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Pro Info Sports

New Mexico Bowl

3 STAR SELECTION

Nevada +3 over NEW MEXICO

The Wolf Pack and the Lobos clash in the 2nd New Mexico Bowl in Albuquerque Saturday afternoon. The Lobos hosted last season’s inaugural game, but were unable to turn their homefield advantage into a victory, as the team fell to San Jose State, 20-12.

For the 2007 regular season, New Mexico finished 8-4 while the Wolf Pack, a 49-10 romp in Reno over Louisiana Tech helped extend their season. Nevada dropped a narrow 21-20 outing versus Miami in last year’s MPC Computers Bowl. In fact, each of the last 5 WolfPack Bowl games have been decided by a FG or less. The Lobos have won just two of their past 10 postseason contests, and has fallen in their last five straight bowl appearances.

Nevada started out this season with Nick Graziano at the helm, but an injury put him on the sidelines and nearly derailed the entire campaign. In came Colin Kaepernick and everything seemed right in Reno as he started the last seven games for the squad. In limited play, Kaepernick, who was eventually named the WAC's Freshman of the Year, threw for more than 2,000 yards and 19 touchdowns, against just three interceptions. In addition, the young signal- caller also raced for 567 yards on the ground and scored another six TDs for the Pack in their unique “Pistol” offense. When it wasn't Kaepernick doing all the dirty work, it was RB Luke Lippincott getting it done. A First-Team All-WAC choice, Lippincott led the conference with his 115 ypg and managed to cross the goal line 15 times for the group. Overall, the team ended up second in the WAC and seventh in the nation in total offense with 489 ypg and 18th in scoring, putting up over 36.3 ppg. The defense barely kept their collective heads above water, allowing a hefty 33 ppg.

QB Donovan Porterie was up and down for New Mexico this season, hitting for 221 ypg and 13 scores, but he also tossed eight interceptions, which made the production of running back Rodney Ferguson so vital. A second-time pick for the All-MWC First Team, Ferguson was also the third-leading receiver for the unit. The bad news for the Lobos is that Ferguson is ineligible to play due to poor grades. He will be sorely missed in the New Mexico offense. The Lobos were good on defense as they normally are under Rocky Long, with just under 21 ppg allowed.

There are numerous reasons we give the WolfPack the edge in this game. For starters, we look to play against teams with a depleted unit. Such is the case for New Mexico in the offensive backfield. Not only is Ferguson out, but so is one of his backups, leaving little depth or experience.

We also can’t back Long in a bowl game, especially as a favorite. If a team is consistently losing their bowl games, it’s usually a sign of a coach that simply does not place a high priority on winning the game and is likely to continue losing to better-prepared opponents.

Even playing at home can work against a team, especially when favored. The team may be overconfident and enjoying the local “red-carpet” treatment a little too much. Without a trip to a new and interesting place, the game may lose the interest of the players. Meanwhile, the pointspread will provide the line value to the visiting team. This appears to be the case with the Lobos, as some of the players were expressing disappointment in not going somewhere else to play. In a limited number of games, we note that Bowl home favorites are 0-4 ATS since at least 1980 vs. opponents with less rest. The most recent example was New Mexico in their SU loss last year to San Jose State as 3½ point favorites.

We also like to play against a Bowl team that is facing an unusual type of offense if they have played and done poorly against a similar-type offense or haven’t faced such a scheme recently. The WolfPack run a very unusual offense with their “pistol” attack which has been difficult for the Lobos to simulate in practices leading up to this game.

Finally, we note that New Mexico is an ugly 1-12-1 ATS with a spread between -10 and +3 as it is here. The WolfPack should at least make this another tight game, and with multiple factors in their favor we like them to win the game outright.

PROJECTED FINAL SCORE: NEVADA 38 NEW MEXICO 28

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Gator Report (Cajun-Sports)

Gator's NCAA Bowl Game Report

Las Vegas Bowl ( Las Vegas , NV ) UCLA vs. BYU
Play ON a Pac-10/Pac-10 opponent Bowl underdog of more than 4 points off a SU loss. Over the past decade, these teams are 15-0 ATS, beating the spread by more than 11 points per game on average.
PLAY: UCLA +6

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B. Burns' College Football PERSONAL FAVORITE *11-5 L16 PFs - Saturday

I'm laying the points with NEW MEXICO. While the Lobos haven't won a bowl game for awhile, they're back at home for the second straight year. That's extremely significant as they were 5-1 at home this season with the lone loss coming vs. BYU. Overall, the Lobos outscored opponents by an average of more than two touchdowns points per game in those six contests. Conversely, Nevada was just 2-4 SU/ATS on the road, giving up an average of nearly 42 points per game. I expect the Lobos to be extremely focused and well-prepared. In the past, Coach Long used to give younger players the bulk of the work during the first week of bowl practice to get ready for the following season. Due to his poor postseason record, Long changed his strategy this season, as the Lobos immediately got to work familiarizing themselves with Nevada's offense and defense when they began bowl-game preparations. This game is of particular importance to a New Mexico program trying to finish with a nine-win campaign for just the second time in 25 seasons and hoping to use this season as a "turn-the-corner" benchmark. Additionally, the players also are getting really tired of losing bowl games and desperately want to avoid doing so in front of what they hope will be a sellout crowd. Look for Long's change of strategy to pay dividends as home field proves the difference with the Lobos moving to 5-1 SU/ATS their last six against teams from the WAC. *Personal Favorite

