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Birmingham Bowl: Boston College vs. Cincinnati preview and pick

College football’s bowl season continues January 2, when Boston College and Cincinnati face off in the Birmingham Bowl at Legion Field Stadium in Birmingham, Alabama.

Birmingham Bowl: Boston College vs. #21 Cincinnati, 3 p.m. ET (ESPN)

Cincinnati has a psychological advantage

When analyzing betting angles in college football bowl games, it’s always wise to investigate psychology, along with standard team metrics. The Birmingham Bowl is a game where I grant a significant psychological advantage to Cincinnati.

The Bearcats still have coach Luke Fickell as their program leader. He has yet to be scooped up by a larger program, while the Eagles fired Steve Addazio and wide receivers coach Rich Gunnell has taken over interim head coach duties. Gunnell has only been a head coach at the high school level. Cincinnati was 10-1 before it lost its final two games to Memphis. The Bearcats have had a great season, and I highly doubt their 53 lettermen and 27 seniors want to go out on a three-game slide to further tarnish things. Boston College has just 17 seniors playing in their final game.

Boston College will miss AJ Dillon

These teams are pretty similar. Both run the ball well and employ a three-man rushing attack (two running backs and the quarterback). The problem for BC is that AJ Dillon (1,685 yards, 5.3 yards per carry, 14 touchdowns) will sit out the bowl game to prepare for the NFL Draft. Shrinking the rotation to David Bailey and quarterback Dennis Grosel is going to take some steam out of the ground game. Grosel has also had a hard time moving the ball through the air. He’s completing just 48.6% of his passes and is averaging only 6.5 yards per attempt. That’s not going to get the job done against a pretty good Cincinnati defense that is only allowing a 52% completion rate to the opposition and has 16 interceptions.

BC struggled against bowl-bound teams

Boston College played seven games against bowl teams this season and went 2-5 in those games, with a win over Virginia Tech in the season opener and a victory against Pittsburgh in the season finale. It’s worth noting that the Eagles were +4 in turnovers in each of those victories. Counting on winning the turnover battle by a margin of four is a poor strategy.

Cincinnati has the more seasoned coach and QB (Desmond Ritter). The Bearcats’ stud running back, Michael Warren II, is not sitting out. Their secondary is more apt to get its hands on an interception or two. I love Boston College’s OL and how the Eagles hunt tackles for loss on defense. They will have some success running the ball, and they’ll thwart their share of Cincinnati drives with some negative-yardage plays. But Cincinnati will separate by more than a score and the Eagles will be ill-equipped to play from behind.

NCAAF free pick: Cincinnati -7

Source: extra.betamerica.com