New Year’s Eve will bring together two of the Group of Five’s most surprising but impressive teams together for the Arizona Bowl: the Ball State Cardinals and San Jose State Spartans.
After six consecutive losing seasons, Ball State finally turned itself around under the guidance of head coach Mike Neu. Though limited to a MAC-only schedule, the Cardinals haven’t lost since their season-opening defeat to Miami of Ohio, a game decided by only seven points. Ball State has shown great strides since then, most recently toppling the ranked Buffalo Bulls by a score of 38-28 in the MAC Championship Game.
However, as impressive as Ball State has looked this year, San Jose State might have completed an even more remarkable turnaround. The Spartans, long the underfunded and largely ignored doormat of the Mountain West Conference, has found new life under head coach Brent Brennan. Not only has the program gone unbeaten entering bowl season, but it currently sports a top-40 offense by Football Outsiders’ F+ metric, one of the best marks for a team that routinely ranks near the back of the national recruiting rankings.
That strong performance bought Brennan interest from a number of Power Five schools as well as a new extension with San Jose State. It remains unclear how long the school can hold onto the rising coaching star, but for now he provides a critical edge in matchups such as this one.
Game Time/TV Channel/Streaming
You can watch Ball State and San Jose State in the Arizona Bowl on Thursday, Dec. 31 at 2:00 p.m. ET on ESPN. You can stream it via WatchESPN or the ESPN app with a cable or streaming service login.
Point Spread, Totals, Odds, Trends
Point spread: San Jose State -9.5
Point Total: 64
Money line: San José State -360, Ball State +270
- Since 2016, Ball State has a 19-15-0 record against the spread as an underdog.
- Also during that period, the Cardinals have an over record of 13-20-1 as an underdog.
- Since 2016, San Jose State has a 6-6-1 record against the spread as a favorite.
- During the same stretch, the Spartans have an over record of 4-9-0 as a favorite.
The Best Bet
The lack of respect for the MAC this season continues here, as the Buffalo team that Ball State defeated in the conference championship game did lose to a runner-up MAC team in their bowl game. But with RB Caleb Huntley RB and OL Luke Martin out for this one, we understand the line.
But 9.5 is too many. We’ll take the Cardinals to keep it close.
Pick: Ball State +9.5
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