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Thread: NCAAF Trends and Indexes - Bowl Season (Sat., Dec. 15 - Mon., Jan. 7)

  1. #31
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    Orange Bowl Preview
    Brian Edwards

    Alabama and Oklahoma are poised to collide in Saturday’s Orange Bowl at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami. This College Football Playoff semifinal pits the SEC champs vs. the Big 12 champs.

    As of late Friday afternoon, most books had Alabama (13-0 straight up, 8-5 against the spread) installed as a 14-point favorite with a total of 77 or 77.5. The Sooners were +425 on the money line (risk $100 to win $425).

    For first-half wagers, the Crimson Tide was favored by 7.5 points with a total of 39. OU had +310 odds to be leading at intermission. Nick Saban’s team went 10-0 ATS in the first half to start the season, but it has failed to cover the number in the first half of each of its last three contests.

    Alabama won its first 12 games by 22 points or more, marking the first time in more than a century that a college football team had been so dominant. However, Saban’s team was pushed to the limit by Georgia – again – in the SEC Championship Game at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta on Dec. 1.

    Alabama trailed by double digits twice (21-7 and 28-14) and was tied or in catch-up mode for nearly 59 minutes. In fact, the Tide has been tied or trailed against UGA more than 118 minutes out of 120 played (plus overtime) in the last two head-to-head meetings. Of course, Alabama rallied to force overtime and eventually won a 26-23 decision over the Bulldogs in the finals of last year’s CFP.

    Trailing 28-21 with a little more than 11 minutes left, Heisman Trophy runner-up Tua Tagovailoa went down with a foot injury and limped off the field needing assistance from the medical staff. In the blink of an eye, it was a complete reversal of roles for Tagovailoa and Jalen Hurts.

    Hurts led Alabama to a 26-2 record in 28 starts as a freshman and sophomore in 2016 and ’17. With his team down 13-0 at halftime to UGA in last year’s slugfest, Tagovailoa was called on to replace Hurts in the second half. We all know how that worked out.

    I had sensed all year long, especially after Tagovailoa injured his knee late in a win at Arkansas, that Hurts would be called upon at some point during the season. But not necessarily at the same venue and against the same team when his career fortunes had taken a turn for the worse 11 months before.

    Given the opportunity, Hurts took advantage and then some. He promptly guided the Tide to a game-tying TD drive that covered 16 plays, 80 yards and more than seven minutes of clock. Hurts capped the drive by hitting Jerry Jeudy with a 10-yard scoring strike.

    After Kirby Smart lost his sanity and called a fake punt on fourth and 11 from around midfield with about three minutes left, Alabama took over with great field position. Hurts took his team down the field and gave it the lead for the first time on a 15-yard TD drive with 1:04 remaining.

    Saban’s defense would shut the door on UGA and Alabama won a 35-28 decision to remain undefeated. The Bulldogs still took the cash as 11-point underdogs and the 63 points resulted in a push for wagers on the total.

    Hurts completed 7-of-9 passes for 82 yards and one TD without an interception. The junior signal caller rushed for 28 yards and one score on five attempts. Tagovailoa had struggled the entire game, connecting on just 10-of-25 throws for 164 yards and one TD with a pair of interceptions. Josh Jacobs ran for 83 yards and two TDs on eight carries.

    Tagovailoa indicated earlier this week that he was about 80-85 percent healthy. He underwent surgery on his ankle shorty after the win over UGA. The expectation is that he’ll start vs. OU, but how effective and comfortable he’ll be remains to be seen.

    Tagovailoa has completed 67.7 percent of his passes for 3,353 yards with a 37/4 touchdown-to-interception ratio. When healthy, he’s a threat with his legs, as he’s run for 190 yards and five TDs with a 4.0 yards-per-carry average.

    Hurts has completed 50-of-67 throws (74.6%) for 755 yards with an 8/2 TD-INT ratio. He’s rushed for 167 yards and two TDs while averaging 4.9 YPC.

