Forest as a 9.5-point favorite to close out the regular season. Duke now enters the Independence Bowl having lost four of its last six and six of its last nine against the spread. Over the last five seasons, underdogs of 3.5 to 10 points that have lost two of their last three games are 36-73 ATS when playing a team that has won two out of its last three.
2. Temple starting quarterback Anthony Russo missed the Owls' regular-season finale with what appeared to be an injury to his throwing hand. Temple hasn't said much publicly about the injury, including whether or not Russo will play in the Independence Bowl. Suspecting he might not, some bettors might think they can get value on Duke before it's announced.
That approach is short-sighted. For one thing, Russo may actually play. Even if he doesn't, Temple's offense can still put points on the board. The Owls thrive by moving the ball on the ground, with All-AAC first-team selection Ryquell Armstead rushing for the second-most yards per game (109.8) in the conference. Against a Duke defense that just allowed 340 rushing yards to Wake Forest, he'll be the focal point of the gameplan.
3. Duke's offense managed just 13 total points over its past two games, so Temple's defense could have a field day. The Owls allowed only 4.49 yards per play this season, the sixth-best number in FBS, trailing only teams such as Michigan, Clemson and Mississippi State. With a conference-high four selections to the All-AAC first team, the talent on this defense should have no trouble stopping the Blue Devils, who average only 5.4 yards per play (92nd in FBS).
Pick: Temple -3.5
Confidence Level: Moderate (on a scale of Low/Moderate/High/Very High/Extremely High)