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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Wednesday, January 02, 2013 at 10:27 PM

Very late in the college football regular season, it looked like Oregon would be taking on Kansas State for the BCS championship. Both teams were consistently drilling quality opponents. Both teams would be double digit favorites in their remaining games. Sports bettors were wondering where Alabama and Notre Dame were going to end up because they sure weren’t going to outrank Oregon and K-State in the BCS ranking process!

Then, both Oregon and Kansas State ran into buzzsaws.

*Oregon was stunned at home by a very strong Stanford team that would go on to beat UCLA for the Pac 12 championship, and Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl. No shame in losing to the Cardinal, even if it was as big favorites in Eugene. When you face a lot of bowl caliber teams, it’s tough to peak for every single outing.

*Kansas State lost badly on the road to Baylor, which became less of a shocker over time as Baylor annihilated UCLA worse in the Holiday Bowl than Stanford did in two late season tries.

There were several strong college teams who closed the season well. Oregon and Kansas State happened to run into two of them. Alabama did as well when they lost to Texas A&M. Having one-loss in the SEC is better than having one loss in the Pac 12 or Big 12 (largely justified by recent bowl results). So, Alabama is playing for a championship, while K-State and Oregon look to put on an entertaining show at the often electric Fiesta Bowl.

Let’s run some numbers and see how the game might play out.

FIESTA BOWL (Phoenix)

OREGON (11-1) vs. KANSAS STATE (11-1)

Vegas Line: Oregon by 8, total of 75.5

Market Moves: This game opened at Oregon -8, was bet up to Oregon -9.5 at its peak, but has settled back in at Oregon -8 after K-State money came in. The public will probably bet the favorite here, particularly if Florida beats up on Louisville in a way that continues the favorite trend of New Year’s. At the closing numbers in Las Vegas, favorites went 5-1 ATS (though it’s possible for dog lovers to have shopped or timed the market in a way that eased their pain). There hasn’t been much market movement on this very high total.

STRENGTH OF SCHEDULE

Oregon: 32nd

Kansas State: 19th

Both teams played tough schedules. We’ll run through those in greater detail in a moment when we study what happened vs. bowl caliber opposition. One might argue that both deserve higher schedule rankings than Jeff Sagarin of USA Today was giving them. Kind of depends on how you evaluate what happened to the Pac 12 and Big 12 so far in the bowls. Mixed news for both, but some impressive victories each league can hang their hats on. We agree in our own proprietary numbers that K-State had it slightly tougher. We’ll keep that in mind as we look at the stat rankings.

OFFENSE

Oregon: 4th (3rd rushing, 67th passing)

Kansas State: 55th (34th rushing, 87th passing)

Oregon’s offense is a true juggernaut in every sense of the word. In fact, they’ve invented NEW ways to be a juggernaut that weren’t even used before! The Ducks clearly have the edge on offense even after you adjust for strength of schedule. We will point out though that Coach Bill Snyder’s teams at Kansas State typically “score” better than their yardage would indicate. They’re very good at finishing off drives when they get close to the end zone. They’re very good at creating field position with defense and special teams. The edge isn’t as big as those rankings would suggest in our view, granting Oregon’s clear advantage.

DEFENSE

Oregon: 47th (45th rushing, 63rd passing)

Kansas State: 43th (18th rushing, 92nd passing)

Virtually a dead heat here, which becomes a slight Kansas State advantage when you adjust for strength of schedule. Both teams were penalized a bit by playing so many garbage time games. Their backups allowed yardage and points once the game was out of reach. That being said…both played in fast break conferences that likely wore down the defenses. We might see tired defenses in the second half tonight. Be prepared for that.