    Alabama is facing an Oklahoma defense that’s ranked dead last out of 130 FBS teams in pass defense, giving up 291.4 yards per game through the air. The Sooners are ranked No. 108 in the nation total defense, No. 54 versus the run and No. 96 in scoring ‘D’ (32.4 points per game).

    The Tide is ranked fifth in the country in total offense, seventh in passing yards, 35th in rushing yards and second in scoring with its 47.9 PPG average. Alabama’s ground attack features a trio of outstanding RBs.

    Damien Harris has run for 771 yards, seven TDs and averages 6.1 YPC. Najee Harris has 679 rushing yards, four TDs and a 6.7 YPC average, while Jacobs has run for 495 yards and 11 TDs with a 5.3 YPC average. Jacobs, who is also a standout on special teams, has 15 catches for 171 yards and two TDs.

    Jeudy enjoyed a breakout campaign, catching 59 balls for 1,103 yards and 12 TDs. Jaylen Waddle has 41 receptions for 803 yards and seven TDs, while Henry Ruggs III has 42 grabs for 724 yards and 10 TDs. Irv Smith Jr. has 38 receptions for 648 yards and seven TDs, and Devonta Smith has 30 catches for 524 yards and five TDs.

    Like Clemson, Alabama has three players suspended for the CFP semifinals. The most important of those is starting OG Deonte Brown.

    Oklahoma (12-1 SU, 5-7-1 ATS) won its first five games, winning four times by double-digit margins. Lincoln Riley’s squad needed overtime to get past Army in a 28-21 win as a 30-point home ‘chalk,’ however. The Sooners took their only loss of the year by a 48-45 count vs. Texas on Oct. 6.

    Since then, OU has ripped off seven straight victories, although we’ll note its 1-3-1 spread record in its past five outings. The Sooners won three one-possession games down the stretch, capturing a 51-46 triumph at Texas Tech a week before beating Oklahoma State 48-47 in Norman. In the regular-season finale at West Virginia on a short week (Friday game), they won 59-56 over the Mountaineers.

    To get the fourth seed in the CFP just ahead of No. 5 Ohio State, Oklahoma faced a revenge game against the Longhorns in the Big 12 Championship Game. This time around, the Sooners got even and covered the spread in a 39-27 victory as 9.5-point favorites.

    Junior QB Kyler Murray, the Heisman Trophy winner who beat out Tagovailoa for the award, completed 25-of-34 passes for 379 yards and three TDs without an interception. CeeDee Lamb had six receptions for 167 yards and one TD. Marquise ‘Hollywood’ Brown had five catches for 54 yards before suffering a foot injury.

    For the season, Murray has connected on 70.9 percent of his passes for 4,053 yards with a 40/7 TD-INT ratio. Murray has run for 892 yards and 11 TDs with a 7.3 YPC average. He has Michael-Vick-like quickness and can not only elude pass rushers and scramble for positive yardage, but he can also keep plays alive hit streaking WRs. Obviously, he’ll be facing the toughest defense he’s seen, but pressure on the QB doesn’t necessarily translate to sacks when dealing with Murray.

    Brown, who was upgraded to ‘probable’ Friday morning, has 75 receptions for 1,318 yards and 10 TDs. Lamb has caught 57 balls for 1,049 yards and 10 TDs, while Lee Morris has 21 grabs for 457 yards and eight TDs. Grant Calcaterra has 25 receptions for 378 yards and six TDs.

    When star RB Rodney Anderson went down with a season-ending injury in Week 1, there was concern about depth at the position for OU. Those concerns were quickly alleviated by the emergence of redshirt freshman RB Kennedy Brooks, who has run for 1,021 yards and 12 TDs with a 9.0 YPC average. Trey Sermon has run for 928 yards and 12 TDs while averaging 6.0 YPC.

    This is only the fourth underdog situation for the Sooners since Riley took over for Bob Stoops. They were ‘dogs three times last year, going 2-1 both SU and ATS. OU won outright by a 31-16 count at Ohio State as a seven-point puppy and captured a 62-52 win at Oklahoma State while catching 2.5 points. The loss came to Georgia in the epic Rose Bowl thriller won by the Bulldogs 54-48 in double overtime.

