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Humanitarian Bowl Preview
by Matt Fargo - 12/27/2008
The Betting Numbers
This line has stayed pretty stable since Nevada opened as a one-point favorite. There has been some recent movement but that has been just a half-point in the Terrapins favor as they are getting 1.5-points in most places. However, doing some shopping will get you two points and there probably isnâ€™t going to be much more movement in this one. The total opened between 57 and 58 and is also holding pretty steady with a couple rare 58.5â€™s available. Like most games, this total will rise once we get closer to gametime.
This is the first ever meeting between Nevada and Maryland.
It was a roller coaster season for Nevada who started the FBS slate with back-to-back losses against Texas Tech and Missouri before posting consecutive road wins against UNLV and Idaho. The Wolf Pack closed out the season going 4-3 and it really could have been better as those three setbacks were by an average of just 5.7 ppg. The four victories meanwhile came by 17 ppg. Nevada finished in a tie with Hawaii and Louisiana Tech for second place in the WAC, all of whom finished three games behind Boise St. This is Nevadaâ€™s seventh trip to a bowl game and fourth straight which is a school record.
Maryland had an up and down season as well but it was mostly down toward the end. After a tough loss against SBC team Middle Tennessee, the Terrapins woke up with five wins in their next six games but people are still scratching their heads as that one loss was a 31-0 drubbing in Virginia. The streak didnâ€™t provide much momentum however as Maryland closed the season with losses in three of its final four games although all four did come against teams that are also in bowls. This will be Marylandâ€™s 23rd bowl game and third straight after taking a two-year hiatus in 2004 and 2005.
Against the Numbers
This was the second straight losing season for the Wolf Pack against the number as they went 5-6 ATS. That does include a 1-3 ATS mark as an underdog sop when laying points, as they are here, they went a profitable 4-3 ATS. However, two of those wins were when they were laying over three touchdowns. A strong offense and a below average defense kept â€˜overâ€™ backers happy as Nevada surpassed the number in seven of its 11 lined games. Even stronger is that it went 4-0 â€˜overâ€™ with totals of 61 or less.
Maryland burned a hole in the wallets of its backers for a second straight year as it also went 5-6 against the number. The Terrapins started strong by going 3-1 ATS in their first four games but laid eggs in five of their final seven. It could have been worse as one of those late ATS wins covered by just four points. The Terrapins were just the opposite of Nevada as far as totals as seven of their 11 games finished â€˜underâ€™. This includes six of the final eight games and Maryland has not seen a total higher than 54 all year.
When you talk about Nevada, you talk about offense. The Wolf Pack finished the regular season averaging 510.6 ypg which was 5th in the country. The main reason for the success was a rushing offense that finished second in the nation behind Navy. It is a two-pronged attack with tailback Vai Taua and quarterback Colin Kaepernick who named the WAC Offensive Player of the Year. They will be facing a defense that struggled this season as Maryland finished 60th in total defense but a more respectable 37th in scoring defense.
The Terrapins were 76th in total offense and a very below average 100th in scoring offense, averaging just 20.1 ppg. Maryland was held to 17 points or fewer six times and one of those was against FBS team Delaware. Nevada finished dead last in the country in passing defense, allowing 321.1 ypg which was the worst by a wide margin. The Wolf Pack made up for it with the 3rd ranked rushing defense but that success was due to teams not needing to run as they saw the third fewest rushing attempts.
This is the second Humanitarian Bowl appearance for Nevada in the last three years. It lost to Miami 21-20 but covered as four-point dogs. Even though the Wolf Pack have experience playing in this stadium, they have never won on the blue carpet, going 0-6 (2-4 ATS L5 as dogs). Maryland has allowed an average of only 9.5 ppg in its last four bowl games and facing this type of rushing team has not been a problem in the past as it is 10-1 ATS against foes averaging 200 or more ypg rushing over the last nine years.