Baylor vs. North Carolina Bowl Preview
WILL BAYLOR BRING ANY FIRE VS. NORTH CAROLINA IN RUSSELL ATHLETIC BOWL BATTLE?
In the rankings...it's one of the most exciting bowl matchups of the whole postseason. Baylor was in the national championship discussion until late in the season when they were hurt by quarterback injuries. North Carolina closed the season very well and was a popular betting choice against Clemson in the ACC Championship game.
If you're excited about Oklahoma vs. Clemson in the Final Four...this is "almost" the same matchup. It's the teams who weren't quite good enough to unseat Oklahoma and Clemson at the top of their respective conferences.
The bad news...Baylor will have to start unproven third stringer Chris Johnson at quarterback. Worse, they no-showed their regular season finale vs. Texas so badly that they may not even care about this game! It's not a marquee matchup if one team never turns its lights on!
The betting markets are expecting Baylor to show up. They're only 3-point underdogs, which isn't anywhere near a code number for "tanking." Johnson will have to perform though. North Carolina is likely to show up with enthusiasm. Let's see what JIM HURLEY'S key indicator stats have to say about the best "on paper" Tuesday bowl...
North Carolina: 11-2 (8-0 in the ACC Coastal, faced #63 schedule in Sagarin)
Baylor: 9-3 (6-3 in the Big 12, faced #58 schedule in Sagarin)
Baylor slumped hard...which coincided with when they stopped facing cupcakes on the schedule. What had been a pathetic slate firmed up at the worst possible time in terms of their injuries. North Carolina had a better record vs. a comparable schedule. And, if you visualize what Baylor would have done all year with their #3 quarterback, the difference might be even larger.
North Carolina: 7.3 on offense, 5.3 on defense
Baylor: 7.3 on offense, 5.1 on defense
On the whole, very comparable teams. Both play at a fast pace...both put up big offensive numbers...but are prone to disappoint on defense when they have to step up in class. If this was all starters on the field, we'd be looking at a 45-40 type game with a Vegas Over/Under in the 80's. Unfortunately for handicappers, Johnson is an unknown quantity. He did play the full TCU game. But, that was played in a monsoon which made it impossible for either offense to get anything done. Johnson was hurt early in the Texas game. There's just no sample size here. All we can know is that he'll struggle if he has to play in another monsoon!
2015 Turnover Differential
North Carolina: +8
A very good sign for the Tar Heels. This is a high-risk offense after all. The team was way on the right side of break-even for the season. Still...this kind of offense breaks down when stepping up in class. If Baylor does show up...this could be a turnover-filled game for both teams. Assume an edge to Carolina because of quarterback experience.
2015 Market Performance
North Carolina: 8-5 ATS
Baylor: 5-6 ATS
North Carolina blew its season opener vs. South Carolina, but was consistently underrated from that point forward. Baylor was a money-loser overall, particularly once they had to play some real teams.
North Carolina: Marquise Williams (197-321-9-2829 with 21 TDs)
Baylor: Chris Johnson (15-38-2-220 with 3 TDs)
Williams is a talent. Though, "only" 21 touchdown passes isn't that great for a fast-paced high octane offense. This kind of system unleashes better numbers for truly elite quarterbacks. Johnson may post solid numbers when finally getting a chance in good weather to show his stuff. He's the unknown quantity that will swing this game one way or the other.
Current Line: North Carolina by 3, total of 69
Those seem like vulnerable numbers. If Johnson can execute the system...then Baylor can win outright in a game that flies Over the total. How often does Baylor play well but the total stays below the 70's?! If Johnson just isn't ready...then it could be a squash for the Tar Heels where the Over/Under is determined in garbage time. The market is trying to split the difference of all the unknowns. In this case...the unknowns are BIG.
JIM HURLEY'S exclusive TEAM HANDICAPPING approach will do what it can to pin things down. His on-site and Big 12 sources will clue him in to the best expectation for the unproven quarterback. Depending on what he hears, this could be one of the biggest selections of the whole postseason! It would not be a shock if this line is off by one, or even two touchdowns on both the side and the total in either direction!
Jim is 10-3 overall in the Bowls and has covered his last nine going into Monday!
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Our next two reports will be the ones you've been waiting for...the National Semi-Finals!
Wednesday: Orange Bowl Preview (Semifinal #1)...Oklahoma vs. Clemson
Thursday: Cotton Bowl Preview (Semifinal #2)...Alabama vs. Michigan State
Weekend: NFL TV Preview...to be determined
Coming Soon: NFL Wildcard Previews!
Monday January 11: College Football Championship Preview!
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