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Heart of Dallas

Bowl Pick

UNLV

vs.

North Texas

1/1/14

There's no way around it, this will probably be the least watched game on New Year's Day. While that may not seem great, it also means the least amount of action from the betting world which can be considered good. Middle of the pack MWC and C-USA schools face off in the Heart of Dallas Bowl. North Texas is a solid -6.5 point favorite at 5 dimes sportsbook with a total of 54.

Not only were these teams unlikely to play on Jan. 1, but also unlikely to make a bowl game in general at the beginning of the season. They combined to win just six games last year. North Texas last made a bowl in 2004, while it's been since 2000 for UNLV.

The Rebels came out of nowhere this year to finish with seven wins. Without their final 45-19 win against San Diego State, they may not have made it to any bowl game, as their next best win was against Nevada. Outside of SDSU, UNLV lost to the top three teams in the conference as well as early season losses to Minnesota and Arizona. Then of course, they only beat Hawaii (1-11) by two points at home which doesn't look great.

Playing in a weaker conference, it's hard to say how good the Mean Green actually are. The interesting part is that they do have some solid wins against Ball State, Middle Tennessee and Rice to name a few. More than UNLV can say. They finished 8-4 with all losses coming against winning teams, including a 45-21 loss at Georgia, a game in which they competed in.

Despite North Texas having a top ranked defense, allowing 18 points per game, UNLV could cause them fits.

The Rebels really came on late in the year, putting 45 points on SDSU and even 24 points against Utah State can be considered a success in a loss. Quarterback Caleb Herring is the reason why, in a season removed from playing WR in 2012. Herring completed 64 percent of his passes en route to 22 touchdowns and four interceptions. You can't do much better than that, especially at UNLV. Herring didn't even play in the first two games, either. In the finale, Herring had 330 total yards and six total TDs. WR Devante Davis has size (1,194 yards, 14 TDs) and will be a problem for the defense. Their ground game is solid as well with Tim Cornett leading the way with 1,251 yards and 15 touchdowns.

Can the Mean Green contain this offense? Don't put your money on it. UNLV's problem comes on the defensive end, although they have had success in recent games, giving up a total of 40 points in the final two games. That's far removed from allowing 42 and 37 points in back-to-back weeks against New Mexico and Hawaii.

Like the Rebels, the Mean Green have a balanced attack, although maybe not as efficient passing game. QB Derek Thompson has done the bare minimum for his team with 14 TDs and 13 INTs. If the defense can keep UNLV somewhat in check, UNT will lean heavily on its run game. If they fall behind, Thompson will be asked to pass a lot which hasn't resulted in many good things this year. He throws mainly to three wide outs, although none of them present many matchup problems. Brandin Byrd (1,023 yards, 11 TDs) leads the ground game, joined by Antoinne Jimmerson who has five TDs in the last five games.

Both teams had solid against the spread marks on the year, UNLV at 8-4 and UNT at 9-3. The Mean Green are almost touchdown favorites, but it's hard to ignore how well the Rebels closed out the season, not to mention the Mean Green's lack of offensive firepower. Both teams want to run the ball, which could produce a very even game.

The Rebels are 4-1 ATS in their last five games on field turf and are 4-1 ATS in their last five vs. a team with a winning record. The Mean Green are 4-1 ATS in their last five non-conference games and have covered six of their last seven games overall.

We won't be using this game as a Key Release. Our numbers suggest North Texas is the right side, including our model, which has North Texas on top by scores of 33-23, 27-18 and 29-17 using parameters of full season, last 4 games and last 7 games. But UNLV has played the better opposition and towards the end of the year gave Utah State a run for their money and knocked of San Diego State, so they are plenty capable in this spot. No play but UNLV +6.5 is a live dog here.

 

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