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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Friday, December 23, 2011 at 9:21 AM

There's actually a respite in the football schedule on the Friday card this week...with no bowl games scheduled, and the NFL taking a day off before holding the vast majority of Week 16 on SATURDAY this week instead of Sunday. We'll talk about pro football tomorrow, previewing the Philadelphia-Dallas game and the Hawaii Bowl for you. Today, we want to spend some time reviewing what's happened in the early bowl games with an eye toward picking winners when the schedule really picks up in the coming days.

Let's review the scores and some quick stat to see what the early results are telling us about handicapping the rest of the college postseason.

TEMPLE 37, WYOMING 15
Total Yards: Temple 424, Wyoming 267
Yards-Per-Play: Temple 6.7, Wyoming 4.2
Rushing Yardage: Temple 255, Wyoming 140
Turnovers: Temple 0, Wyoming 3

We mentioned in our game preview here in the NOTEBOOK that Temple had a great rushing attack, while Wyoming was horrible at stopping the run. Clearly that was the main dynamic in play here. Temple moved the ball at will with a low-risk approach that was destined to work all day as long as the altitude didn't exhaust everyone. Wyoming had to pass to keep up...and that led to turnover issues.

The lesson: Personnel matchups matter! Many handicappers are tempted to use "intangibles" when handicapping bowl games. It's important to remember the tangibles too. Run-heavy teams often offer great value when facing soft opposing defenses. They control their own destiny so to speak...and only lose if they shoot themselves in the foot with fumbles or defensive errors. The potential anti-Temple intangibles never had a chance to come into play because the Owls could do what they needed to do so easily. Let's also point out that this is a very good result for the MAC...who has several teams in action once again...and a disappointing result for the Mountain West.

OHIO 24, UTAH STATE 23
Total Yardage: Ohio 345, Utah State 441
Yards-Per-Play: Ohio 3.6, Utah State 6.4
Rushing Yards: Ohio 125, Utah State 345
Turnovers: Ohio 0, Utah State 1

This was a bizarre game that still has many handicappers scratching their heads. Utah State was about as dominant as you could be statistically in the right categories. Yet, conservative play caused them to underachieve what their numbers were suggesting. That jumped up and bit them when Ohio rallied with a last second drive to steal the win.

The lesson: probably a lesson in humility here. If you picked Utah State, you had the right side and got hosed! Always remember that isolating matchup advantages gives you an edge...but not a sure thing. You're trying to hit 55% overall and 60% on your best plays. If you had Ohio here, thank the football gods for smiling on you and move on. The MAC moves to 2-0 straight up and against the spread in Vegas. Utah State posts good stats for the WAC...but oddsmakers don't pay on stats.

LOUISIANA LAFAYETTE 32, SAN DIEGO STATE 30
Total Yardage: SDSU 481, Lafayette 568
Yards-Per-Play: SDSU 6.0, Lafayette 7.7

This was a thriller with both teams putting on quite a show in the fourth quarter. San Diego State thought they had it won, but Lafayette made a 50-yard field goal at the final gun to set off a huge celebration in Bayou country. We're only showing two stat categories because those two ultimately told the story. Neither team had much success running. Both did their damage through the air...and Lafayette did enough damage to get the win.

The lesson: to us, it's a reminder that indoor games can get wild when two teams who can move through the air are involved. We're looking at more than 1,000 yards in total offense! We're not suggesting that you play blanket Overs indoors (and you'll see in a moment that Marshall-Florida International stayed Under). But, with PASSING teams, particularly if neither squad shines on defense...you can expect some shootouts. The late scoring here pushed the game Over it's Vegas total of 59. Probably a minor lesson too for gauging emotions as best as possible. Lafayette was VERY excited about this bowl appearance, and had a large local crowd cheering them on. It's true that they almost lost the game anyway! But, as dogs of five points, they were going to cover even without that late field goal. Looking at the conferences...nice result for the Sun Belt playing in friendly territory. The Mountain West falls to 0-2 straight up and ATS, and has looked particularly soft on defense with Wyoming and San Diego State.

MARSHALL 20, FLORIDA INTERNATIONAL 10
Total Yardage: FIU 251, Marshall 310
Yards-Per-Play: FIU 4.3, Marshall 4.5

Again, we focus on these two stats because most everything else was a wash. This was a yawner most of the night in terms of fireworks. The game was 10-10 in the fourth quarter though before Marshall made some plays at the end to earn their outright upset. Good job by unheralded Marshall...who brought a 6-6 record into the postseason. FIU may have rested too much on their laurels after scoring a big bowl win last year.

The lesson: Don't ask crappy offenses to score for you! FIU ranked 80th in offense nationally despite playing the 128th ranked schedule. Marshall ranked 101st in offense against the 58th schedule. This wasn't likely to be a fireworks show unless both teams installed and figured out how to execute a slew of gadget plays. We also see here that a hometown crowd doesn't mean automatic success. FIU didn't bring any offensive fire to this game even though they'd have a home state crowd and game conditions were likely to favor production. Marshall represents Conference USA, and posts a nice result for that potentially dangerous bowl conference this year. Florida International disappoints for the Sun Belt.

TCU 31, LOUISIANA TECH 24
Total Yardage: TCU 397, La. Tech 360
Yards-Per-Play: TCU 5.0, La. Tech 5.1
Rushing Yards: TCU 190, La. Tech 96

Another entertaining game, as we've completely reversed last year's early trend of nothing but blowouts. Temple over Wyoming was a blowout for the favorite. Since then, underdogs have gotten the money in every matchup. Louisiana Tech led much of the night, and battled until the very end.

The lesson: More evidence that rushing yardage is more important than passing yardage in terms of finding a way to win straight up. TCU was a wash with La. Tech in yards-per-play, and was only up 37 yards for the full game. But, they were almost +100 on the ground in a game they won by a TD. But, the dog did cover! Double digit dogs do often get fired up for bowl appearances. TCU trailed 24-17 entering the fourth quarter, and never truly felt safe. Surprisingly the Mountain West conferences falls to 0-3 ATS out of the gate, and just missed being 0-3 straight up too. That had been a league that made a name for itself in recent years with strong bowl results. Louisiana Tech has a good showing for the WAC. Utah State's stats, and this final score may be suggesting value for that unheralded league.

Thursday Night's Las Vegas Bowl was played after publication deadlines. The next bowl game will be Saturday Night when Southern Miss takes on Nevada in the Hawaii Bowl. We'll run a stat preview of that game for you in our Saturday report after we crunch the numbers in Philadelphia-Dallas from the NFL.

Here's our NOTEBOOK schedule the next few days:

SATURDAY: Eagles-Cowboys and Southern Miss-Nevada in Hawaii Bowl
SUNDAY: Bears-Packers, plus notes on all five NBA games on TV (Merry Xmas!)
MONDAY: Atlanta-New Orleans and North Carolina-Missouri in Independence Bowl
TUESDAY: Four Bowl Previews for Tuesday and Wednesday action, including California-Texas in the Holiday Bowl

It's going to feel like wall-to-wall football very soon on your TV sets...so make sure you WIN WHILE YOU WATCH by signing up with JIM HURLEY'S NETWORK! We have great rates that take you through all the college bowls and NFL playoffs. And, you get basketball included in your HOLIDAY CASH COUNTDOWN package that's available here at the website. If you have any questions, call us in the office at 1-800-323-4453.

The early bowls have provided some lessons that will help us the rest of the way. You can rest assured that JIM HURLEY IS GOING TO TEACH ODDSMAKERS A LESSON ONCE AGAIN THIS HOLIDAY SEASON!

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