I’ll start this week’s column by looking ahead to the two College Football Playoff semifinals on Saturday.
We have No. 4 Oklahoma against No. 1 LSU in the Peach Bowl. LSU’s explosive offense was directed by Heisman Trophy winning QB Joe Burrow who put up obscene numbers this season completing 77.9 percent of his passes with a 48-6 TD-INT ratio.
The LSU defense got much better late in the season holding their final two opponents Texas A&M and Georgia in the SEC title game to 17 points combined.
Oklahoma enters this game as two-touchdown underdogs. The Sooners will be shorthanded due to suspensions with the biggest one being their top pass rusher and starting DE Ronnie Perkins, which is extremely bad news against this electrifying LSU offense.
Oklahoma will look to make amends for a 45-34 loss in the semifinals last season against Alabama but it won’t be an easy task. It’s too many points for me to lay with LSU and the total is also a bit too high for me to bet Over the total but both the favorite and the Over would be my leans and preferred ways to bet that game.
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The second semifinal features No. 2 Ohio State vs. No. 3 Clemson in the Fiesta Bowl. Clemson took the early money for this game to become the small favorite. The Tigers surged down the stretch to an 8-0 SU, 7-1 ATS finish to the regular season.
Clemson looked dominant on both sides of the football with QB Trevor Lawrence and the offense scoring 38+ points in each of their last eight games and the defense held foes to 17 or less in each game.
There is a legit argument here that Clemson was a product of a weaker ACC this season and wasn’t tested enough. Ohio State certainly doesn’t fit that category. The Buckeyes had to navigate their way through a tougher and deeper Big Ten conference and did so going undefeated with a winning ATS record of 9-4.
QB Justin Fields had a great first season in Columbus accounting for 50 TD’s while only throwing 1 INT all season while RB J.K.
Dobbins delivered great balance to the offense. Both defenses allowed fewer than 250 total yards per game.
I think the total in this game could be a notch high and I would lean Under. I’m willing to take a shot with Ohio State here as a small underdog but it’s only a small play for me there. It’s not easy going against Dabo Swinney and his phenomenal bowl and playoff track record at Clemson. But I think the value in the point spread now lies with Ohio State as a ‘dog against a Clemson team that feasted on a declined ACC this season.
Here are my top picks for this week’s bowl action:
Quick Lane Bowl — Pittsburgh vs. Eastern Michigan +11.5: It’s been a solid 2-1 SU and ATS start to the bowl season for the MAC and I think this double-digit ‘dog from that conference can make this a game.
EMU will be excited to be in a bowl game and one that is fairly close to home in Detroit. QB Mike Glass threw for over 3,000 passing yards and 22 TD’s.
Pitt’s offense is not the kind of explosive attack I trust laying this kind of number. The Panthers haven’t won a single game by more than 10 points this season.
Pitt is 0-4 SU, 1-3 ATS in their last four bowl games and just 1-6 ATS as double digit favorites under head coach Pat Narduzzi. EASTERN MICHIGAN
Cotton Bowl — Memphis +7 vs. Penn State, Total 60.5: Some mild concern about Memphis with former head coach Mike Norvell leaving for Florida State but I still think the Tigers will be a very enthusiastic about playing in a bigger bowl like the Cotton Bowl.
Memphis’ offense was very explosive once again led by QB Brady White. Penn State’s defense allowed 27+ points in three of their last four games. This is a live dog IMO in a game that should be higher scoring. MEMPHIS & OVER
Redbox Bowl — Illinois +6.5 vs. California: The Pac-12 entered this year’s bowl season 7-17 SU, 4-20 ATS over the last 24 bowl games and here we have a California squad with a very mediocre offense laying nearly a TD.
Illinois had a resurgent season under Lovie Smith going 6-6 SU but 8-4 ATS. The Illini had a solid offense with Michigan transfer QB Brandon Peters leading them. The offense struggled in the last two games but the bowl practices should help them regain some traction while the ball hawking defense got better this season forcing turnovers and playing physical on a regular basis.
Cal has an excellent defense but a shaky offense and I don’t trust them to win this game easily. ILLINOIS
Music City Bowl — Mississippi State vs. Louisville 63.5: I expect both offenses to have success in this game. Mississippi State’s offense had one of their better games in a while to conclude the regular season in their rivalry win against Ole Miss and head coach Joe Moorhead usually crafts a good offensive game plan with extra time to prepare.
They’ll be up against a very leaky Louisville defense which yielded 52, 34 and 45 points in three of their last four games. However, Louisville’s offense should be able to return fire as Scott Satterfield’s team put up 27+ points in four of their last five games. OVER
Last week: 2-2
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