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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Thursday, January 2, 2014 at 7:00 PM

Michigan State scored what might have been a breakthrough win for the Big 10 this past Wednesday in the Rose Bowl when they outplayed Stanford in a 24-20 victory. If not for a defensive score, the Spartans would have outbullied a bully 24-13 in a game where they won total yardage 397-305. Big 10 runner-up Ohio State is looking to build on that impressive development Friday Night when they take on Clemson in the Orange Bowl.

We’re not suggesting the Big 10 would be “all the way back” on the national scene if Ohio State wins. There are still too many weak spots in the middle and below. But…showing that your elite can play with anybody is often the key to getting the ball rolling on the national recruiting scene. Michigan State scores a big win in California on national TV…Ohio State scores a big win in Florida on national TV…and suddenly athletes everywhere are interesting in the Big 10 again.

Urban Meyer…the ball is in your court!

 

Won-Lost Records (strength of schedule)

Clemson: 10-2 (#53 schedule in USA Today)

Ohio State: 12-1 (#57 schedule in USA today)

Neither team played a great schedule on the whole. But, they played very similar schedules…which means you can trust the stat gradings. Ohio State almost ran the table against its slate, only losing to the hard-closing finisher that just outplayed powerful Stanford. Clemson lost twice, including a humbling home loss to Florida State that ceased being a ball game about two minutes after Clemson got off the bus.

 

Yards-Per Play

Clemson: 6.3 on offense, 5.0 on defense

Ohio State: 7.2 on offense, 5.2 on defense

Big advantage here to Ohio State. They were +2.0 on per-play differential while Clemson was only +1.3. And, that’s despite the misguided reputation that Clemson had the more explosive offense of the two. Ohio State has become a big-play team in addition to one who can hurt you up the middle. Clemson falls into the class of spread offense teams that run into trouble vs. physicality (with Baylor’s loss to Central Florida being the most recent example). For those of you thinking about the Over/Under, both offenses look to be positioned to move the ball consistently against both defenses.

 

Turnover Differential

Clemson: +4

Ohio State: +7

Both teams did acceptable jobs protecting the ball this season. But, a spread offense usually performs better than Clemson did in differential. It’s not a good sign that Clemson was only +4 with a low-risk offense against a mediocre schedule. Small edge to Ohio State from a handicapping perspective. Plus, the more physical team usually wins the turnover category anyway.

 

Market Performance

Clemson: 6-6 ATS

Ohio State: 6-6-1 ATS

Nothing there which would suggest that the market has been terribly out of synch with either team. Both tend to get so much respect as favorites that it’s hard to consistently cover big numbers. Ohio State’s poor garbage time defense also hurt them as pricey favorites.

 

Current Line: Ohio State by 3, total 69.5

 

The Buckeyes opened at -2.5, and were bet up to -3. It’s hard to see that line dropping again given the Big 10’s relative success on New Year’s Day. Michigan State and Nebraska won as dogs. Iowa covered. Wisconsin lost their starting quarterback during the loss to South Carolina, so you never know how that might have ended. The ACC has been inconsistent…which was best expressed on New Year’s Eve when Duke almost beat Texas A&M but Boston College and Virginia Tech lost by a combined 84-31 margin.

JIM HURLEY has been planning a blockbuster parlay for Friday night ever since the bowl schedule was first announced. Get the final word for Ohio State/Clemson and Oklahoma State/Missouri right here at the website with your credit card during the day on Friday. That will build your bankrolls in no time flat for the NFL’s Wildcard Weekend. If you have any questions, or you’d like to talk to a live person about “rest of football” options and value-priced seasonal basketball packages, call our handicapping office at 1-888-777-4155 during normal business hours Friday.

Here’s The NOTEBOOK preview schedule for the weekend:

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)

Within the next few days…we’ll see some of the best bowl action yet…we’ll have the start of what’s shaping up as an incredible NFL Playoffs…and we’ll crown a champion in college football. These games are too important for leans and hunches. Don’t you dare make a move until YOU HEAR WHAT JIM HURLEY HAS TO SAY!

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