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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Friday, December 21, 2012 at 9:00 AM

The college bowl slate continues Saturday with an interesting party-themed doubleheader that should have something for everyone. We go to the Big Easy first, with what’s projected to be a high scoring shootout in the New Orleans Bowl…followed midday by what’s expected to be some smash mouth football in Las Vegas (baby!).

Let’s crunch the numbers!

NEW ORLEANS BOWL (New Orleans)

EAST CAROLINA (8-4) vs. LOUISIANA LAFAYETTE (8-4)

Vegas Line: Louisiana-Lafayette by 4.5, total of 64.5

Market Moves: Lafayette opened at -4.5, and was bet up to as high as -6 at one point, before falling back to the current line, which is right on the opener. We’ve seen that with a few of these bowls. It probably represents favorite bettors acting early, before sharps who liked the dogs bet for value. Dog bettors are anticipating an apex before game day in matchups that the public isn’t likely to bet heavily. The total opened at 64 in most places. It’s hopped around 64.5 and 65 since, as games played indoors generally get Over support from the mathematical elements of the Wise Guys.

STRENGTH OF SCHEDULE

East Carolina: 123rd

La. Lafayette: 105th

Both of these teams played soft schedules by bowl standards, which is hard to avoid if you play in Conference USA or the Sun Belt. Both did schedule SEC road trips though. East Carolina lost badly to South Carolina. Lafayette almost pulled off one of the shockers of the year at Florida when the Gators were dealing with some injuries. CUSA is generally considered to be the better of the two conferences, so it’s important to note that Lafayette managed the tougher schedule anyway.

OFFENSE

East Carolina: 58th (93rd rushing, 35th passing)

La. Lafayette: 33th (40th rushing, 48th passing)

Lafayette gets the nod here even before you factor in schedule. We like the balance that we’re seeing. It’s true that they weren’t “battle tested” in the sense that you usually see in bowls. But, neither was East Carolina! Lafayette will be facing a soft defense that played a weak schedule…which is why the market has them favored. There’s probably some home state influence in the mix too. Lafayette is going to have a home crowd edge. Though, crowd energy may be muted with such an early local time kickoff.

DEFENSE

East Carolina: 78th (46th rushing, 110th passing)

La. Lafayette: 88th (44th rushing, 115th passing)

Virtually identical defenses here…which slide even closer together overall when you adjust for strength of schedule. What jumps out to us is that BOTH teams were horrible at defending the pass…while both offenses were pretty good at it. That really pumps up the possibilities for a shootout. And, it arguably negates the value of Lafayette’s balance. Being unbalanced isn’t a negative if the other team can’t stop the thing you’re good at.

ADDING IT ALL UP

You can see why the total is so high. You have to expect a shootout unless one team or the other just doesn’t bother showing up with intensity. That’s hard to imagine with these teams…who should be happy they’re bowling. JIM HURLEY will be considering the Over, with last week’s Nevada/Arizona game a potential road map for pace expectations. NETWORK’s team side play will come down to information from our on site sources about enthusiasm. There’s a chance Lafayette is getting too much credit in the markets for its home area advantage. On the other hand, East Carolina did very poorly this year when stepping up in class. Does Lafayette represent a step up?

LAS VEGAS BOWL (Las Vegas)

WASHINGTON (7-5) vs. BOISE STATE (10-2)

Vegas Line: Boise State by 5.5, total of 45

Market Moves: The earliest openers had Boise State laying as much as -7 or -7.5. Washington money came in very strong at those early shops…so most of the market opened at Boise State -6 or -5.5. The line has stayed fairly tight to that price. Stores that went as low as Boise -5 saw favorite money come in. So, you can assume that sharps like Boise State -5, but Washington +6 in terms of the percentages. The total opened at 46, and has been bet down to 45 or 44.5 in most locales because of the defensive nature of both teams.

STRENGTH OF SCHEDULE

Washington: 18th

Boise State: 103rd

Huge difference here. Though, as has happened in the past, we have to be on the lookout for Jeff Sagarin’s USA Today numbers overrating the Pac 12. Remember that Arizona had a huge edge in this category vs. Nevada last week…and it proved irrelevant. Boise State is better than Nevada…and Nevada showed very well despite coming in with what was perceived as a weak schedule. We do respect that Washington upset Stanford and Oregon State, and had the guts to schedule a road game at LSU too. Washington DID play the tougher schedule. It may not mean as much as those numbers suggest.

OFFENSE

Washington: 101st (92nd rushing, 87th passing)

Boise State: 76th (51st rushing, 80th passing)

These are two bad offenses. Boise State might drop all the way down to around 100 if they had to play a real schedule. You’ll recall how little they did vs. Michigan State in their season opener. They only improved afterward because they played a lot of weak defenses. This isn’t anything near a vintage Boise State team. Be sure you’re handicapping this year’s Broncos when making a choice in this game…not what you remember from the past.

DEFENSE

Washington 30th (67th rushing, 16th passing)

Boise State: 9th (40th rushing, 4th passing)

Very strong defenses from both. Remember, Washington managed top 30 while facing a killer schedule. It’s odd that you have a quarterback coach at one place, and a program known for offensive innovation at the other…yet this year has been ruled by defenses at both schools. It’s also worth noting for handicapping purposes that both coaches know their teams…and use conservative play calling to help create field position battles. This is likely to be smash mouth football because that’s what both teams need to do if they want to win.

ADDING IT ALL UP

Even though oddsmakers have posted very different totals to account for the varying styles of play Saturday, you can make a case that they haven’t done enough. Both of these teams shade Under in smash mouth games…which means we may be looking at something in the high 30’s as the true expectation. There’s always a danger in bowl games of defensive and special teams points ruining Unders. NETWORK will study that angle before making a call on the total. The team side play will be influenced by our Wise Guy connections. Most of the math favors the dog here. Yet, the Wise Guys haven’t been pounding the dog…at least up until press time.

JIM HURLEY always makes sure you get the best options on the board whether you’re talking sides or totals. Don’t forget that Saturday’s bowl games will be joined by prime time NFL football when Atlanta visits Detroit. You can purchase strong plays in those game plus an extremely busy Saturday in the baskets right here at the website.

If you have any questions, call the office at 1-800-323-4453. This is a great time to lock in for the rest of football. You know you’re going to be very busy this weekend with holiday responsibilities. Take some time now to talk to one of our representatives about upcoming football and basketball.

Back with you Saturday for a stat preview of Falcons/Lions. Then, Sunday’s report will study the San Francisco-Seattle game that’s been moved to prime time on NBC. After that…a daily bowl barrage that will take you through Christmas Week as we close out 2012 with a bang.

IT’S THE MOST WONDERFUL TIME OF THE YEAR thanks to JIM HURLEY’S NETWORK!


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