Florida Atlantic is the largest favorite on the board this bowl season, over Akron in the Boca Raton Bowl Tuesday night (7 pm ET, ESPN). Which way are we going with our free college football pick on this contest?
Not only is this the largest spread this bowl season, it’s also been the biggest mover. The bowl betting market opened FAU at -17, but that figure didn’t scare many, because it quickly got bet up to -23.
According to Sagarin’s PREDICTOR ratings the Owls should only be favored by about 13 points.
After going 5-7 last year Akron was picked to finish somewhere in the middle of the MAC East this season. Instead, the Zips overcame a slow start, pulled a couple of upsets and won the division title. So Akron is back in a bowl for the second time in the last three seasons.
The Zips opened this season with a 52-0 loss to Penn State, and later lost to Iowa State and Troy to fall to 1-3. But they then won their first three MAC games, and later their last two to finish 6-2 in conference play, which was enough to win the East Division. Akron then fell to Toledo in the MAC championship game 45-28.
The Zips fell down to the Rockets 38-0 but scored three fourth-quarter touchdowns to steal a cover as 20-point underdogs.
On the season Akron has been outgained in 10 of its 13 games, and outrushed 12 times.
Meanwhile, after going 3-9 last year Florida Atlantic was expected to improve under new head coach Lane Kiffin. And improve the Owls did, going 10-3, ending the season with a nine-game winning streak, winning the Conference USA championship and making their first bowl in 10 years.
FAU also opened 1-3 this season, with losses to Navy and Wisconsin, then, as mentioned above, won nine in a row, including a 41-17 romp over North Texas in the C-USA title game. The Owls led that game 34-0 in the third quarter and covered easily as 11-point favorites.
Florida Atlantic has outgained five of its last eight opponents, and outrushed each of its last 10 foes, seven of them by 180 yards and more.
These teams played one common opponent this season, and interestingly Akron came out smelling better. The Zips beat Buffalo 21-20 back in Week 9, while the Owls lost to the Bulls 34-31 back in Week 4.
Free College Football Bowl Pick
Florida Atlantic is the better team and will very probably win this game, but 23 points is a lot for a bowl. Also, we rarely have a problem betting against the flow, and here we’re getting an extra six points. We’ll take Akron.