    Oklahoma hasn’t been a double-digit underdog since thumping Alabama 45-31 as a 15-point ‘dog in the 2013 Sugar Bowl.

    The ‘over’ has hit at an 8-4-1 clip for Alabama, which has seen its games average combined scores of 62.8 PPG.

    The ‘over’ is 11-2 overall for the Sooners, who have watched their games average combined scores of 81.8 PPG.

    Kickoff is scheduled for 8:00 p.m. Eastern on ESPN.

  2. #32
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    Orange Bowl Preview
    December 28, 2018
    By Brian Edwards


    Cotton Bowl Preview

    Alabama and Oklahoma are poised to collide in Saturday’s Orange Bowl at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami. This College Football Playoff semifinal pits the SEC champs vs. the Big 12 champs.

    As of late Friday afternoon, most books had Alabama (13-0 straight up, 8-5 against the spread) installed as a 14-point favorite with a total of 77 or 77.5. The Sooners were +425 on the money line (risk $100 to win $425).

    For first-half wagers, the Crimson Tide was favored by 7.5 points with a total of 39. OU had +310 odds to be leading at intermission. Nick Saban’s team went 10-0 ATS in the first half to start the season, but it has failed to cover the number in the first half of each of its last three contests.

    Alabama won its first 12 games by 22 points or more, marking the first time in more than a century that a college football team had been so dominant. However, Saban’s team was pushed to the limit by Georgia – again – in the SEC Championship Game at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta on Dec. 1.

    Alabama trailed by double digits twice (21-7 and 28-14) and was tied or in catch-up mode for nearly 59 minutes. In fact, the Tide has been tied or trailed against UGA more than 118 minutes out of 120 played (plus overtime) in the last two head-to-head meetings. Of course, Alabama rallied to force overtime and eventually won a 26-23 decision over the Bulldogs in the finals of last year’s CFP.

    Trailing 28-21 with a little more than 11 minutes left, Heisman Trophy runner-up Tua Tagovailoa went down with a foot injury and limped off the field needing assistance from the medical staff. In the blink of an eye, it was a complete reversal of roles for Tagovailoa and Jalen Hurts.

    Hurts led Alabama to a 26-2 record in 28 starts as a freshman and sophomore in 2016 and ’17. With his team down 13-0 at halftime to UGA in last year’s slugfest, Tagovailoa was called on to replace Hurts in the second half. We all know how that worked out.

    I had sensed all year long, especially after Tagovailoa injured his knee late in a win at Arkansas, that Hurts would be called upon at some point during the season. But not necessarily at the same venue and against the same team when his career fortunes had taken a turn for the worse 11 months before.

    Given the opportunity, Hurts took advantage and then some. He promptly guided the Tide to a game-tying TD drive that covered 16 plays, 80 yards and more than seven minutes of clock. Hurts capped the drive by hitting Jerry Jeudy with a 10-yard scoring strike.

    After Kirby Smart lost his sanity and called a fake punt on fourth and 11 from around midfield with about three minutes left, Alabama took over with great field position. Hurts took his team down the field and gave it the lead for the first time on a 15-yard TD drive with 1:04 remaining.

    Saban’s defense would shut the door on UGA and Alabama won a 35-28 decision to remain undefeated. The Bulldogs still took the cash as 11-point underdogs and the 63 points resulted in a push for wagers on the total.

    Hurts completed 7-of-9 passes for 82 yards and one TD without an interception. The junior signal caller rushed for 28 yards and one score on five attempts. Tagovailoa had struggled the entire game, connecting on just 10-of-25 throws for 164 yards and one TD with a pair of interceptions. Josh Jacobs ran for 83 yards and two TDs on eight carries.

    Tagovailoa indicated earlier this week that he was about 80-85 percent healthy. He underwent surgery on his ankle shorty after the win over UGA. The expectation is that he’ll start vs. OU, but how effective and comfortable he’ll be remains to be seen.

    Tagovailoa has completed 67.7 percent of his passes for 3,353 yards with a 37/4 touchdown-to-interception ratio. When healthy, he’s a threat with his legs, as he’s run for 190 yards and five TDs with a 4.0 yards-per-carry average.

