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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Friday, December 28, 2012 at 8:23 PM

December’s single biggest bowl day arrives Saturday with five, count ‘em FIVE games that from brunch to bedtime. We’ve grabbed all the key numbers for you. We’ve studied the line moves. We’ve reviewed what the conferences in action today have done already. Let’s see what’s in store on what’s shaping up as a Super Saturday!

 

ARMED FORCES BOWL (Ft. Worth)

RICE (6-6) vs. AIR FORCE (6-6)

Vegas Line: Air Force by 2.5, total of 61.5

Market Moves: We’ve seen quite a bit of movement in this game since the opener of Air Force by one. It has reached as high as there before dog money brought the number back. As we go to press, there are indicators that it’s headed toward the three again.

STRENGTH OF SCHEDULE

Rice: 114th

Air Force: 120th

These teams played such similar schedules that you might as well consider the challenges as dead even. The margin for error with so many teams is great enough that Air Force may have graded out better if you tweaked the metric a bit. We’ve been using Jeff Sagarin’s numbers from USA Today here in the NOTEBOOK for years because we think they’re the best. We’ll call it a dead heat.

OFFENSE

Rice: 50th (30th rushing, 74th passing)

Air Force: 42nd (2nd rushing, 122nd passing)

Edge to Air Force, though not by much in the big picture. Rice has a big more balance…but is still run-heavy themselves. It’s pretty safe to say that run defense is going to determine who wins and covers this game.

DEFENSE

Rice: 96th (91st rushing, 84th passing)

Air Force: 66th (100th rushing, 28th passing)

Oops! Both teams had lousy run defenses! You can see why the opener was so close to pick-em. The market tends to respect military teams in bowls because discipline is important amidst potential distractions. Perhaps that’s why the line has moved in their direction. There’s no evidence in our indicator stats as to why Air Force should receive that level of support.

ADDING IT ALL UP

Because so many of the stat categories are even, motivation is likely to be the determining factor here. Which team is most excited about playing in this bowl? Which team is likely to show up with the most enthusiasm for this very early kickoff? JIM HURLEY has been working with his on-site sources for answers to that game, and for additional help in other games in the Metroplex that will be coming up in a matter of days.

FIGHT HUNGER BOWL (San Francisco)

NAVY (8-4) vs. ARIZONA STATE (7-5)

Vegas Line: Arizona State by 14, total of 53

Market Moves: Any movement off the 14 has been brought back to the 14, so there’s not a clear indicator from the Wise Guys beyond the total. The 53 you see at press time has been a recent big drop that’s keyed by weather potential and early reports from the site on field conditions. Remember, this game is played in a baseball stadium (Giants) that has had turf issues in the past.

STRENGTH OF SCHEDULE

Navy: 91st

Arizona State: 37th

Big edge here for Arizona State. Though, it must be said that Arizona had a big schedule edge over Nevada, while UCLA sure didn’t look particularly battle tested with its #26 ranked schedule when they played Baylor. It’s happened in the past. It’s possible that Sagarin has overrated the Pac 12 once again.

OFFENSE

Navy: 79th (6th rushing, 121st passing)

Arizona State: 31st (39th rushing, 45th passing)

Clear edge for the Sun Devils, as they play for an offensive-minded coach in great weather most of the year. Navy is all about the run, so they can still compete vs. opponents who are soft up front. Adapting to surface conditions will be very important here. It’s tough to run an option on lose grass. It’s also tough for high octane offenses to blow and go. This is partly behind Under sentiment from the Wise Guys.

DEFENSE

Navy: 56th (79th rushing, 36th passing)

Arizona State: 26th (75th rushing, 12th passing)

Clearly ASU has some issues up front. The fact that they’ve been great against the pass may not help them against a team that rarely passes! If this game were in a dome, we’d be looking at the Over because of how the offenses match up against the defenses. That’s not the case here.

ADDING IT ALL UP

Things could get really messy here, which is par for the course in this bowl game. JIM HURLEY will again be working with his California sources to get the best possible read on field conditions and game preparation. It’s amazing how many medium and big favorites have come out flat in recent days.

 

PINSTRIPE BOWL (Bronx)

WEST VIRGINIA (7-5) vs. SYRACUSE (7-5)

Vegas Line: West Virginia by 3.5, total of 71.5

Market Moves: This game has been locked in at either 3.5 or 4 for West Virginia. Sportsbooks know they’d get flooded with favorite money were the line move down to a field goal. The total has dropped a couple of points because weather conditions may not be conducive to a shootout.

STRENGTH OF SCHEDULE

W. Virginia: 20th

Syracuse: 45th

West Virginia gets the nod here…and may deserve an even bigger nod based on how well Baylor of the Big 12 played in the Holiday Bowl. We need to make mental adjustments in the stat categories for this Mountaineer boost.

