Submitted by Jim Hurley on Thursday, December 27, 2012 at 7:44 PM
Another day, another bowl barrage for sports bettors. Today in our stat previews, we work our way from Shreveport, to Orlando, and finally to Houston for a trio of games that will challenge handicappers because of the erratic play in 2012 characteristic of many participating teams. Let’s see what our key indicator stats have to say.
INDEPENDENCE BOWL (Shreveport)
OHIO (8-4) vs. LOUISIANA-MONROE (8-4)
Vegas Line: Louisiana-Monroe by 7, total of 61
Market Moves: This line has been higher than seven, but has been bet down to the key number in the days leading up to the game. Central Michigan’s win vs. Western Kentucky provided evidence that the MAC can hang tough and even win outright as dogs vs. the Sun Belt. The total has slowly drifted upward to 61 from spots on the ladder just a shade lower than that.
STRENGTH OF SCHEDULE
Ohio played the weakest schedule of all bowl teams according to Jeff Sagarin’s USA Today rankings at the beginning of the bowl campaign. That’s not necessarily a killer for bowl success because Nevada, Central Florida, and Central Michigan have all covered spreads this year with rankings of #110 or worse. The key for our purposes is to adjust the stat rankings based on the challenges these teams faced. Louisiana-Monroe played a much tougher schedule thanks to some non-league challenges. Knowing that will help de-pollute the stat rankings.
Ohio: 43rd (29th rushing, 62nd passing)
Monroe: 34th (82nd rushing, 27th passing)
Monroe had the better offense while playing a much tougher schedule. That means the difference on this side of the ball is much greater than the raw data would suggest. Ohio averaged 5.6 yards-per-play against a horrible schedule. What would happen vs. a decent schedule? What would happen if they played Monroe’s schedule? Those are the questions you need to think about as you ponder the underdog.
Ohio: 62nd (70th rushing, 55th passing)
Monroe: 72nd (32nd rushing, 108th passing)
Very close in raw numbers…but Monroe obviously surges ahead when you account for schedule strength. Let’s note that Monroe’s truly horrible pass defense may not end up being a problem against Ohio, who is conservative and run-heavy under coach Frank Solich. This is one of the key reasons Monroe opened as a touchdown favorite. They made some headlines during the regular season…AND they match up well vs. this particular opponent. Had Monroe faced a more electric passing team, they’d be in big trouble.
ADDING IT ALL UP
Central Michigan’s win Wednesday Night may have been a harbinger of things to come here since the same conferences are on the field. The Sun Belt is 1-1 ATS as favorites thus far, but their cover was very fortunate when Louisiana Lafayette kicked a late field goal vs. East Carolina. JIM HURLEY has focused primarily on his computer simulation programs to gauge the effects of schedule strength and the run/pass dynamic to get the best read possible on the game. He is aware that Monroe will have a home crowd edge in Shreveport.
RUSSELL ATHLETIC BOWL (Orlando)
RUTGERS (9-3) vs. VIRGINIA TECH (6-6)
Vegas Line: Virginia Tech by 2, total of 41
Market Moves: The game opened near pick-em, so you can tell that there has been market interest in Beamer-Ball at the low line. But, Rutgers money did start coming in when the line started getting close to the three. Tech peaked at 2.5 at most legal betting locations before press time. The total has centered on 41, with forays slightly above or slightly below that number. This is a field surface that’s been problematic in past bowl seasons. That’s prevented sharps from betting Over with any enthusiasm.
STRENGTH OF SCHEDULE
Va. Tech: 57th
Tech played the tougher schedule, which is the opposite of what we saw Thursday when the Big East and ACC met up in the Belk Bowl with Cincinnati and Duke. Tech deserves consideration as you run through the other numbers.
Rutgers: 102nd (102nd rushing, 84th passing)
Va. Tech: 72nd (65th rushing, 61nd passing)
Wow…if you play a Big East schedule and can’t move the ball, then you’re going to be in trouble against quality defenses. Rutgers better have come up with some creative wrinkles in their preparation time. Virginia Tech was a disappointment on offense this year with a veteran quarterback who supposedly has the eye of scouts because of his physicality. Whoever you take in this game, you’ll have some things to worry about on this side of the ball.