    Hurts has completed 50-of-67 throws (74.6%) for 755 yards with an 8/2 TD-INT ratio. He’s rushed for 167 yards and two TDs while averaging 4.9 YPC.

    Alabama is facing an Oklahoma defense that’s ranked dead last out of 130 FBS teams in pass defense, giving up 291.4 yards per game through the air. The Sooners are ranked No. 108 in the nation total defense, No. 54 versus the run and No. 96 in scoring ‘D’ (32.4 points per game).

    The Tide is ranked fifth in the country in total offense, seventh in passing yards, 35th in rushing yards and second in scoring with its 47.9 PPG average. Alabama’s ground attack features a trio of outstanding RBs.

    Damien Harris has run for 771 yards, seven TDs and averages 6.1 YPC. Najee Harris has 679 rushing yards, four TDs and a 6.7 YPC average, while Jacobs has run for 495 yards and 11 TDs with a 5.3 YPC average. Jacobs, who is also a standout on special teams, has 15 catches for 171 yards and two TDs.

    Jeudy enjoyed a breakout campaign, catching 59 balls for 1,103 yards and 12 TDs. Jaylen Waddle has 41 receptions for 803 yards and seven TDs, while Henry Ruggs III has 42 grabs for 724 yards and 10 TDs. Irv Smith Jr. has 38 receptions for 648 yards and seven TDs, and Devonta Smith has 30 catches for 524 yards and five TDs.

    Like Clemson, Alabama has three players suspended for the CFP semifinals. The most important of those is starting OG Deonte Brown.

    Oklahoma (12-1 SU, 5-7-1 ATS) won its first five games, winning four times by double-digit margins. Lincoln Riley’s squad needed overtime to get past Army in a 28-21 win as a 30-point home ‘chalk,’ however. The Sooners took their only loss of the year by a 48-45 count vs. Texas on Oct. 6.

    Since then, OU has ripped off seven straight victories, although we’ll note its 1-3-1 spread record in its past five outings. The Sooners won three one-possession games down the stretch, capturing a 51-46 triumph at Texas Tech a week before beating Oklahoma State 48-47 in Norman. In the regular-season finale at West Virginia on a short week (Friday game), they won 59-56 over the Mountaineers.

    To get the fourth seed in the CFP just ahead of No. 5 Ohio State, Oklahoma faced a revenge game against the Longhorns in the Big 12 Championship Game. This time around, the Sooners got even and covered the spread in a 39-27 victory as 9.5-point favorites.

    Junior QB Kyler Murray, the Heisman Trophy winner who beat out Tagovailoa for the award, completed 25-of-34 passes for 379 yards and three TDs without an interception. CeeDee Lamb had six receptions for 167 yards and one TD. Marquise ‘Hollywood’ Brown had five catches for 54 yards before suffering a foot injury.

    For the season, Murray has connected on 70.9 percent of his passes for 4,053 yards with a 40/7 TD-INT ratio. Murray has run for 892 yards and 11 TDs with a 7.3 YPC average. He has Michael-Vick-like quickness and can not only elude pass rushers and scramble for positive yardage, but he can also keep plays alive hit streaking WRs. Obviously, he’ll be facing the toughest defense he’s seen, but pressure on the QB doesn’t necessarily translate to sacks when dealing with Murray.

    Brown, who was upgraded to ‘probable’ Friday morning, has 75 receptions for 1,318 yards and 10 TDs. Lamb has caught 57 balls for 1,049 yards and 10 TDs, while Lee Morris has 21 grabs for 457 yards and eight TDs. Grant Calcaterra has 25 receptions for 378 yards and six TDs.

    When star RB Rodney Anderson went down with a season-ending injury in Week 1, there was concern about depth at the position for OU. Those concerns were quickly alleviated by the emergence of redshirt freshman RB Kennedy Brooks, who has run for 1,021 yards and 12 TDs with a 9.0 YPC average. Trey Sermon has run for 928 yards and 12 TDs while averaging 6.0 YPC.

