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New Mexico Bowl
A couple of 7-5 teams hook up on December 15th to kick off the 2012-2013 College Football Bowl season in what has the potential to be an exciting, high scoring shootout when Arizona meets Nevada. Arizona opened as a -8 point favorite at 5 Dimes sportsbook and the early betting action has pushed that number to -9.5 as of this writing. The total is a sky high 74.5.
One of the first things you need to do when handicapping a bowl game is look for potential motivational factors or letdowns. Often times that can be the difference in a game. Is one team thrilled to be here while another could care less? Does one have something to prove? Is there a coach on his way out? Any controversy? Bad blood?
Well, it's safe to say that both of these teams would have preferred to be in a bigger bowl game. The bigger the bowl, the more money for the University and the more exposure for both the school and the players. The first goal is to get to a bowl game. The 2nd goal is to get to a good one. Arizona may be the more disappointed of the two. They had a potential Sun Bowl birth on the line going into their season finale against rival Arizona State and came up short by a touchdown after leading by 10. But after a 4-7 season a year ago, the Wildcats have to at least be satisfied with a 7 win season and a bowl game under new coach Rich Rodriguez. The future may be bright.
Worth considering in the case of Nevada is how they got here. If this was a playoff spot, you could say they backed in. They went 6-1 to start their season and became bowl qualified back in October. They then proceeded to drop 4 of their last 5 games with their only win in that stretch coming over New Mexico and only by a touchdown. Momentum can be huge coming into a bowl game and for Nevada, there's none.
This is a classic schedule strength game. A game that may look even on paper, but when you dig a little deeper, you can see why the Cats are a good sized favorite here. For example, if you glance at each teams yards per point numbers, you see that they are almost dead even. Arizona is roughly a 14 on both sides of the ball while Nevada is a 13 on both sides. Both good offensive numbers and terrible defensive numbers. But we have Arizona as having played a schedule that was more than two touchdowns stronger. That's significant.
Nevada's wins came against teams with 4 wins or less. Teams like Northwestern State, Hawaii and Texas State and they lost to a pretty bad Air Force team. To their credit, they hung with San Diego State and Boise but that can't compare with the battles Arizona has had. Arizona beat Oklahoma State by 20 points, went toe to toe and lost a shootout to Oregon State by 3 and Stanford by 6. and they beat USC.
If losing to Arizona State didn't deflate this team, Arizona should roll here. They are simply the better, more battle tested team. Our model takes into account how teams have performed against different levels of competition and it has Arizona running away with this one by 30 points, 62-32 when using season to date data. That margin narrows to just a couple of touchdowns when using only data from the last 5 games, due largely to the Cats laying an egg against UCLA and losing 66-10 as well as giving up 30 points to a bad Colorado team.
This is an Arizona call for us, but it won't be a Key Release. With a bad defense like Arizona's, the back door is always open so we'll steer clear of this one for real money. But they are the better team and should come out on top by more than enough.
As a side note, it should be fun to watch the nations two leading rushers go head to head. Arizona sophomore Ka’Deem Carey is the nation’s leading rusher at 146.4 yards per game. Nevada’s Stefphon Jefferson is second at 141.9. You'll likely find plenty of prop bets matching the two for this game. Good Luck if you bet it. Arizona -9.5