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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Tuesday, December 23, 2014 at 7:00 PM

Twas the Night Before Christmas, and on your TV…Rice/Fresno State was the only game to see!

Hey, if it’s on TV, you’re going to be looking for a winner even if the major conferences are waiting until after the holiday before sending their teams into battle. Neither Rice nor Fresno State managed to win their respective mid-major conferences. Fresno State lost in the Mountain West Championship game to Boise State on the fabled blue turf. Rice finished behind Louisiana Tech in the CUSA West.

But, this is still projected to be one of the most entertaining early games. We have a Las Vegas pointspread below a field goal, and an Over/Under up near 60. Let’s hope the Owls and Bulldogs put on a show. Here’s what JIM HURLEY’S key indicator stats have to say about the matchup.


Won-Lost Records (Strength of Schedule)

Fresno State: 6-7 (#70 schedule in USA Today)

Rice: 7-5 (#92 schedule in USA Today)

Fresno State clinched bowl eligibility at 6-6, and they’re not penalized for losing a championship game (normally losing teams aren’t allowed to play in the postseason!). But, neither team would be considered “bowl caliber” if they played in a major conference. You’ll recall that last year’s Fresno State (with NFL-bound Derek Carr) was obliterated in the Las Vegas Bowl by Southern Cal. We can hope for a competitive game between mediocrities…or an easy winner on a side or total. This is mostly a chamber of commerce bowl for Hawaii tourism, and a paycheck for lesser leagues that need the money.



Fresno State: 5.3 on offense, 6.2 on defense

Rice: 5.5 on offense, 6.0 on defense

Wow…horrendous numbers at what might be the single most important indicator combination. Versus unimpressive schedules, these teams posted negative yards-per-play differentials. Remember that Colorado State had a GOOD differential before getting squashed by Utah. The good news for fans of entertaining football is that both defenses were soft. That opens up the possibilities for some big plays.


Turnover Differential

Fresno State: -5

Rice: +6

Rice is in a bowl game because they got the best of the risk/reward scenario while struggling at the point of attack. Cheap points overcame poor production. Fresno State struggled in the transition to new quarterbacks. For the season, Fresno State lost the ball 25 times, compared to just 12 for Rice. You have to assume an edge for Rice, particularly if it rains at all during the game (which sometimes happens in this bowl).


Market Performance

Fresno State: 7-6 ATS

Rice: 8-4 ATS

Fresno State rallied to be a money-winner after a 0-3 ATS start. They covered the MWC title tilt to get over the top. Rice had been 8-3 ATS until an inexplicable no-show in their regular season finale…a 76-31 loss at CUSA runner-up Louisiana Tech. So, Rice has been the better value team when they mentally show up!


Current Line: Rice by 2.5, total of 59.5

The market sees Rice as the better team…and one that will show up in the mood to play. In fact, an early line of Rice -1 has been bet up by smart money (this isn’t a game that the square public would bet in advance of game day). It is expected that Fresno State money would hit the board at +3.

JIM HURLEY is a master of game-day handicapping through the bowls. He’ll help you beat the lines you’re seeing in the hours before kickoff all the way through the postseason. You can purchase Wednesday’s twinbill (this game plus Central Michigan/Western Kentucky in the Bahamas Bowl) right here at the website with your credit card. If you have any questions, call the office at 1-888-777-4155 during the day Wednesday. (Take care of business EARLY because the bash in the Bahamas begins at noon ET, 9 a.m. Las Vegas time!)

There’s no football on the Christmas Day schedule. So, we’ll post an early look at the Friday afternoon bowl game between Rutgers and North Carolina here in the NOTEBOOK. Here’s what’s ahead in the days between Christmas and New Year’s…

Christmas Day: Early Look...Rutgers vs. North Carolina in Friday’s Quick Lane Bowl

Friday: St. Petersburg Bowl Preview…North Carolina State vs. Central Florida

Saturday: Holiday Bowl Preview…Nebraska vs USC

Sunday: a preview of the NFL’s biggest game

Monday: Texas Bowl Preview…Arkansas vs. Texas on ESPN

Tuesday: Early Look…#6 TCU vs. #9 Ole Miss in the Chick-Fil-A Bowl on ESPN

Wednesday: Early Look…#2 Oregon vs. #3 Florida State in the Rose Bowl

New Year’s Day: Sugar Bowl Preview…#1 Alabama vs. #4 Ohio State

This season’s BOWL BONANZA is just getting started. Have a great Christmas Eve and Christmas Day…then get ready to celebrate some more as we close out 2014 and bring in 2015 with a bang when the blockbusters finally arrive on the schedule. TIS THE SEASON TO MAKE MONEY with JIM HURLEY’S NETWORK!


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Jim Hurley on twitter @vsm_hurley

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