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Underdog Texas wins with punter as MVP

Jeff Fogle  
VSiN City newsletter

December 28, 2017 12:13 AM

Texas head coach Tom Herman is still great as an underdog, as the Longhorns beat Missouri outright in Houston. Numbers and notes from the midweek bowl blitz at your fingertips right now in VSiN City. 

Texas Bowl: Texas defense drives victory over mistake-prone Missouri
If you didn’t get a chance to watch this one, the final score is misleading. You know the offense didn’t play well if the PUNTER won (and deserved) “player of the game” honors! The Texas defense was burned once, but otherwise owned the evening. That unit scored a touchdown on a fumble return, earned a safety, and set up a late cheap touchdown to seal victory.  

Texas (plus 3) 33, Missouri 16 
Yards-per-Play: Texas 3.9, Missouri 5.7
Total Yardage: Texas 280, Missouri 390
Third Down Pct: Texas 33%, Missouri 21%
Turnovers: Texas 0, Missouri 4
Rushing Yards: Texas 113, Missouri 121
Passing Stats: Texas 17-29-0-167, Missouri 18-34-1-269
TD Drive Lengths: Texas 75-55-25, Missouri 50-79

Missouri hit a 79-yard lightning strike on the first play of the second half. Without that, the Tigers finish with 311 yards and 4.6 yards per play. Missouri couldn’t move the chains, cashing just 3 of 14 third down tries. The 4-0 turnover loss was a killer from the favorite’s perspective.

For Texas, a statement making season ends with a double-digit victory. There’s still work to do on offense with two “half-quarterbacks” needing to shore up weaknesses. If you only look at offense, this should have been a loss. Herman’s “quarterback guru” reputation will be tested. 

Texas finishes at 7-6, with a strong 8-4-1 mark against the point spread (5-1 ATS as underdogs, 3-3-1 ATS as favorites). Mizzou closes 7-6 both ways. The Tigers made great strides down the stretch of this season. But the overall fade of the SEC East may have created some illusions about where this team stands in the big picture. Time will tell whether or not this is the start of a disappointing bowl run for the SEC, or the SEC East.

College Bowls: Crunching the numbers in the Independence, Pinstripe, and Foster Farms bowls
Three games were played in advance of Texas/Missouri Wednesday. Let’s run through them in kickoff order. 

Independence Bowl: Florida State (-12.5) 42, Southern Miss 13 
Yards-per-Play: Southern Miss 4.7, Florida State 6.1
Total Yardage: Southern Miss 260, Florida State 452
Third Down Pct: Southern Miss 29%, Florida State 54%
Turnovers: Southern Miss 1, Florida State 0
Rushing Yards: Southern Miss 131, Florida State 214
Passing Stats: Southern Miss 15-27-0-129, Florida State 19-29-0-238
TD Drive Lengths: Southern Miss 78-75, Florida State 75-80-24-85-30

Basically a chronological continuation of Tuesday’s games where the favorites won and covered comfortably. Only difference here is that Florida State scored an extra touchdown to get into the 40’s. Second of two blowouts for ACC teams over mid-majors (Duke over Northern Illinois the prior day). Not seeing a lot of quality from the mid-majors this season. Seems like fewer playmakers fall through the major conference cracks than in the past. No reason to spend much time here. FSU finishes the season 7-6, and will start a new coaching era next year. Southern Miss closes at 8-5. 

Pinstripe Bowl: Iowa (-3) 27, Boston College 20 
Yards-per-Play: Iowa 3.7, Boston College 5.5
Total Yardage: Iowa 200, Boston College 383
Third Down Pct: Iowa 18%, Boston College 47%
Turnovers: Iowa 0, Boston College 3
Rushing Yards: Iowa 101, Boston College 175
Passing Stats: Iowa 8-15-0-99, Boston College 16-27-2-208
TD Drive Lengths: Iowa 16-58-46, Boston College 62-69

Definitely a few reasons to spend time here. If you didn’t watch, be aware that Boston College was dominant. Run your finger down those categories. Outside of turnovers, it was very similar to Duke/Northern Illinois. Stat-wise…and an ACC team outplaying somebody from the Midwest. Iowa was supposed to be better than that given the Vegas line and its win over Ohio State during the season. Those turnovers swung the game. You can see that both of BC’s touchdown drives were longer than all three of Iowa’s. Also, BC had a failed fourth down try, which is another “virtual” turnover. This continues the ACC’s great start in terms of the point of attack.

Duke outgained UNI 465-299, outrushed UNI 213-65, out 3D’d UNI 53% to 8%
FSU outgained SM 452-260, outrushed SM 214-131, out 3D’d SM 54% to 29%
BC outgained Iowa 383-200, outrushed Iowa 175-101, out 3D’d Iowa 47% to 18%

Still good indicators for the ACC moving forward, even if the straight up and ATS record is just 2-1. Iowa did play clean, which helped them squeak out a fortunate victory. Iowa finishes the season 8-5, but everyone will remember that rout of the Buckeyes. Boston College finishes 7-6, but outperformed the market to the tune of 8-4-1 ATS even with this non-cover. 

