Akron vs. Utah State
Tuesday, December 22, 12:30 pm PT - ESPN
CRIS Opener: Utah State -6 O/U 50
CRIS Current: Utah State -6.5 O/U 48
Recommendation: Utah State
Akron really capitalized down the stretch due to a favorable schedule. They closed out the year with four straight wins against the likes of UMass, Miami, Buffalo, and Kent. And when asked to step up in class, the Zips repeatedly failed with losses to Ohio and Central Michigan at home and a blowout loss at Bowling Green. Keep in mind, Akron was stationed in the far weaker MAC East and avoided playing bowl bound Western Michigan, Toledo, and Northern Illinois. They did post the best defensive numbers in the MAC in league play (4.88 ypp and 326.1 ypg allowed) but again, didn't play three of the top four offenses.
Utah State had an up-and-down season overall but comes in with a far more impressive resume. The Aggies finished a respectable 5-3 in Mountain West play and outgained league opponents by over a year per play. And they didn't "duck" anyone as San Jose State, UNLV, and Hawaii (11-26 combined) were the three teams left off the conference slate. Their blowout win over Boise was a bit flukey with a +7 turnover margin and you are somewhat concerned that they lost the turnover battle each of their last six games (-10 combined). And then there's the problem of who will play quarterback. Chuckie Keeton started the year, struggled, and then ultimately got hurt which in my opinion was a blessing in disguise as replacement Kent Myers had far better production (60%, 8.2 ypa, 14 TDs, 3 INTs). But then Myers got hurt (shoulder) and Keeton came back and once again looked really shaky down the stretch (34-of-72, 1 TD, 1 INT final two games). As of now, both players are healthy and both players will play. As a bettor looking to support USU, you'd prefer it if Myers was the guy but given what Keeton has done for the program and all that he's been through, he'll probably see plenty of action.
In the end, Utah State is obviously the stronger of the two squads and has a small advantage in terms of venue. But I can't get passed the whole Keeton-Myers situation. Keeton gets injured and with Myers, USU proceed to win four of its next five and average over 42 ppg. The competition Keeton faced (Utah, Washington, and BYU) was stronger but his lack of production was alarming. The lean here is Utah State -6.5 but can't come in strong with all the talk about the "two-QB system."