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Boise State a safe bet to pass test

If he lined up against the UNLV defense every week, Colin Kaepernick, UNR’s Ostrich-legged quarterback, would be high stepping his way to the Heisman Trophy. He’s not that lucky.

Kaepernick gets to humiliate the Rebels only once a year. The 6-foot-6-inch junior will play in a much bigger game tonight — probably the biggest of his career — when the Wolf Pack look to spoil Boise State’s shot at the Bowl Championship Series.

UNR has won eight straight games since starting 0-3. It has three 1,000-yard rushers in Kaepernick, Luke Lippincott and Vai Taua. It has a coach, Chris Ault, who makes Joe Paterno look like a young pup.

The Wolf Pack also have a puncher’s chance at upsetting the Broncos, who are favored by 131/2 to 14 points on their blue turf.

But for a variety of reasons, Vegas Sports Authority handicapper Jim Kruger recommends betting on Boise State, a business decision that pays off far more often than not.

“Where Boise holds an advantage over UNR is in the passing game,” Kruger said, referring to Broncos quarterback Kellen Moore and the Wolf Pack’s leaky secondary.

Moore, a sophomore left-hander, has posted mind-boggling numbers. He ranks No. 1 in the nation in passing efficiency, having thrown for 33 touchdowns with three interceptions. UNR ranks 119th in the nation in pass defense.

The Wolf Pack’s running attack might make the Boise State-BCS debate a moot point. Kruger’s counterpoint: The Broncos’ defense is sturdy against the run, allowing an average of 115 yards per game, 29th best in the nation, and it held up extremely well in a season-opening victory over Oregon.

Kruger’s case for Boise State is supported by what he calls a “very amazing record.” If the Broncos are not laying more than 22 points at home in Western Athletic Conference play, they are 15-1 against the spread (ATS).

Boise State, 11-0 straight up and 8-2 ATS this season, finds ways to exceed high expectations and cover inflated point spreads.

Moore is a Peyton Manning-like 23-1 as the Broncos’ starter, the lone loss a 17-16 setback to Texas Christian in last season’s Poinsettia Bowl.

It’s a shame college football boils down to such a BCS-induced circus of opinions and speculation. The Alabama-Florida winner obviously deserves a title shot, as does Texas. But Boise State, TCU and Cincinnati could be better teams, and we might never know.

Kaepernick has the legs to carry UNR to the upset. But this is when Boise State typically plays the bully and wins by blowout.

“This is really the last shot for the Broncos to move up in the BCS standings,” Kruger said. “(UNR) has dropped nine straight in this series. Boise’s passing attack and the blue turf will prove too much for the Wolf Pack.”

The Gold Sheet handicapper Bruce Marshall won the Las Vegas Review-Journal College Challenge with a 48-36 record. Marshall’s recommended plays today are Buffalo (-3) over Kent State, Tulsa (-16) over Memphis and Wyoming (+3) over Colorado State.

The Cowboys, 5-6 straight up and 7-3 ATS, can gain bowl eligibility with another strong performance from freshman quarterback Austyn Carta-Samuels, who also had a big day against the UNLV defense.

“Perhaps enduring hostilities versus a disliked border rival will bring out the best in Colorado State,” Marshall said. “But I’m not sure what that means these days after the free-falling Rams, who have lost their last eight, plumbed new depths of ineptitude in last week’s loss at New Mexico.”

UNPOPULAR FOOTBALL LEAGUE — The United Football League Championship Game kicks off at noon today at Sam Boyd Stadium. The Florida Tuskers are 3-point favorites over the Las Vegas Locomotives.

Las Vegas Hilton sports book director Jay Kornegay said the UFL handle has been “very minimal” with the games averaging about only 20 betting tickets.

“It really hasn’t received too much attention from the media, and that has hurt the interest. The UFL competing against all the other popular betting sports has also hurt the handle,” Kornegay said. “I do believe the more years it survives, the more interest it will get at the betting windows.”

CLOSING NUMBERS — I posted another mediocre 3-3 last week. Here are six college football plays for Saturday (home team in CAPS):

Clemson (-3) over SOUTH CAROLINA; OKLAHOMA (-8) over Oklahoma State; Georgia (+8) over GEORGIA TECH; Arizona (-3) over ARIZONA STATE; San Diego State (+61/2) over UNLV; Navy (-9) over HAWAII.

Contact sports betting columnist and reporter Matt Youmans at myoumans@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2907.

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