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JIM HURLEY'S HANDICAPPING NOTEBOOK

STAT PREVIEWS FOR HAWAII, LITTLE CAESAR'S BOWL

Back as promised with more bowl stat previews. We'll discuss the Hawaii Bowl set for Friday Night on the islands matching Tulsa and Hawaii...and we'll provide a sneak preview of Sunday Night's Little Caesar's Bowl in this edition because we'll be focused on the busy NFL day in our Sunday NOTEBOOK entry.

We'll also run the numbers from some early week boxscores today to see if there are lessons handicappers can learn that will help them in upcoming matchups.

HAWAII BOWL
TULSA (9-3) at HAWAII (10-3)

Tulsa: 5th offense, 107th defense, 78.5 plays, 98th schedule
Hawaii: 8th offense, 38th defense, 64.8 plays, 88th schedule
ATS Records: Tulsa 8-4, Hawaii 11-2
Vegas Line: Hawaii by 10.5, total of 73

Notebook: It's important to remember that Hawaii DOESN'T play run and shoot football quite the same way they used to. This isn't a battle of two clones. The tempo numbers show that Tulsa's offense is close to 80 plays per game, while Hawaii is down in Big East country with about 65.

Now, Hawaii will still spread you out. But...they'll run clock when it benefits them. They'll focus on shorter passes that gradually move the ball downfield rather than going for the home run. They'll hit you in the mouth if you're not paying attention. Probably the main reason for that gaudy 11-2 ATS record is that oddsmakers DIDN'T notice this! Hawaii's new approach kept their defense rested, and allowed that side of the ball to rank in the top 40 in the nation. If Vegas is pricing you like you have no defense, you're going to cover some spreads if you actually have one!

So, that's the first thing. This isn't your older brother's Hawaii.

Also worth noting...Tulsa is from a Conference USA that has already seen UTEP and Southern Miss lose. Southern had good stats at least. But, we're talking about teams who DIDN'T win their conference divisions underachieving...which means Tulsa may not be as good as the market thinks. Hawaii's from the WAC, which got good news from Boise State, but bad news from Fresno State in early action.

Don't forget that this is a home game for Hawaii, meaning three points have been added to the line. Do you think it should be worth more than that because it's such a long and distracting trip? Do you think it's worth less because Hawaii may not get fired up for a bowl that's just down the street from where they live? We'll talk with our sources to get a read on the mindsets for both teams. That may determine the final release here. History favors double digit underdogs (and one is due to hit this year!). Hawaii's 8th ranked offense facing Tulsa's 107th ranked defense is making some of our computer projections do somersaults.

JIM HURLEY'S release will be available online a few hours before kickoff for credit card purchase.

LITTLE CEASAR'S  BOWL
FLORIDA INTERNATIONAL (6-6) vs. TOLEDO (8-4)

FIU: 44th offense, 57th defense, 70.1 plays, 133rd schedule
Toledo: 77th offense, 62nd defense, 65.8 plays, 99th schedule
ATS Records: Florida International 6-6, Toledo 7-5
Vegas Line: Toledo by 1, total of 56

Notebook: We have a rematch of Sun Belt vs. MAC. Troy trashed Ohio a few days ago in the first meeting. But, Troy was playing indoors on a fast track with a fast break offense. Florida International isn't like that...and may have trouble stringing together successful plays in the same way. The game is indoors...but the stat rankings don't suggest either team is particularly well-suited to a track meet.

The stats suggest a game near pick-em makes sense. FIU has the better stat rankings but they came against a much easier schedule. In fact...we're looking at two teams who really aren't bowl caliber...playing in a bowl that exists as kind of a TV charity for small irrelevant conferences. You'll probably be watching the NFL yourself unless Minnesota-Philadelphia is boring over on NBC.

Here at NETWORK, we know you don't have to watch the games to win them. We'll spend the weekend making sure we have this one pinned down. If it deserves to be part of the overall Sunday slate, it will be included with your game day NFL package at the usual check-in time.  

Before we call it a day, let's get caught up on bowl summaries from earlier this week. It's important to study early boxscores for insights that will help you pick winners down the road. Here are the key numbers from games played Tuesday and Wednesday Night.

BOWL SUMMARIES

BEEF O'BRADY BOWL
LOUISVILLE 31, SOUTHERN MISS 28

Total Yardage: Southern Miss 386, Louisville 286
Rushing Yards: Southern Miss 159, Louisville 110
Passing Stats: Southern Miss 21-33-0-227, Louisville 20-32-0-176
Turnovers: Southern Miss 1, Louisville 1
Halftime Score: Southern Miss 21, Louisville 21
Vegas Line: Louisville by 2, total of 58

Notebook: Louisville was able to score some cheap points, notably a kickoff return for a TD just when the game was about to slip away from them again in the second half. The Cardinals had rallied from a 14-0 first quarter deficit to seemingly take control of the game. Poor field position kept them off the scoreboard for quite some time. Southern Miss wasn't able to do enough with its yardage to get any meaningful distance. At least it was close! This was the first competitive game of the December slate.

Any lessons from the numbers? The game landed very close to the numbers obviously, so there weren't any big surprises. We do see again that spread offense teams like playing indoors. Southern Miss only had one turnover on the day...and made a run at 400 total yards against a respected defense and a defensive minded opposing coach. This follows on the heels of Troy in the Superdome over the weekend. Be sure you've got a read on field/turf conditions when the spread teams take the field.

Time will tell if the stats here signal weakness from the Big East. If you're favored...even a small favorite, you're not supposed to get outgained by 100 yards and need a special teams TD to vulture a victory. To the degree there's a surprise here...that would be it. Louisville needed a kick return to play to expectations. The rest of the Big East can't count on scoring that way.

LAS VEGAS BOWL
BOISE STATE 26, UTAH 3

Total Yardage: Utah 198, Boise State 543
Rushing Yards: Utah 107, Boise State 202
Passing Stats: Utah 10-24-0-91, Boise State 29-40-1-341
Turnovers: Utah 3, Boise State 4
Halftime Score: Utah 3, Boise State 16
Vegas Line: Boise State by 16, total of 57

Notebook: This game would have been much higher scoring, but both teams blew scoring opportunities with turnovers. Boise State was particularly sluggish in the early going. You can't call it a hangover from the Nevada loss because they played a game the next week. They just came out flat...and Utah's fired up defense gave them fits. It's a credit to Boise that they rallied from a scoreless first quarter to still put almost 550 yards in the books.

If there's a lesson here, it's a reminder that shaky quarterbacks can't be trusted vs. good defenses. Utah was using its backup...and Boise has a stellar defense. Though Brent Musburger praised his arm early, Cain was erratic and prone to poor decisions. Big dogs need production to hang within the Vegas number.

Wouldn't read this as a strike against the Mountain West. BYU already won big. And, TCU beat Utah just as badly in the numbers as Boise State did. Boise State's a top ten team. Utah is outclassed by opponents that good.

That wraps up our Friday report. Be sure to call JIM HURLEY'S NETWORK at 1-800-323-4453 before your last second Christmas shopping for tonight's Hawaii Bowl winner. Or, purchase our Hula Hook-up online with your credit card. We'll be back with you Saturday to run through the Christmas Day NBA action. Expect stat previews in all five games to help you pick winners in the ESPN/ABC quintupleheader. Football coverage resumes Sunday with NFL notes.

Have a great time with family and friends tonight and tomorrow! Merry Christmas to all from JIM HURLEY'S NETWORK!

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