Thursday's Bowl Blast
BOWL BLAST BEGINS WITH MILITARY, BELK, AND HOLIDAY BOWLS THURSDAY
Bowl betting is about to get intense as the schedule picks up Thursday with a tripleheader. We'll provide stat previews here in the NOTEBOOK for each and very postseason game through the rest of December and early January on these pages. Fasten your seat belts for this first big day, that will be capped off by a game with an Over/Under that's risen above 80!
MILITARY BOWL (Washington, DC)
SAN JOSE STATE (10-2) vs. BOWLING GREEN (8-4)
Vegas Line: San Jose State by 7, total of 44
Market Moves: In recent days this line has hopped between San Jose State -7, and -7.5. The public has been hitting favorites in earlier bowls, but won't have much of the day to do that Thursday because this is an early kick. The total has been dropping steadily from an opener of 47.
STRENGTH OF SCHEDULE
San Jose State: 75th
Bowling Green: 136th
Big edge here for San Jose State, who played a tough schedule for a WAC team, while Bowling Green played a soft schedule even by MAC standards. We'll need to adjust accordingly as we go through the offensive and defensive numbers.
San Jose State: 30th (104th rushing, 11th passing)
Bowling Green: 87th (67th rushing, 81st passing)
Great stuff on offense this year from San Jose State, who used a high octane passing game to register top 30 nationally overall. What's most important is that they managed to do that with a positive turnover differential. Bowling Green was slow and plodding in comparison. Remember that BG would seem even worse if they had played a real schedule.
San Jose State: 28th (19th rushing, 52nd passing)
Bowling Green: 7th (14th rushing, 7th passing)
This was Bowling Green's obvious strength. Nobody should pretend that they'd be top 10 in a real conference. But, defenses like this generally do rise to the occasion when asked to step up in class. Note that they did a great job on both sides of the ball, which gives them fighting chance as the underdog. This is why oddsmakers opened the total in the 40's...and sharps bet the Under anyway! Statistically, there's a chance for a replay of the defensive struggle that BYU and SDSU played against each other.
ADDING IT ALL UP
JIM HURLEY has been studying MAC teams very closely throughout the bowl campaign. What he's learned will definitely play a role in this selection. Just don't assume it's the obvious role!
BELK BOWL (Charlotte)
CINCINNATI (9-3) vs. DUKE (6-6)
Vegas Line: Cincinnati by 7, total of 60.5
Market Moves: Cincinnati opened at -10 because the market has so little respect for Duke. But, sharps hit the underdog pretty hard...which has moved the line three points. There's definitely pro-Duke influences (home crowd advantage) and anti-Cincinnati influences (coaching drama). Did the line move too far? Or, will Duke be the next inspired dog to score an outright upset? The total has been bet up from an opener of 58.
STRENGTH OF SCHEDULE
Duke played the tougher schedule because they had to deal with Stanford outside the ACC, and Florida State in it! Cincinnati is in the weaker Big East. It's odd to think of Duke as playing the tougher slate because they have made it easier on themselves in recent seasons. We'll need to mentally adjust for what might be hidden Duke power as we move through the numbers.
Cincinnati: 44th (32nd rushing, 63rd passing)
Duke: 65th (107 rushing, 32nd passing)
The offenses grade out close to even once you adjust for strength of schedule. But, Cincinnati is obviously the more balanced unit. Balance is a good thing in bowls because teams must adjust to any surprises that come their way from their opponents or game conditions.
Cincinnati: 41st (28th rushing, 74th passing)
Duke: 106th (103 rushing, 99th passing)
Wow...Cincinnati would maintain a big edge even after you adjust for the schedule. That's why they were favored by double digits on the opener. If you have a sharp eye, you've noticed that Cincinnati's defensive weakness lines up with Duke's offensive strength. This is why smart money has been hitting the dog. If Duke can move the ball successfully through the air...then they can hang tough in a high scoring shootout.
ADDING IT ALL UP
This is the first bowl game this year matching two teams from the BCS conferences. It's a shame it's just the Big East and the ACC! But, there is potential for a lot of excitement here. JIM HURLEY has been working very carefully with his on-site sources to get a read on Cincinnati's mindset...and on how big a crowd Duke will truly draw in Charlotte. Is the market overrating the home state edge? San Diego State couldn't even win playing on its home field.
HOLIDAY BOWL (San Diego)
BAYLOR (7-5) vs. UCLA (9-4)
Vegas Line: UCLA by 3, total of 81.5
Market Moves: The line was near pick-em for quite a while...but a surge of support did hit for UCLA just after Christmas. That can be attributed to a mix of sharp and square action, as Los Angeles isn't very far from Las Vegas. The total has reached as high as 82, and may go back up that high again. It takes a very special situation to get a bowl total into the 70's, let alone the 80's. You'll see in a moment that the stats will justify oddsmaker expectations.
STRENGTH OF SCHEDULE
The bowl participants have been from such weak conferences so far...that this is the first meeting between teams with top 80 schedules let alone top 30. You'll definitely see a leap in class. UCLA made it the championship game of the Pac 12 after upsetting USC. Baylor knocked off Kansas State at a time K-State was in position to qualify for the BCS championship. Jeff Sagarin's numbers at USA Today say Baylor had it tougher.
Baylor: 1st (18th rushing, 3rd passing)
UCLA: 20th (27th rushing, 36th passing)
Think about this for a second. Baylor had the best offense in the nation despite facing the fourth toughest schedule, and despite losing a Heisman Trophy winner to the NFL! UCLA did a great job themselves. You've probably seen both teams on TV this year. You know both have playmakers and creativity. Should be a very fun game to watch.
Baylor: 123rd (90th rushing, 122nd passing)
UCLA: 73rd (54th rushing, 94th passing)
This is why UCLA is getting respect with the late line moves. Baylor has a slightly better offense, but UCLA has a much better defense by default. Baylor tackles poorly, wears down easily, and find that those two are a horrible tandem if you're playing shootouts! Even after you adjust for schedule strength, UCLA has a nice edge on this side of the ball.
ADDING IT ALL UP
Is the total still too low? That happened the last time Baylor played in a bowl at a high total. Just remember that this game is being played in San Diego, where turf conditions influenced a low scoring game in the Poinsettia Bowl, and in the San Diego Chargers most recent home game. Last year's Baylor bowl was indoors on a fast track. JIM HURLEY has been working closely with his California sources to get a sense of field conditions here...and at all the stadiums that will be hosting bowls in the next few days.
You can purchase NETWORK'S full Thursday slate right here at the website with your credit card. If you have any questions, call the office at 1-800-323-4453. This is a great time to lock in for the rest of the bowls and the NFL through the Super Bowl. There are no more "slow"days in football for awhile. Take care of business now!
Back with you tomorrow to preview another bowl tripleheader (Independence, Russell Athletic, and Meineke Car Care), then again on Saturday for a 5-game extravaganza. If you want to make a big score this year in the bowls, don't make a move UNTIL YOU HEAR WHAT JIM HURLEY HAS TO SAY!
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