The college football bowl season kicks off on Saturday, Dec. 15, and the Las Vegas Bowl betting matchup between Fresno State and Arizona State is already drawing plenty of interest and action.
Fresno State’s head coach Jeff Tedford led the Bulldogs through a strong season, who finished No. 21 in the final College Football Playoff rankings after winning the Mountain West Conference title game at Boise State, 19-16 in overtime. The Bulldogs were one of the top profit producers this season going 9-4 ATS. Herm Edwards guided Arizona State to a winning record and also betting profits as the Sun Devils are 7-5 ATS this season.
While Arizona State was just 2-4 SU and ATS away from home, they were very competitive in one-score Pac-12 road losses at Washington, Colorado and Oregon, and did win at USC and in their season-ending rivalry game at Arizona, 41-40. The Sun Devils also lost by 7 points at San Diego State early in the year, and also beat bowl teams at home with victories over Utah and Michigan State.
But the early Las Vegas Bowl betting action has been pouring in on Fresno State, who opened a 3.5-point favorite. The Bulldogs were strong on the road going 5-2 SU/ATS with their only losses by one score at bowl teams Minnesota and Boise State during the regular season. Fresno State played the softer schedule, but there is no denying the defensive dominance of the Bulldogs despite lacking sacks. Fresno State’s scoring defense ranks No. 2 in the country allowing just 13.8 points per game against FBS opponents. The Bulldogs allowed 325.2 yards per game against FBS foes to rank top-20 in the nation. Still, strength of schedule must be considered.
Fresno State Bulldogs (11-2) vs. Arizona State Sun Devils (7-5)
Saturday, Dec. 15 –Sam Boyd Stadium – (ABC at 3:30pm ET)
Betting Line: Fresno State -4.5 (53.5)
The one concern for Fresno State backers in Las Vegas Bowl betting is that the Bulldogs offense was slowed against the better defenses on their schedule scoring 23 points or less against Minnesota, San Diego State and Boise State twice. Arizona State runs the same 3-3-5 defense as San Diego State, and the Bulldogs were held to 123 rushing yards at 2.9 yards per rush in the 23-14 home win over San Diego State. Still, Fresno State had 390 yards offense that game and held ASU to 282 yards, but the Fresno State offensive line will need to contain a Sun Devils defense that had six players register at least six tackles for loss. In Arizona State’s 28-21 loss at San Diego State in September, the Sun Devils were out-gained 440-377 and ASU rushed for just 36 yards on 24 carries with RB Eno Benjamin (1,524 yards and 15 rush TDs) rushing for a season-low 21 yards, and he was also held to 27 rushing yards vs Michigan State and 38 rushing yards vs Stanford.
So Arizona State will need to pass the ball more to have success, and senior QB Manny Wilkins is clearly capable having passed for 380 yards against Michigan State, 341 at San Diego State, 353 vs Stanford and 285 vs Utah. Those were solid defensive teams, but with leading receiver N’Keal Harry (73/1,088 yds and 9 TDs) letting his teammates down and sitting out the Las Vegas Bowl as he eyes the NFL draft, Arizona State loses their biggest offensive weapon and punt returner. Fresno State ranks top-25 statistically in pass defense allowing 193.2 passing yards per game vs FBS foes, and the Bulldogs racked up 17 interceptions; one behind the nation’s leaders.
Key ATS Stat: Since 1980, Bowl teams with 10 or more wins playing in a Bowl game prior to Dec. 20 are 12-0 SU and 10-2 ATS.
Las Vegas Bowl Betting Free Pick – Fresno State -4.5
Fairway Jay is a professional handicapper based out of Las Vegas. He focuses primarily on the four majors along with college football and college basketball. You can follow him on Twitter @FairwayJay.