Roll with Wolf Pack and the points

VSiN’s college football expert offers some selections for the next two bowl games on the docket.

Monday

Quick Lane Bowl: Western Michigan (-7, 56.5) vs. Nevada

The deck sure seems to be stacked against Nevada for the Quick Lane Bowl. Star QB Carson Strong opted out and most of the coaching staff is now in Fort Collins with Jay Norvell. Western Michigan certainly deserves to be favored in light of all of those developments, but a 13.5-point line move seems excessive.

The MAC has not looked good in the bowl season to this point. Kent State, Northern Illinois, Toledo and Eastern Michigan combined to allow 186 points in four games. Miami of Ohio is the only team that won and beat a North Texas team that started the season 1-6. The Wolf Pack will certainly miss Strong, but 6-foot-9 backup QB Nate Cox can sling it a little bit and the reports are higher on his running ability than what we saw from Strong.

Ultimately, no MAC team deserves to be a touchdown favorite in a bowl game based on what we’ve seen up to this point. This is a long trip for an early kickoff in Detroit, so a lot of situational factors are also against Nevada, but you have to think the team will show up for interim head coach Vai Taua, who played for the program about a decade ago.

If Western Michigan plays up to expectation, so be it, but the conference is terrible and any sort of interest from Nevada in playing this game should be enough to keep it close.

Pick: Nevada +7.

Tuesday

Birmingham Bowl: Houston vs. Auburn (-2.5, 51.5)

It has been hard to find Unders during the bowl season, but the Birmingham Bowl looks like one of them. Auburn has had quite a bit of turnover, including Bo Nix to Oregon via the transfer portal. Both teams have had some key opt-outs, including defensive back and kick returner extraordinaire Marcus Jones for Houston and Auburn’s star DB Roger McCreary.

With Auburn’s Bo Nix having transferred to Oregon — as well as several key opt-outs — college football bettors would be wise to take the Under in Tuesday’s Birmingham Bowl.
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We think of Houston as an explosive offensive team, but Jones and the special teams units have been a big part of that equation. Houston is actually outside of the top 50 in yards per play. One area where Houston did excel is on defense, as the Cougars entered the bowl season as a top-15 defense in yards per play allowed.

Auburn is also a much better defensive team, as the Tigers finished just outside the top 30 in yards per play allowed. The offense, with either Nix or TJ Finley, struggled mightily.

Houston’s offense managed 3.44 yards per play against Texas Tech in the one game against a Power Five team. The Cougars also had just 5.38 yards per play against the four teams with a winning record that they faced and just 4.6 yards per play in the AAC Championship game against Cincinnati.

This looks like a game that could be a defensive struggle with a couple of solid units and a couple of offenses that leave a lot to be desired.

Pick: Under 51.5.