    This is only the fourth underdog situation for the Sooners since Riley took over for Bob Stoops. They were ‘dogs three times last year, going 2-1 both SU and ATS. OU won outright by a 31-16 count at Ohio State as a seven-point puppy and captured a 62-52 win at Oklahoma State while catching 2.5 points. The loss came to Georgia in the epic Rose Bowl thriller won by the Bulldogs 54-48 in double overtime.

    Oklahoma hasn’t been a double-digit underdog since thumping Alabama 45-31 as a 15-point ‘dog in the 2013 Sugar Bowl.

    The ‘over’ has hit at an 8-4-1 clip for Alabama, which has seen its games average combined scores of 62.8 PPG.

    The ‘over’ is 11-2 overall for the Sooners, who have watched their games average combined scores of 81.8 PPG.

    Kickoff is scheduled for 8:00 p.m. Eastern on ESPN.
    Remember the 3 G's Gambling, Golf, Girls not in any particular order.....

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    Monday's Early Bowl Tips
    Joe Nelson

    The College Football Championship is set for next Monday, but the New Year’s Eve Monday schedule features six big games as the bowl season nears its end. Here is a look at the three early day games on Monday’s schedule on the final day of 2018 with the Miltary, Sun, and Red Box Bowl games.

    MILITARY BOWL

    Matchup: Virginia Tech Hokies at Cincinnati Bearcats

    Venue: Navy-Marine Corps Stadium in Annapolis, Maryland
    Time/TV: Monday, December 31, 12:00 PM ET, ESPN
    Line: Cincinnati -6, Over/Under 53½
    Last Meeting: 2014 (Military Bowl) Virginia Tech (+1½) 33, Cincinnati 17

    This is a rematch of the 2014 Military Bowl won by Virginia Tech. The Hokies started the season with great promise winning 24-3 against Florida State to seemingly take a commanding lead in the ACC Coastal, a lead they still held with a 3-0 ACC start even despite suffering non-conference losses to Old Dominion and Notre Dame. Quarterback Josh Jackson was injured in the stunning loss to the Monarchs and the Hokies would wind up losing four consecutive ACC games by double-digits to slip to 4-6. A wild overtime win over rival Virginia kept the season alive and then on championship weekend, the Hokies added a game with Marshall to keep alive a streak of now 26 straight postseason appearances.

    Taking over for a legend in Frank Beamer, Justin Fuente had a great first season in Blacksburg, but this marks a second straight season of decline for the Hokies. His team lost a few key players to off-season incidents and dealing with a quarterback change was certainly a challenge as junior Ryan Willis had mixed results. In an ACC Coastal race that was wide open, finishing in fifth place was a poor showing for the program that always has set a high bar for expectations. The opportunity to close the season with a bowl win could build some momentum for next season when the Coastal race figures to again be wide open.

    Cincinnati had a breakthrough season going 10-2 in Luke Fickell’s second season guiding the program. The Bearcats passed over long-time quarterback Hayden Moore for freshman Desmond Ridder and after an opening upset over UCLA, the Bearcats didn’t look back. Both losses came on the road vs. arguably the top two American Athletic teams and statistically there is massive gap between these squads with Cincinnati out-scoring foes 419-193 on the season while Virginia Tech was out-scored 357-368.

    Cincinnati has out-rushed each of its last eight opponents by more than 100 yards while a Hokies program known for its defensive reputation featured one of the nation’s worst rush defenses, surrendering 207 yards per game on 5.3 yards per carry, a worse per carry average allowed than 120 of the other 129 FBS teams. Cincinnati’s schedule certainly can be called into question however as the only wins over bowl teams this season came vs. Ohio, Tulane, and South Florida and all of those games were at home. The AAC has also had a poor bowl season so far with only Tulane getting a narrow win over Louisiana-Lafayette while Temple, South Florida, Houston, and Memphis have all lost bowl games with the first three teams on that list blown out.