OREGON’S RESULTS VS. BOWL CALIBER OPPONENTS

Oregon (-37.5) beat Arkansas State 57-34

Oregon (-33) beat Fresno State 42-25

Oregon (-20) beat Arizona 49-0

Oregon (-24) beat Washington 52-21

Oregon (-8.5) beat Arizona State 43-21

Oregon (-8) beat USC 62-51

Oregon (-18) lost to Stanford 17-14

Oregon (-11.5) beat Oregon State 48-24

That’s eight games against teams who qualified for bowls, which is exactly two-thirds of the schedule. And, outside of Stanford, it’s a bunch of double digit victories. You can see why Oregon is getting such respect in the line in the Fiesta Bowl. When they win, they win big.

Let’s break those down into winners and losers since most bowl action is complete.

BOWL WINNERS: Arizona (barely), Arizona State, Stanford

BOWL LOSERS: Fresno State, Washington (barely), USC, Oregon State

Arkansas State will play Sunday in the Go-Daddy Bowl against Kent State. All told, that’s not really a great showing for Oregon’s opponents. Stanford grinded out a win over Wisconsin. Arizona State throttled a very poor Navy team. Otherwise, nothing to write home about. The Fiesta Bowl will tell us whether or not the Pac 12 was overrated this year.

KANSAS STATE’S RESULTS VS. BOWL CALIBER OPPONENTS

Kansas State (-8) beat Miami-Florida 52-13 (bowl caliber but ineligible)

Kansas State (+15) beat Oklahoma 24-19

Kansas State (-6) beat Iowa State 27-21

Kansas State (+3) beat West Virginia 55-14

Kansas State (-7) beat Texas Tech 55-24

Kansas State (-7) beat Oklahoma State 44-30

Kansas State (-6.5) beat TCU 23-10

Kansas State (-12) lost to Baylor 52-24

Kansas State (-10) beat Texas 42-24

That’s nine of 12 games for Kansas State against opponents who finished with bowl eligible records. Miami penalized themselves because they’re in such deep trouble with the NCAA. Great to see so many top teams this year really battling to earn their reputations through full season challenges. This truly was a season where the scheduled games served as a pre-tournament to isolate the elite.

Let’s see how K-State’s opponents did in bowls…

BOWL WINNERS: Texas Tech, Oklahoma State, Baylor, Texas

BOWL LOSERS: Iowa State, West Virginia, TCU

Oklahoma will play Texas A&M Friday Night in the Cotton Bowl in Dallas. That’s 4-3 straight up…but Texas Tech’s nailbiter win over lowly Minnesota really wasn’t much of a plus. The Big 12 was 3-4 vs. market expectations, suggesting a minor disappointment so far. Were Kansas State and Oklahoma to struggle this week, it’s the Big 12 that would have been exposed as overrated.

ADDING IT ALL UP

The potential is here for a true classic, which has become par for the course in the Fiesta Bowl because they don’t get stuck with the Big East or ACC champions like the other BCS bowls do! JIM HURLEY has been studying his computer simulations very closely because he sees no “emotional” or “intangible” edges in play here. Nobody’s going to be flat for this game. Nobody’s going to come in arrogant, as each learned a lesson about that very recently. This game could veer off in a variety of directions.

*Kansas State could match Stanford’s ball control approach, meaning Dog and Under

*Kansas State could hang tough in a wild shootout, meaning Dog and Over

*Oregon could use its patented fast start to surge to a 40-20 type win, meaning Favorite and Under

*An Oregon fast start could create extended garbage time hijinx, meaning 50-30 for Favorite and Over

JIM HURLEY believes he has the right read here. You can purchase his final decision(s) right here at the website with your credit card. If you’d like to talk to a NETWORK representative about the rest of football, or a football/basketball combination package, call the office at 1-800-323-4453.

Back with you tomorrow to preview Friday’s Cotton Bowl matching Oklahoma and Texas A&M. There’s a lot of great football still ahead with that game, Wildcard Weekend in the NFL, and Monday’s BCS Championship showdown with Notre Dame and Alabama. Don’t make a move in the most important football games of the season UNTIL YOU HEAR WHAT JIM HURLEY HAS TO SAY!


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