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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Friday, December 26, 2014 at 3:00 PM

The Holiday Bowl matching Nebraska and USC Saturday night on ESPN would have been one of the most anticipated matchups of the whole postseason if not for one thing. Nebraska fired its head coach! Bo Pelini was let go at the end of the regular season, and is already recruiting for Youngstown State (talk about a fall from grace!).

Mike Riley of Oregon State has already been hired to replace Pelini next season. But, it’s very hard to anticipate how Nebraska’s players will perform in this scenario. Will “Pelini’s players” go on strike because they’re mad about what happened? Will they play the game of their lives because they’re mad about what happened? Can interim coach Barney Cotton (wrong bowl Barney!) keep them focused on their task at hand. Digging deeper, will Riley (already on campus and reportedly set to watch from the press box) offer tips from his Pac 12 background on how to slow down the Trojans?

So much for handicappers to consider. And, that’s just on Nebraska’s side of the equation.  Will USC be fired up for a drive to San Diego? Or, will a Trojan-heavy crowd inspire a peak performance? Let’s see what JIM HURLEY’S key indicator stats have to say about the 2014 Holiday Bowl.


Won-Lost Records (Strength of Schedule)

Nebraska: 9-3 (#62 schedule in USA Today)

USC: 8-4 (#28 schedule in USA Today)

USC played the tougher schedule by quite a bit. And, Nebraska didn’t exactly sparkle when stepping up in class. Flip the schedules, and you probably flip the records at least in terms of who was better. Edge to the Trojans, but possibly not by as much as the Vegas line near a touchdown is suggesting.



Nebraska: 6.3 on offense, 5.2 on defense

USC: 6.0 on offense, 5.3 on defense

Same story here, as Nebraska had the better raw differential before adjusting for schedule strength. Once you mentally account for that, USC grades out as the better team. If you give the Trojans some credit for home field advantage, then the boost grows even more. Important to note that the teams were fairly similar in how they did things. Better offenses than defenses. Respectable but not overpowering defenses. Both offenses are capable of making big plays.


Turnover Differential

Nebraska: -2

USC: +11

Wow…HUGE differential here even before you adjust for schedule strength. New USC head coach Steve Sarkisian wanted to install dome discipline on what had been an erratic Lane Kiffin attack. That sure paid off. USC only lost the ball 11 times all season (to go along with 22 takeaways). Nebraska was very sloppy, losing the ball 24 times despite facing a fairly soft schedule. Pelini backers will emphasize that he won. Critics will point out how poorly his teams have executed over the years in a Big 10 conference that is generally overrated by the media.


Market Performance

Nebraska: 7-4-1 ATS

USC: 7-5 ATS

Both teams made money for their backers. Nebraska was slightly more underrated, which may be worth remembering as you try to pick a pointspread winner. The market didn’t give the Huskers enough respect during the regular season, and might be making that mistake again.


Current Line: USC by 7, total of 62

A pointspread that’s right on a key number…but one that might not ultimately matter because the intangibles in play are so extreme. It wouldn’t be a shock of the final score missed the spread by at least 10 points in either direction. Nebraska is capable of getting fired up and upsetting a flat USC. The Trojans could run away and hide from a disinterested Nebraska team in the first half.

In a game like this, INFORMATION MEANS EVERYTHING! You can be sure that JIM HURLEY will be in very close contact with his on-site sources to make sure NETWORK clients get the right information. This is Saturday’s most important bowl because it will wrap up a busy day of action…while transitioning into the final Sunday of the NFL regular season. JIM HURLEY KNOWS YOU HAVE TO WIN THE HOLIDAY BOWL!

You can purchase the final word for USC/Nebraska and the full Saturday slate right here at the website with your credit card. Take care of business early because of the daytime kickoffs! If you have any questions, call the office at 1-888-777-4155.

We take a day off from the bowl bonanza Sunday for the grand finale to the NFL regular season. Then, it’s back to bowl action from Monday through New Year’s. Here’s what’s ahead in the NOTEBOOK.

Sunday: NFL TV Preview…Cincinnati at Pittsburgh Sunday Night on NBC

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

Big name programs are starting to take the field after a few days of minor bowl tuneups. That means the best is still ahead in the college football slate! Be sure you’re locked in for BIG, JUICY WINNERS every day from JIM HURLEY’S NETWORK!


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Jim Hurley on twitter @vsm_hurley

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