    SUN BOWL

    Matchup: Pittsburgh Panthers vs. Stanford Cardinal

    Venue: Sun Bowl in El Paso, Texas
    Time/TV: Monday, December 31, 2:00 PM ET, CBS
    Line: Stanford -5, Over/Under 52
    Last Meeting: 1932 Pittsburgh (NL) 7, at Stanford 0

    Pittsburgh had an unusual season as they were outscored by 31 points in going 7-6, but they wound up 6-2 in ACC play and won the Coastal title. The Panthers lost badly to Clemson in the ACC Championship but after missing the postseason last year for the first time since 2007, the Panthers are back in a bowl game for the third time in four years under Pat Narduzzi.

    The Panthers were one of the top rushing teams in the nation, set to eclipse 3,000 rushing yards for the season in this game while posting 5.6 yards per carry with both Qadree Ollison and Darrin Hall breaking the 1,000-yard barrier. The passing game was limited behind sophomore Kenny Pickett, but Pittsburgh had a daunting schedule as four of the team’s six losses came against Penn State, and three teams that are a combined 37-0 facing UCF, Notre Dame, and Clemson. Pittsburgh also lost to North Carolina and Miami and the formula for beating the Panthers is clear, stop the running game.

    David Shaw has led a successful run at Stanford but once again the Cardinal failed to rise to the top national stage and for the second straight season the defensive numbers were marginal for a program that has a reputation for quality defense. Stanford was reasonably effective against the run allowing 3.9 yards per carry and 141 yards per game. Stanford’s offense surprisingly did not produce good rushing numbers even with Bryce Love entering the season as a Heisman candidate. Love wound up missing a few games this season and has seen his rushing total drop from 2,118 yards last season to only 739 yards this season and his per carry average nearly halved and he will not be playing in this bowl game.

    With three straight wins to end the season, Stanford wound up 8-4 but hopes were certainly much higher with a 4-0 start that included wins over USC and Oregon. Both of those Pac-12 powers also wound up with down seasons, but the Cardinal had five wins vs. bowl teams and stayed in the Pac-12 race most of the way, losing in close games with Washington and Washington State. Coming off a disastrous 1-8 bowl campaign last season, the Cardinal are a team the Pac-12 is counting on for win as nearly a touchdown favorite in El Paso. The early returns for the conference haven’t been great with Arizona State and California losing while Washington State had a very narrow win while being severely out-gained, though that win does ensure that the conference will improve its bowl record this season with only seven teams in play.

    RED BOX BOWL

    Matchup: Michigan State Spartans vs. Oregon Ducks

    Venue: Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California
    Time/TV: Monday, December 31, 3:00 PM ET, FOX
    Line: Oregon -2½, Over/Under 48
    Last Meeting: 2015 at Michigan State (-4½) 31, Oregon 28

    Formerly the San Francisco Bowl, the Red Box Bowl has an alluring matchup this season that is likely the best of the New Year’s Eve slate, while being played on the field where next week’s championship game will be played. Oregon wound up just 8-4, but the Ducks scored 37 points per game and were one of the teams to beat eventual Pac-12 champion Washington. That game along with Oregon’s painful home loss to Stanford, were two of the more memorable games of the season. Oregon is led by junior quarterback Justin Herbert, who is a top NFL quarterback prospect and the program received a big boost with his recent announcement to not only play in this game but to return for his senior season.

    Herbert wound up with underwhelming numbers completing fewer than 60 percent of his passes but he also didn’t have the typical Oregon rushing attack supporting him as the Ducks had modest results on the ground with 191 yards per game on 4.6 yards per carry. Oregon also played a very weak non-conference schedule while drawing a favorable Pac-12 slate as this was a team that seemed like it should have done more than the 8-4 result with a 5-4 Pac-12 finish. It has been a challenging transition for the program however with Mario Cristobal in his first season, a year after Willie Taggert coached just one season before leaving for Florida State.

    Michigan State wound up just 7-5 this season, but the Spartans have superb defensive numbers in what will be billed a clash of contrasting styles of teams. The Spartans lost three Big Ten home games this season, but the defense allowed only 18 points per game while playing a tough non-conference schedule that included two bowl teams plus a difficult Big Ten slate that included two of the eventual top three teams from the West. Michigan State wound up only beating three bowl teams on the season however though one of those wins was an impressive result at Penn State.

