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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Sunday, December 23, 2012 at 9:40 PM

Sports bettors will be focused on basketball the next few days, because Christmas Eve and Christmas are going to be very quiet in football! There’s no action on the gridiron Christmas Day. Monday’s “Night Before Xmas” sports schedule will feature Fresno State and SMU in the Hawaii Bowl, as Mustangs coach June Jones returns to his old stomping grounds.

Since we have a bit of a respite in football, we’ll use today’s edition of the NOTEBOOK to preview Fresno State/SMU…and then get caught up on key stats from all the early bowl action. What you learn in the early games can pay off time and time again through the rest of the bowl slate!

HAWAII BOWL (Honolulu)

FRESNO STATE (9-3) vs. SMU (6-6)

Vegas Line: Fresno State by 12.5, total of 59.5

Market Moves: This is not a game that inspired a lot of betting action when it first went on the board. It opened at Fresno -12 in most places. There were moments of 11.5 in some spots, but the line would go back to a dozen. Late in the week, things settled on Fresno by 12.5 as favorite players figured they wouldn’t get anything cheaper than 12…while dog players waited to see what the public might do through the day Monday. The total has been steady at either 59 or 59.5 pending anything interesting in the game night weather forecast on the islands.

STRENGTH OF SCHEDULE

Fresno State: 98th

SMU: 93rd

These teams played virtually identical schedules. That means the stats you’re about to read are very meaningful, and don’t need any tweaking because of schedule illusions. Frankly, a difference of five spots when you’re talking about well over 100 teams in the USA Today major college computer rankings is nothing. Just assume these teams played identical schedules.

OFFENSE

Fresno State: 14th (59th rushing, 12th passing)

SMU: 95th (96th rushing, 58th passing)

Even though June Jones has a big offensive reputation, he’s had some trouble lighting up the scoreboard with SMU. The Mustangs were very disappointed with that poor overall ranking. They brought in Garrett Gilbert who failed at Texas, only to see him continue to struggle after stepping down in class. Fresno State was lethal offensively vs. their weak schedule this year. Dramatic edges on this side of the ball for the Bulldogs.

DEFENSE

Fresno State: 19th (76th rushing, 5th passing)

SMU: 65th (25th rushing, 107th passing)

The differences aren’t as stark here…but Fresno is still obviously much superior. Remember, this matters because they played such similar schedules in terms of opposition quality. It’s no secret why Fresno is favored by double digits! They’re the much better team. And, they’re pass defense is the single biggest strength on the team. That could mean more headaches for the disappointing SMU aerial attack.

ADDING IT ALL UP

On paper, this is a game Fresno State should win handily. But, SMU was a big underdog on paper to Nevada back in 2009…and won the game 45-10! That’s right…they won by five touchdowns as a double digit underdog! You just never know in this game. If the favorite spends too much time on the beaches looking at bikini’s, they don’t bring any intensity to the game. If the underdog does that, WIPEOUT!

JIM HURLEY is working closely with his sources to see which team will be better prepared. It should help SMU that their head coach knows his way around the islands. That being said…a team that went 6-6 vs. a weak schedule is going to be in big trouble if their opponent doesn’t come in flat. This is often a blowout bowl. Fresno State has been a blowout team this season. Information about mindset and preparation is going to mean everything for sports bettors.

As promised, a quick review of bowl games played so far…

NEW MEXICO BOWL: ARIZONA 49, NEVADA 48

Total Yardage: Nevada 658, Arizona 576

Rushing Yards: Nevada 403, Arizona 207

Passing Stats: Nevada 22-32-2-255, Arizona 27-45-2-369

Turnovers: Nevada 3, Arizona 3

Vegas Line: Arizona by 9, total of 79

More like arena football than big time college football. Both defenses were badly outmatched by the opposing offense. Nevada had the game won with a few minutes to go but gave it away with conservative play calling, a prevent defense, a muffed onside kick, and more prevent defense. It was the Mountain West covering against the Pac 12 again. Arizona did steal a win, but didn’t reflect well on their own program or their conference.

