Music City Bowl: Maryland vs. Auburn Expert Pick and Prediction – December 30, 2023
MUSIC CITY BOWL: MARYLAND VS. AUBURN EXPERT PICK AND PREDICTION – December 30, 2023 — Another bowl game, another instance where both teams will play without effective quarterbacks. Maryland at least has an excuse, given that Taulia Tagovailoa has opted out to focus on the NFL Draft.
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Auburn actually has its quarterback, but Payton Thorne isn’t exactly known for his throwing. The Tigers have really struggled to move the ball through the air, ranking dead last in the SEC in passing. In a rarity for a Power 5 school, Auburn actually averages more yards on the ground than through the air, rushing for 198 yards per game against 157 passing yards per game.
Maryland had most of its success throwing the ball, but with Tagovailoa gone, they’ll have to reinvent themselves. The start could go to either Billy Edwards or Cameron Edge, who threw for a combined 13 passes on the year. Given that Maryland’s only average at running the football, the pass attack is going to have to do something if the Terrapins are going to get anything done. Odds are, we might be looking at another Missouri-Ohio State.
(7-5 SU, 6-6 ATS)
(6-6 SU, 6-6 ATS)
When: Saturday, December 30 at 2 p.m. EST
Where: Nissan Stadium, Nashville, Tenn.
Public Bets: 54% on Maryland
Public Money: 62% on Maryland
Odds courtesy of DraftKings, as of December 29th, 2023.
Maryland vs. Auburn In-Season Trends
For a while, it looked like Auburn wasn’t going to play in the postseason at all. The Tigers actually came up pretty big down the stretch in winning three of their final five, although there was a bizarre 21-point loss to New Mexico State in there. That, however, marked the only game in that stretch where Auburn failed to cover, as the Tigers closed by going 4-1 ATS. Auburn’s not really used to playing the favorite role, however; the Tigers were just 3-3 ATS when favored.
Maryland is well known for being two teams under Mike Locksley. September Maryland could probably give Alabama a run for its money as a national title contender. November Maryland is often lucky to be able to beat low-level Group of 5 opponents. It happened again this year, as the Terrapins lost five of their final seven and went 3-4 ATS in that stretch.
The Terps did close with three straight covers, but only because nobody expected much against Nebraska and nobody gave them a chance against Michigan.
Cloudy and chilly isn’t ideal, but that’s what we’ve got in Nashville. Temperatures will hit 47 degrees, and fortunately, weather isn’t going to play a factor.
Maryland’s defense is where it wants to make a difference here. The Terrapins pride themselves on pressure, as they managed to get 31 sacks while picking off 15 passes. Given that Thorne’s not adept at throwing the ball, the Terps will likely send pressure whenever they can to try to force a mistake or two.
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Thorne will try to make plays with his legs rather than his arm whenever possible. The Tigers can’t exactly change who they are at this late date, so Thorne will have to try to use Maryland’s pressure against it. The Terrapins did struggle with running quarterbacks, and if Thorne can escape the first wave, he’s got a shot to make something happen.
The under seems to be the play here. Auburn’s not going to be trying to pass the ball and there’s no indication Maryland can. If the Terrapins had Tagovailoa available, that would be a different story. But this is going to be a game of backups, and neither side has shown they can put up big numbers.
In a situation like this, if I’m playing the spread, I want the points. I don’t really trust Maryland, but there’s no way I’m laying anything with Auburn after the debacle against New Mexico State.