Hawaii Bowl Odds & Picks

2022 Hawaii Bowl Preview

San Diego State vs Middle Tennessee Odds

Middle Tennessee and San Diego State head to the island on Christmas Eve night to battle in the 2022 EasyPost Hawaii Bowl.

Middle Tennessee comes in riding a three-game win streak after needing to win two of its final three games to reach bowl eligibility. The Blue Raiders do have a win over Miami on the road this season, but their other six wins have come against far inferior competition.

San Diego State won five of its last seven games of the season with its only two losses coming to Mountain West champion Fresno State and Air Force.

The Aztecs defense has been one of the best in the Group of Five, so we’ll see if they can stop the Blue Raiders’ Air Raid passing attack.

Aztec Offense

The San Diego State offense has shown some flashes of greatness towards the end of the season.

It put up a combined 77 points against San Jose State and New Mexico behind stellar performances from quarterback Jalen Mayden, who took over the starting job in Week 6.

Mayden is averaging 8.9 yards per attempt with 10 touchdowns in seven starts. However, his PFF passing grade sits at 71.4 and he has only five big-time throws compared to 12 turnover-worthy plays.

Mayden will be key in this game because the weakness of Middle Tennessee’s defense comes in its secondary.

To make matters even more complicated for the Blue Raiders defense, Mayden is also a big-time threat on the ground.

San Diego State features a rush-heavy offense, running the ball on 59.3% of its offensive plays.

It’s struggled to run the ball all season, averaging only 3.6 yards per carry. However, it does have big-play ability, ranking 43rd in explosive rushing.

Aztec Defense

The main reason San Diego State won three of its last four games just to reach bowl eligibility is because of its defense. The Aztecs played some incredible ball, allowing just 5.0 yards per play while ranking 13th in EPA/Play and 12th in Finishing Drives Allowed.

Over their final nine games of the season, only two teams scored more than 14 points against them: Fresno State and San Jose State.

The Aztecs’ pass rush will be a huge edge in this game. San Diego State owns the 22nd-best pass-rushing grade, per PFF, and ranks in the top 35 in sack percentage.

Middle Tennessee has one of the worst pass-blocking offensive lines in college football, so SDSU should find ways to put a ton of pressure on Cunningham.

Middle Tennessee is a pass-happy offense, which is going to play right into San Diego State’s hands. The Aztecs rank 31st in terms of PFF coverage grade and 33rd in passing explosiveness allowed.

Blue Raiders Offense

Middle Tennessee is a pass-happy offense that throws the ball 55.5% of the time. Quarterback Chase Cunningham has been pretty bad, however. His PFF passing grade sits at 65.6, and he’s averaging only 6.9 yards per attempt to go along with 15 big-time throws and 18 turnover-worthy plays.

The main problem has been his offensive line, which ranks 119th in terms of a PFF pass-blocking grade. That has translated to Cunningham playing from a crowded pocket on 33% of his dropbacks.

Middle Tennessee has also struggled to run the ball, as it’s averaging only 3.3 yards per carry (113th in FBS) and ranks 98th in Rushing Success Rate and 95th in EPA/Rush.

It’s going to be a long Christmas Eve for the Blue Raider offense.

Blue Raiders Defense

Middle Tennessee’s defense has been outstanding this season, as it is sitting at 26th in EPA/Play Allowed.

Overall for the season, Middle Tennessee has been very good against the run. The Blue Raiders rank 48th in Rushing Success Rate Allowed, 27th in Defensive Line Yards and 20th in EPA/Rush Allowed.

That will be huge in this game with San Diego State running a rush-heavy offense.

The weakness of the Middle Tennessee defense is in its secondary, which ranks 91st in Passing Success Rate Allowed and 81st in passing explosiveness allowed.

However, the Blue Raiders are eighth in Havoc, while San Diego State is 120th in Havoc Allowed. Plus, the Aztecs have one of the worst passing attacks in the country.

San Diego State vs Middle Tennessee Matchup Analysis

Toggle the dropdowns below to hide or show how San Diego State and Middle Tennessee match up statistically:

San Diego State Offense vs. Middle Tennessee Defense

Middle Tennessee Offense vs. San Diego State Defense

Pace of Play / Other
PFF Tackling 16 115
PFF Coverage 44 31
SP+ Special Teams 36 15
Seconds per Play 23.3 (13) 29.6 (122)
Rush Rate 47.4% (105) 59.3% (22)
Data via CollegeFootballData.com (CFBD), FootballOutsiders, SP+, Pro Football Focus and SportSource Analytics.

How to Bet San Diego State vs Middle Tennessee

The line on this game has moved drastically.

San Diego State opened as a 1.5-point underdog and almost immediately got bet to up -7 at most books, so the value on the Aztecs is gone.

The pace of this game is going to be very interesting with Middle Tennessee playing lightning-fast and San Diego State playing at a snail’s pace.

Given the bad matchup for both offenses against the strength of each opposing defense — plus the fact that both offenses rank outside the top 100 in Finishing Drives — I think we will have a low-scoring game on our hands.

I only have 44.8 points projected for the Hawaii Bowl, so I like the value on under 48.5.

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