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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Monday, December 31, 2012 at 5:00 PM

Finally some marquee matchups you can sink your teeth into! Two of the best teams from the powerful SEC take the field January 1st as the annual New Year’s Day Bowl Extravaganza takes center stage (Georgia and South Carolina). The champion and runner-up from the Big Ten are also in action (Wisconsin and Nebraska). The Pac 12 champ tries to defend league honor in the Rose Bowl (Stanford). And, finally, the potential Cinderella story everyone’s been waiting to read in the Orange Bowl when BCS longshot Northern Illinois takes on Florida State.

Let’s run through our key indicator stats in rotation order. This is going to be a doozy of a report. If you’re reading this Monday, time to make your final decisions with a clear head. If you’re reading this early Tuesday, shake off your hangover and get to work!

TICKET CITY BOWL (Dallas)

PURDUE (6-6) vs. OKLAHOMA STATE (7-5)

Vegas Line: Oklahoma State by 17, total of 70

Market Moves: Not much betting interest in this one in the lead up to the holiday. Sharps usually like big dogs, but they didn’t trust Purdue playing in Big 12 country against a potent offense. The total has hung right at 70 as the Wise Guys waited to see what game day weather was going to be like.

STRENGTH OF SCHEDULE

Purdue: 44th

Oklahoma State: 8th

Oklahoma State played a tougher schedule. But, Purdue had a tough slate for a Big 10 team because they faced Notre Dame in non-conference action. We’ll give Okie State a slight boost in the stat analysis because they’re slightly more battle tested.

OFFENSE

Purdue: 59th (59th rushing, 54th passing)

Oklahoma State: 5th (22nd rushing, 7th passing)

No surprise here. Oklahoma State runs a fast break high octane attack that piles up the yardage. They did that in a tough conference, which means they’re even more dangerous when stepping down in class. 

DEFENSE

Purdue: 71st (81st rushing, 51st passing)

Oklahoma State: 84th (37th rushing, 117th passing)

The defenses would probably rate about even after you adjust for strength of schedule. Tough call…because Purdue has had some games where the defense performed much better than those numbers would suggest (particularly against Notre Dame and Ohio State). It may be a good sign for Purdue that they’re pass defense held its own. But, it might just be a sign that Big 10 quarterbacks were really bad this year.

ADDING IT ALL UP

Minnesota covered as a big dog against Texas Tech, almost winning the game outright. If Oklahoma State comes in overconfident, they may find themselves in a dog fight too. Purdue isn’t afraid of anybody, which they showed against their toughest opponents. JIM HURLEY will be working with his busy sources in Texas to get a read on Oklahoma State’s preparation and mindset.

GATOR BOWL (Jacksonville)

MISSISSIPPI STATE (8-4) vs. NORTHWESTERN (9-3)

Vegas Line: Northwestern by 1.5, total of 52

Market Moves: We’ve had a favorite switch here in recent days, as Northwestern is low laying small chalk after opening as an underdog. It’s odd to see the sharps fade the SEC with a mediocre Big 10 team. But, the fact that it’s happened may mean something interesting is in the works.

STRENGTH OF SCHEDULE

Miss. State: 53rd

Northwestern: 50th

Might as well call this a dead heat because the margin for error is more than three spots in Jeff Sagarin’s respected computer ratings. No need to tweak the stat rankings. What you see in the Gator Bowl is what you get stat-wise.

OFFENSE

Miss. State: 77th (88th rushing, 50th passing)

Northwestern: 63rd (14th rushing, 112th passing)

Edge to Northwestern here, particularly on the ground. Northwestern has the stat profile of a military team, which isn’t a good thing this year based on the debacles that befell Air Force and Navy! Let’s see how Mississippi State ranks in run defense before jumping to any conclusions.

DEFENSE

Miss. State: 59th (71st rushing, 48th passing)

Northwestern: 52nd (21st rushing, 97th passing)

You can see why sharps have hit Northwestern. They ranked better on both sides of the ball while playing a similar schedule strength. Oddsmakers posted an early line based on conference reputation. Sharps are basically betting the stats. Miss. State ranked a disappointing #71 against the run this year. That could allow Northwestern to control the flow of the game on the ground.

