2018 will mark the first edition of the First Responders Bowl, although it is still being played in the Cotton Bowl. Previously this event was called the Heart of Dallas Bowl (last eight years and before that it was the Ticket City Bowl). It is also the first of three bowl games set to entertain viewers on Boxing Day.
This bowl opened Boise -3.5 and has ticked down to -3 and giving juice. The total opened 55 and has stayed steady there.
The first way to begin breaking down a bowl game is to look at how the teams performed compared to how they were expected to perform against their respective schedules.
Boise averaged 35.4 points on offense this season which was almost 8 points more than they would have been expected to based on their opponents. Boise also allowed almost 6 points less than they could have been expected to based on their schedule. This dominance, in comparison with how Boston College performed, means the spread should have opened at Boise -10.5. There may be significant value on Boise -3.
As for the total, you can see it opened spot on at 55.
Yards Per Play
Another way to produce a potential spread is to compare the team’s yards per play on both offense and defense.
The breakdown, with yards per play, works out to exactly Boise -3. There is not much room for error on either side there.
Offense vs Defense
If efficiency is your thing, then this breakdown is only going to lean more heavily to the boys in blue.
Whether looking at offensive or defensive efficiency, whether looking at the key moments on third down or in the red zone, everything points to Boise State being the more efficient team.
Digging deeper than the surface stats shows a Boston College team that should keep this game competitive.
BC protects the quarterback at about the same rate as Boise but, BC is able to shut down the opposing teams a little better and allows fewer points per drive than Boise. It is not a huge advantage but, it is something to hang their hat on.
Every website you look at probably rates schedules differently. One trusty site lists the strength of schedule for these two as follows:
Boston College: 36
Boise State: 53
That’s about what you’d expect when comparing a lower end Power 5 school with a higher end Group of 5 school. What is interesting about the schedules though is to note that this bowl is being played in Dallas and Boston College has only played outside the Eastern time zone twice since 2013. They travelled to Purdue this year and to Northern Illinois last year (their last three bowls were in NY, Detroit and NY). The failed to cover the spread in either of those two central time zone games. Of course, both those games were also quite a bit north of Dallas. The only experience Boston College has in playing at a clime similar to Dallas is the biennial trip they make to Florida St. The Eagles have lost all of their last three trips to Tallahassee, including this year when the Seminoles were terrible.
How motivated is Boston College? After getting their seventh win and guaranteeing a bowl spot in a season where multiple six wins teams were left out, Boston College has gone into straight shut down mode. They were routined by Clemson, they lost to an FSU team that didn’t make a bowl for the first time in forever, and then got smashed by Syracuse to close out the year. Not too often can teams get ramped up for a bowl after losing three in a row to close out the year.
Boise, similarly, may not want to be in Dallas. Boise lost a heart-breaker in the MWC Championship on home turf on December 1st. Can they get motivated for a bowl game in Texas after losing their title game?
Motivation looks like it may be lacking for both teams. It’s best, in that case, to focus on the stats and almost every stat you can look at points to a Boise win. Additionally, Boston College’s record outside the Eastern time zone is below par. Lastly, the recent bowl records of both teams point to Boise having a better chance to get up for this game — Boise has won and covered three of their last four bowls and Boston College, conversely, has lost and failed to cover in three of their last four bowls.