OFFENSE

W. Virginia: 8th (48th rushing, 5th passing)

Syracuse: 21st (53rd rushing, 22nd passing)

All of you know that West Virginia has a great offense. Did you realize Syracuse was top 25? Where did that come from?! Here’s another matchup that would have been better suited to a fast track indoors in terms of entertainment value. Does Syracuse really have enough horsepower to hang tough?

DEFENSE

W. Virginia: 111th (41st rushing, 123rd passing)

Syracuse: 51st (48th rushing, 65th passing)

Syracuse may not need the horsepower if they can play to this level defensively. The playing surface at Yankee Stadium has been an issue in the past. Decent Syracuse defense plus inconsistent footing may be enough for the Orangemen to spring an upset.

ADDING IT ALL UP

Very interesting matchup in the Bronx, and JIM HURLEY’S sources will be all over it. There’s always great potential for volatility whenever West Virginia plays. You saw that in one direction in the Orange Bowl last year. You saw it the other way when they were outmatched to surprising degrees in Big 12 play this season.

ALAMO BOWL (San Antonio)

OREGON STATE (9-3) vs. TEXAS (8-4)

Vegas Line: Oregon State by 3, total of 57.5

Market Moves: Oregon State has been the sharp team in the early build-up to this game. Though, the line did cross over to -3.5 for awhile before underdog money finally came in to bring us back to a field goal at press time. Oregon State was very popular at any number below the three. Respect for Texas kicks in above the key number.

STRENGTH OF SCHEDULE

Oregon State: 12th

Texas: 10th

Virtually identical schedules. We’ll learn today from Big 12 and Pac 12 teams whether or not the USA Today computers had that issue pegged properly. Was UCLA a pretender? Or, was most of the Pac 12 a pretender?

OFFENSE

Oregon State: 34th (101st rushing, 15th passing)

Texas: 37th (46th rushing, 43rd passing)

Solid, but not spectacular from both. Texas is much more balanced, which often proves important in the college postseason. Though, passing attacks can be lethal in indoor games, and this one is in the Alamodome.

DEFENSE

Oregon State: 32nd (29th rushing, 47th passing)

Texas: 76th (101st rushing, 39th passing)

Big edge for the Beavers here…which is the tangible key behind all of their early support. You can’t really differentiate the teams except on defense in the raw data.

ADDING IT ALL UP

Now we add in an intangible key to support for Oregon State. Motivation! The team has been very vocal about their enthusiasm for this matchup. Texas always considers anything less than a BCS bowl to be a failure. The combination of defense and motivation put Oregon State in the chalk. Handicappers must decide if Texas is going to show up with enough passion to let the physicality of their in-state high school athletes rule the night against a team that doesn’t quite match up athletically.

 

BUFFALO WILD WINGS BOWL (Tempe)

TCU (7-5) vs. MICHIGAN STATE (6-6)

Vegas Line: TCU by 2.5, total of 41

Market Moves: TCU earned early support at a line near pick-em. But, when this number made it to a field goal, underdog money started coming in. The market expects a defensive struggle based on that low total. Key numbers have even more value in reduced scoring.

STRENGTH OF SCHEDULE

TCU: 14th

Mich. State: 29th

TCU gets the edge here, and may deserve a bigger edge depending on how things play out for the Big 10 this year. Michigan State gets a big pre-conference boost because they played Notre Dame and Boise State. Boise State didn’t really impress vs. Washington in its bowl. Again, this is a big day for evaluating the Big 12 with West Virginia, Texas, and TCU adding to what you will have already learned from Baylor and Texas Tech.

OFFENSE

TCU: 64th (66th rushing, 55th passing)

Mich. State: 91st (74th rushing, 77th passing)

TCU typically has the defensive edge when it takes the field. In this game, they’ll get the nod on offense. Both teams are balanced. TCU is balanced while also being most productive.

DEFENSE

TCU: 18th (10th rushing, 53rd passing)

Mich. State: 4th (8th rushing, 9th passing)

Both teams played fantastic all season. Michigan State is clearly legit on this side of the ball. TCU managed a top 20 ranking while facing a slew of dangerous offenses in the Big 12. You can see why oddsmakers posted a low total…and why the sharps bet the Under anyway.

ADDING IT ALL UP

JIM HURLEY has an opinion here…and he’ll also be watching Michigan State’s performance closely because so many other Big 10 schools are about to take their turn in the bowl parade.

You can purchase Saturday’s extravaganza right here at the website with your credit card. If you have any questions, call the NETWORK office at 1-800-323-4453.

Back with you tomorrow to preview the Dallas Cowboys/Washington Redskins battle that’s been moved to Sunday Night for NBC TV. There’s no let up in sight for the football frenzy here at JIM HURLEY’S NETWORK!


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