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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Tuesday, December 31, 2013 at 5:00 PM

The Big 12 champion Baylor Bears find themselves as prohibitive favorites over American Athletic Champion Central Florida Wednesday Night in the Fiesta Bowl. If you’ve been a college football fan for a long time, you know that favorites can be very dicey to root for in the postseason.

*Big favorites often prepare very poorly because they assume it’s going to be easy. Arizona State was the most recent example of that with their horrible effort Monday Night in the Holiday Bowl against Texas Tech. The studio guys were calling it one of the worst jobs of preparation they had ever seen. But, they say that every year about somebody because this is such a common occurrence!

*Big favorites often go at three-quarter speed even if they are well-prepared. They coast when they should be sprinting. East Carolina was an example of that against Ohio several days ago. They were 14-point favorites, yet trailed in the fourth quarter before surging to a late cover. Notre Dame moved the ball well vs. Rutgers at a similar price, but lost their mojo time and time again in the red zone.

*Big favorites may have the game covered in the fourth quarter, but then they let the other team come through the backdoor in garbage time. We don’t have an example of that from this season as of press time. You’ve watched enough bowls to have seen it happen.

But…just when you decide the value side is the ugly underdog…your team implodes and loses big. Texas threw two touchdowns to the wrong team in a 30-7 loss to Oregon Tuesday Night as a 14-point underdog. Many of the BCS bowls have had big favorites cash their tickets in recent seasons because the team did show up because they knew sports fans all over the nation would be tuned in.

It’s an “age-old” question for a reason!

We’ll run the numbers for you…but the key to picking the Fiesta Bowl is figuring out how much intensity Baylor is going to bring against an unheralded opponent they don’t know much about…amidst rumors that their head coach is being considered by Texas and some NFL teams for a rescue from Waco.

 

Won-Lost Records (strength of schedule)

C. Florida: 11-1 (#91 schedule in USA Today)

Baylor: 11-1 (#61 schedule in USA today)

You don’t see reasons for a high price there. Both teams only lost once. Central Florida did face South Carolina and Penn State in non-conference action, but played in a weak league. It has to be said that their win at Louisville looks even more impressive after seeing what the Cardinals did to Miami. Baylor played a weak schedule for a major conference team, scheduling nothing but cupcakes in September.

 

Yards-Per Play

C. Florida: 4.3 on offense, 3.9 on defense

Baylor: 7.6 on offense, 4.5 on defense

This is the reason for the high price. Baylor has a high octane offense that averaged better than seven-and-a-half yards-per play. That differential of +3.1 is monstrous. Central Florida barely made it above break even…and they did that against the weaker schedule. Can Central’s relatively meek offense hang with the Baylor juggernaut? And, why is ESPN hyping the Central Florida quarterback so much when his offense only gained 4.3 yards-per-play?!

 

Turnover Differential

C. Florida: +7

Baylor: +11

Great job here by both teams. You’re seeing with spread offense teams that you can avoid turnovers simply by throwing to the receiver who’s the most wide-open!

 

Market Performance

C. Florida: 7-5 ATS

Baylor: 9-3 ATS

Baylor cashed a lot of early tickets because the market couldn’t the prices high enough against the cupcakes. Things calmed down late in the season when Baylor had to face real teams. You probably saw their loss to Oklahoma State on TV. Their survival win at TCU was another example of being overpriced against an opposing defense that wasn’t intimidated.

 

Current Line: Baylor by 16.5, total 70

 

Maybe that’s a good price. Maybe it’s a good price for the first half only! That’s where Arizona State was priced, and the Sun Devils couldn’t even win their game against Texas Tech! Stats aren’t enough to handicap a game like this. You need INFORMATION! That’s where JIM HURLEY’S NETWORK comes in. His on-site sources have been reporting to him all week (from this locale and all other New Year’s Day host cities). He’s confident he has THE WINNER!

You can purchase the full New Year’s Day slate right here at the website Wednesday morning with your credit card. NETWORK tries to have something for you in each New Year’s game, unit-rated for money management purposes. If you have any questions, or if you’d like to talk to a live person about full season options, call our handicapping office before the first kickoff New Year’s Day at 1-888-777-4155.

Once again…Happy New Year! The NOTEBOOK resumes Thursday with this preview schedule:

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)

Your New Year’s CELEBRATION continues with CHAMPAGNE, CAVIAR, and BIG JUICY WINNERS courtesy of JIM HURLEY’S NETWORK!

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