St. Petersburg Bowl Preview

CAN CENTRAL FLORIDA EXPLOIT HOME STATE ADVANTAGE VS. NC STATE IN ST. PETERSBURG?

It’s not a pure home game for Central Florida when they take on North Carolina State Friday Night at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg. But, it might as well be given the limited travel, and the fact that UCF should have much larger fan representation in the stands.

Will NC State of the Atlantic Coast Conference use that as a rallying cry as they try to score a small upset over the American Conference co-champs? Teams need to find a point of focus in these early minor bowls. And, BOTH St. Petersburg bowl entrants are in letdown spots off their regular season finales.

*NC State blew out state rival North Carolina 35-7 as a touchdown underdog
*UCF nipped East Carolina 32-30 as a touchdown underdog to tie for the AAC crown

Who’s going to show up with peak intensity the day after Christmas? Answer that, and you probably have the winner. If both show up, or if neither show up...then it’s going to come down to skill sets and production. Let’s see what JIM HURLEY’S indicator stats have to say about the strengths and weaknesses of these two sides.

Won-Lost Records (Strength of Schedule)
N.C. State: 7-5 (#65 schedule in USA Today)
C. Florida: 9-3 (#116 schedule in USA Today)

Central Florida had the better record, but faced the much softer schedule. In fact, if you flip schedules, you probably flip records. Not much separating these teams yet, in a game rated near pick-em in Las Vegas.

Yards-Per-Play
N.C. State: 5.9 on offense, 5.3 on defense
C. Florida: 5.1 on offense, 4.3 on defense

Once again, an edge for UCF that is probably counteracted by schedule influences. It’s a good sign that both teams had positive differentials for the season. You’ll recall that neither Rutgers or North Carolina did in the last game we previewed! A nice emphasis on defense from both teams, particularly UCF. A chance for a hard fought battle here if both teams show up to play.

Turnover Differential
N.C. State: +5
C. Florida: -1

That’s a meaningful advantage for NC State, because it came against the tougher of the two schedules. And, if you dig a little deeper, you see that Central Florida played a lot of WILD games this season, while NC State was much more close to the vest.

NC State: 19 takeaways, 14 giveaways
C. Florida: 27 takeaways, 28 giveaways

Central Florida was extremely sloppy on offense, but made up for that by forcing a lot of turnovers from a very weak schedule. If they stay sloppy, but can’t force turnovers from the more conservative Wolfpack...the game could turn on this particularly category.

Market Performance
N.C. State: 7-5 ATS
C. Florida: 8-4 ATS

Central Florida was the bigger surprise team in the markets. And, that 8-4 ATS mark came after an 0-2 start. So...UCS was an 80% cover team over their last 10 games. NC State covered its last two games to finish the season a moneymaker for backers.

Current Line: Central Florida by 1.5, total of 49.5

If you assume that Central Florida is getting some consideration for proximity, the market basically has these two teams rated as dead even. Our indicator stats suggest that NC State might be the safer neutral field bet because of turnover dynamics and a more demanding regular season schedule. But...the raw stats don’t know whether or not NC State is fired up for this game! Or, whether the “home area advantage” for UCF is worth more than the market has allotted.

JIM HURLEY has made it his business to solve bowl riddles for 30 years. His full team of experts will make sure clients get the best side or total options Friday in the Heart of Dallas Bowl (Illinois vs. Louisiana Tech in an early kick), the Quick Lane Bowl (Rutgers vs. North Carolina, as previewed yesterday in the NOTEBOOK), and in prime time in St. Petersburg.

You can purchase the final word for Friday right here at the website with your credit card. Take care of business early because of the daytime kickoffs! If you have any questions, call the office at 1-800-323-4453. Be sure you ask about combination packages that include the NFL Playoffs and basketball.

Here’s what’s coming up in the NOTEBOOK all the way through the New Year’s Day extravaganza that...for the first time ever...features the semifinals of a National Championship college football tournament...

Saturday: Holiday Bowl Preview...Nebraska vs USC
Sunday: NFL TV Preview...Cincinnati at Pittsburgh Sunday Night on NBC
Monday: Texas Bowl Preview...Arkansas vs. Texas on ESPN
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

The preliminaries are winding down...and true showcase matchups are about to hit the college football schedule. In the middle of all that, a huge Week 17 Sunday in the NFL that will shape the AFC and NFC brackets in very important fashion. Some of the biggest games of the year are hours away. DON’T MAKE A MOVE UNTIL YOU HEAR WHAT JIM HURLEY HAS TO SAY!

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