Submitted by Jim Hurley on Friday, December 25, 2015 at 12:00 PM
There’s no doubt that UCLA is the superior team in its bowl matchup Saturday night with Nebraska. Nebraska posted a losing record for the year while playing in a bad conference! But, there are BIG doubts about whether or not the Bruins are going to bring peak intensity. They entered the season hoping for a Rose Bowl berth…or even a shot in the Final Four. Now, they’re heading to Santa Clara to face a Big 10 loser.
They better not take this game too likely! Nebraska was a few plays away from having a much better record. And, they’re certainly fired up about getting to play in a bowl game against a high profile opponent. Is this one of those spots where a live dog embarrasses a flat favorite? Or, will talent win out as UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen continues to make a name for himself?
Let’s see what JIM HURLEY’S key indicator stats have to say about the spotlight bowl of Christmas weekend…
UCLA: 8-4 (5-4 in the Pac 12 South, faced #38 schedule in Sagarin)
Nebraska: 5-7 (3-5 in the Big 10 West, faced #46 schedule in Sagarin)
The teams faced fairly even schedules according to Jeff Sagarin of USA Today. So, the records and stats we’ll be looking at should be meaningful. Nebraska did play in a weak conference, but scheduled well before that. Both teams played nailbiters against BYU.
UCLA: 6.2 on offense, 4.9 on defense
Nebraska: 6.1 on offense, 5.8 on defense
Obviously the defensive difference jumps out there. Both have versatile offenses that can move the ball. Only one team can stop the other guys from moving the ball! This is why UCLA is favored by almost a touchdown. They can get stops and make plays. Nebraska tends to play shootouts because they’re vulnerable to allowing big plays. The “case” for UCLA as a favorite is that Josh Rosen could put up huge numbers on this soft Huskers defense if the Bruins do bring some intensity.
2015 Turnover Differential
This is HUGE…and easily the biggest reason Nebraska has a losing record. The offense is too high-risk. They find the end zone, but make too many high impact mistakes that give games away. The potential for a Huskers debacle is in play because self-destruction on offense will only magnify their own defensive weaknesses. Nebraska must play clean football to score this upset.
2015 Market Performance
UCLA: 5-6-1 ATS (3-8-1 to the Under)
Nebraska: 6-6 ATS
On the whole, the market ended up in synch with both teams. We wanted to point out that Under trend for the Bruins though. There was so much hype about Rosen entering the season that oddsmakers and bettors overestimated the scoring potential of UCLA’s games. He isn’t quite the next John Elway yet! Keep in mind that turf conditions on this home field for the San Francisco 49ers may leave something to be desired.
UCLA: Josh Rosen (266-447-9-3350 with 20 TDs)
Nebraska: Tommy Armstrong (210-383-16-2856 with 21 TDs)
Having a 20/9 touchdown-to-interception ratio is nice…but more was expected of Rosen. That’s 20 touchdown passes in a dozen games for a team that wants to make big pass plays! Which means that Rosen wasn’t the guy they counted on to hit paydirt. Armstrong had more TD passes on 64 fewer attempts. Obviously interceptions were a big issue for the Huskers.
Current Line: UCLA by 6.5, total of 61
That line splits the difference between the extremes. If UCLA is flat, then the underdog can definitely win this game straight up. We’ve seen that so many times over the years in bowls that it should go without saying. Already this season, Utah State and Bowling Green have lost outright in this price range, and Appalachian State almost did. UCLA is obviously a cut-above those programs…but Nebraska is a cut above Akron, Georgia Southern, and Ohio! Yet…the stage really is set for a UCLA slaughter if Rosen exploits this soft Nebraska defense while the Huskers offense continues to turn the ball over.
JIM HURLEY circled this game on the day the bowl schedule was announced. He’ll have something special for NETWORK clients. You can purchase the final word for Saturday (bowls plus Washington/Philadelphia in the NFL) right here at the website with your credit card. If you have any questions about extended football service through the BCS National Championship and the NFL Super Bowl, please call us in the office at 1-888-777-4155 Saturday before the early bowls kick off.
Our big game TV previews continue through the final week of 2015 with…
Sunday: NFL TV Preview…NY Giants at Minnesota
Monday: NFL TV Preview…Cincinnati at Denver
Tuesday: Russell Athletic Bowl Preview… Baylor vs. North Carolina
Midweek: Orange Bowl Preview (Semifinal #1)…Oklahoma vs. Clemson
Late Week: Cotton Bowl Preview (Semifinal #2)…Alabama vs. Michigan State
We hope your Christmas morning was magical…and that your holiday feast lasts for days! Make it happen with BIG, JUICY WINNERS from JIM HURLEY’S NETWORK!
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