Submitted by Jim Hurley on Thursday, December 4, 2014 at 7:00 PM
The first Power 5 championship of the 2014 college football season will be determined Friday Night when the Oregon Ducks face the Arizona Wildcats in the Pac 12 title tilt. Kickoff is set for just after 8 p.m. ET in a game that will be nationally televised by FOX.
There’s a lot at stake for Oregon beyond the conference crown. They are currently sitting at #2 in the national rankings of the championship selection committee. An impressive win paired with a less than impressive result from #1 Alabama (facing Missouri Saturday in the SEC Championship) could vault the Ducks to the top spot. On the other hand, an upset loss (which would be the second at the hands of Arizona this season), might knock Oregon all the way out of the brackets. It’s impossible to say for sure given the turmoil currently centered around the #4 spot. Arizona would have made a case for leapfrogging the Ducks based on a 2-0 sweep that featured no home games for the Wildcats!
And, we can’t forget about the Heisman Trophy. Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota is currently the frontrunner. He could seal the deal with a strong performance in a big victory. Or, he could open the door for somebody else if he struggles.
There’s a lot of drama on tap all weekend that will have national championship ramifications. It all BEGINS with Oregon-Arizona. Let’s run JIM HURLEY’S key indicator stats to see what they have to say about the matchup.
Won-Lost Records (Strength of Schedule)
Oregon: 11-1 (#34 schedule in USA Today)
Arizona: 10-2 (#35 schedule in USA Today)
Very important to note here that the teams have played almost identical schedules in terms of strength according to Jeff Sagarin of USA Today. Arizona’s is about to get tougher, while Oregon’s is about to get softer. Should Arizona score the upset…we’d have two teams at 11-2, but Arizona would be 2-0 heads up while having played the tougher schedule. The last thing the selection committee wants right now is to deal with an Arizona upset! No evidence in that short bite as to why Oregon is a two-touchdown favorite. Let’s dig deeper.
Oregon: 7.4 on offense, 5.5 on defense
Arizona: 5.9 on offense, 5.5 on defense
Here we go. Both defenses are allowing 5.5 yards-per-play, which gets the job done this year but isn’t particularly great compared to usual standards. Each offense has to outscore what its defense allows. Obviously, they’ve been able to do that so far! Oregon’s offense has been significantly more explosive. They are clearly the superior team because +1.9 vs. +0.4 vs. extremely similar schedules is a statement. Is that enough to justify a two-touchdown spread? Handicappers will have to make that determination. You can see now why Oregon is so highly regarded.
Both teams have done a great job this year in the risk/reward area. They play smart with the ball. They force some turnovers. And, their production and pace tends to force opponents into catch-up mode, which creates even more turnovers. Edge again to Oregon…and one that builds on what we saw already in yards-per-play. Should Arizona lose, don’t forget about this category come bowl time.
Oregon: 8-4 ATS
Arizona: 5-7 ATS
Oregon often runs up big scores, which allows them to cover tall spreads when things are going well. They’ve been money 67% of the time so far this season, even as a known national powerhouse entering the 2014 campaign. That speaks well to their consistency (particularly down the stretch), and to their national championship potential. It’s fairly common for eventual champions to have strong ATS records because you have to be great to cover a lot of college football spreads! Arizona has been a disappointment overall money-wise. They’re capable of big games. But, that unimpressive YPP differential becomes meaningful when opponents aren’t handing away cheap points.
Current Line: Oregon by 14.5, total of 74
The line has been gradually rising through the week…and may keep doing so until kickoff. JIM HURLEY has been working very closely with his Wise Guy sources in Las Vegas and offshore to make sure NETWORK clients get the right team at the right price. He’s studied the boxscore of the first Arizona/Oregon meeting to anticipate what adjustments will be made. He’s studied the history of regular season revenge in conference championship games to see if Oregon will get a real boost from that or not. And, his computer programmers have been running simulations around the clock for this and all conference championship games to account for every possibility.
That’s why YOU can be confident that you’ll be getting the best plays on the board Friday Night and all through Championship Weekend. Nobody wins ‘em all. But, JIM HURLEY wins at such a high rate that his clients have been cashing tickets for DECADES.
Purchase game day BEST BETS right here at the website with your credit card. If you have any questions, call the office at 1-888-777-4155 during normal business hours on Friday.
Back tomorrow in the NOTEBOOK for another championship preview. Here’s what’s ahead this weekend.
Saturday: Big 10 Championship Preview…Ohio State vs. Wisconsin
Sunday: NFL TV Preview…New England at San Diego on NBC
Monday: NFL TV Preview…Atlanta at Green Bay on ESPN
You longtime readers know exactly what we’re going to say at the start of Championship Weekend. WHEN CHAMPIONSHIPS ARE ON THE LINE, you need WORLD CHAMPION HANDICAPPER JIM HURLEY!
Be sure to follow:
Jim Hurley on twitter @vsm_hurley
Vegas-Sports-Masters on twitter @vsmasters