Las Vegas Bowl Pick
This is the first bowl Game involving a power Conference team and Oregon probably isn’t all that excited about it. It’s been an up-and-down season for both of these teams for different reasons, but this should be the most-watched and probably most bet on bowl on Dec. 16. For the Las Vegas Bowl, the Ducks opened as large -10 point favorites, but that was brought down to -7.5 at 5Dimes Sportsbook (as of Dec. 4).
Oregon coach Willie Taggart left for Florida State a couple weeks before this Game with co-offensive coordinator Mario Cristobal taking over as interim for the bowl Game. Cristobal at least knows the offense, so that’s one aspect that won’t take a hit in this Game (the spread didn’t change after the Taggart news). The inconsistency of play is largely due to top quarterback Justin Herbert missing five Games in the middle of the year because of injury. In fact, Herbert is 6-1 as the quarterback and that’s the main reason Oregon is favored. With him in the offense, the Ducks are averaging 52 points per Game, but only 15 without. Obviously, a lot of that has to do with playing the best teams in the Conference (Stanford, Washington) without Herbert, but Oregon still only mustered 14 in the loss to UCLA.
It’s been mostly smooth sailing for Boise State, but a lot of that has to do with playing in the MWC. The 19-point home loss to Virginia still stands out on the Schedule, although a three-point loss at Wazzu was good result along with the 31-14 win at SDSU. But in the final two Games against Fresno State, the Broncos had trouble moving the ball and only mustered 34 points in two Games after scoring at least 41 in the previous Four.
There are a lot of places this Game could go, but Boise’s defense is no longer elite and that’s where Herbert and company comes in. against better offenses, the Broncos have been exploited multiple times and this may be the best offense Boise has faced yet.
Herbert’s success was already documented, and that’s piling onto what Royce Freeman, one of the best running backs in the nation, can do. Freeman wasn’t talked about much on a national stage coming off an injury-ravaged 2016 season, but he still managed 1,475 yards and 16 touchdowns this year, going for at least 120 yards in the final six Games. Two of those performances came at Stanford and Washington without Herbert. again, this offense is at a completely different level with Herbert and while Boise State has good overall numbers, a lot of that has to do with conference. The Broncos gave up 47 points to Wazzu, 42 to Virginia and 52 to Colorado State.
The problem for Boise is that Oregon stepped it up on the defensive side this season, something that can be attributed to Taggart. The Ducks allow just 130 rushing yards and 3.6 yards per carry and that could be huge in this Game.
Boise’s offense goes through its running Game and when that area struggles, the offense struggles as a whole. Running back Alexander Mattison mustered just 113 yards total against Fresno in the last two Games and the offense couldn’t get anything going. Mattison has some nice performances with 1,074 yards and 12 touchdowns on the season, but if Oregon gets out to a lead, that may not work. More noteworthy is that Mattison left last Game with an ankle injury and his status is up in the air. Ryan Wolpin (99 carries, 3.8 ypc) took his spot. That leads to Brett Rypien stepping into a bigger role and that’s had mixed results throughout his career. As a junior, he’s been more efficient, but has just 14 touchdowns this season, a career low. Cedrick Wilson (1,290 yards, 6 TDs) is the receiver Oregon needs to stop and if that happens, it could be trouble for BSU.
The Broncos have a balanced team and that could help cover this Game, but if Herbert and Freeman get loose on the offensive side, the Broncos may not have enough to keep up. The Broncos are 2-6 ATS in their last eight against the Pac-12, while the Ducks are 5-2 ATS in their last seven at a neutral site.
Our Pick – Boise St +7