Bowl Games, CFP: Picks & Previews
The meat of the College football bowl season starts Thursday and we have picks for the College Football semifinals as well as the Alamo and Rose bowls.
We’re going to make the two College Football Playoff games very easy. No muss, no fuss, no reason to outthink the room.
Take the Georgia Bulldogs to beat the Ohio State Buckeyes in the Peach Bowl at -6.5. Take the Michigan Wolverines and give the eight points to our old favorites, the TCU Horned Frogs, in the Fiesta Bowl.
Let’s cover the Bulldogs first. Michigan made Georgia coach Kirby Smart’s job easier by illustrating in 3D living color how you neuter C.J. Stroud and the heretofore high-flying Buckeyes’ offense. Do you really think the No. 2 defense in the country, allowing an average of 12.6 points a game doesn’t have an answer for Stroud? Not to mention, the Buckeyes are a hot ATS mess They’re 2-6 ATS in their last eight non-conference games and 1-4 ATS in their last five.
Prediction: Georgia -6.5 over Ohio State (-110 at Caesars)
Watch: Saturday, 8 p.m. ET, ESPN, FuboTV
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Michigan Rolls TCU
As for Michigan, it faces a prolific TCU offense that averaged 40.3 points a game. QB Max Duggan has thrown for 3,321 yards and 30 TDs to go with six rushing scores. But it does so with a defensive squad third in rushing defense, fourth in scoring defense and fifth in passing yards per attempt.
Take this one step further and compare the athletes. Does it make sense that TCU, gritty and resourceful as the Horned Frogs are, has the athletic skill to hang with the deeper, more talented Wolverines over 60 minutes?
Again, the room. Don’t out think it.
Prediction: Michigan -7.5 over TCU (-110 at Golden Nugget)
Watch: Saturday, 4 p.m. ET, ESPN, FuboTV
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Remember the Alamo Bowl Underdog
The game is in San Antonio, 79.6 miles southwest of Austin. And there’s your flaw, brought to you by Google Maps.
There is no livelier underdog in bowl season than the Huskies. Somehow, after this line opened at Texas -3.5, it vaulted to Texas -6 before a flood of takeback money poured in on the Huskies.
With good reason. Nobody outside of Ann Arbor, MI or Athens, GA. was playing better football coming down the stretch than Washington. The Huskies—who have covered three straight games and are 4-1 ATS in their last five non-conference games—ride into San Antonio on a six-game winning streak that includes a sweep of the Oregon schools (both ranked) and a 51-33 poleaxing of rival Washington State Cougars in the Apple Cup. Washington hasn’t lost in nearly three months.
The Huskies are tied for fourth in scoring, averaging nearly 41 points a game. En route to that 10-2 record, Washington has cracked 30 points in 10 of 12 games, scoring 24 and 28 in the other two. And why isn’t hard to figure out.
The “why” is quarterback Michael Penix Jr., who not only doubles as the nation’s second-most prolific passer (4,354 yards, 29 touchdowns, 66% completion rate, 155.0 rating), but as an early 2023 Heisman candidate. He already announced he’s returning to Washington as a sixth-year senior.
The same won’t be said of Texas’ Bijan Robinson, the MVP of the 2020 Alamo Bowl. Robinson, his Doak Walker Award as the nation’s best running back, his 1,560 yards and 18 TDs opted out to prepare for the NFL Draft. And drafting off him in the draft opt-out category are fellow running back Roschon Johnson and linebacker DeMarvio Overshown.
Yes, Texas is a bowl-game juggernaut; the Longhorns are 13-4 this century in bowl games and 4-0 ATS in their last four bowl outings. Yes, Texas is 4-0 ATS against the Pac-12 and 6-2 ATS in their last eight neutral site games. And yes, Texas—like Washington—is 3-0 ATS in non-conference games.
But along with one team’s offensive nuclear option live and the other’s missing, first-year Washington head coach Kalen DeBoer took the Huskies from 4-8 to 10-2. On the coaching front, would you rather stake your stake on DeBoer or well-traveled Texas coach Steve Sarkisian?
We thought so.
Prediction: Washington +3.5 over Texas (-110 at BetRivers)
Watch: Thursday, 9 p.m. ET, ESPN, FuboTV
Utah Utes Are Smelling Like Roses
We’ll admit it, the Rose Bowl Game is our favorite bowl game. From the inevitable 72-degree temperature to the B2 Stealth flyover to the San Gabriel Mountains providing a postcard backdrop that teases blizzard-blitzed Midwesterners and Easterners with a sun-splashed siren call.
Oh, and the game isn’t bad either. Leaving out the 2021 game, which wasn’t played at the iconic Pasadena stadium thanks to the pandemic, the Rose Bowl Game produces some of the best games of the season. The Utah Utes face the Penn State Nittany Lions.
Utah returns as 2.5-point favorites, trying to do what the Utes couldn’t do last year: finish what they started. Utah blew a 14-point lead in last year’s game and Utah coach Kyle Whittingham made it a crusade to not only get back to the Granddaddy of Them All, but to win it.
To do so, QB Cam Rising will have to continue his prime-time escapades, displayed most recently with his 310-yard, three-TD dissection of USC in the Pac-12 title game. No better source than Whittingham said Rising (2,939 yards, 25 TDs) is the Utes weathervane: as he goes, so go the Utes.
Awaiting him and the Utes, who won six of its last seven games, but are minus RB Tavian Thomas and TE Dalton Kincaid, is a Penn State team missing its top defensive player: cornerback Joey Porter Jr. It’s also a Penn State team that is 10-0 against unranked teams—and 0-2 against its two ranked Big-10 nemeses: Michigan and Ohio State.
The Nittany Lions are underrated defensively, with 95 tackles for loss. They are 7-3 ATS this year. And they do have underrated sixth-year QB Sean Clifford, who is the program’s career yardage leader and touchdown leader.
But as resourceful as a Penn State team that comes in 6-0 ATS is, the Nittany Lions aren’t as good as the Ohio State team that overcame that 14-point deficit. Give the points, enjoy Pasadena’s pleasantries and fasten your seat belts for another wild, entertaining game.
Prediction: Utah -2.5 over Penn State (-110 at BetMGM)
Watch: Monday, 5 p.m. ET, ESPN, FuboTV
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