Washington State Cougars Vs. Central Michigan Chippewas Betting Odds, Picks, and Predictions (12/31/21)

It wasn’t the matchup we expected to see, but Washington State and Central Michigan should deliver an exciting game in the Sun Bowl. Washington State had been set to take on Miami in the Sun Bowl, but the Hurricanes had COVID-19 issues and withdrew from the game. Central Michigan was set to face Boise State in the Arizona Bowl, but the Broncos also withdrew due to COVID-19 issues. Now, in a perfect match made in wacky COVID-19 protocol heaven, we will see the Cougars and Chippewas play. This year, Washington State went 7-5, but it ended the year on a torrid stretch with three of four games won and a scoring differential of plus-26.5 in those games. Central Michigan ended the regular season on a four-game win streak and won six of their last seven games. One of these teams will have to see their hot streak come to an end, and it should be exciting to see them duke it out.

Washington State Cougars Vs. Central Michigan Chippewas Betting Odds

Washington State Cougars Betting Odds

It was an abnormal season for the Cougars in several ways, the most obvious being the departure of head coach Nick Rolovich due to his refusal to get a COVID-19 vaccine. After his departure, Jake Dickert was elevated to head coach. He led his team to a 3-2 record down the stretch, including a narrow loss to BYU and dominant wins over Arizona and Washington. Jayden de Laura was named the Pac-12 Freshman of the Year after his excellent season as he completed 64.5% of his passes for 2,757 yards and 23 touchdowns to just nine interceptions. In the Apple Cup rivalry game against Washington, de Laura led the Cougars to their first win since 2012, and he completed a series-record 84.3% of his passes in that game.

Washington State led the Pac-12 in time of possession thanks to its efficient passing offense and its two receivers in Travell Harris and Calvin Jackson Jr., who surpassed 800 receiving yards and combined for 16 touchdowns. Max Borghi was excellent on the ground with over 1,000 yards from scrimmage and 12 touchdowns, but he has opted out of this game, as has First-Team All-Pac 12 offensive tackle Abraham Lucas. Their absences could prove problematic for the Cougars, but de Laura should be able to overcome those circumstances. Washington State will also be without standout cornerback Jaylen Watson, preparing for the draft. The Cougars rank 48th in pass defense in the country as they allow just 217.4 passing yards per game.

Central Michigan Chippewas Betting Odds

In a MAC filled with high-flying offenses and tons of points every week, the Chippewas stood out as one of the most entertaining teams. Central Michigan ranked 31st in the country with 33 points per game, and during their four-game win streak to end the regular season, they averaged 41 points per game. Daniel Richardson had a solid season throwing the ball with 2,392 passing yards and 23 touchdowns to just five interceptions, but the real story for this team was running back Lew Nichols. Winner of the Offensive Player of the Year award in the MAC, Nichols finished the year with over 2,000 yards from scrimmage and 17 total touchdowns. Offensive tackle Bernard Raimann, the winner of PFF’s MAC Offensive Player of the Year, is a potential first-round pick in the NFL.

Central Michigan’s defense was nothing to write home about as they ranked 65th in the country with 26.2 points per game allowed and just 97th in Football Outsiders’ FEI defensive efficiency rating. However, the Chippewas saw some of the best special teams play in the country. Kalil Pimpleton was named the All-MAC Special Teams Player of the Year with his 20.2 yards per punt return and two touchdowns. Pimpleton also finished the regular season with over 1,000 yards from scrimmage and six touchdowns, making him an all-purpose offensive weapon who could give the Cougars fits. In a game where points should be plentiful, the advantage of having Pimpleton as a game-breaking punt returner is massive.

Washington State Cougars vs. Central Michigan Chippewas Picks & Prediction

While Central Michigan was not expected to be in this high-profile bowl game, they shouldn’t be written off as Jim McElwain’s group has plenty of talent. McElwain’s years of head coaching experience and 2-2 bowl record should prove to be a significant advantage over Washington State’s Jake Dickert, a 38-year-old coach who was promoted to head coach for the first time in his life this year. Jayden de Laura will do what he does best and control time of possession through the passing game, but Central Michigan’s explosive offense is a threat to score anytime it’s on the field. I wouldn’t put it past the Chippewas to earn a high-profile upset over a Power-Five program, and I would bet them to cover anything more than a touchdown in this game.

My Prediction: Washington State wins 34-31, Central Michigan covers, over 57.5 points

I've been writing about sports for Lineups since the beginning of 2020 and on my own website since 2018. In May 2021, I graduated from the University of Michigan with a degree in sport management. With my educational background in the sports business and a strong knowledge of the inner workings of professional and collegiate sports, I hope to tell enthralling stories about the world of sports as it unfolds around me.

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