The fact that San Diego State opened as a three-point underdog in this game was shocking in light of the fact that the Aztecs are the better team on both sides of the ball. Moreover, Buffalo head coach Jeff Quinn cannot be trusted against decent opposition as evidenced by the fact that he is a money-burning 4-26 SU and 8-21-1 ATS versus .251 or better opponents. The problem for Buffalo is an overrated offense that will struggle to move the ball against a very good Aztec stop unit.
Buffalo’s Overrated Offense
Buffalo is averaging 30.8 points per game this season at 4.1 yards per rush play, 6.6 yards per pass attempt and 5.1 yards per play. While those numbers may look appealing in the surface, the reality is that the Bulls arrive in Boise with a subpar offense that is 0.2 yards per pass play and 0.5 yards per play worse than average overall. In addition, while star running back Brandon Oliver compiled 1,421 rushing yards this season and has a bright future in the NFL, the Bulls’ ground game was actually 0.7 yards per carry worse than average in 2013 (4.7 yards per rush play against teams that combine to allow 5.4 yards per rush play).
San Diego State’s Underrated Defense
San Diego’s stop unit has been very good this season as the Aztecs have allowed 392 total yards as 5.3 yards per play to teams that combine to average 460 total yards at 6.0 yards per play. Being 0.7 yards per play better than average defensively is certainly good enough to limit a Buffalo attack that is 0.5 yards per play worse than average (see above). Overall, San Diego State possesses a significant +1.2 yards per play advantage defensively over the Bulls’ offense.
Experience matters in postseason play, and the Aztecs have the advantage in that department as well as they are making their fourth consecutive bowl appearance. In contrast, Buffalo will be making its second bowl appearance in school history after losing to Connecticut as 7-point underdogs (38-20) in 2008. San Diego State also has experience on the blue turf as they upset Boise State last year. Let’s also note that pre-New Year’s Day MAC bowl teams are 1-7 ATS off a loss of eight or more points, while bowl teams with 17 or more returning players are just 2-11 ATS following a loss versus an opponent off a loss. Finally, Buffalo has been one of the luckiest teams in college football this season with a +16 turnover margin; the Aztecs were -12 in turnover margin and variance always finds a way to even out over time.
Sports Pick: San Diego State (pk) (-110)