Free Pick Breakdown, Odds & Prediction: Armed Forces Bowl - Baylor vs. Air Force (12/22/2022) - Taking Vegas

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Free Pick Breakdown, Odds & Prediction: Armed Forces Bowl – Baylor vs. Air Force (12/22/2022)

By Michael Savio
December 21, 2022

Baylor Bears vs Air Force Falcons (12-22 @ 7:30 PM EST)

Spread: Baylor -4
Money Line: Baylor -180 / Air Force +152
Total: 43

Overview and Betting Info

The Baylor Bears (6-6) and Air Force Falcons (9-3) will meet in the Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl on Thursday night. This will be just the fourth time these teams have played, the first since 1977. Baylor won all three of their previous matchups.

Baylor is 6-6 against the spread this season, covering just two of their last five. They are 8-4 in favor of the over and have gone over the total in seven of their previous nine games.

Air Force is 7-5 versus the spread and have covered three of their last five. They are 5-7 in favor of the under and have gone under the total in five of their previous six games.

Baylor Bears

The Bears’ offense averages 429.9 yards and 33.6 points per game. They are led by quarterback Blake Shapen, who has 2,602 yards and 16 touchdowns. Shapen and the Bears started the season with a lot of promise, but a head injury against West Virginia seemed to alter the course of the season. While Shapen was able to return the next week, his numbers over the final six games were way down. After starting the season with 11 touchdowns and three interceptions in his first six games, he has five touchdowns and seven interceptions in his final six. He is supported by Monaray Baldwin, who leads the team with 565 yards and four touchdowns. The receiving core will be without second-leading receiver Gavin Holmes (470 yards, 3 TD), so expect freshmen Josh Cameron to continue to be heavily involved in the passing game. Cameron has 330 yards on the season, with 271 coming in the last four games.

The Baylor run attack is led by Richard Reese, who has 962 yards and 14 touchdowns. Like Shapen, Reese began the season looking like a top rusher in the country, but he’s fallen off recently with 171 yards over their last four games. Along with Reese, the Bears like to use Craig Williams (532 yards, 4 TD) and Qualan Jones (448 yards, 7 TDs) fairly evenly. Williams has been hot recently but managed just 2 carries in their loss to Texas. Jones isn’t seeing as many carries lately but has been a presence in the red zone.

The Baylor defense allows 370.3 yards and 26.6 points per game this season. Their run defense ranks in the top three of the Big 12, but they’ve faltered against talented rush attacks the last three games (especially against mobile QBs). The defense allowed an average of 33.2 points per game during that stretch, which is well above their season average. Garmon Randolph and Gabe Hall lead the team with 4.5 sacks, with 13 players registering at least 0.5 sacks on the year. In the secondary, Christian Morgan leads the team with three interceptions. The secondary has struggled against the pass, but given the Falcons’ style of play, they shouldn’t see much action on Thursday.

Air Force Falcons

The Falcons’ offense is averaging 398.7 yards and 27.7 points per game, thanks partly to quarterback Haaziq Daniels. While the Falcons don’t throw much (Daniels has 733 pass yards and 6 TDs), the quarterback has been a force on the ground with 614 yards and seven touchdowns. He’s averaging an impressive 5 yards per carry, but he’s been quieter over the last two weeks with a combined 54 yards. When Daniels does drop back to throw, he’s almost certain to be targeting David Cormier (384 yards, 4 TD) or Amari Terry (119 yards, 1 TD). The two receivers have yet to do much, but they are the only players to register more than three catches on the season.

The Air Force run game has been the key to their success, and they lead the FBS with 330.9 yards per game. The backfield is led by Brad Roberts, who has 1,612 yards (3rd in FBS) and 15 touchdowns (11th in FBS). He’s been getting better as the season goes on and has a ridiculous 669 yards over their last four games. He joins Daniels to form one of the nation’s elite backfields. When they aren’t carrying the ball, look for John Lee Eldridge III to get plenty of looks. The back has 701 yards and four touchdowns on the season and should see plenty of snaps on Thursday.

The Air Force defense leads all FBS schools by allowing 256.4 yards and 13.3 points (3rd in FBS) per game. While they play in an easier Mountain West conference, the unit has been incredible all season. They’ve allowed more than 20 points once (against Utah State), meaning the crew can keep the offense in any game. Vince Sanford leads the team with 5.5 sacks, followed by Peyton Zdorik with 4.5 sacks. Keep an eye on TD Blackmon as well, as he has 3.5 sacks and leads the team with 67 tackles. Camby Goff leads the secondary with three interceptions and nine pass deflections. With Baylor’s offense playing the way it is, the Air Force defense should match up well on Thursday.

Free Pick: Air Force +4

Air Forces’ six Armed Forces Bowl appearances lead the country, but they’ve won just once. This is a very different Air Force team, with a defense and backfield that can match up with anybody. The Falcons’ schedule has been soft, but we see their talent transferring to the big stage on Thursday. On the other side, we are concerned about how this Baylor team has looked. While the end of their schedule featured three ranked teams, the offense has yet to look the same over the last six weeks. Things won’t get any easier as they face an impressive Air Force defense. On defense for Baylor, we look at how they fared against Kansas State and have concerns. KSU is better than Air Force, but the game showed Baylor’s issues stopping a mobile quarterback and a talented rush game. We also won’t be surprised to see Air Force throw the ball a bit more against who should be soft coverages.

We’re taking the points to fly with the Air Force Thursday.

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