The difficulty in grading a Beef O’ Brady Bowl free pick isn’t in the matchup itself, because the Ohio Bobcats shouldn’t be much of a contest against East Carolina. Of all the 35 bowl games on the board, only five are posting double digit spreads. This is one of them. What worries me is that the -13.5 line that favors the Pirates is the fifth largest betting line in the post season.
And when it comes to covering the mark set by the linemakers, neither team was that proficient. The Ohio Bobcats backed in to the post season with a 2-3 SU and 1-4 ATS record, dropping them to 7-5 SU and 6-6 ATS on the year. It becomes even more concerning when your realize that the Bobcats do very little that well.
Ohio averaged just 374.8 yards per game, and only 28.0 points, while giving up 392.3 yards against and 26.7 points on average. They faced three double-digit spreads this season, and went 1-2 SU and 2-1 ATS in those games. The Mid-American Conference had two very good teams (Northern Illinois and Bowling Green), but Ohio’s inability to beat teams like Kent speaks volumes about how bad this team actually is. This line eventually explains itself, so you can tell where I’m leaning with my Beef O’ Brady Bowl free pick already.
Quarterback Shane Carden led East Carolina to a stiff 9-3 SU record throughout the season while throwing for 3,866 yards and 32 touchdowns against just 6 interceptions. Only two other passers – Marcus Mariota and Bryce Petty – were that prolific in the passing game while throwing fewer interceptions. Carden was easily a top-7 quarterback in the country despite playing for a pass heavy attack and also posted 300+ yards in 7 games. He averaged 322.2 yards per game on his own, which is only fifty yards less than what Ohio manages as a team.
Of course, Carden’s also coming off his worst performance of in 2013. During the 28-59 beat down that East Carolina suffered against Marshall, Carden threw for 291 yards on 29-of-52 pass attempts while giving away three picks and accounting for zero touchdowns.
That doesn’t worry me in assessing East Carolina’s value in my Beef O’ Brady Bowl free pick. What actually concerns me more is this gargantuan line, which should make you a bit nervous as well. The Pirates ended the year at just 6-6 ATS and were 3-1 ATS when favored by double-digits. Most of their failed covers also came at the beginning of the season. East Carolina ripped off a profitable 5-1 SU and 4-2 ATS run at the end of the season, though that loss to Marshall was a veritable disaster.
Those types of games happen, especially against Marshall which was clearly one of the better teams in the conference. East Carolina’s offence should be fine against Ohio, which is very vulnerable on the ground. Establishing a run game should be relatively easy for the Pirates, and once that happens, Carden can carve up these Bobcats and serve them on a holiday platter. East Carolina is definitely a troubling play with a big spread and plenty of backdoor potential, but there’s no way I can leverage any logic to bet against them with my Beef O’ Brady Bowl free pick.