Foster Farms Bowl: Purdue (plus 2.5) 38, Arizona 35 
Yards-per-Play: Arizona 6.2, Purdue 6.0
Total Yardage: Arizona 431, Purdue 555
Third Down Pct: Arizona 29%, Purdue 37%
Turnovers: Arizona 2, Purdue 1
Rushing Yards: Arizona 129, Purdue 159
Passing Stats: Arizona 17-26-1-302, Purdue 33-53-1-396
TD Drive Lengths: Arizona 68-34-72-51-67, Purdue 60-75-90-80-75

Purdue managed to blow all of a 31-14 halftime lead. The Boilermakers rallied for a late TD to go back in front, then snared an interception to seal the victory. Both teams obviously made a lot of big plays. Though, those are disappointing third down rates for that volume. Purdue was 1 of 3 on fourth downs, which is part of why they couldn’t turn 555 yards into a bigger scoreboard margin. Purdue’s 7-6 mark feels like a breakout season compared to the program’s recent form. Exciting story developing there. Boilermakers beat the market consistently, finishing 9-4 ATS. Arizona also finishes at 7-6 straight up, but 6-7 ATS. 

A quick reminder that the “VSiN Bowl Guide” is yours for no additional charge if you purchase Point Spread Weekly through the Super Bowl for just $49.99. Many blockbusters still ahead. You’ll want to study the stats and trends before making your final decisions. If you like monitoring the picks of VSiN experts, Brent Musburger is 11-5 his last 16 selections on his “bet the board” effort after splitting out Wednesday. Matt Youmans has won his last five best bets after nailing Texas and Purdue outright as underdogs. Matt is up to 60% for the postseason. 

College Football Bowls: “Market Watch” for Thursday Bowls
We haven’t had a chance yet to slide Thursday’s four bowl games under the “Market Watch” microscope. Let’s take a quick look.  

Military Bowl (in Annapolis MD)
Opening Line: Virginia -2 at Navy, total of 55.5
Current Line: Navy -1 vs. Virginia, total of 52

Navy has become an attractive bet with the sinking temperatures across the country. Another “Brrr Bowl” here with game time temperatures expected to be in the low 20’s. That’s likely to favor Navy’s option attack at the expense of Virginia’s preferred passing approach. Plus, Navy just played Army in the snow, so there’s some recent familiarity with running this offense in less than ideal offensive conditions. You see the total’s moved a field goal from the opener too. Be sure you monitor the market in the morning. Sharps clearly like Navy at pick-em or better in these conditions. Will the line go higher before kickoff? The total might go lower. Sharps are on the Under at 52.5 or more. 

Camping World Bowl (in Orlando, FL)
Opening Line: Oklahoma State -6.5 over Virginia Tech, total of 63
Current Line: Oklahoma State -5.5 over Virginia Tech, total of 61.5

The worst of the winter snap hasn’t made it down to Disney World. Looks like game time temperatures will be in the high 60’s. This one opened just below a key number (7), and moved the opposite way. Sharps didn’t expect to see the full plus 7, and have taken the underdog Hokies fairly enthusiastically at plus 6.5 and plus 6. We’ll see on game day if there’s a number that brings in money on the favorite. A good bowl showing so far for the ACC might influence game-day thinking. Okie State’s Big 12 is 2-2 so far in bowls, but winning Texas lost stats. 

Alamo Bowl (in San Antonio, TX)
Opening Line: TCU -2.5 over Stanford total of 47.5
Current Line: TCU -3 over Stanford, total of 48.5

No weather issues indoors in the Alamodome. This is expected to be a tightly contested, relatively low scoring battle because of these defenses. That makes the key number of three even more important. Stanford gets sharp money at plus 3. TCU interest shows up at anything below the three. Might bounce back and forth like that through the day unless a public bandwagon stars or a few deep-pocketed bettors warp the money ratio. 

Holiday Bowl (in San Diego, CA)
Opening Line: Washington State -2.5 over Michigan State, total of 44.5
Current Line: Michigan State -1.5 over Washington State, total of 47.5

Typically great San Diego weather. Temperatures should be in the 60s. Scoring is expected to be in the 40’s…but you can see that respected Over money has added a field goal to the early total. Another favorite flip here, as Sparty is now slight chalk after opening as the short underdog. Not a great bowl start for the Pac 12, which might be influencing minds in the 24 hours before kickoff. Oregon, UCLA, and Arizona have all fallen. Utah wasn’t sharp in a win over an outmatched backup QB.

Be sure you watch VSiN programming throughout the day for the latest front-line updates from the sports betting capital of the world. 

