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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Tuesday, December 31, 2013 at 7:00 AM

All indicators are that former Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel will be heading to the NFL after Tuesday Night’s Chick-Fil-A Bowl appearance for his Texas A&M Aggies against the Duke Blue Devils. He’s been chafing under the constraints of college life anyway. And, you always seen him reaching to the sky for money!

This creates a volatile situation for handicappers trying to pick a pointspread winner in the game. If Manziel has already mentally checked out of his college career…while matched up against a mostly irrelevant team in a game scheduled for a party night (New Year’s Eve)…then his Aggies could lose this game straight up. We’ve often seen favorites of this size get caught flat-footed by a fired up bowl opponent. But, if Manziel wants to end his college career on a historic note….he’s facing an undersized overmatched defense indoors on a fast track!

Manziel could have HUGE numbers…or the A&M season could go out with a whimper.


Won-Lost Records (strength of schedule)

Duke: 10-3 (#62 schedule in USA Today)

A&M: 8-4 (#29 schedule in USA today)

Duke had the better record because they played a softer schedule. If you flip-flop schedules, Duke probably isn’t a bowl caliber team in the very physical SEC. Maybe they would have snuck in at 6-6. The Aggies would have made a run at a divisional title at least in the softer ACC…particularly with all the defenses who would have had trouble chasing down Manziel.


Yards-Per Play

Duke: 5.7 on offense, 5.5 on defense

A&M: 7.3 on offense, 6.2 on defense

There you go….the Aggies were +1.1 yards-per-play better while playing in the tougher conference. Duke was on the right side of zero, but against a soft schedule. This is why the Aggies are such big favorites. If they show up mentally, they control their own fate to a large degree. It is worth nothing though that the Aggies defense grades out very poorly. They had a fantastic offense and a bad defense. It can be dangerous to trust bad defenses as big favorites.


Turnover Differential

Duke: +3

A&M: -1

Disappointing numbers by bowl standards this year. And, a negative number is really bad for a team that imagined itself a national contender. The A&M defense wasn’t very good at forcing mistakes from opponents (or even getting near enough to tackle them). Duke will have to play cleaner than their full season numbers suggest if they want to spring an upset.


Market Performance

Duke: 10-3 ATS

A&M: 5-7 ATS

Duke caught oddsmakers with their points down all season long. Vegas just wouldn’t give this team any respect! A&M was overrated on the heels of Manziel’s Heisman Trophy win. They did score enough to cover five spreads even with their very poor defense.


Current Line: Texas A&M by 12, total 75.5


Sharps and squares alike have largely been betting “favorite and Over” when the explosive offenses have taken the field in good scoring conditions. That’s the case here, particularly on the total. An opener of 70 has been bet all the way up to 75.5 and may keep rising. The Aggies started at -11.5, so the team side move has been much more minor.

You’ve seen the numbers. The Aggies should be clear favorites, and have the potential to run away and hide. Duke has been underrated all season…and has several ways they could sneak under the number again. The ultimate key to picking the winner looks like it’s going to be INFORMATION about the mindset of the Aggies entering the game. And, nobody’s better and getting THE RIGHT INFORMATION than JIM HURLEY’S NETWORK!

You can see if Duke/A&M made the New Year’s Eve ticket Tuesday morning right here at the website with your credit card. You’ll get the very best from the BC/Arizona, Virginia Tech/UCLA, and Mississippi State/Rice matchups as well. If you have any questions, or if you’d like to talk to a live person about full season options, call our handicapping office during normal business hours Tuesday at 1-888-777-4155.

This is our last report for 2013. Happy New Year! Back with you soon to continue the New Year’s Week Preview schedule:

Wednesday: Baylor vs. Central Florida in the Fiesta Bowl

Thursday: Alabama vs. Oklahoma in the Sugar Bowl

Friday: Ohio State vs. Clemson in the Orange Bowl

Saturday: New Orleans at Philadelphia in an NFL Wildcard game

Sunday: San Francisco at Green Bay in an NFL Wildcard game

Monday: BCS Championship (Florida State vs. Auburn)

We’d like to thanks all of you for reading throughout 2013…and particular thanks to those of you who have been with us in the NOTEBOOK over the years. We greatly appreciate your continuing readership. Best wishes for a healthy and prosperous New Year from everyone at JIM HURLEY’S NETWORK!

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