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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Friday, December 14, 2012 at 11:00 AM

Fasten your seat belts sports bettors, because the 2012-13 college football bowl marathon kicks off Saturday with Arizona vs. Nevada in the New Mexico Bowl, and Toledo vs. Utah State in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl on the fabled blue turf in Boise.

We begin our annual series of NOTEBOOK bowl stat previews with those two games today. Then we’ll be with you in a timely manner all through the postseason leading up to Notre Dame vs. Alabama on the Monday Night after the NFL’s Wildcard Weekend. It’s going to be a long and exciting ride!

Let’s jump right in with what has a chance to be quite a fireworks show when the good offenses and horrible defenses of Nevada and Arizona get things started Saturday afternoon…

NEW MEXICO BOWL (Albuquerque)

NEVADA (7-5) vs. ARIZONA (7-5)

Vegas Line: Arizona -9.5, total of 77

Market Moves: Look at that high total! It looks like weather won’t be a factor beyond chilly temperatures in the high 30’s. That shouldn’t bother these teams. The line on the team side opened at Arizona -9, with recent action hopping between -9.5 and -10. That tells you that dog players don’t think they’ll get better than +10…so they’re stepping in right when it reaches double digits. The tendency for the public to bet favorites, and to bet major conference teams over minor conference teams will probably mean oddsmakers will be rooting for the Underdog.

STRENGTH OF SCHEDULE

Nevada: 113th

Arizona: 11th

We always set the stage first in our bowl previews with a look at strength of schedule…because that’s HUGE when evaluating college football stats. And, for years, we’ve used the USA Today rankings compiled by their computer guru Jeff Sagarin. In this game, you’re about to see similar stat rankings. But, those rankings came against extremely different schedules. That’s why Arizona is much a big favorite. They’re battle tested. They’ve accomplished their offensive production vs. a tough slate. Nevada accomplished similar stats vs. an extremely easy slate.

OFFENSE

Nevada: 11th (7th rushing, 52nd passing)

Arizona: 7th (15th rushing, 29th passing)

Wow…extremely similar here. Both teams pile up the yardage with tempo and balance. You’ll recall that Arizona is coached by Rich Rodriguez, who would love to get a bowl win under his belt in his new job. Won’t give up though…and that level of production will give them backdoor opportunities even if they were to fall way behind.

DEFENSE

Nevada: 89th (112th rushing, 43rd passing)

Arizona: 120th (89th rushing, 121st passing)

Wow…HORRIBLE defenses. Imagine if Nevada had played a real schedule! Both of these defenses were bullied on the ground…and they’ll be facing offenses who can move the ball that way with relative ease. Barring big surprises or key injuries, both teams will be positioned to move up and down the field with limited risk. These are BAD defenses who can’t stop the run, which means there’s no reason for either offense to get cute.

ADDING IT ALL UP

Sports bettors must determine what strength of schedule is “worth” in this one, because these are statistically identical teams. Is the Pac 12 so much better than the Mountain West that Arizona will pull away and win big? Will this be another case of a Mountain West team surprising an overrated Pac 12 team? Should you just bet the Over and hope for a shootout? Or, will the extended break lead to offensive rust that keeps the game in the 50’s or 60’s rather than flying past the mid 70’s? We will say this. The stat combo suggests at least one team will make it to at least 45 points.

FAMOUS IDAHO POTATO BOWL (Boise)

TOLEDO (9-3) vs. UTAH STATE (10-2)

Vegas Line: Utah State by 10.5, total of 58.5

Market Moves: As we were going to press, there were some inklings that the line would move up to Utah State -10.5 and settle there. Hard to say for sure…because there are some heavy hitters that like betting double digit bowl underdogs for historic reasons. This game is also projected to be high scoring…by normal standards anyway. Few bowl totals will match the Nevada-Arizona projection.

STRENGTH OF SCHEDULE

Toledo: 106th

Utah State: 92nd

This is good news for handicappers, because we have relatively similar strengths of schedules between the MAC and the WAC. In fact, the margin of error is high enough in this kind of evaluation that you should probably just assume even schedules. The stat differences you’re about to see are going to matter.

OFFENSE

Toledo: 28th (34th rushing, 44th passing)

Utah State: 26th (37th rushing, 38th passing)

Wow…extremely similar offenses. Once again, these might as well be the same teams in terms of what they emphasize and how they produce yards and points. Unlike the first game, these really are true clones because they’ve played such similar schedules. This is why you have a total pushing 60 in a game played in the North in December. Both teams will be aggressive.

DEFENSE

Toledo: 107th (73rd rushing, 120th passing)

Utah State: 15th (13th rushing, 36th passing)

And, this is why Utah State is favored by around 10! They’ve played defense against their relatively soft schedule…while Toledo has had trouble even against a MAC heavy slate. The story of this season is that Toledo plays a lot of shootouts, while Utah State squashes people while crushing the spread! Don’t forget that Utah State is 10-1-1 ATS this year entering the bowls. They caught oddsmakers napping…and those oddsmakers didn’t really wake up until the latter stages of the season.

ADDING IT ALL UP

Utah State used to share a conference with Boise State, so they have contributors who won’t be awed by the weird blue field. Toledo travels fairly well in September historically, so they won’t be intimidated either. The safest guess is that Utah State will put points on the board with their top-notch (for a mid-major) offense facing Toledo’s soft defense. Do you want to take the Aggies and the Over with that in mind? Or, should you be concerned about Toledo coming in the back door if that possibility arises late?

JIM HURLEY has been preparing for the bowls since October…when it was already becoming clear who would be bowl eligible and who wouldn’t. Evaluating a team’s match for bowl needs is easy even before you know who they’re playing. Once the matchups were set, NETWORK’S computer simulation software began running around the clock to determine the most likely scenarios for every game. JIM HURLEY is ready to make sure YOU GET THE MONEY!

You can test the waters Saturday with our first two bowl selections. Or, get the most bang for your buck by signing up NOW for the full “end of season” program. Expanded details are available here at the website. If you have any questions, call us in the office at 1-800-323-4453.

Back with you tomorrow to preview FOUR big SUNDAY AFTERNOON SHOWDOWN games in the NFL. The key indicator stats we use in our Thursday Night, Sunday Night, and Monday Night games will be put through the ringer in Green Bay-Chicago, NY Giants-Atlanta, Denver-Baltimore, and Indianapolis-Houston. Then, over the weekend, we’ll have a special expanded report for Sunday Night’s potential Super Bowl preview matching San Francisco and New England.

Be sure you’re with us EVERY DAY in the NOTEBOOK so you know what’s REALLY happening in the world of sports! We’ll take you game by game through the college bowls. We’ll stay on top of developing stories through the NFL stretch drive. And, we’ll provide a direct pathway toward BIG, JUICY WINNERS from JIM HURLEY’S NETWORK!

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