2023 Cricket Celebration Bowl
Howard vs Florida A&M
12:00 PM EST 12/16/2023
The Florida A&M Rattlers on paper win this game every time, right?
The number 10 HCBU on the power rankings beat the number #1 team in the last week of gameplay to secure a spot in the Cricket Celebration Bowl game. They won by 30 points.
And, historically the MEAC has been stronger than the SWAC – so if you thought this Cricket Celebration Bowl was a shoe-in for the FAMU Rattlers, you’re not seeing the whole picture. Lest we forget that anything can happen on any given Saturday.
What appears to be an easy path to victory gets all kinds of complicated when you put Howards recent form and the drive for 2023 bowl game glory into perspective – it’s not as cut and dry as it seems for this Atlanta tradition.
Let’s also not forget: Howard started this year poised to be in the top of the Power rankings, and as a result, heavily in contention for this bowl game spot.
The FCS rankings tell all kinds of tales about ‘The Road to Atlanta’ – But not the whole story
Pre-season had the polling members of the FCS seeing Howard at 4th, and FAMU at #2.
Week 2: Howard [#6] – FAMU [#2]
Week 3: Howard [#5] – FAMU [#2]
Week 4: Howard [#9] – FAMU [#2]
Week 5: Howard [#9] – FAMU [#2]
Week 6: Howard [#6] – FAMU [#2]
Week 7: Howard [#6] – FAMU [#2]
Week 8: Howard [#9] – FAMU [#2]
Week 9: Howard [#9] – FAMU [#2]
Week 10: Howard [#8] – FAMU [#2]
Week 11: Howard [#11] – FAMU [#2]
Week 12: Howard [#7] – FAMU [#1]
Given the small strength of schedule increase that comes with playing MEAC competitors gives Howard, this factors into the concept that this is a game that might be a lot more interesting than you’d think at first glance. Note two of their losses were to big programs. And FAMU’s 10 game win streak wasn’t against a bunch of world beaters.
Notably, the upset of North Carolina Central, shows that Howard intends to prove a point this season, regardless of what their record shows – 30 points is not a scoreline anomaly – it’s a dominant performance. And while the gridiron glory that Howard wants to see isn’t defined by a single game in the run up to Atlanta, it certainly shows that form means something on the biggest stage of the year for this team.
This trajectory that culminates in being showcased in Atlanta at the Cricket Celebration bowl is a big deal for programs like Howard and FAMU – the juxtaposition of recruiting opportunity for scholastic talent, a hub for traveling fans of these Historically Black Colleges and Universities, and the ability to grab bragging rights. For FAMU and Howard – they’ve never played in this bowl game. It’s a big stage with a lot of eyes, and can do a lot to help grow these colleges on the national stage. The stakes are higher than ever.
Then there are the battles of the bands, the battles of the BBQ at the Tailgates, and the fact that Atlanta is a popular destination for NCAAF travel. Tradition means something – these rivalries are real, even if both of these two schools haven’t had a ton of history as it relates to this particular bowl. FAMU would be only the second SWAC team to win this bowl if they are triumphant. Gaming perspective aside, it may represent the biggest recruiting push (scholastically and for their football program) for Howard of the entire season, so it’s got a lot riding on it.
So where does the rubber hit the road for the Cricket Celebration bowl and the teams participating in it for 2023?
Howard’s first foray into the Celebration Bowl means they are gunning for it. If that wasn’t obvious in their upset win over NCC, it should be clear now.
New to the experience of the Celebration Bowl too, Florida A&M University is just looking to showcase what they’ve believed for a while now – they are a legit program, SWAC division aside. They’ve been a feeder for the NFL for a while now, and they continue to churn out talent perennially. They’ve got several players that are standouts – including Moussa and Major.
By the numbers, you might say the scoreline will be obvious, except that in a bowl game, not only are “all bets off” when it comes to what could happen, the form and the strength of schedule wreaks havoc on predicting an outcome here.
This is also a game where there isn’t a ton of opportunity to catch the oddsmakers on a mistake – there has been a lot of time to prepare, and the numbers are inline with the expectations. No real value on the straight plays here.
The betting lines look like this:
Howard are underdogs at +6.5 (-110) with FAMU -6.5 (-115) [Note this number opened at 5.5]
O/U is 50.5 (-110)
Moneyline for the Bison is +187 with ML for Rattlers -235 (moving to +205/-275 in some books even as we speak), but there is no value there either.
