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Hawaii Bowl

Southern Miss vs. Nevada

12/24/11

Conference USA champ Southern Miss, 11-2, squares off against Nevada, 7-5, in the Hawaii Bowl to be played on Christmas Eve. Southern Miss opened as a -6 point favorite at most sportsbooks and sits at -6 and -6.5 across the board currently. The total is 62.

This is yet another bowl game with more to figure out than just stats. Specifically, the motivation of both squads, or possible lack of it. For Southern Miss, it's been perhaps their best season ever. After upsetting Houston on the road to win the Conference title, they expected that they'd punched their ticket to a BCS Bowl. To end up in Hawaii playing against Nevada, is a big disappointment regardless of what the players and coaches are saying. They were even snubbed by the Liberty Bowl, which would have been a shorter trip for their fans.

But the intrigue doesn't end there. Southern Miss coach Larry Fedora accepted the head coaching job at North Carolina just last week. A decision that didn't sit well with some players. But he'll still coach this game. So there's plenty to deal with for Southern Miss, that has nothing to do with x's and o's and which could have a very big impact on this game.

But the motivational situations are not limited to Southern Miss. Nevada has been to the Hawaii Bowl two other times since 2005. They had their sights set on a different bowl, perhaps the Poinsettia Bowl in San Diego. To top it all off, is there a more distracting place for college kids than Hawaii? It's a tough game to figure out from a psychological perspective. Either team here could just go through the motions.

But if we approach this game as if both teams will come to play their "A" game, we're going to have to side with Southern Miss. You don't win 11 games by accident. You don't beat the #6 team in the nation, Houston, the #1 offensive team in the country, in their building, by accident.

There was one common opponent for these two, Louisiana Tech. Nevada lost, 24-20, still managing to pile up 465 yards of offense while also giving up a ton, 412 yards. Southern Miss got their yards as well, with 379 total yards while holding La Tech to just 244 total yards in a 19-17 win.

Yards per point numbers favor Nevada by about the posted line, however when you look only at road games for both teams, Southern Miss would have a decisive edge as Nevada's road numbers are horrendous. Nevada's offensive yards per point number on the road is more than 19, hardly indicative of a team that can convert yards gained into points on the scoreboard (scoring just 20 while gaining 465 against La Tech pounds that point home), while their defensive number is a very poor 12.6. Southern Miss has ypp numbers on the road of 11.4 and 15.2.

Our score prediction model likes Southern Miss to win, but not by enough to make So Miss bettors happy, predicting a 33-28 win.

We'd tread lightly here. You have to wonder how much time coach Larry Fedora and his staff have spent preparing for this game, watching film of Nevada and formulating a game plan. More time may have been spent getting familiar with the ACC and looking for property in North Carolina.

In making a small play here, we're hoping Fedora and staff put the time in and has this team focused on winning what could be a historic 12th game for the Southern Miss football program. Southern Miss -6

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