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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Thursday, December 20, 2012 at 12:15 AM

It’s a shame there was such a long layoff from last Saturday’s bowl openers to this next hunk of games. But, we have the Poinsettia and Beef O’Brady’s Bowls set for action Thursday and Friday. We’ll provide stat previews for BOTH games in this edition of the NOTEBOOK. Then we’ll be back in a day to crunch the numbers in Saturday’s New Orleans and Las Vegas Bowls.

We start with Thursday’s Poinsettia Bowl, where San Diego State gets to play on its home field against former Mountain West rival BYU…



BYU (7-5) vs. SAN DIEGO STATE (9-3)

Vegas Line: BYU by 3.5, total of 48

Market Moves: The line opened BYU at -2.5, -3 in some places. It danced between 2.5 and 3 for awhile…but has now moved to -3.5 and held strong above the key number. You longtime market followers know that’s a strong indicator of sharp sentiment. The Over/Under opened at 50, and was bet down…possibly due to concerns about surface in San Diego. Some of these California grass fields can get pretty torn up by late December. The two NFL games in San Diego and Oakland last week stayed Under, and neither losing team even managed 175 total yards.


BYU: 56th

San Diego State: 95th

BYU is now an independent, having left the Mountain West for what they hoped would be greener TV pastures. The freedom to schedule allowed them to grade out with the tougher slate this year according to the computer numbers at USA Today. Keep this in mind as we study our key indicator stats.


BYU: 56th (63rd rushing, 51st passing)

San Diego State: 57th (15th rushing, 106th passing)

That’s as close as you can get in the national rankings…sitting right next to each other. Note that BYU would rate the better unit after you adjusted for strength of schedule. And, they are also clearly the more balanced unit. You’ll see in a moment that BYU had a great run defense. SDSU’s strength lines up right against BYU’s strength…which is probably at the heart of why the market is supporting BYU in early betting.


BYU: 3rd (2nd rushing, 13th passing)

San Diego State: 42nd (39th rushing, 61st passing)

Good stuff from both considering their mid-major talent. You’ll see a lot of mid majors with lousy defensive stats this season. Here we have two teams who manned up and did a good job. BYU does rate a decisive edge though after you factor in strength of schedule. This was an elite DEFENSE this season, which was at the heart of their near upset at Notre Dame.


Weather is not expected to be a factor based on the current forecast. The numbers above suggest a defensive battle…particularly when the favorite prefers a smash mouth style. Favorites tend to enforce their preferred styles on bowl games. It is worth noting that BYU had a negative turnover differential this year even with that great defense. That could be an issue in what is a true road game. JIM HURLEY has been working with his stat guys and his Wise Guy connections to come to a final opinion at this new settled line of BYU -3.5. Perhaps clients will find out that the best value is with the total. Be sure you take care of business on game day here at the website, or lock in now for the full bowl campaign.


BEEF O’BRADY’S BOWL (St. Petersburg)


Vegas Line: Central Florida by 7, total of 61.5

Market Moves: This isn’t a true home game for Central Florida, though they’ll obviously have a home crowd advantage and limited travel from Orlando. The line opened at -7….then was bet up to as high as -8 and -8.5. Sharps have come back on the underdog in recent days though, pushing the line back to the opener. If you prefer the favorite…you get an affordable price. But, you have to bet that favorite knowing the most recent smart money tide was flowing against your sentiment.


Ball State: 79th

C. Florida: 115th

You don’t often see the MAC team having a much better strength of schedule than somebody in a bowl game. Central Florida used to schedule tough, but slacked off a bit in that regard this season. As you read the numbers below…it’s Ball State who should get the nudge forward because of the more demanding slate.


Ball State: 22nd (23rd rushing, 47th passing)

C. Florida: 60th (47th rushing, 70th passing)

Ball State’s strength is on offense…and they’re apparently even better than those marks would suggest once you factor in schedule. Good balance for a team rating in the top 25 (often those are pass-heavy teams). Central Florida’s passing game is questionable because #70 is lousy if you’ve played a pathetic schedule. That could be an issue if the game becomes a shootout. Lesser quarterbacks tend to panic in shootouts.


Ball State: 63rd (107th rushing, 91st passing)

C. Florida: 45th (64th rushing, 42nd passing)

We’d have to call this about even after you adjust for strength of schedule. Frankly, that’s disappointing for Central Florida…who usually combines decent defense with a real strength of schedule. Perhaps it’s a good sign for the favorite though that they’ve done a good enough job on both sides of the ball. They can deal with balance. Ball State CAN’T deal with rushing based on those rankings. Central Florida may be able to do whatever they want to on the ground, taking pressure off the soft passing game.


Historically, you’re supposed to take teams who can run the ball in bowl games. They can control their own destiny. They’re less likely to commit turnovers. They can run clock with a lead. It doesn’t always work out…but that’s where the percentages lie in terms of straight up victories. Oddsmakers have anticipated that here with a line of Central Florida -7. Handicappers must determine of the things Ball State CAN do will keep them in the game. A very interesting handicapping challenge given a dominant edge in what category for the favorite, but very respectable numbers across the board for the underdog.

JIM HURLEY is very excited that the bowl schedule is about to really take off over the next week. He’ll be posting his top plays daily right here at this website for credit card purchase. You can also sign up for the “end of year” program that gets you all the bowls, the rest of the NFL regular season, and the playoffs through the Super Bowl. If you have any questions, call the office at 1-800-323-4453.

Today’s report covers the bowl games set for Thursday and Friday Night. Our Friday edition of the NOTEBOOK will feature the two games set for Saturday afternoon.

New Orleans Bowl: East Carolina vs. Louisiana Lafayette

Las Vegas Bowl: Washington vs. Boise State

Again, those are both DAY games Saturday, with the action in New Orleans starting very early at noon ET (that’s 11 a.m. in the Big Easy, and 9 a.m. Las Vegas time), followed by a 3:30 p.m. ET kickoff from the gambling capital of the world, which is 12:30 p.m. local time in Vegas. (Hey…PARTY DAY in the bowls with action from New Orleans and Vegas! Be sure you give oddsmakers a hangover!)

We’ll be back to the NFL Saturday and Sunday with previews of prime time action. We know you’ll be busy over the next several days with shopping and possibly travel. Rest assured that JIM HURLEY will always be just a few clicks away with STOCKING STUFFERS!

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