ADDING IT ALL UP

Given how well the SEC has played in recent bowl seasons, and how poorly the Big Ten has played, it’s interesting to see sharps buck that trend with their money in this spot. Have they spotted something important in the matchup? Have they decided the non-powers of the SEC just aren’t that great this year? Or, are they in for a stark reminder that you just can trust the Big Ten on New Year’s Day?!

 

OUTBACK BOWL (Tampa)

SOUTH CAROLINA (10-2) vs. MICHIGAN (8-4)

Vegas Line: South Carolina by 5.5, total of 48

Market Moves: This game opened at South Carolina -4, before being bet up to the 5.5 you see as we go to press. This is similar to the Chick-Fil-A Bowl in that regard…with the SEC team getting respect from sharps at a low opener.

STRENGTH OF SCHEDULE

S. Carolina: 35th

Michigan: 36th

Once again, very similar schedule strengths. This might be a hidden omen for good Big 10 news on this day. Or, it might be a sign that USA Today has underestimated the SEC (which has happened in the past). Based on our methodology this year, we will treat the stats as they are on the assumption that these teams have played even schedules. Just remember that Michigan DID play Alabama this year on a neutral field, and was badly outclassed.

OFFENSE

S. Carolina: 89th (86th rushing, 66th passing)

Michigan: 81st (40th rushing, 98th passing)

Based on media hype, you might be stunned that a Steve Spurrier coached team AND a Michigan offense led by an early season Heisman Trophy candidate would both rate so poorly on this side of the ball. This is why you can’t handicap based on what studio guys say on ESPN!

DEFENSE

S. Carolina: 12th (17th rushing, 16th passing)

Michigan: 11th (59th rushing, 2nd passing)

And now the two teams are dead even on defense too! Same schedules, same offense, same defense. Why isn’t this game pick-em? That Michigan rout at the hands of Alabama is looming large in the minds of the market-makers.

ADDING IT ALL UP

JIM HURLEY knows a smash mouth game when he sees one. He’s been studying the boxscores very closely from this year’s action when both teams were forced to play smash mouth opponents. That has created a big play on either a side or a total in this much anticipated showdown.

CAPITAL ONE BOWL (Orlando)

GEORGIA (11-2) vs. NEBRASKA (10-3)

Vegas Line: Georgia by 8.5, total of 60.5

Market Moves: This line sat at Georgia -10 for a long time. But, sharp money has been coming in on Nebraska in recent hours. That line of -8.5 we’ve posted represents a midpoint of what’s in the market as we go to press. Some stories are at -9. Some as low as -8. Looks like sharps like the Huskers, because the public wouldn’t be betting that early…and probably wouldn’t be taking a dog.

STRENGTH OF SCHEDULE

Georgia: 40th

Nebraska: 33rd

Once again we’re seeing that Sagarin’s numbers at USA Today are showing that Big Ten and SEC teams played relatively even schedules. If that’s true, then the Big Ten is going to do well ATS today. If Sagarin has overrated the Big Ten once again, we hope he’ll finally make some adjustments in his software! Big Test Tuesday for the Big Ten and the sources that respect them.

OFFENSE

Georgia: 27th (41st rushing, 34th passing)

Nebraska: 24th (8th rushing, 91st passing)

This might as well be South Carolina-Michigan. We’ll once again have very similar stat and schedule rankings across the board. We’ll once again have the SEC team favored because of league reputation. There are potential keys within the run/pass breakdown though. Nebraska is a top 10 rushing team. Let’s see how Georgia defends the point of attack.

DEFENSE

Georgia: 27th (80th rushing, 8th passing)

Nebraska: 23rd (96th rushing, 1st passing)

Uh oh. You can see why sharps were considering the dog here. Georgia’s rush defense is suspect. It’s tough to blow out Nebraska if you’re letting them move the chains. This line is so high that you almost have to dominate to get the money. Interesting that both teams have top 30 rankings overall with such poor rush defenses.

ADDING IT ALL UP

A lack of motivation usually isn’t a big factor in New Year’s games. But, Georgia is a team that could conceivably come in flat because they had a shot to win the SEC and play for the National Championship. The Capital One Bowl against a Big Ten runner-up is a potential letdown spot in that context. JIM HURLEY is working with his on site sources to evaluate Georgia’s mindset.

