The Tulsa Golden Hurricane take on the Central Michigan Chippewas on Monday, December 19th in the 2016 Miami Beach Bowl. Kickoff inside Marlins Park is set for 2:30 EST Monday afternoon with ESPN providing the television coverage.
Tulsa (9-3) finished second to Navy in the American Athletic Conference West Division. The three losses came to the likes of Navy (by 2), Houston (by 7) and Ohio State. Former Houston and Baylor offensive coordinator Philip Montgomery has done an excellent job of turning around this program.
Central Michigan (6-6) limps into the postseason having lost four of its last five games overall. The early win over Oklahoma State seems like ages ago as the Chippewas just haven’t been the same team since. But they have to be excited to be going to a warm weather bowl here in Miami.
This is one of the biggest spreads of the bowl season. I think there is value with Central Michigan because of it, and I have no doubt they will show up for this game and give Tulsa a run for its money. Big underdogs this early in the bowl season have done well historically as well.
The betting public wants nothing to do with the Chippewas after they went 1-4 SU & 1-4 ATS in their final five games to close out the season. That has created some artificial line value here. But they have been competitive all season as their only real blowout loss came to Western Michigan, which went 13-0 this season.
Let’s not forget what the Chippewas are capable of. They beat Oklahoma State 30-27 as 17-point dogs in the second game of the season. That’s a Cowboys team that went on to finish second in the Big 12 to Oklahoma. That is a better win than anything that Tulsa has this season.
Conversely, the Golden Hurricane come in overvalued due to going 6-1 ATS in their final seven games of the season. We saw them laying too many points in their season finale, needing overtime to beat Cincinnati 40-37 as 22.5-point home favorites. This is a quality squad, but I don’t think they should be laying double-digits here.
The Chippewas are 8-2 ATS in their last 10 non-conference games.
I think the Chippewas want to be here more than the Golden Hurricane do. Central Michigan coach John Bonamego was special teams coordinator for the Dolphins from 2008-10. “It’s got to be in the top five in destinations for a bowl game,” Bonamego told reporters. “There’s a tremendous amount of culture down there. It’s a great destination … a lot of good people, a lot of good friends.”
Senior quarterback Cooper Rush wants to go out a winner. He has thrown for 3,299 yards and 23 touchdowns this season. Wideout Corey Willis is his favorite target with 1,028 receiving yards and nine touchdowns. Devon Spalding rushed for 737 yards and six scores on only 131 carries while missing two games.
I think the Chippewas will always be in this game because of Rush’s ability to take apart Tulsa’s defense. The weakness of the Golden Hurricane is clearly their stop unit, which gives up 31.5 points and 434 yards per game this season. And the Chippewas average nearly 34 possession minutes per game on offense, so they should be able to play a little bit of keep-away here from Tulsa’s offense. The Chippewas are 8-2 ATS in their last 10 non-conference games.