Independence Bowl Pick

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Independence Bowl

Pick

Duke

vs.

Temple

12/27/18

There are a lot of questions coming into the Independence Bowl with an interim head coach and both teams battling injuries. Temple has the interim coach and comes out of the AAC yet is still favored over an ACC team. The Owls were -4.5 point favorites with an over/under of 55 (at 5Dimes Sportsbook) about a week before the Game in Shreveport, Louisiana.

Temple (8-4 ATS) has won six of its last seven and has solid wins over Cincy and Houston, but tight ends coach Ed Foley will lead the team in the interim. He had the same position only two years ago and Temple fell to Wake Forest 34-26 as a 13-point favorite. That’s definitely a troubling stat for the Owls because that team was actually better, at least according to records.

Then again, Duke (6-6 ATS) is battling numerous injuries and its top linebacker (Joe Giles-Harris) is questionable to play after he missed the 59-7 beat down in the season finale to Wake. The Blue Devils were solid earlier in the season, but things slowly fell apart and they only managed three wins in ACC play, which is troubling given how weak the Coastal division was. 

Temple (8-4 ATS) also has questions at quarterback and running back as both Anthony Russo and Ryquell Armstead were dealing with injuries, though were probable to play a week before the Game. Russo’s numbers don’t look great (13 TDs, 13 INTs), but backup Frank Nutile started the season and lost the first two Games against Villanova and Buffalo. As for Armstead, he’s a must if you bet the Owls after rushing for 1,098 yards and 13 touchdowns. Given that he got a full month of rest for a minor ankle injury, the senior should be ready to play.

The best thing for Temple is that Duke’s rush defense is miserable, allowing 5.2 yards per carry and 222 yards per Game. If Armstead is a go, it’s hard to see Duke limiting what he and the Owls can do on the ground and they have looked good to close the season.

The other side of the ball provides a lot of questions and few answers. Duke quarterback Daniel Jones is quietly in talks to enter the NFL Draft because he plays for David Cutcliffe, but his numbers have been mediocre at best, with 6.41 yards per attempt and 17 touchdowns. He managed just 145 yards on 36 attempts in the final Game against Wake, a team with a bad defense. Interesting enough is that Temple leads the country in pass defense, giving up just 5.1 yards per attempt to go with 15 interceptions and 33 sacks. Some of that has to do with playing in the AAC, but those are still solid numbers. 

The Blue Devils will try and lean on running back Deon Jackson early who had a respectable 806 yards and seven touchdowns. Jones also provides some mobility so that also gives a boost in the ground Game, which Duke will likely attack as Temple allowed 190 rushing yards per Game. In fact, in the 10-point loss to Boston College, the Owls gave up only 148 passing yards, but 275 rushing yards. The question is how healthy Duke will be and if it can ride its running Game the entire way because that’s not something it has shown.

The Owls are 14-6 ATS vs. a team with a winning record and don’t have any relevant trends while the Blue Devils have covered in their last Four bowls and are 7-2 ATS vs. a team with a winning record.

Our Pick – The Temple coaching situation throws a monkey wrech into this one. However, with that in mind, we’ll still stick with the numbers, which suggest Temple is the right side and hope that interim heach coach Foley can keep the troops focused and on  task. Temple -4

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