College football predictions for early bowl games from Wes Reynolds

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College football expert betting picks for the early bowl games

Wes Reynolds is on VSiN Tonight (9 p.m.-12 a.m. ET / 6-9 p.m. PT) and will be posting his weekly college football and NFL best bets for us. He is also one of the hosts of our Long Shots golf betting podcast. He also writes weekly golf previews 

 

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(odds as of December 14, 10:35 p.m. PT)

Miami (OH) RedHawks vs. Appalachian State Mountaineers (-6.5; 44.5)

Cure Bowl

The Miami RedHawks won their second MAC Championship two weeks ago, 23-14 over Toledo, and paid back the Rockets for a Week 8 loss. In that initial meeting with Toledo, Miami lost starting QB Brett Gabbert to a season-ending leg injury. Backup QB Aveon Smith took over and ran a more run-heavy offense (a little over 2/3 of the offensive plays over the last five games were run plays) and went 5-0 as a starter which included a victory in the MAC Championship Game. However, Smith entered the transfer portal, and Miami will be down to third-string QB Henry Hesson, who threw his five career collegiate passes last season, and Colorado transfer Maddox Kopp, who played in two games for the Buffaloes last season.

The offense will be a more traditional run-based attack without Smith’s mobility, but Appalachian State has struggled against the run, ranking No. 111 nationally.

The RedHawks have been carried by their defense that has held opponents to 20 or fewer points in eight of their last 10 games and ranks seventh in the nation in scoring defense at 16.2 points per game. Special teams are also a strength of Miami’s, mainly led by its kicker and Lou Groza Award winner Graham Nicholson, who went 26-for-27 (9-10 from 40-49, 1-1 50+) on field goals and 35-for-36 on PATs. His only miss of the season came in the MAC Championship Game.

Miami’s defense will be tested by Appalachian State’s offense (34.4 ppg – No. 20 nationally) under quarterback Joey Aguilar, who established a school record with 3,546 passing yards this season and was third nationally with 33 touchdown passes. The Mountaineers nearly defeated North Carolina in Week 2 and did hand previously unbeaten James Madison its only defeat of the season.

Appalachian State’s defense had allowed just a little over 18 ppg in its last four regular season games before allowing 49 points and 463 yards at Troy in the Sun Belt Championship Game. The Mountaineers are not without transfer portal attrition as leading rusher Nate Noel (864 yards, 5 TD) has departed the program.

The total has dropped six points from the opener of 48.5, mainly due to Smith’s transfer and potential rainy and windy conditions, but the Miami offense should not change much, although App State does not have much film on Hesson or Kopp. Chuck Martin (4-0 ATS in bowl games) has shown that he will not hesitate to use Nicholson and lean on the kicking game when the offense sputters. The RedHawks are also the best defense that the Mountaineers will have faced all season, so points should be at a premium.

Appalachian State opened as a four-point favorite, and the line is starting to approach -7, which is too many points to lay to a good defense and a team that has fought off adversity all year, broke a 16-year losing streak in the Victory Bell game to Cincinnati, and is attempting to become the winningest program in Oxford since Ben Roethlisberger’s 13-win team in 2023.

Bet: Miami (OH) +6.5 -105 (Play to +6, try to wait it out for a potential +7)

UCLA Bruins (-4.5; 49) vs. Boise State Broncos

LA Bowl

With two weeks remaining in the regular season, Boise State fired head coach Andy Avalos, and defensive coordinator Spencer Danielson took over as the interim coach. The Broncos won their last two regular-season games and won the Mountain West Championship at UNLV. Danielson was given the full-time job as a result.

While Boise State should be fired up to play a power five team, the Broncos are short-handed at QB with Maddux Madsen out with an injury and Taylen Green having transferred to Arkansas. True freshman CJ Tiller will start but will be aided by a run-heavy attack leaning on the duo of Ashton Jeanty (1266 yards, 14 TDs) and George Holani (606 yards, 5 TDs). However, UCLA ranked as the No. 1 rush defense in the nation this season, only allowing 69.6 yards per game on the ground. Even without Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year EDGE Laiatu Latu, who opted out as a likely first-round pick in the 2024 NFL Draft, Boise likely will find it difficult to move the ball consistently.

Boise State’s defense slipped a bit this season to rank mid-pack nationally but improved down the stretch, only allowing 333 yards per game and 16 points per game over the last four games. UCLA lost QB Dante Moore to the transfer, so Ethan Garbers will return to the starting role. Bruins RB Carson Steele (847 yards, 6 TD) has also missed practice the last two days. Chip Kelly played musical chairs at QB all season and could never settle on a consistent starter.

With a true freshman starting at QB for Boise and two solid defenses, this should be a lower scoring game.

Bet: Under 49 (Play to 48); 1H Under 24