Nevada Wolf Pack (8-4) 7-5 ATS, 6-6 O/U vs. SMU Mustangs (7-5) 6-5 ATS, 5-5-1 O/U 8:00 p.m. EST TV: ESPN December 24, 2009 Aloha Stadium, Honolulu, HI Sheraton Hawaii Bowl
By Wilson of Predictem.com
Point Spread: Nevada -15/SMU +15
SMU is playing in its first bowl game since 1984! Wow, the Mustangs must be excited to end the 25-year bowl drought. The Stangs will go up against a loaded Nevada Wolf Pack team that actually run like a pack of crazed wolves as they have three 1000 yard rushers on the squad.
Nevada comes into this Hawaii Bowl as the nations top rushing team. SMU head coach, June Jones will make his first return trip to the middle of the Pacific after he left the University of Hawaii two years ago for the SMU coaching position. Nevada finished 7-1 in their conference while SMU went 6-2. This bowl game could be a classic matchup but will the Mustangs be able to contain the running game of the Wolf Pack? Maybe the 80 degree temperatures of the islands will help both sides warm up and deliver the fans a Christmas Eve classic.
The Wolf Pack enters this game averaging 40.6 points per game which is one of the top scoring averages in the country. The Pack average an outstanding 362 yards (1st) rushing per game, which is also number one in the nation. Nevada averages 167 yards passing (108th). The Wolf Pack is 2nd in the nation in total yards with 521 yards per game. The only category on paper that brings SMU within striking distance of the Pack is their passing game. The Mustangs are 27th in passing with 283 yards per game. Nevada is clearly the better team on paper but a bowl game is different than any other game and anything can happen.
The QB matchup favors Nevadas Colin Kaepernick but not by a huge margin. Kaepernick has a 59 percent completion rate with 1,875 yards passing, 19 touchdowns and 5 interceptions. SMUs Bo Levi Mitchell comes into this game with a 56 percent completion rate, 1,725 yards passing, 12 TDs and 10 INTs.
The leading rusher for Nevada is a toss-up between running back Via Taua and QB Kaepernick. Taua has 172 carries for 1,345 yards and 10 touchdowns on the season. He averages 7.8 yards per carry. Kaepernick has 148 carries for 1,160 yards and 16 TDs. Kaepernick also gains 7.8 yards per touch. SMUs Shawnbrey McNeal is also a 1000-yard rusher with 1,125 yards on the season. McNeal averages 5 yards per carry. But the rushing attack of the Wolf Pack is more dangerous because of QB Kaepernicks flight of feet. Meanwhile, The Mustangs will count on their passing game to keep them in contention. SMUs leading receiver is Emmanuel Sanders who has 91 receptions, 1,215 yards and 6 TDs. Sanders averages 13.4 yards per pass play.
The line on this bowl game opened at Nevada -13 with a total of 73. Most online casinos and offshore sportsbooks are showing the Wolf Pack -15 with the O/U at 73.5. Wow, I have a tough time taking the over in this game as I dont anticipate a complete defensive collapse on either side. The Las Vegas gurus at the Las Vegas Hilton Sports Book are showing Nevada -15.5 with a total of 74.5.
SMU won the last meeting between these two squads in 2004 38-20. Nevada is 8-2 SU in their last 10 games. SMU is 5-5 SU in their last 10 contests. SMU is 6-5 ATS vs. the closing line in their last 11 games. Nevada is 7-5 ATS vs. the closing line in their last 12 games. The Mustangs are 5-5-1 O/U vs. the closing line in their last 11 games, while the Wolf Pack is 6-6 O/U vs. the closing line in their last 12 games.
Wilsons Pick: Nevada 41, SMU 24. I like the under. Luck to ya.