One of the more unusual aspects of Sunday's Super Bowl is that neither starting quarterback has played in the game before. For Baltimore's Joe Flacco and Colin Kaepernick of San Francisco this is the first time that they have been exposed to the hype and worldwide media scrutiny that the final game of the NFL season always attracts.
It is the first time in five years that the game has seen both teams' quarterback making their debut, and only the 16th time overall that it has happened. That figure, of course, includes the very first Super Bowl of all, but to emphasise how unusual it is, it doesn't include the second game, where Bart Starr of the Green Bay Packers made his second straight appearance.
Looking back at the performances of those debutant quarterbacks gives us a fair idea of how Flacco and Kaepernick might perform in the big game. For example, neither is likely to have the bad day at the office that Rich Gannon of the Oakland Raiders had in Super Bowl XXXVII, when he was intercepted for a record five times during the game, three of which were returned for touchdowns. Only four other debutant quarterbacks have ever thrown even one 'pick six' in a game. Similarly, neither is likely to emulate the performance of New England's Tony Eason in Super Bowl XX - also held in the Louisiana Superdome - who failed to complete a single pass and who was hauled out of the game before half time.
Probably the closest debutant to Kaepernick was Pittsburgh's Ben Roethlisberger back in Super Bowl XL. Both are big men with strong arms and although Kaepernick is much more mobile, Big Ben still managed to join the very small number of debutant quarterbacks (five of them in fact) who have rushed for a touchdown. On the other hand, though, Roethlisberger only completed 9 of 21 pass attempts in that game and had two interceptions, whilst the only touchdown thrown by the Steelers was by wide receiver Antwan Randle El. That suggests that although the favourite first scoring play is a San Francisco touchdown, a Baltimore touchdown at 4.1 is the better bet.
Finding a comparator for Flacco is harder, because his inconsistent play makes him hard to rank among the very best. With that in mind, it might pay to consider the efforts of another unpredictable quarterback, Eli Manning.
Playing in Super Bowl XLII Manning completed 19 of 34 passes for 255 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. More importantly, he ended up on the winning side and stopped New England recording an unbeaten season in the process. Baltimore have, arguably, a weaker receiving corps than the Giants did on that day, but indoors in the Superdome it is easy to see Flacco putting up similar numbers and gaining an identical result. A Baltimore win can be backed at 2.68/5.
One area where having two debutants running the offenses does seem to make a difference is in the total number of points scored. If we take the last six occasions that this has occurred - which takes us back to Super Bowl XXXI and Brett Favre's first game, coincidentally also in the Superdome - then the average number of points scored in those games is 44.83. In all Super Bowls over that period the average number of points is 49.69, a difference of almost five points. However, the average number of points scored in games in the Super Dome recently has been 59.44 in 2011 and 56.50 this season. That makes the 2.186/5 on offer for a score of more than 48.5 points in this game still look very attractive.
Back a score of more than 48.5 points in the Super Bowl at odds of 2.186/5