College Bowl Stat Preview: Two spoilers “who can play with anybody” square off Thursday night in the Holiday Bowl
Neither Washington State nor Michigan State was quite good enough to reach 10 wins in the regular season. But, Washington State beat USC and Michigan State beat Penn State. If we get the best of both teams, this could be a great appetizer to the weekend feast. 

Holiday Bowl: Washington State (9-3) vs. Michigan State (9-3) 
Las Vegas Line: Michigan State by 1.5, total of 47.5
Records vs. the Point Spread: Washington State 7-5, Michigan State 7-5  

An interesting contrast in styles as the pass-happy Washington State Cougars (whose rush percentage of 29% was the lowest, by a mile, of major conference bowl teams) square off against more of a smash-mouth cross-country visitor from Michigan State. 

Now, Sparty vs. Wazzou isn’t quite “a battle of extremes.” It would be a mistake to think of Michigan State as a clone of a run-heavy team like Wisconsin. Sparty rushed the ball 54% of the time this season, compared to Wisconsin’s 65%. Michigan State will hope its more balanced approach is less turnover prone than Washington State’s in a big game. 

Yards-per-Play
Washington State: 5.6 on offense, 5.0 on defense (vs. the #38 ranked schedule)
Michigan State: 5.0 on offense, 4.9 on defense (vs. the #14 ranked schedule)

One of the most underreported stories of the college football season involved the great defense being played on the Palouse. Washington State is thought of as a fast-break team led by a swashbuckling head coach. If the team is scoring wins over the likes of USC and Stanford, the offense gets the credit from casual followers. This defense really shut people down. Now, it could turn out that the Pac 12 was mediocre this season (the jury is still out on that in early bowls). For now, you have to respect both of these defenses. Assume yards-per-play differential would be close to even against identical schedules. 

Key Passing Stats 
Washington State: 6.8 yards-per-pass attempt, 35 TD’s, 19 interceptions thrown
Michigan State: 6.4 yards-per-pass attempt, 17 TD’s, 7 interceptions thrown

Washington State is interception prone because of all those passes. That’s often the tie-breaker (for the worse) in big games vs. top opponents. Miscues come against top defenses. For Sparty, while the offense is more balanced than advertised…it’s still a conservative air attack that has trouble producing volume. That’s only 17 TD passes in 12 games. Unsurprisingly, an edge to Wazzou in the air.  

Pass Defense 
Washington State: 6.1 yppa allowed; 8 TD’s allowed, 14 interceptions
Michigan State: 6.3 yppa allowed; 13 TD’s allowed, 13 interceptions

More evidence of WSU’s great defense. Only eight TD passes allowed all season?! In the Pac 12? You don’t see many TD/INT ratios in this sport where touchdowns are the lower of the two numbers. Both were excellent against the pass, which is why this Over/Under is only in the 40’s.  

Impact Defense 
Washington State: 29% third down pct-allowed, 27 takeaways, 36 sacks
Michigan State: 22% third down pct-allowed, 21 takeaways, 28 sacks

Considering the differing pace of play for these two teams, those are similar takeaway and sack impacts. Michigan State was superior at getting stops. Wazzou probably holds a slight edge head-to-head in the ability to make impact plays. It’s dangerous to handicap this game based on old perceptions. Washington State is much more “for real” this season than Mike Leach teams have been in the past. Will that be enough to get a win? The market is showing skepticism in the hours before kickoff. 

If both show up at their best, this is going to be a defensive struggle. If either defense doesn’t bring peak intensity, the opposing offense is capable of making them pay. Worth noting too, this result might provide hints for other Big 10 battles Ohio State/USC and Penn State/Washington coming up. Purdue/Arizona went down to the wire Wednesday night, though the Boilermakers of the Big 10 won total yardage 555-431. 

NBA: Updated estimate of “market” Power Ratings
On Thursday’s we update our estimated NBA “market” Power Ratings. As always, a quick disclaimer that NBA estimates are looser than in the NFL because of injuries to starters or unique schedule dynamics. We use a standard home court value of three points, then make a good faith effort at expressing how “the market” has teams rated on a scale you can use to project future point spreads.  

87: Golden State (Curry out), Houston
84: Cleveland, Toronto, Oklahoma City
83: Boston, San Antonio
82: Minnesota 
81: Milwaukee, Portland
80: Washington, New Orleans, Denver 
79: Philadelphia, Detroit, Indiana, Miami  
78: Charlotte 
77: New York, Dallas, Utah, Memphis  
76: Chicago, LA Clippers
75: Orlando, LA Lakers 
74: Brooklyn, Sacramento
73: Phoenix
72: Atlanta

We’ll spend much more time on the NBA in VSiN City once football winds down. NBA betting interest continues to rise in sync with increased TV ratings. 

That’s it for a busy Thursday report. Back with you Friday to recap all the Thursday bowls, provide a “Market Watch” for Friday’s FIVE postseason matchups, and study stats in the much-anticipated Cotton Bowl featuring Ohio State and USC. 

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