Rutgers: 14th (11th rushing, 40th passing)
Va. Tech: 24th (36th rushing, 30th passing)
This is where Rutgers has a chance to hang tough. If they can turn this into a defensive struggle, then anything can happen. In the past, that would still give an edge to the Hokies because of their knack for forcing turnovers and making big plays on defense. Virginia Tech isn’t what they used to be in those areas though…which is why oddsmakers had this game at pick-em instead of something much higher. Remember that Tech played the tougher schedule. So, these defenses are probably dead even in the big picture.
ADDING IT ALL UP
On the one hand, the only visible edge goes to Tech’s offense. On the other, offensive edges in this kind of game can just mean gaining a few more yards while not scoring! In defensive struggles…it doesn’t really matter if one team gains 25 yards before punting while the other gains 9. Points still say off the board. JIM HURLEY is monitoring weather conditions with an eye on the Under…and he’s been working closely with his New York area sources for a few weeks to get a good read on the Rutgers mindset. This is the first bowl for a rookie head coach. Sometimes that means more enthusiasm. Sometimes it means getting outclassed in preparation.
MEINEKE CAR CARE BOWL (Houston)
MINNESOTA (6-6) vs. TEXAS TECH (7-5)
Vegas Line: Texas Tech by 13, total of 55
Market Moves: There hasn’t been much movement here to report outside of the total. An opener of 57 has been bet down to 55, which obviously means the Wise Guys like the Under. The public hasn’t shown any interest in this game as of press time. And, they’d bet Overs if they were betting (the public always bets Overs). Probably the least active market game of the bowls to this point.
STRENGTH OF SCHEDULE
Texas Tech: 21st
You know it was a down year in the Big 10, and a strong year in the Big 12, so it’s not a surprise that Tech has played the tougher schedule. Perhaps the Big 12 has been a bit overrated by computers this season. We’ll know more about that in short order because the league will make three appearances Saturday on the heels of this game and Baylor-UCLA Thursday Night.
Minnesota: 114th (81st rushing, 108th passing)
Texas Tech: 12th (89th rushing, 2nd passing)
Wow…you don’t often see discrepancies that big on one side of the ball when major conferences are lined up in a bowl. Minnesota’s offense was absolutely dreadful this year in every way imaginable. What if it hadn’t been a down year for the Big Ten?! Texas Tech’s ranking is a bit misleading. They had some big games vs. bad non-conference teams. Then, they play in a league that’s known for shootouts that have both teams playing passive hoping for turnovers. Our own proprietary methodology doesn’t have Tech as a team that would blow and go vs. quality defenses. Let’s see if Minnesota has a quality defense!
Minnesota: 29th (77th rushing, 11th passing)
Texas Tech: 39th (74th rushing, 22nd passing)
Well, there you go. You can see why the Wise Guys liked the Under. Minnesota graded out as top 30 for the year…which at least gives them a fighting chance to slow down Tech. The Gophers do have some problems at the point of attack. You can see that Tech does most of its damage in the air though.
ADDING IT ALL UP
JIM HURLEY has been following the Tech situation closely, with their head coach leaving a few weeks ago, and then some suspensions just a few days ago. That could also signal turmoil that would prevent this big favorite from playing to expectations. But, it could also mean everyone’s on the same page moving forward, excited about who their coach will be next year. Information about mindset is going to be HUGE in this game, and arguably all three of Friday’s bowls.
You can purchase NETWORK’S plays in all three games right here at the website with your credit card.If you have any questions, call the office at 1-800-323-4453. Be sure to check on discounted rates that take you through the rest of the bowls and the NFL playoffs.
Back with you tomorrow to preview a FIVE-GAME BOWL EXTRAVAGANZA that features the best matchup composite yet. Don’t make a move in any bowl game UNTIL YOU HEAR WHAT JIM HURLEY HAS TO SAY!