Central Michigan Chippewas vs. Tulsa Golden Hurricane, Monday Dec. 19, 2:30 p.m. ET
If you aren't too familiar with the Miami Beach Bowl, don't worry as you are not alone. In comparison to the other well-known bowl games, this is the baby of the group as it has been contested just twice before this year. The third edition of the Beach Bowl will feature the Central Michigan Chippewas and the Tulsa Golden Hurricane. Both teams will have a tough task ahead of them to replicate the excitement of the previous two bowl matchups. In the inaugural Beach Bowl of 2014, Memphis and BYU treated fans to an instant classic, with Memphis prevailing 55-48 in double-overtime. Not to be outdone, however, last year's game was just as thrilling and ended up ranked as the fourth-best bowl game by media and fans. Western Kentucky and USF combined for 80 points in a 45-35 Hilltoppers' victory. Both Beach Bowl MVPs were selected in the 2016 NFL Draft, with Paxton Lynch going to Denver and Brandon Doughty going to Miami.
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Central Michigan will be making their 11th bowl appearance in the program's history. They haven't fared too well as they are just 3-6 straight up, and their last bowl win came in 2012 at the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl versus Western Kentucky. They have lost their last two bowl trips.
For Tulsa, this is their21st bowl appearance, and their record hasn't been all that great. They are just 9-11 straight up, with their last bowl win also coming in 2012. That year they appeared in the Liberty Bowl against Iowa State and came out victorious. They have won four of their past six bowl games.
Miami Beach Bowl Betting Storylines
Central Michigan comes into this game with a 6-6 record, which is good enough for fifth place in the MAC conference. They have lost four of their last five games, and their best win (if you can call it that) came against Oklahoma State thanks to some incredibly poor officiating. The Chipps' average 27.7 points for per game and give up 28.2. They are led on offense by their senior quarterback, Cooper Rush, who has completed 254-of-416 passes for 3,299 yards and 23 touchdowns. Rush has been the only consistent player on an offense that can get big chunks of yardage but stalls more often than not and fails to put points on the board. The defensive unit will be in tough in this game to stop the high-powered Tulsa offense. The Chipps' are one of the worst teams in the nation in red-zone defense and come into the game giving up an average of six yards per play. Against the dynamic rushing duo of James Flanders and D'Angelo Brewer, both of whom ran for over 1,000 yards, the Chipps' will need to improve their lackluster defense if they hope to emerge victorious.
Tulsa come into this game with a 9-3 record and has won five of their last six games. Speaking of those two 1,000-yard rushers, James Flanders is a senior and he will be playing his final collegiate game. He rushed for 1,529 yards this year and 17 touchdowns. He is the more reliable of the two running backs, and you'd be hard pressed to find a better matchup for him to go up against and have a huge game. His teammate, sophomore running back D'Angelo Brewer, rushed for 1,320 yards this season and seven touchdowns. He has been slowed down the last couple of weeks because of an ankle injury, but there are reports out of Tulsa that he is fully healthy and ready to go. If he can get going and be productive, the Central Michigan defense will be in for a long night. The amazing production doesn't just stop with the running backs. Tulsa features a QB, Dane Evans, who threw for 3,044 yards and 27 touchdowns. His favorite receiver is Keevan Lucas, who reached 1,108 yards and 12 touchdowns in the regular season. If senior receiver Josh Atkinson (927 yards) reaches the 1,000-yard mark in the bowl game, Tulsa will be the first team in FBS history with a 3,000-yard passer, two 1,000-yard rushers and two 1,000-yard receivers. That is some serious production.
Miami Beach Bowl Odds and Betting Trends
Central Michigan is 1-4 ATS in their last four games overall and 1-4 ATS in their last five games against a team with a winning record. The "under" is 8-0 in the Chipps' last eight games versus a team with a winning record.
Tulsa is 5-1 ATS in their last six bowl games and 4-1 ATS in their last five neutral-site games. They are also heavily trending to the "under". They are 4-0 in their last five to the "under" against the MAC, and the "under" has hit in six of their last seven neutral-site games.
Central Michigan vs. Tulsa - Miami Beach Bowl Expert Picks & Predictions
As a team, you always want to play in the best bowl game possible. And while the Miami Beach Bowl may not have been the choice for a 9-3 Tulsa team, they should be loving their chances to win this game and end the season with 10 wins and as a bowl game champion.
It is kind of the perfect storm when you think about it. Tulsa is the team trending up right now, having won five of six, and Central Michigan is slumping, losers in four of their last five games. The offense for Tulsa has plenty of weapons to hurt the Chippewas' shaky defensive unit, and I expect them to impose their will in the trenches and get the running game going early and often. If for some reason, they are unable to do that, I expect Dane Evans to hook up with his talented receivers and hit some huge plays downfield. Just to help you better understand how good the offensive is, they rank sixth nationally in total offense (522.8), eighth in rushing (261.8) and 11th in scoring (41.4).
I can't envision a way where the Chippewas can score enough points to keep up with a team that is averaging 41.4 points per game. I think the Chipps' will be better next year and I think their QB, Cooper Rush, will turn into a solid prospect over the next couple of years. However, in this game, I expect him and the offense to struggle and Tulsa to pull away late and get the cover.
Pick: Tulsa -11.5, (-110)
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