2011 Hawaii Bowl Nevada vs. Southern Miss Odds, Free Picks and Predictions – Christmas Eve on ESPN

Free College Football Bowl Picks and Spreads: Nevada Wolfpack vs Southern Miss Golden Eagles 2011 Hawaii Bowl VegasOdds, Free Picks, and Expert Predictions on ESPN Christmas Eve 12/24/11: When the 21st-ranked Southern Miss Golden Eagles (11-2) last took the field, they knocked off the then-undefeated Houston Cougars to win the Conference USA title. While spoiling the Cougars’ BCS bid didn’t land the Golden Eagles an at-large bid of their own, it did earn them a spot in Saturday’s Sheraton Hawaii Bowl where they will face the Nevada Wolf Pack (7-5). Nevada knows all about playing the role of spoiler after dooming Boise State’s BCS chances last season, and with the Wolf Pack eight-point underdogs in this one, the team will try to play the role of spoiler again.

For football fans that enjoy watching explosive plays in the run game, this game should more than satisfy. Both sides rank in the top 25 in terms of rush yards per game, averaging more than 200 yards a contest. At more than 250 yards per game on the ground, Nevada and its pistol attack actually rank in the top 10 as well as in the top five in terms of total yards. While the Wolf Pack averages more yards on offense, the Southern Miss offense scores more points. The Golden Eagles rank in the top 15 in the country, putting up 37.8 a game compared to 32.9 by Nevada. That being said, both offenses are potent, and a high-scoring game is a definite possibility.

Nevada’s pistol attack prevents one player from piling up a majority of the numbers, but the Wolf Pack did have two backs top 700 rushing yards while averaging more than five yards per carry. In addition, quarterback Cody Fajardo is a dual-threat player that adds to the ground attack’s versatility. He is also a solid enough passer to keep opposing defenses honest, completing more than 71 percent of his passes for the season. The Golden Eagles’ defense will certainly be tested by the unique Nevada offense, but the unit has been stout throughout the year, giving up just 21.1 points per game. If Southern Miss can hold the Wolf Pack ground game in check, Nevada will be in trouble.

On offense, the Golden Eagles are led by record-setting quarterback Austin Davis. The senior has broken almost all of Brett Favre’s school records, and this season, he threw 28 touchdown passes. Davis is also athletic enough to make plays with his legs, and he has been at his best in the team’s biggest games. Against Houston, Davis threw four touchdowns, and he threw for three touchdowns in a road win against Virginia. He is the top playmaker on the field in this matchup, and he will test a Nevada defense that ranked among the best in the WAC.

An X-factor could be Wolf Pack receiver Rishard Matthews. Despite Nevada being a run-first offense, Matthews put up huge numbers this season. He enters the bowl game with 91 catches for more than 1,300 yards and eight touchdowns. Matthews is the top deep threat for the Nevada offense, and if the Southern Miss defense focuses on shutting down the ground game, he will have to make big plays in the passing game. He has the skills to do just that.

In the end, the Golden Eagles’ balance on offense and defense should give them the edge. In the five games Nevada has lost, they have scored 20 points or less four times. Southern Miss has a defense that has already kept Case Keenum and the Houston scoring machine in check, and Davis and the offense haven’t scored less than 27 points since mid-September. Southern Miss feels slighted by their bowl destination, and the Golden Eagles will be looking to make a serious statement that they belonged in the Liberty Bowl.

Prediction: Southern Miss Golden Eagles (-9) Cover the Spread

Free College Football Picks and NCAAF Predictions: So Miss -9 to cover the spread

Poinsettia Bowl: Nevada @ So Miss
Date: 12/24/11
Time: 8:00 PM EST on ESPN
Vegas Odds Favorite: So Miss -9 Total: Over/Under 63

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