ROSE BOWL (Pasadena)

WISCONSIN (8-5) vs. STANFORD (11-2)

Vegas Line: Stanford by 6.5, total of 47.5

Market Moves: Generally speaking, this line has hopped between Stanford by 6.5, and Stanford by 7. When the line went to the key number of seven, sharps stepped in and hit the dog. There were some indicators midday Monday that the line might drop down to six.

STRENGTH OF SCHEDULE

Wisconsin: 38th

Stanford: 6th

Stanford won on the road at Oregon, and was robbed of a win on the road at Notre Dame. So, this is a team that’s performed very well against the nation’s elite. Our own proprietary numbers have a bigger difference in schedule strength than what you see above.

OFFENSE

Wisconsin: 61st (12th rushing, 115th passing)

Stanford: 85th (52nd rushing, 94th passing)

Even though Stanford has maintained its level of success without Andrew Luck, the offense has taken a tremendous hit. They’re now winning with defense and brains. They play the percentage game well, finding ways to grind out wins. Wisconsin has the better offense. Though, Wisconsin is extremely one-dimensional this year…and will be facing  team that’s shut down that dimension.

DEFENSE

Wisconsin: 13th (23rd rushing, 23rd passing)

Stanford: 21st (3rd rushing, 85th passing)

Wow…Wisconsin’s great rushing attack will face the third best rush defense in the country. Maybe the Pac 12 is so generally soft up front that Stanford’s ranking is a little misleading. Fine. You’ve seen them play. The Cardinal defense is tough, smart, and physical. Great test from either perspective.

ADDING IT ALL UP

There’s been a Big 10 team in all five games so far…and the league is underdogs in four of them (after opening as dogs in all five). As good a time as any to point out that JIM HURLEY’S evaluation of the full slate will be greatly influenced by what he thinks of the conference as a whole…particularly in games against highly regarded opponents like Stanford, Georgia, and South Carolina.

ORANGE BOWL (Miami)

NORTHERN ILLINOIS (12-1) vs. FLORIDA STATE (11-2)

Vegas Line: Florida State by 13, total of 58.5

Market Moves: Florida State opened at -14, and has been bet down to -13.5, and then -13 in most places as we go to press. Sharps are skeptical about the ACC in general; and FSU’s head coach and quarterback in particular.

STRENGTH OF SCHEDULE

Northern Illinois: 126th

Florida State: 69th

Northern Illinois snuck into the BCS as a pretender in terms of where they really stack up in the national picture. A great won-lost record put them in the top 16 of a process that overly rewards great won-lost records vs. crap schedules! They’re probably in the 40-50 range in reality, meaning that’s where they’d grade out if they played in a real conference. That being said, Florida State wouldn’t have sparkled in the SEC or Big 12 this year given their disappointing performances on the road in a weak conference. These are the two poorest schedule rankings on the New Year’s schedule.

OFFENSE

Northern Illinois: 15th (9th rushing, 59th passing)

Florida State: 23rd (26th rushing, 41st passing)

Both teams know how to blow and go vs. weak defenses. Florida State has the better offense once you adjust for schedule strength.

DEFENSE

Northern Illinois: 35th (34th rushing, 41st passing)

Florida State: 2nd (5th rushing, 3rd passing)

Since neither offense is facing a weak defense here, it’s going to be very interesting to see how things play out. Florida State has the better athletes, and could really intimidate the travelers from the North. Yet, southern favorites have a way of getting arrogant at just the wrong times.

ADDING IT ALL UP

The numbers make it clear why FSU is the favorite. They don’t make it clear why FSU is a two-touchdown favorite. JIM HURLEY knows how important the prime time game is on New Year’s. If you had a great afternoon, you want to let the winnings ride for a huge score. If you struggled on your own in the early games you need a bailout. NETWORK will make sure you get the best money-making option in the Grand Finale.

We told you that was going to be a long report! You can purchase JIM HURLEY’S full New Year’s slate right here at the website with your credit card. If you have any questions, call the office at 1-800-323-4453.

Big games previews will continue throughout the week in the Sugar, Fiesta, and Cotton Bowls here in the NOTEBOOK. For now…the focus is on the annual New Year’s Bowl Extravaganza. Pop the corks with JIM HURLEY for a champagne celebration!


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