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S. Spritzer's CFB Saturday Bowl Knockout! *5-0, 100%

I'm taking the points with Southern Miss on Saturday. Some will blow off the emotion of Eagles' coach Jeff Bower making his final appearance on the Southern Miss sideline. I, however, believe it's a definite key to handicapping this game. Bower was basically told to resign or be fired after 17 years of success. Unbelievable, when you consider what he's done while trying to recruit solid players to sign on in Hattiesburg. Another significant factor in this game, and one I've explained in bowl handicapping throughout my career, is that one of the participants (Cincinnati) does not want to be here. Sure, they're saying all the right things right now. But it must be noted this program lobbied at least three "bigger" bowls, feeling they deserved much more than a spot in Birmingham. But a lack of following landed them in this game. The final note, as far as the emotional factor is concerned, is that no less than 16 Southern Miss players are from the state of Alabama, and they've expressed their desire and excitement for playing in this locale and in front of many friends and family. Now to the matchups. Yes, Brian Kelly is an excellent coach. Yes, Cinci has the overall talent advantage. But Bower is no chopped liver, and his offense is the healthiest it has been since opening week, especially at QB. But it's the RBs we need to talk about. Sophomore Damion Fletcher topped 1,000 yards rushing this season, gaining over 100 yards in eight games. He did quite a bit of it on his own. But Antwain Easterling burned his redshirt and will offer up a serious one-two punch in this game. Cinci has been an opportunistic defense, coming up with 23 interceptions this season. But the solid ground game, leading to open passing lanes for Southern Miss, will drastically limit the chance for turnovers. The ground success will also keep UC QB Ben Mauck and company, on the sideline. For most of Bower's 17 years in Hattiesburg, teams did not want to play against the Golden Eagles. Bower has led his team to three straight bowl wins by an average margin of 17 points per game. They will be prepared; they will be playing with controlled emotion; and I believe they'll play the Bearcats right to the wire with a FG deciding the winner. I've taken the double-digits with Southern Miss on Saturday.

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Alex Smartso

Cincinnati -10.5 / 3 units

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Wild Bill

Cincinnati U -11 (5 units) Bearcats undervalued and should win by 19.

New Mexico -3 (1 unit) Basically a home game vs a club still in transition in Nevada

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DR BOB:

2 Star Selection

**UCLA 24 BYU (-6.0) 21 (at Las Vegas Bowl) 05:00 PM Pacific, 22-Dec-07 Ucla’s program might be in disarray with Karl Durrell being dismissed, but the Bruins are better than their 6-6 record would indicate. The Bruins played the 2nd toughest schedule in the nation this season and I’m positive that BYU would be 6-6 or no better than 7-5 if they had played UCLA’s schedule. The Bruins’ 27-17 win over BYU in the Rose Bowl in September was actually a bad game for UCLA, who was out-gained 3.7 yards per play to 5.6 yppl by the Cougars that day. I’m sure BYU wants their revenge but they are unlikely to dominate the yardage as they did in that first meeting.

BYU’s offense averaged 5.9 yppl this season against teams that would combine to allow 5.4 yppl but that unit is at a disadvantage against a very good UCLA defense that yielded just 4.7 yppl against a schedule of teams that would combine to average 5.6 yppl against an average defensive team (after adjusting for playing Oregon without Dennis Dixon). BYU’s defense is almost as good, allowing 4.6 yppl to teams that would average 5.4 yppl, and the Bruins’ offense was 0.2 yppl worse than average for the season. However, starting quarterback Ben Olson will be back behind center and his passing numbers (5.8 yards per pass play against teams that would allow just 5.2 yppp to an average quarterback) are significantly better than the team’s passing rating of -0.3 yppp. The Bruins’ rushing attack has been 0.3 yards per rushing play worse than average (3.8 yprp against teams that would allow 4.1 yprp to an average team) in 4 games since leading rusher Kahlil Bell (795 yards at 5.6 ypr in just over 7 games) was injured early in UCLA’s 8th game against Washington State. UCLA’s offense is just average without Bell and with Olson at quarterback, so they’re not going to have an easy time moving the ball. Thankfully, UCLA’s brilliant special teams and their defensive advantage over BYU’s offense will lead to better field position for the offense to work with.

