Las Vegas Bowl Free Pick - Oregon vs. Boise State (12/16/17)

By Ryan Fowler


FREE PICK: Oregon -7 vs. Boise State in Las Vegas Bowl (Covers 60%)


The last time Oregon played Boise State, Chip Kelly made his Ducks head coaching debut, his team lost and LeGarrette Blount sucker punched a Broncos player after the game.

Eight years, three months and 13 days later, the two teams meet again in the Las Vegas Bowl. The Ducks will once again debut a new head coach as their offensive coordinator, Mario Cristobal, takes over the program after head coach Willie Taggart left to take the same position at Florida State.

Don't get too caught up in Oregon's wins and losses. The Ducks were a different team with and without their 6-foot-6 starting quarterback and 2018 Heisman hopeful, Justin Herbert, behind center this season. He missed five games due to a broken collarbone before returning to lead the Ducks to back-to-back wins the final two weeks of the season. Oregon was 6-1 and averaged better than 51 points per game with Herbert compared to 1-4 and 15.0 points per game without. So, their 7-5 record definitely deserves an asterisk.

In addition to Herbert's impact, comes a showdown between Oregon's top 10 rush offense – led by Royce Freeman – that averaged 268 yards per game up against Boise State's 20th-ranked rush defense, which held the opposition to 126 yards per contest.

What this game may come down to is how both teams fare in the red zone, where Oregon has an advantage. Granted, the Ducks converted 89% of their trips to the red zone and Broncos converted 86%, but the type of conversion also matters. Fifteen of Boise's 48 conversions were field goals whereas 43 of Oregon's 49 conversions were touchdowns. In other words, the Ducks found the red zone, then they found the end zone.

Oregon will also test their Las Vegas Bowl opponent on third down. Opposing offenses converted only 32% of their third downs against the Ducks this season, which ranked 20th nationally.

The bottom line is it'll be a challenge for Boise's 90th-ranked pass and 44th-ranked rush offense to keep pace with Oregon's up-tempo and high-scoring unit led by Herbert.

According to 50,000 games played by our simulation engine at PredictionMachine.com, Oregon wins the Las Vegas Bowl 86.3% of the time and by an average margin of 13 points. As a seven point favorites, the Ducks cover the spread 59.5% of the time, which would justify a $75 wager for an average $50 bettor.

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