20* Nevada/Southern Miss Hawaii Bowl BEST BET on Nevada +9
Nevada vs. Southern Miss,
12/24/2011 20:00 EDT,
Score: 17 - 24
Point Spread: +9/-107 Nevada
One of college football's most stunning upsets came when Southern Mississippi (11-2) handed then-No. 7 Houston its first loss, 49-28 on Dec. 3 in the C-USA championship. The school-record 11th victory for the Golden Eagles cost the Cougars a chance at a BCS berth. After such a big win, the season will be considered a success for USM no matter how they do in this bowl game.
I see USM being the less-motivated team coming into this game considering what happened at the end of the year. "It's unfortunate that we didn't get to go to the Liberty Bowl," Quarterback Austin Davis said. "Obviously, being conference champs, that's the No. 1 bowl that Conference USA wants to send their champion team to." This quote just shows how disappointed this team is to be playing in the Hawaii Bowl.
Southern Mississippi will be playing for the final time under Larry Fedora, the coach who was hired to take over at North Carolina on Dec. 9. Fedora was adamant about coaching the Golden Eagles in Hawaii. This is also a huge distraction, and players may not be as motivated to play for Fedora knowing he's leaving for UNC next year.
Nevada ranks second in the Western Athletic Conference in total defense, yielding 372.0 yards per game. The Wolf Pack are also second in the WAC in passing defense (226.6) and interceptions (15). Nevada defensive tackle Brett Roy led the WAC in sacks (10.0) and tackles for losses (18.5). "I feel like since I'm a senior and it's on a large stage against a ranked opponent, it's paramount to where we want to take our program," Roy said.
Nevada quarterback Cody Fajardo owns nation's eighth-best completion percentage at 71.4 while throwing six touchdowns and running for 11 as he blossomed into a capable replacement for Colin Kaepernick, a San Francisco 49ers' second-round draft pick this year.
The Wolf Pack are 4-0 ATS in their last 4 non-conference games. The Golden Eagles are 0-4 ATS in their last 4 vs. WAC. Nevada is one of the more underrated teams in the country. That will show on the field today in a game that I expect them not only to cover, but to win outright. Take the Wolf Pack Saturday.