My math model does call for BYU to have more total yards in this game but UCLA’s special teams advantage is significant and my math favors the Bruins by 2 points in this game. While my math model is very complicated, even a simple math approach shows that this line is too high. BYU played a schedule that was 0.6 points worse than average and they won by an average of 12.4 points (so they would be +11.8 points against an average schedule). UCLA only out-scored their opponents by 0.1 points but the Bruins played a schedule that was 8.2 points tougher than average, so they are +8.3 points based purely on points. The difference in adjusted point differential is BYU by 3.6 points, but UCLA’s offense is better with Ben Olson at quarterback, even with RB Bell out. UCLA also had 2 fumbles returned for TD’s against them, which is random, so that’s 14 points random points (1.2 per game) that should be factored out of the adjusted points analysis, which leaves us with BYU by 2.4 points without factoring in the return of Olson for the Bruins. Even if the line should be BYU by 3 points then getting 6 points with UCLA is a 58.8% play.

The Bruins are reportedly eager to atone for their bad season and there is no doubt that they have better overall talent than BYU does. UCLA just had problems staying consistently motivated under Dorrell, as they only seemed to play well after a loss or when challenged by a good team. That motivation exists in this game, as the Bruins are off a season ending loss (but cover) against USC and they’re an underdog. The senior class at UCLA is 14-3 ATS in games after a loss and they’ve covered 10 straight games as an underdog (5-0 ATS this year). It is clear that UCLA is not getting enough credit for playing a Pac-10 schedule. Pac-10 teams are 181-124-3 ATS (59.3%) since 1980 as an underdog against non-conference opponents, including 77-34-2 ATS as underdogs of less than 7 points against teams that are .500 or better straight up entering the game. Pac 10 teams are also 32-17 ATS as underdogs or picks in bowl games, including 24-8 ATS against teams entering the bowl off a win in their regular season finale. UCLA certainly has the talent to play with any team (as their 10-0 dog record suggests) and they’d love to play well for interim coach and defensive coordinator DeWayne Walker, who is the player’s choice to be the next head coach.

I’ll take UCLA in a 2-Star Best Bet at +4 points or more and for 3-Stars at +7 or more.


LEANS / OPINIONS ONLY

New Mexico (-2.5) 31 Nevada 26 (at New Mexico Bowl) 01:30 PM Pacific, 22-Dec-07 Nevada has an exciting future superstar at quarterback in Colin Kaepernick but New Mexico is a better overall team and the Lobos are playing in their home stadium. That didn’t help New Mexico last season when they lost 12-20 to San Jose State in this same Bowl game but the Lobos may use that defeat as motivation for this game. The strength of New Mexico’s team is a defense that yielded just 4.7 yards per play this season (to teams that would combine to average 5.4 yppl against an average team) and that unit has performed especially well since giving up 6.6 yppl in week 2 and week 3 to New Mexico State and Arizona. The Lobos gave up just 4.4 yppl in their final 8 games (to teams that would average 5.5 yppl against an average team), including limiting good offensive teams BYU, San Diego State, and Air Force (who would combine to average 6.0 yppl against an average team) to just 4.5 yppl combined while not allowing more than 4.8 yppl to any of those good offensive teams. Nevada is a very good offensive team, as the Wolf Pack have averaged 6.7 yppl this season against teams that would allow 5.8 yppl to an average team. That unit got better when starting quarterback Nick Graziano was injured against Fresno State in week 6, which led to the emergence of freshman star Colin Kaepernick. Kaepernick is has averaged 8.5 yards per pass play (against teams that would allow 6.6 yppp to an average QB) while throwing 19 touchdown passes against just 3 interceptions. Kaepernick has also added 649 yards on 79 running plays and he teams with RB Luke Lippincott (1380 yards at 5.4 ypr) to give Nevada a balanced attack. Nevada has been 1.1 yppl better than average offensively with Kaepernick at quarterback, which is the same rating as New Mexico’s defense has had in their last 8 games (although the Lobos’ defense is 0.7 yppl better than average for the season because of poor play early in the season).

The battle between New Mexico’s offense and Nevada’s defense is also pretty close, as the Lobos have been 0.6 yppl worse than average this season (5.0 yppl against teams that would allow 5.6 yppl to an average team) while Nevada’s defense has been 0.5 yppl worse than average (5.8 yppl allowed to teams that would average 5.3 yppl). New Mexico quarterback Donovan Porterie posted just average passing numbers this season (6.3 yppp against teams that would allow 6.3 yppp), but he should be able to throw the ball pretty well in this game and Porterie also doesn’t get intercepted much (8 times on 382 passes). New Mexico's top running back Rodney Ferguson was just ruled ineligible for this game due to academics and there is a big drop-off between his 4.0 ypr and Paul Baker's 3.4 ypr. New Mexico's offense is 0.8 yppl worse than average without Ferguson. The real difference in this game is special teams, as Nevada has horrible special teams while New Mexico’s special teams are better than average with one of the best kickers in the nation in John Sullivan, who has made 26 of 29 field goals this season – which could come in handy in what is expected to be a tight game.