IDAHO POTATO BOWL: UTAH STATE 41, TOLEDO 15

Total Yardage: Toledo 315, Utah State 582

Rushing Yards: Toledo 142, Utah State 353

Passing Stats: Toledo 19-39-2-173, Utah State 21-31-0-229

Turnovers: Toledo 2, Utah State 2

Vegas Line: Utah State by 10.5, total of 60

Took awhile for this one to get rolling. Toledo suffered some early injuries, and eventually wore down against the Utah State onslaught. The stats are a bit misleading because this was a close game much of the day. Eventually, the better team went into steamroller mode and pulled away. Good showing so far for Western mid-majors. Not the start that the MAC wanted.

POINSETTIA BOWL: BYU 23, SAN DIEGO STATE 6

Total Yardage: BYU 296, San Diego State 263

Rushing Yards: BYU 52, San Diego State 119

Passing Stats: BYU 23-44-3-244, San Diego State 12-29-3-144

Turnovers: BYU 3, San Diego State 5

Vegas Line: BYU by 3.5, total of 48

This was basically a Mountain West regular season game, though BYU is now independent. If you watched you know it was a defensive struggle. BYU scored two defensive touchdowns, and had another very short TD drive. The teams combined for eight turnovers! An ugly won to watch. But, a good fourth quarter to watch if you were rooting for the favorite and the Under.

BEEF O’BRADY’S BOWL: CENTRAL FLORIDA 38, BALL STATE 17

Total Yardage: Ball State 288, Central Florida 494

Rushing Yards: Ball State 71, Central Florida 222

Passing Stats: Ball State 22-35-0-217, Central Florida 22-33-0-272

Turnovers: Ball State 1, Central Florida 0

Vegas Line: Central Florida by 7, total of 62

Another dark game for the MAC, as Ball State joined Toledo on the list of teams who were crushed statistically by respected mid majors. Sticking Northern Illinois in a BCS game doesn’t look so good now, does it?! Maybe the best of the MAC will play much better than these borderline teams who really weren’t bowl caliber even if they posted decent records vs. soft schedules. Typical solid, smash mouth play from Central Florida.

NEW ORLEANS BOWL: LOUISIANA LAFAYETTE 43, EAST CAROLINA 34

Total Yardage: East Carolina 421, Lafayette 591

Rushing Yards: East Carolina 143, Lafayette 267

Passing Stats: East Carolina 25-43-1-278, Lafayette 22-35-1-324

Turnovers: East Carolina 1, Lafayette 2

Vegas Line: Louisiana Lafayette by 6.5, total of 67

Quite a shootout, with Lafayette blowing all of a 28-7 first half lead, before ultimately vulturing a cover on a field goal with just 10 seconds left. You can see that Lafayette had a huge statistical game. Losing the turnover battle helped make it interesting, as one of East Carolina’s rallying TD’s came on a very short field. Another cover for a favorite, as the superior teams outside of Arizona were expressing their superiority in either stats or turnovers to this point in the proceedings. Some of these mid-majors just have dismal defenses. That gets magnified indoors, which happened to both Ball State and East Carolina.

LAS VEGAS BOWL: BOISE STATE 28, WASHINGTON 26

Total Yardage: Washington 448, Boise State 408

Rushing Yards: Washington 206, Boise State 108

Passing Stats: Washington 20-39-2-242, Boise State 27-39-0-300

Turnovers: Washington 3, Boise State 1

Vegas Line: Boise State by 5, total of 44

A game Washington should have won, and would have won without their turnover issues. It’s a good sign for the Pac 12 moving forward that a mid-level team can win stats and take a team like Boise State right down to the wire. Remember that when teams better than Washington are taking the field over the next several days. Arizona may have disappointed in a lucky win over Nevada. Washington provided a much better omen for Pac 12 fans.

That wraps up the Christmas Eve edition of the NOTEBOOK. Don’t forget that you can purchase all the top holiday plays right here at the website with your credit card. There will be limited office hours over the holiday. If you’re ready to hit the ground running starting Wednesday morning, call 1-800-323-4453 to set up your bowl/playoff package.

Our next report will preview the busy Christmas Day schedule in the NBA. There won’t be any football that day…but marquee matchups galore in pro hoops! Whether it’s football or basketball…you’re always going to GET THE MONEY with JIM HURLEY’S NETWORK!


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