Skip to content
Link copied to clipboard
Sports Betting Commercial Content. 21+. Provided by Action Network, official betting partner of The Inquirer.

Gasparilla Bowl prediction: Bet on Wake Forest to edge shorthanded Missouri

Outgoing Demon Deacons QB Hartman should have a big final game against a solid but depleted Tigers defense

Wake Forest fifth-year senior Sam Hartman has thrown for nearly 12,700 yards and 107 touchdowns in his college career. He’ll play his final game for the Demon Deacons in Friday’s Gasparilla Bowl against Missouri. (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
Wake Forest fifth-year senior Sam Hartman has thrown for nearly 12,700 yards and 107 touchdowns in his college career. He’ll play his final game for the Demon Deacons in Friday’s Gasparilla Bowl against Missouri. (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)Read moreGrant Halverson / Getty Images

The Gasparilla Bowl matchup lacks a traditional college football power, a marquee head coach and players who are household names. One thing it doesn’t lack: intrigue.

On one sideline is an ACC team that has one of the nation’s most prolific offenses led by a decorated quarterback who has already announced he’s bolting the program after Friday’s game in Tampa, Florida. On the other sideline is an SEC squad that fields a solid defense that will be without three key starters who have opted out to prepare for the NFL Draft.

Throw in some injuries, a bevy of transfer portal defections and two teams that closed the regular season going in different directions, and we’re not going to lie: Making a Gasparilla Bowl prediction wasn’t easy.

After crunching the numbers, though, we found some betting value on the team that will take the field as a short favorite.

Odds updated as of 12:30 p.m. on Dec. 22.

Wake Forest vs. Missouri Prediction: Pick

  1. Wake Forest -125, moneyline (at Caesars Sportsbook)

Wake Forest vs. Missouri Prediction: Analysis

To say that Wake Forest ended the season with a thud would be an understatement.

The Demon Deacons went 1-4 SU and ATS in their last five games — all as a favorite — and gave up 30-plus points in each contest (an average of 36.6 in all).

This after starting the season 6-1 SU and ATS, with the lone outright blemish being a 51-45 loss to then No. 5 Clemson (as an 7.5-point home underdog).

Still, we’re siding with Wake Forest in this game, and the primary reason is quarterback Sam Hartman.

A fifth-year senior, Hartman has thrown for 3,421 yards this season with 35 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. That gives him 12,687 passing yards and 107 TD strikes in his career, numbers that rank second and tied for first, respectively, in ACC history.

Hartman already has told his coaches that he’s signing off after Friday’s game, either to go to the NFL or transfer to a marquee school (as he has a sixth year of eligibility).

» READ MORE: Full sports betting coverage from The Philadelphia Inquirer

Before he departs, though, Hartman will try to pick apart a Missouri defense that played well for most of the season. But because of transfers and opt-outs, it’s now a thinned-out defense.

The Tigers will be without starting defensive ends Isaiah McGuire and DJ Coleman, as well as starting safety Martez Manuel. All declared for the NFL Draft.

It’s a trio that ranked 1-2-3 on the team in sacks, combining for 17.5 of the team’s 33 total quarterback takedowns. Manuel also ranked fourth on the team in tackles with 34, while McGuire and Coleman each had 24. They also were responsible for half of Missouri’s 10 forced fumbles.

Additionally, the Tigers could be without backup defensive end Ky Montgomery (knee injury), while another safety (Jalani Williams) entered the transfer portal.

That’s a lot of holes to plug when facing a veteran quarterback like Hartman and explosive Wake Forest wide receiver A.T. Perry.

By far the Deacons’ most dangerous skill player, Perry has 70 catches, 980 yards and 11 touchdowns. There was speculation the junior would skip the Gasparilla Bowl but he instead elected to play.

We think Wake will have a fair amount of success against the depleted Tigers’ defense that gave up 27, 66 and 21 points in its final three SEC games against (respectively) Arkansas, Tennessee and offensively challenged Kentucky.

What about the Demon Deacons’ horrendous defense? It likely will struggle to contain dual-threat Missouri quarterback Brady Cook. Cook enters this game with 3,547 combined passing and rushing yards, 18 total touchdowns and seven interceptions.

However, Cook won’t have No. 1 wide receiver Dominic Lovett, who dove into the transfer portal after posting a team-high 56 catches and 846 yards (plus three touchdowns).

Talk about a break for Wake’s 116th-ranked secondary (272.8 yards per game).

That’s not to say we fully trust the Demon Deacons’ defense to come up big Friday — we don’t. Which is why we recommend playing Wake Forest on the moneyline.

Even with Missouri missing so many parts on both sides of the ball, we wouldn’t be surprised if this one went back and forth all night, with the Deacons winning a nail-biter.

So we’ll take the possible push out of the picture and bet Wake to win outright at Caesars Sportsbook, even if it costs us a little extra juice to do so.

Wake Forest vs. Missouri Odds: (via Caesars Sportsbook)

  1. Point spread: Wake Forest (-2) vs. Missouri (+2)

  2. Moneyline: Wake Forest (-125) vs. Missouri (+105)

  3. Total: 58.5 points

The Inquirer is not an online gambling operator, or a gambling site. We provide this information about sports betting for entertainment purposes only.