Bowl season continues tonight with the Armed Forces Bowl between the Baylor Bears and Air Force Falcons. We’ll preview tonight’s lone bowl game before getting into my best bet for the action.
The Baylor Bears did not live up to the expectations many people had for them in the Big 12, as they finished out with a 6-6 record and lost three straight games to end the regular season. Even though they play in a solid offensive conference, the overall performance of the Bears' defense this season was far below average.
In six games this season, the Bears allowed 29 or more points to be scored, which was primarily due to their inability to get off the field on third down. Baylor allowed opponents to convert on third down 47.2% of the time, which ranks 122nd in the country. It’s not much of a surprise the Bears fired defensive coordinator Ron Roberts at the end of the regular season.
Offensively the Bears were able to average 30.4 points per game and relied heavily on the run to do so. Baylor averaged the 17th most rushes per game this season, and a large majority of those carries went to running back Richard Reese. The Bears' halfback was able to rush for 962 yards and 14 touchdowns this season, so it’ll be an interesting matchup today against an Air Force defense that was seventh in the country in opponents rushing yards allowed per game.
The (9-3) Falcons' defense held opponents to an average of just 12.9 points and 241.8 yards per game this season. It is worth noting that the Mountain West Conference they play in was arguably one of the worst offensive conferences in the country, but regardless these numbers are still impressive.
Air Force relied on the run more than the Bears did on offense, in fact, they relied on it more than any team in the country, averaging 60.5 rushing attempts per game.
At the time of writing this, the point total is currently set at 43.5, and my best bet for the action is the under. The weather conditions for this game could be the worst overall conditions out of any bowl game, with winds expected to reach up to 35 MPH and the kick-off temperature expected to be around 20 degrees.
The weather will undoubtedly amplify these two teams' offensive strategies, as both teams already rely heavily on the run and try to control the time of possession. Air Force ranked first in the country in time of possession this season, controlling the ball on offense an average of 60.6% of the game. Baylor was not far off as they ranked 12th in time of possession and controlled the ball an average of 54.5% of the game.
Despite the overall defensive struggles, the Bears' defense was able to limit opponents to an average of 3.9 yards per carry which ranked 41st in college football. If they can limit explosive run plays by the Falcons, this should be a slow, back-and-forth, run-heavy game.