Free Pick Breakdown, Odds & Prediction: Hawaii Bowl - Middle Tennessee St vs. San Diego St (12/24/2022) - Taking Vegas

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Free Pick Breakdown, Odds & Prediction: Hawaii Bowl – Middle Tennessee St vs. San Diego St (12/24/2022)

By Ryan Potts
December 22, 2022

Middle Tennessee State vs. San Diego State (12/24 @ 8:00 p.m. EST.)

Line: San Diego State -7
Total: 49

Middle Tennessee State vs San Diego State Breakdown and Betting Odds

The Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders (7-5) and San Diego State Aztecs (7-5) are heading to Hawaii for the aptly named Hawaii Bowl Saturday at 8:00 p.m. ET. The Aztecs are 7-point favorites. The over/under is set at 49 points.

The Blue Raiders and Aztecs have never played against one another despite both schools playing more than a century of college football. Middle Tennessee State is playing in its 10th bowl game while San Diego State is playing in its 16th bowl game.

Middle Tennessee State Overview

Middle Tennessee State has had some nice highs to go with a few massive lows this season. They opened the season with a 37-point loss to James Madison. However, they won their next three including a two-touchdown win over a ranked Miami (FL) squad. The Blue Raiders then lost four of five to slump to 4-5. Needing a key win streak, they beat Charlotte by 10, Florida Atlantic by 28, and Florida International by five to secure bowl eligibility. They finished 4-4 in conference, and they had non-conference wins in the Mountain West and ACC in addition to a 49-6 smackdown of FCS Tennessee State.

The Blue Raiders have had a largely effective offensive. They are not overwhelming statistically, but they have been solid enough. They are 61st in scoring, pouring in 29.2 points per game. They have had two distinct streaks, scoring 30 or more in four consecutive games early in the season and scoring 24 or more in each of their last five games. Middle Tennessee State has three underwhelming games including a gross seven-point performance to open the season, but the Blue Raiders have been good offensively since mid-October. Quarterback Chase Cunningham has had a rock-solid season. He has completed 67.4% of his passes, tossing 19 touchdowns and nine interceptions He added six rushing touchdowns as well. On the ground, Frank Peasant leads the team with 165 carries, 750 yards, and nine touchdowns. The passing game has been spread around from a touchdown perspective, but Jaylin Lane is by far the top receiver with 59 catches and 829 yards.

The Blue Raiders’ defense is shaky. They are 82nd in scoring defense, allowing 28.1 points per game. They have allowed 2.3 passing touchdowns per game and over 410 total yards per game. On the bright side, they have only allowed 3.5 yards per rush. The defense is led by Jordan Ferguson. Ferguson has 16 tackles for loss and 9.0 sacks. He has forced a pair of fumbles, and he has five pass deflections. Marley Cook and Zaylin Cook have also had productive seasons, combining for 17.5 tackles for loss and 12.0 sacks. Decorian Patterson has been a revelation on the back end, picking off six passes. Teldrick Ross only has one pick, but he has 18 pass deflections, second in FBS.

Middle Tennessee State is 5-7 ATS. They opened 3-1 ATS, but they soon dropped five of six. In their last five games, they are 2-3 ATS. As underdogs, they won outright in both games. As favorites, they failed to cover -10.5 and -19.5 in wins, and they lost outright to Louisiana Tech. The over is 7-5, hitting three times in four weeks.

San Diego State Overview

It has been a year of runs for the Aztecs. They opened 2-3, dropping three different games by at least 18 points. However, they broke into Mountain West play and rattled off five wins in six games. Their nice run came to an end with a bizarre loss to Air Force in which they had negative rushing yards. The Aztecs are bowling for the 12th time in 13 years, only missing out during the COVID season. They were not as good as they were in 2021, but the Aztecs can be difficult to beat.

The Aztecs offense is not the reason, however. They rank 109th in scoring, pouring in just 21.3 points per game. They have only completed 55.7% of their passes, attempting 25 per game. The rushing offense is also far from great. No Aztec has more than 400 rushing yards, and the team averages 4.1 yards per carry. Somehow, San Diego State is only averaging two touchdowns per game while they allow 2.7 per game. Kicker/punter Jack Browning has knocked through 17 field goals, but he is among the conference’s leaders in punts. Just as in 2021, the strength of the Aztecs is in their punting as Browning routinely flips the field and puts the defense in better situations. Perhaps the only star on the offense is Tyrell Shavers who leads the team with 581 receiving yards and three touchdowns. Jordan Byrd has been a mediocre runner, but he has two special teams touchdowns.

With help from Browning, the Aztecs had a stellar defense. They finished 21st in scoring defense, and they often gave the offense a chance. They held their opponent to 14 or fewer points in seven different games. They had a shaky September, but they have been excellent since. Even in their last loss to Air Force, SDSU only allowed 13 points. The vaunted Air Force rushing attack was held in check as much as a team with 66 attempts can be. Jonah Tavai and Michael Shawcroft have been the difference makers. Tavai has 12.5 tackles for loss and 9.0 sacks. Shawcroft has 12 tackles for loss and 5.5 sacks. In the passing game, Dallas Branch has nabbed three interceptions, and two Aztecs have swatted away five passes.

San Diego State is 5-7 ATS. As favorites, SDSU is just 2-4 including an outright loss to Arizona. The last time the Aztecs were favorites, they were able to cover -14.5, but they have also scored 14 or fewer points twice in the last month. The under is 7-5. The Aztecs have had several games with a total in the 30s, and this week’s 49 is the largest in an SDSU game since their game with Hawaii.

Free Pick: Middle Tennessee State +7

This line could be used in a teaser at either San Diego State -1 or Middle Tennessee State +13, but Middle Tennessee State +7 seems to be the best move. The Aztecs have struggled to cover, and their style of football is prone to low-scoring and close games. The under also has value because of San Diego State’s defense and special teams. It might also be worth making a moneyline bet on the Blue Raiders

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