My math model favors New Mexico by 5 1/2 points on their home field without Ferguson and there are no situations favoring either side in this game, although teams playing on their home field are 13-5 ATS in bowl games when not favored by 7 points or more. New Mexico failed to follow that trend last season, but they are likely to cover this game.

I’ll lean with New Mexico. Leans on other games


Cincinnati (-11) vs Southern Miss: Math favors Cincy but Bowl angles favor Southern Miss. No Opinion.

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Sport: College Football
Game: So Mississippi @ Cincinnati U - Saturday December 22, 2007 1:00 pm
Pick: 3 unit(s) TOTAL: Over 55.5

I hate laying points but Southern Miss is a top 90 power ranked team and they face the Bearcats who are a top 15 power ranking team. I essentially have this game by the pure numbers as a win for Cincy by 15 points. Cincy has lost just 3 games this year and that was too Pitt, Louisville and West Virginia. A top 10 school, and 2 schools in the top 50 - yes, Pittsburgh is a top 50 power ranked squad. Southern Miss is a rushing team as they are top 65 in the nation offense but around 100 in passing yards but in the top 25 in rushing yards. Their defense is 50th in the nation in essentially all categories, passing, rushing and overall. The Bearcats are top 30 in the nation in offense, and top 15 in the nation in points scored. They are 25th in the nation in passing and top 60 in the nation in rushing the ball. They are an excellent rushing defense ranked in the top 20 but teams pass on them for an average of 265 yards a ballgame which puts them as one of the worst pass defenses in the nation. The irony is that Southern Miss does not pass the ball well and are a running team. The Bearcat defense is also top 20 in the nation in points allowed giving up less than 19 points a contest and considering they were in the Big East, this is quite a feat. Keep in mind the Bearcats were 8-2-1 ATS and 9-3 overall. These 2 teams actually met in 2004 when Cincy won 52-24 as 5.5 dogs. So, Southern Miss does have a bit of a revenge coming into this game. The total for this game has taken a sharp rise above from opening in the low 50's while the side has remained steady for the most part. The advantage for Southern Miss in this game is the fact this game is played in Alabama which they can travel a bit better to. The last time Cincy played teams that were outside the top 80, these were the results: Away: Against a top 90 Miami of Ohio team - winning 47-10. Home: Against a top 100 ranked Marshall team beating them 40-14 Away: Against a top 90 San Diego State beating them 52-23. The last 2 times that Southern Miss has played teams that were in the top 50, their only 2 times that is: The results were as follows: Away: Against a top 20 Tennessee team losing 19-39 Tennessee Away: Against a top 50 Boise State team losing 16-38. I think this game likely goes over as I think Cincy ends up winning this game but Southern Miss will want to send its coach off with a win after his 17 year tenure at Southern Miss.
The Bottom Line: Southern Miss's coach is leaving after his 17 year tenure at the school as he resigned after a frustrating final few games as this team was expected to win the Conference USA Title and fell short. I believe that frustration will translate its players into playing well for their coach that is leaving after being the head coach there for quite some time. With over 70% of the public on Cincy it is tough to lay it on the Bearcats despite them being a far more dominant team. Get your tums out as I think Southern Miss shows up for this game - they lose, but they show up as I have this as a 38-28 type of ballgame and I would not be a bit surprised if Southern Miss hits the backdoor here, so I will take the over. The over is 5-1 when the Bearcats are favorites of 10.5 or more and the over is 4-0 when the Golden Eagles are underdogs of late.


Nevada Wolf Pack @ New Mexico Lobos - Saturday December 22, 2007 4:30 pm
Pick: 3 unit(s) TOTAL: Under 57.5

New Mexico is a 3 point favorite over Nevada in the bowl that carries their name in its home state. I have New Mexico as a top 60 facing a Nevada team that is top 90 in the nation. The line opened up at -4 for New Mexico but has actually jumped down in favor of Nevada to -3 which makes sense as the total has gone up as well as this underdog looks to be active and fits into my active underdog/over theory. New Mexico's losses outside of UTEP early have come to solid teams including Utah, TCU and BYU. I would lean on the over but New Mexico's offense is not the most potent as they are 85th in the nation on offense with a top 60 passing attack but their defense is top 30 in the nation both in rushing and passing defense. Nevada is averaging nearly 500 yards of total offense a ballgame with the 7th ranked offense in the nation and a defense that is around the top 75 in all categories. What is intriguing about Nevada is that they are getting a lot of love, but they have yet to beat a top 100 team all year. This team did play a close game against Hawaii, but Hawaii was banged up and that was a home game. On the road, this team lost to San Jose State and barely beat New Mexico State and Utah State - all temas outside the top 100. I believe Nevada struggles against the better defenses in the league and feel that this game is likely to go under as I have New Mexico winning this game by a field goal and have this game at 27-24 as New Mexico likely does not want to lose in back to back years in their home field to another WAC team.
The bottom line here is that I believe New Mexico will dictate the pace at its home field and this team remembers far too well being upset on their home field by San Jose State last year who is also a WAC team. This veteran New Mexico team will win this one in a disciplined way by a field goal as I have this game barely tipping over 50 points as this is a top 30 defense that will show up well and this will not be a barnburner as many expect. Look for this game to be a 27-24 final as the under is 4-1 for the Wolfpack against the Mountain West Conference (MWC) and the under is 4-0 for the New Mexico Lobos overall.

