The college football bowl season is upon us. With 39 games spread out over the next two and a half weeks there is plenty of opportunity to add a little bonus to your holiday gift pile. Our bowl picks series will let you know who we think will come out on top against the spread. All lines and totals courtesy of Sportsline. Find all our picks here. All lines are as of the date of publication.
Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl
San Diego State (10-2) vs. Army (9-3)
Spread: San Diego State -6.5
Spread: With the win over Navy, Army has now recorded its first 9-win season since 1996 when the Black Knights went 10-2 under coach Bob Sutton. Jeff Monken has done a terrific job of turning this program around and he’s done it by getting back to the team’s bread-and-butter, the triple-option. With senior QB Ahmad Bradshaw leading the attack, the Black Knights lead the country in rushing yards per game at over 355, while averaging 6.1 yards per carry. Bradshaw’s explosiveness (7.5 YPC) combined with the power running of Darnell Woolfolk inside (5.4 YPC) has led to the offense ranking just outside the Top 50 in scoring at 29.8 PPG (52nd). You won’t see much passing from this offense, as they had multiple games this year with five or fewer pass attempts. On defense, Army has benefited from its offense controlling the clock, allowing just 356 yards and 20.9 points per game. The Black Knights average just 63 plays per game while their opponents average 58 due to the time-consuming nature of their offense.
This match-up will be interesting because San Diego State’s defense has been stingy against the run, allowing just 110 yards per game and giving up just 18 points per outing. However, when the Aztecs faced a similar offense in Air Force, they gave up 220 yards and three touchdowns while eking out a 28-24 win. On offense, this is one of the top non-service academy rushing teams in the nation, averaging 252.8 yards per game largely thanks to 5th place Heisman finalist Rashaad Penny. Penny has averaged 180 yards per game this season on 7.4 yards per carry and racking up 19 touchdowns. He presents a unique challenge for Army; the Black Knights haven’t faced a back like him so far this season. The closest they’ve seen was Ohio State freshman J.K. Dobbins who got loose to the tune of 13 carries for 172 yards and two touchdowns.
Trend-wise, SDSU was 8-4 against the spread this year and Army was 6-6. The Black Knights have been better as the underdog, going 4-2. The Aztecs were 6-4 as the favorite this year. The biggest key here is what the Aztecs defense learned from facing the similar Air Force offense earlier this year. If they’re able to stuff Army a couple of times, Rashaad Penny and the offense should get loose against the Black Knights defense. SDSU -6.5
Total: Army hit the number six times this season while SDSU went 4-7-1 against the number. Because of how good the defenses have been, and both teams looking to pound the ball on the ground, the under seems likely. Under 46