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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Friday, December 19, 2014 at 7:00 AM

It’s not exactly a game you’d put in neon lights on the strip, but this year’s Las Vegas Bowl matching Utah and Colorado State is shaping up as the best of the pre-Christmas matchups. That’s true if you look at respected Power Ratings, the won-lost records, and the talent on the field.

As is often the case in bowls, one team will be playing for an “interim” head coach. Colorado State’s previous head man Jim McElwain was just hired to take over the Florida program. His experience as an assistant at Alabama prepared him for that role. The interim coach in Vegas will be offensive coordinator Dave Baldwin. The offensive stats you’ll see in a moment will show you why Baldwin was the go-to-guy in this situation.

Let’s see what JIM HURLEY’S key indicator stats have to say about Saturday’s best game…and what could turn out to be the best bowl matchup until the weekend after Christmas…


Won-Lost Records (Strength of Schedule)

Utah: 8-4 (#27 schedule in USA Today)

CSU: 10-2 (#98 schedule in USA Today)

Colorado State’s breakout record has been an under-reported story this season. Tough to win your division in the Mountain West when you share it with Boise State. One of two CSU losses was on the fabled blue turf. The other was in season-ending misstep against state rival Air Force. Utah’s 8-4 mark is stellar for a team that had to play in the Pac 12 South. You can see that the Utes played a much tougher schedule because they were in superior conference. Flip conferences, and you probably flip records at the very least. As much as CSU improved this season, it’s hard to picture them as an 8-4 team if they were in the Pac 12 South.



Utah: 5.2 on offense, 5.4 on defense

CSU: 7.2 on offense, 5.6 on defense

Here’s why Baldwin is the interim coach. The offense was stellar this year at a time when many offensive units are having trouble posting big yards-per-play numbers. That YPP differential shows you that the 10-2 record wasn’t a fluke. They were much better than the schedule they were facing as a general rule. Utah’s differential is a disappointment. Though, having a defense register at 5.4 in the Pac 12 is a solid showing. The Utes slowed down some dangerous offenses.


Turnover Differential

Utah: +4

CSU: +3

Virtually identical numbers here in differential and the actual individual categories. Utah had 19 takeaways and 15 giveaways, compared to 18 and 15 for Colorado State. Once you factor in strength of schedule, you have to assume Utah would have a meaningful advantage here. Colorado State would have been worse if they faced more athletic defenses. Utah would have been better stepping down in class.


Market Performance

Utah: 8-4

CSU: 8-4

Both teams were moneymakers…as both caught the market by surprise to equal degrees. Utah wasn’t supposed to be as competitive as they were in the Pac 12. Colorado State really came a long way under McElwain in a short time. Too bad he’s leaving! Another reminder that teams who aren’t on national TV much can generate good betting income because oddsmakers aren’t pressured to get their numbers in place quickly.


Current Line: Utah by 3, total of 57.5

The numbers has been coming down since the line went up on the board. The first offshore openers were Utah -5. Later stores opened at Utah -4. Colorado State money still keeps coming in even with the coaching change. That could mean something important. On the other hand, several important sharps thought Fresno State was going to upset USC in the Las Vegas Bowl last year and got crushed! You can’t ever be 100% certain when the Mountain West faces the Pac 12.

JIM HURLEY will do his best to be at least 70-80% certain about either the side or the total in this game. His sources in Las Vegas will be doing double duty to get information on the teams and Wise Guy betting. And, his trend historians will have all the past data on what’s happened with interim coaches in bowl games. You’ll be able to get the best betting options from Saturday’s 5-game bowl schedule right here at the website with your credit card. What a way to start the bowls! If you have any questions, call the office at 1-888-777-4155. Be sure to ask about combination packages that include early season basketball and all NFL through the Super Bowl.

Back to the NFL through the weekend. Here’s the schedule leading up to Christmas Day…

Saturday: NFL TV Preview…San Diego at San Francisco on CBS

Sunday: NFL TV Preview…Seattle at Arizona on NBC

Monday: NFL TV Preview…Denver at Cincinnati on ESPN

Tuesday: Boca Raton Bowl Preview…Marshall vs. Northern Illinois

Wednesday: Hawaii Bowl Preview…Fresno State vs. Rice

There’s no football on December 25. We’ll begin a rush of bowl action the day after. You can be sure that the NOTEBOOK will cover all the marquee matchups for you in both college and pro action as you get ready to ring in the New Year.

The bowls are about to begin. Fasten your seat belt for a wild ride down the ROAD TO RICHES with JIM HURLEY’S NETWORK!


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Jim Hurley on twitter @vsm_hurley

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