Bowl selections are done up to December 26th the start of next week. 4 Selections thus far. More selections to come at the ealry part of next week.

Game: UCLA Bruins @ BYU Cougars - Saturday December 22, 2007 8:00 pm
Pick: 3 unit(s) ATS: BYU Cougars -5.5 (-110) (Normal)

I have BYU as a top 25 power ranking team and UCLA as a top 40 power ranking team. Keep in mind this game is being played in Las Vegas but the UCLA faithful will travel well there. I have UCLA losing this game by a field goal, but I'll be frank, I don't trust UCLA football and I never will. This team is as fickle as they come. This is an intriguing matchup because these 2 teams have already played earlier this year with UCLA winning at home 27-17 but keep in mind that BYU is a much different team as since starting the season 1-2, they have gone on to win their last of their last 8 and are on a 7 game winning streak. In fact, this team is now ranked 19th in the nation. Keep in mind that this line has gone up to 6 in some places. BYU has the 15th ranked best offense in the nation overall, the 13th best passing attack and the 60th best rushing attack. On defense, this team 10th in the nation overall, 13th in the nation in points allowed, 9th in the nation rushing yards and top 45 in the nation in passing yards allowed. UCLA is top 100 in the nation in offense, only scored 17 points on this BYU defense the first time around at home, and on defense they are top 35 in the nation to their credit but 71st in passing yards allowed, although they do have a solid run defense. This could be a bit of a letdown for BYU as they face a UCLA team that has a ton of injuries and is banged up. Keep in mind that UCLA went 2-5 to close the season and the AP reports just 5 offensive touchdowns in its last 4 games. BYU will want to make a case next year for a better bowl game and I believe all the motivation they need for this game is revenge and the head coach for UCLA will not be on the sideline as he has been fired. I think this is a bad spot for UCLA as this likely goes to BYU by a double-digit margin - this game is likely to go under as well.

Bottom Line:
UCLA has scored 5 touchdowns in their last 4 games and BYU is looking for revenge in this game. This line jumped about 2 to 2.5 points off shore as soon as it was released and UCLA has been hurt so much by injuries. Although this defense is stout, the offense simply cannot give this defense a breather of any kind and BYU is in a sour mood after being given the Las Vegas Bowl yet again after this team was given the same Bowl last year. The result this team pummeled its opponent by 30+. I think this game will be decided by revenge as BYU has one of the best offenses in the country and a defense that is equally as good to boast. I have BYU winning this game by 10-14 points. The Cougars are 4-1 ATS in their last 5 against the PAC-10 and 6-2 ATS when favored by this margin.

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WHATIF SPORTS SIMULATIONS .... won with navy & FAU 2-0

Papajohns.com Bowl: Cincinnati 34 - Southern Miss 18

Highlight: Brian Kelly's Bearcats cruise to victory in the biggest lock of all of these simulated games.
Player of the Game: Ben Mauk, QB, UC (237 passing yards, 2 TDs, 38 rushing yards, 1 TD)

New Mexico Bowl: Nevada 30 - New Mexico 23

Highlight: Nevada standouts Luke Lippincott and Colin Kaepernick connect on a 73-yard score to break a 23-all tie and win the game late in the fourth quarter.
Player of the Game: Luke Lippincott, RB, Nevada (210 total yards, 2 TDs)

Highlight: Nevada standouts Luke Lippincott and Colin Kaepernick connect on a 73-yard score to break a 23-all tie and win the game late in the fourth quarter.
Player of the Game: Luke Lippincott, RB, Nevada (210 total yards, 2 TDs)

Las Vegas Bowl: BYU 31 - UCLA 20

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CTO

10 NEVADA over *New Mexico

NEVADA 31 - *New Mexico 26

Respected CTO insiders report New Mexico mentor Rocky Long has secretly sought out coaches around the country to help him prepare for this bowl. Long has gone 0-4 in postseason games, suffering upsets in the past two (San Jose State won in Albuquerque LY!). Doubt the outside advice reverses the trend vs. dangerous Nevada (35 ppg; lost to Boise & Hawaii by combined 4 pts.!) which owns the superior QB in gifted 6-6 frosh QB Kaepernick (19 TDs, just 3 ints., 567 YR, 6 TDs). Look for swift, long-striding 6-6 Kaepernick & north-south RB Lippincott (1380 YR, 15 TDs) to do plenty of business vs. an undersized NM front 6 (Lobos play 3-3-5). Lobos just 4-9 as home chalk since ‘04; Nevada is 7-3 last 10 as a dog.

