Submitted by Jim Hurley on Monday, December 29, 2014 at 7:00 AM
It’s a renewal of one of college football’s greatest rivalries. But, fans of both the Arkansas Razorbacks and Texas Longhorns are focused much more emphatically on the future than they are on the past. Bret Bielema has Arkansas playing a very competitive brand of smash-mouth football in the tough SEC West. Charlie Strong is reminding everyone what hard-nosed football is supposed to look like in Texas too.
Wrestling fans…get ready for a slobbernocker!
Monday Night football this week belongs to the colleges, as one-time blood rivals (in the old Southwest Conference) square off in Houston. This could be one of the most hard-fought battles of 6-6 teams the bowl season has ever seen! Let’s take a look at what JIM HURLEY’S key indicator stats have to say about the matchup…
Won-Lost Records (Strength of Schedule)
Texas: 6-6 (#16 schedule in USA Today)
Arkansas: 6-6 (#2 schedule in USA Today)
Arkansas played the second-toughest schedule in college football according to Jeff Sagarin’s numbers at USA Today. Texas also had it rough. Both teams would have had a shot at 8-4 if they played in the ACC or Big 10. Clearly bowl caliber teams despite won-lost records that made it look like they barely snuck in. You should think of these as 8-4 caliber teams right now, and certainly as teams who have a shot at 8-4 next year considering what these coaches are capable of after recruiting to their systems.
Texas: 5.1 on offense, 4.7 on defense
Arkansas: 5.8 on offense, 5.3 on defense
When you consider the conferences these teams play in, those defensive numbers are fantastic. Texas had to face a lot of high octane offenses yet still allowed only 4.7 YPP for the year. In the toughest division in the nation, Arkansas was only about a half a yard worse. Differential favors Arkansas +0.5 to +0.4, and that came against the tougher slate. That’s why Arkansas is favored. Should they be favored by almost a touchdown though? Possibly, if Texas can’t make it past 5.0 YPP Monday Night.
This gives the Hogs a boost. The Texas offense was mistake-prone because they couldn’t find a quarterback that could confidently run their offense. The defense took the ball away 22 times, but the offense give it right back 23 times. Arkansas lost the ball 17 times themselves, which might be a tad high for a run-based team. On the whole, edge to Arkansas unless the Texas defense can completely take away the run and force the Hogs to pass. If you take the combination of YPP and TO differential, you get closer to the market projection for this one.
Texas: 7-5 ATS
Arkansas: 9-3 ATS
Both teams were a boon to sharp handicapping because the market didn’t adjust to the greatly improved play of Arkansas (75% against the spread), or the very clear Under tendencies of the new Texas approach (4-8 to the Under for the Horns). Arkansas turned out to be MUCH better than expected, and held their own throughout a brutal slate. Texas was a disappointment on offense, but you can see that the program has cleaned up the undisciplined and disinterested play that was characteristic of Mack Brown’s final years.
Current Line: Arkansas by 6.5, total of 45
Clearly the market has made adjustments NOW for the higher level of performance from Arkansas, and the low scoring tendencies of Texas games. Has it OVER-reacted? Should Arkansas really be favored by almost a full touchdown (possibly -7 by the time you read this) in a game where points will be at a premium? Should the total be so low when both teams have had weeks to put in new wrinkles that might open up play?
JIM HURLEY is very excited about this game, the full Monday card (which also features West Virginia/Texas A&M and Clemson/Oklahoma), and all the great matchups that are on tap between now and the end of the week. You can purchase the final word each day right here at the website with your credit card. Be sure you take care of business EARLY because there are daytime starts Monday-thru-Friday!
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We’ll be focusing on three BLOCKBUSTERS here in the NOTEBOOK between now and New Year’s. That will lead directly into WILDCARD WEEKEND in the NFL. Here’s the upcoming schedule…
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
Friday-Sunday: NFL Wildcard Previews
That’s the best New Year’s Eve game…then both national semifinals…then what promises to be a thrilling weekend in the pro playoffs! Those are the biggest games of the week…in the biggest week of the year! Be sure you get the best plays on the board from THE BIGGEST NAME IN HANDICAPPING…JIM HURLEY!
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