Team dynamics that factor in for this game:
The FAMU Rattlers defense has been strong – for a long time. Their pressure on the pass, and the ability to tackle for a loss is spectacular – on a big stage, having this type of muscle memory is likely to be the ace up the sleeve.
Key interceptions and key sacks/tackles have defined a very consistent road for this FAMU team in the 2023 college football campaign – they lost a single game (to the South Florida Bulls – in a game that saw them evenly matched for most of the 2H).
Head to head, Howard has been on the losing end of the rivalry, with FAMU winning 39-7 last time they met (2019) – they are on the losing end of a 27-11 HtoH record against FAMU. The takeaway? This FAMU team is better this year than they have ever been perhaps; and this Howard team is about as mediocre a team this year as has ever played in the Celebration Bowl until their last 4 games.
In 7 of the past 9 games, FAMU has hit the under.
Howard has a good defense, and Moussa throws INT’s – Howard also showed they have what it takes to be the top team against the pass – expect more runs from FAMU, and short passes near the goal line in this one – expect good defense against the pass in the open field from Howard.
The Howard team hasn’t played since about Thanksgiving, and the Rattlers had a game on December 2, which probably favors the FAMU side because they’ve been so consistent, and there hasn’t been time to get their heads off of the game yet. They are on a 10 win streak.
FAMU is the better offensive team by a bit, and even if two of the losses for Howard came against big programs, the offensive strength of FAMU outweighs the good Howard defense. Paired with the several standout defensive players that can make a difference for FAMU – the writing may be on the wall.
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Key players to watch for the Howard vs. FAMU Cricket Celebration Bowl Game
Moussa makes or breaks this game for the Rattlers. If he continues to throw INT’s he can sway this game for Howard. If he’s on his game and makes smart, short passes in the goal line plays, he’s likely to be the every progressing hero after a SWAC offensive player of the year award, and FCS offensive player of the year (Walter Payton award) finalist nod.
Terrell Jennings will get a bunch of time to run and is likely to factor on the scoreline for FAMU.
On the opposite side of the ball, Jarrett Hunter will also look to score to add to his nine TD’s on the year.
Both teams will be playing it relatively safe on the pass I think, with a lot of the ground game coming into play.
Isaiah Major is the SWAC defensive player of the year – that line will factor into this game, and at Center, he will be the focal point given the defensive showdown that is likely to be on display.
A final Note about this game:
The win against NCC for Howard was a result of some luck and some anomalies, even if they were the better side all-in. The consistency of this Rattler’s team will not be as easy to exploit in this game.
The best bets for the Celebration Bowl in Atlanta, Georgia between Howard and FAMU on December 16, 2023
I think the obvious one for me is the under 50.5 – though I must admit, I’m glad that number has climbed. I don’t think that the oddsmakers feel that there has been a 2 point improvement in the total potential score, rather, that there is a maturation of the total take on the game, given the long layoff since last action. This is the best value bet more than likely, for a straight play.
I’d also consider the u20.5 on team total for Howard. I think the jitters from being on this particular stage, and the lack of total offense against a pretty good defensive side in FAMU means that they will cause a fumble or two, and enough pressure on the passing to make mistakes likely.
You could argue for the spread (-6.5), as FAMU have hit on 4 of their last 5 away games for the spread, but that spread looked much better at 5.5 – you can get 2 field goals pretty easily – but with 8 interceptions and a good team against the pass in Howard, it may not be as easy to score a definitive TD in a game that will be decently close. I’d definitely consider it if you feel strongly about Moussa.
I still feel confident in the win for FAMU, despite unbettable ML odds. It just feels like it’s FAMU’s year – with their first ever SWAC top honors, and in this first ever chance to bring home bowl game glory.
Note: these types of props are hard to find – and at the time of writing I didn’t see any that I would bet. But… I’d also look for the over on props for OVER on the yards for Terrell Jennings, or for Any time touchdown for Jennings or Marcus Riley or for Howard’s Jarrett Hunter. Of course, this depends on where your game market is made – this may not be a prop heavy betting market game. Use reasonable judgment on these prop plays as they will be wildly different depending on where you buy, from a juice perspective.
You may have some luck finding these plays – not bets – on a fantasy site.
No matter what, these two teams will be playing live in front of a ton of eyes – with not only one of the biggest bowl game draws from a volume perspective, but also on a major network, with a lot of history behind the schools, and a hungry fan base for both sides – it’s going to be fun!
This is an Article Written by BW
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