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ANDY ISKOE COLLEGE BOWL SELECTIONS

Dec 22 Papa-John's.com Bowl 1 Star Southern Miss over Cincinnati

Dec 22 New Mexico Bowl 2 Star Nevada Reno over NEW MEXICO

Dec 22 Las Vegas Bowl 5 Star Byu over Ucla

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Vegas Hotsheet

Saturday, December 22nd
PAPAJOHNS.COM BOWL - 1:00pm ET ESPN2
309 Southern Miss 20
310 Cincinnati 39
CINCINNATI -11


NEW MEXICO BOWL - 4:30pm ET ESPN
311 Nevada 31
312 New Mexico 23
NEVADA +3


LAS VEGAS BOWL - 8:00pm ET ESPN
313 UCLA 24
314 BYU 21
UCLA +6½

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COVERS.com STAFF

Washington Wizards at Indiana Pacers

The Pacers have been impressive at home lately, going 3-1 against the spread (ATS) in their last four at Conseco Fieldhouse.

Indiana routed Philadelphia at home Wednesday, 102-85. Marquis Daniels, who accumulated 26 points off the bench, was one of five Pacers to score in double figures.

The Pacers toppled Washington on Oct. 31, covering the spread as a 1 ½-point home underdog. They are 4-1 ATS in their last five versus the Eastern Conference.

Pick: Pacers

Golden State Warriors at New Jersey Nets

The Nets don’t have the offensive firepower to compete with the Warriors.

Golden State has won eight of its last 12 road games and has scored more than 110 points in each of its last two road encounters.

New Jersey, 3-11-1 ATS at home, could be without its sixth man Saturday. Bostjan Nachbar, listed as questionable, has missed the Nets’ last three contests with a sprained ankle. Nachbar is averaging 10 points and three rebounds.

Pick: Warriors

Utah Jazz at Miami Heat

Miami is a remarkable 6-0 ATS in its last six tilts with the Jazz, including a Dec. 3 setback in Salt Lake City.

Utah has lost eight of its last nine, including back-to-back road defeats to the lowly Hawks and Bobcats.

Jazz starting center Mehmet Okur (shoulder), forward Matt Harpring (stomach) and guard Gordon Giricek (personal) could all miss Saturday’s meeting.

Pick: Heat

Philadelphia 76ers at Memphis Grizzlies

The Grizzlies are 3-1 straight up (SU) in their last four home games versus the 76ers dating back to 2004.

Second-year forward Rudy Gay, averaging 19 points, has scored more than 30 points twice in Memphis’ last four outings. Gay also accumulated 23 points and nine rebounds in Wednesday’s 88-85 victory over the Spurs.

Philadelphia is a shaky 3-7 ATS in its last 10 versus the Western Conference.

Pick: Grizzlies

Minnesota Timberwolves at New Orleans Hornets

The Timberwolves, 1-11 SU on the road, will have trouble slowing down the Hornets.

Minnesota is conceding more than 100 points per game on 45 percent shooting. That should prove costly against New Orleans, averaging more than 110 points in its last three road victories.

The T-Wolves will be without veteran Antoine Walker, who missed the last two games with a sprained ankle. Walker, listed as doubtful, is averaging 10 points off the bench.

Minnesota has also lost seven in a row outside Minneapolis.

Pick: Hornets

Houston Rockets at Chicago Bulls

Houston has covered the spread in four of its last five trips to Chicago going back to 2003. It has also won three straight over the Bulls.

Chicago starting center Ben Wallace is doubtful because of sore foot. Wallace is the Bulls’ stingiest defender, registering more than one block per night.

The road team is 5-0 ATS in the last five matches between the Rockets and Bulls.

Pick: Rockets

Charlotte Bobcats at Milwaukee Bucks

The Bucks might not be as good as their 8-3 SU home record would indicate.

Milwaukee has lost seven of its last 10 and is 4-6 ATS during that stretch. The Bucks have failed to cover the spread in two of their last three at the Bradley Center, including this week’s loss to the Kings.

Charlotte defeated the Bucks on Nov. 2 in North Carolina to raise its record to 7-2 ATS in the last nine home games versus the Bucks.

Pick: Bobcats

Los Angeles Clippers at San Antonio Spurs

The Spurs could be without starting point guard for a fifth straight game.

Tony Parker, who sprained his right ankle in a Dec. 11 setback to Golden State, is doubtful. Parker is leading the Spurs in scoring with more than 20 PPG and is also averaging seven assists and three rebounds.

The Spurs are 1-3 SU and 2-2 ATS in Parker’s absence. The Clippers are 4-1 ATS in their last five road outings.

Pick: Clippers

Toronto Raptors at Phoenix Suns

Toronto is 5-1 ATS in its last six trips to Phoenix dating back to 2003. Chris Bosh, averaging a team-high 19 points and nine rebounds, missed the Raptors’ Dec. 5 setback against the Suns.

Still, the Raptors managed to score 136 points and had five players with double-digits. That included Jose Calderon’s 14 points and 10 assists.

Phoenix is winless ATS in its last four home games. The road team is also 6-2 ATS in the last eight meetings between the Raptors and Suns.

Pick: Raptors

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CONFIDENTIAL TIP-OFF BASKETBALL

10* JAMES MADISON over *Seton Hall...CAA scouts have alerted us to positive developments at JMU, still flying under radar despite positive start to campaign. Unselfish Dukes impressing with their precision on offensive end, helped by arrival of Saint Joe’s transfer G Jalloh, who has helped JMU hit eye-opening 52% from floor thru first 7 games. Big East observers claim Pirates not yet complete team, lacking presence in paint and still inconsistent from perimeter (just 32% treys).
JAMES MADISON 69 - *Seton Hall 70 RATING-10


10* WESTERN KENTUCKY over *Southern Illinois...”Take” with deep, TO-producing WKU (21 takeaways pg) eager to enhance NCAA resume prior to Sun Belt play. Hilltopppers primed for “hump” road win following narrow losses vs. classy Gonzaga & Tennessee on neutral sites. WKU possesses team speed & shooting prowess (40% treys) to often burn SIU in transition before Salukis set up defensively, while 6-5 sr. G Lee (22 ppg) can create anytime, anywhere. SIU just 3-7-2 vs. spread last 12 in Carbondale.


10* WESTERN KENTUCKY 69 - *S. Illinois 65 RATING - 10
ALABAMA over Missouri State (at Las Vegas)...Now that young Bama Gs are learning their roles and compensating for loss of star PG Steele, must buck shaky-shooting MSU (just 31% from arc) still searching to replace marksmenship provided by LY’s 3 top scorers. Tide’s powerful 6-8, 265 sr. C Hendrix (19 ppg, 12 rpg, 2.4 bpg) will surely get Bears over-zealous 6-8 C Richard in early foul trouble, while springy 6-6 F Gee (14 ppg, 7 rpg) matches up well with MSU’s top-scoring 6-5 F Mitchell.
ALABAMA 76 - Mssouri State 65 RATING - 10


ALABAMA over Missouri State (at Las Vegas)...Now that young Bama Gs are learning their roles and compensating for loss of star PG Steele, must buck shaky-shooting MSU (just 31% from arc) still searching to replace marksmenship provided by LY’s 3 top scorers. Tide’s powerful 6-8, 265 sr. C Hendrix (19 ppg, 12 rpg, 2.4 bpg) will surely get Bears over-zealous 6-8 C Richard in early foul trouble, while springy 6-6 F Gee (14 ppg, 7 rpg) matches up well with MSU’s top-scoring 6-5 F Mitchell.
ALABAMA 76 - Mssouri State 65 RATING - 10

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The Platinum Sheet 'Best Bets'

PapaJohns.com Bowl - Legion Field - Birmingham, AL
Saturday, December 22nd - 1:00 PM - (309)
SOUTHERN MISS vs. (310) CINCINNATI

All things being equal Cincinnati, deserved a better bowl then this one, but this will still be third postseason trip in four years. Coach Brian Kelly is a no-nonsense guy, thus rest assured he will have his 11th ranked defense in points allowed (18.6) in the nation ready. This has been best season in the Queen City since 1953 when they last won nine games. Southern Mississippi is headed in different direction after
telling 17-year coach Jeff Bower his services would no longer be required after 14 winning seasons. This usually causes upheaval, as the outgoing seniors feel bad for departed coach and the players coming back are apprehensive about what change means to them. For years Brett Favre’s alma mater was a defensive stalwart, now they are just above average a 48th overall, with a pedestrian offense that ranks
60th in the country. Cincy averages 36.7 PPG and is 7-0 ATS when they score 28 or more points this season. Southern Miss is a double digit underdog and is 0-6 ATS against the number as a dog with uncertainty.
Play: Cincinnati -11

New Mexico Bowl - University Stadium - Albuquerque, NM
Saturday, December 22nd - 4:30 PM - (311) NEVADA at (312) NEW MEXICO

The only greater reward than earning an opportunity to play once again in late December is the right to do so on the soil that serves as your homestead. Such is the case for the Lobos, awaiting the arrival of a less-than-impressive Nevada team that appears too ripe for the taking. New Mexico was 5-1 SU in Albuquerque this season, and while the ATS (2-3) suggests reason for concern, it is Nevada’s failure to impress that should drive your ticket towards the home favorite. The Wolf Pack, led by freshman QB Colin Kaepernick, found just two covers on the road this season, one as 25.5-point dogs at Boise state, the other as 10.5-point dogs at Northwestern. Nevada has yet to earn a victory against a team of worth this season (combined record of teams beaten: 20-52, including 6-5 Nicholls State, a product of the FCS, better known as Division IAA), and there is little reason to believe they start now. The Lobos let the faithful alum down last season with a 12-20 loss against San Jose State, and now the time has come to right the wrongs of the past and give reason to celebrate.
Play: New Mexico –

Las Vegas Bowl - Sam Boyd Stadium - Las Vegas, NV
Saturday, December 22nd - 8:00 PM - (313) UCLA vs. (314) BYU

I’ve come to realize that the month spent between the end of the regular season and a team’s bowl game can play tricks on handicappers. Some teams fififind the confidence they lacked their last few games, while others seemingly spend more time vacationing than tuning up. In this game, BYU is a fairly sizeable favorite against a team it lost to by double-digits early in the season. In fact, the Cougars were an 8-1/2 point underdog back in September in Los Angeles. I ask myself, has enough changed where there should be a 14-point line swing in this contest on a neutral field. In late November, I would have said yes. With a month to recoup for the injury savaged Bruins, I’ll say no. UCLA was 3-2 SU & 5-0 ATS as an underdog this season, the Pac 10 is stellar as a whole as bowl underdogs, and UCLA’s L44 games vs. top level teams (>75% Win Pct) has netted a score UCLA 31.2, Opponent 30.5. This one could go either way. I’ll take the points.
Play: UCLA +5

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Nick Bogdanovich

Best Bet:
314 BYU -6.5


Jorge Gonzalez

314 BYU -6.5


Paul Sonner

Nevada +2.5


Norm Hitzges

Single Plays

Dallas -10.5 vs Carolina
Dallas/Carolina Under
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Gamblers World..(Started Dec 3rd).won again last night in hockey
8-3 month of December
3-1..NBA
4-0..NHL
1-0 CBB
0-2..NFL (0-1 sides..0-1 totals)


TIP OF THE DAY
Sport: NCAA Football

Game: 8:00PM, Las Vegas Bowl: UCLA Bruins vs. BYU Cougars

Prediction: BYU Cougars

Current Line: -6½

Over/Under: 47

Reason: UCLA's poor play cost coach Karl Dorrell his job and now they will
try to salvage the season with a win in the Las Vegas Bowl. The Bruins face
the BYU Cougars December 22 at Sam Boyd Stadium. The Cougars won nine
straight to claim the Mountain West championship and are not intimidated by
playing a major Pac 10 school.

Oddsmakers currently have the Cougars listed as 6½-point favorites versus
the Bruins, while the game's total is sitting at 47.

UCLA had four turnovers last time out in a 24-7 loss at USC, falling as
18.5-point road underdogs. The 31 points scored were UNDER the posted total
of 46.

Patrick Cowan went 13-for-24 for 156 yards, one touchdown and an
interception, and Brandon Breazell caught four passes for 53 yards for the
Bruins.

Harvey Unga ran for four touchdowns in leading BYU to a 48-27 win over San
Diego State last time out. BYU covered the 16.5-point spread, while the
combined 75 points sailed OVER the posted total of 58.

Unga carried the ball 23 times for 160 yards for BYU, and Max Hall
completed 19-of-26 passes for 227 yards and three touchdowns.

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Larry Ness' 20* Non-Conference GOY (6-0 the L2 Saturdays with CBB reports!)

My 20* is on Ohio State at 4:00 ET. The Gators may be 11-1 but today's trip to Columbus is the team's first time out of the state. In their only real test so far, an 11/23 home date with Fla St, the Gators shot just 38.9 percent (4-of-23 on threes) and lost 65-51 to a team which has lost to South Fla and Cleve St. Billy Donovan's latest group is a far cry from his two-time defending national champs. Up front, the 6-10 Speights (13.5-7.4) and the 6-7 Werner (7.7-7.5) were around last year, while junior guard Hodge (9.8) played a supporting role on both title teams. However, it's five freshman who make up Florida's future, 6-6 swingman Calathes (15.8-4.7-5.5) and guard Lucas (9.4), who both start. Three freshman forwards are getting plenty of opportunities as well, the 6-9 Parsons (10.6), the 6-8 Allen (6.8) and the 6-8 Tyus (6.3). Ohio St relies big-time on 7-0 freshman center Koufus (15.8-6.3) but two seniors and a soph give Thad Matta more leadership and experience than Donovan owns on the opposite side of the court. Guard Butler (13.5-5.1) and the 6-8 Hunter (9.5-6.54) are the two seniors, while swingman Lighty (10.0-4.4) is off to a solid start in his second year. Two 6-6 freshman, Diebler (6.9) and Turner (5.6), are both expected to be stars. While Florida has yet to be tested TY, OSU has played both Syracuse (win) and A&M (loss) in MSG, lost to No. 1 North Carolina at home plus lost at then-No. 16 Butler. OSU can match Florida's defense, has played a much tougher schedule and has DOUBLE REVENGE from last year (including a title-game loss). Non-Conference GOY 20* Ohio St.

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