    Herbert will be tasked with making plays in this game as Michigan State ranks second nationally behind Clemson in allowing just 2.7 yards per rush with the 81 yards per game average in run defense the best in the nation. The offensive numbers for the Spartans are ugly however, posting just 122 rushing yards per game on 3.5 yards per carry and quarterback play was an issue all season. Junior Brian Lewerke completed just 54 percent of his passes with more interceptions than touchdowns while freshman Rocky Lombardi wound up with even worse numbers despite the Spartans winning two of his three starts. Lewerke is getting the nod to start this game for Mark Dantonio who has won five of his last six bowl games after losing his first four with the program.

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    Monday's Late Bowl Tips
    Joe Williams

    **Missouri vs. Oklahoma State**

    Liberty Bowl


    -- The Missouri Tigers (8-4 straight up, 7-5 against the spread) from the Southeastern Conference will battle the Oklahoma State Cowboys (6-6 straight up, 6-6 against the spread) from the Big 12 Conference in the Autozone Liberty Bowl in Memphis, Tenn.

    -- Mizzou has a pretty extensive bowl history, and they have had a resurgence under head coach Barry Odom over the past couple of seasons. Gary Pinkel built the program into a perennial contender, but they had a couple of lean years from 2015-16. Odom has led them back, although their loss in the Texas Bowl last season snapped a three-game bowl winning streak. This will be their first bowl game against Oklahoma State since the Cotton Bowl Classic in 2013, a 41-31 win. These two teams used to be conference mates in the Big 12 for many years, too.

    -- Oklahoma State enters on a two-game bowl winning streak, including the 30-21 win against Virginia tech in the Camping World Bowl in Orlando last season. The Cowboys have appeared in a bowl in 13 consecutive seasons, and they're 6-2 SU over the past eight. This will be their first-ever appearance in the Liberty Bowl.

    -- The Tigers fired out of the box with three straight wins, scoring 40 or more points in each of the outings. However, they fell short by a 43-29 count against Georgia on Sept. 22 before a 37-35 loss at South Carolina. They also were clubbed by Alabama 39-10 on Oct. 13, slipping to 3-3. They lost an absolute heartbreaker to Kentucky on the last play of the game Oct. 27 in Columbia, but that was the last time they suffered defeat. That loss galvanized the team and they ripped off four straight wins while going 3-1 ATS, including a 38-17 win at Florida on Nov. 3.

    -- The Cowboys also opened 3-0 SU/2-1 ATS in their first three before getting tripped up 41-17 at home against Texas Texh. Their best win of the season might have been a 38-35 victory against Texas as short 'dogs at home on Oct. 27, ruining the playoff chances of the Longhorns in the process. They nearly turned the trick against Oklahoma, too, but came up just short in a 48-47 classic in Norman. The Cowboys were able to drop West Virginia out of the picture on Nov. 17.

    -- Oklahoma State finished 10th in total yards (499.2 YPG) with 306.7 passing yards per contests to finish 12th in that area. They're also 14th in the country with 38.4 points per game (PPG), with their only weakness in the rushing game. Defensively they had major issues, too, like most Big 12 clubs, ranking 99th in total yards allowed (437.1 YPG), 108th against the pass (258.2 YPG) and 97th in points allowed (32.4 PPG).

    -- Missouri can hang in the pass game, ranking 27th with 271.6 YPG, while checking in 16th in total yards (468.8 YPG). They were also 19th in the land with 36.9 PPG. Defensively their hot spot was against the run, checking in 21st with just 122.9 YPG. They were dinged for 256.1 YPG to finish 104th overall, while yielding just 24.4 PPG to finish 45th.

    -- Cowboys QB Taylor Cornelius took the baton from Mason Rudolph and rolled up 3,637 passing yards, 28 touchdowns and 11 interceptions with 385 rushing yards and 10 scores. WR Tylan Wallace is the next star in the pass game, racking up 1,398 receiving yards with 11 scores.

    -- Tigers QB Drew Lock is the start and a future first-round pick in the NFL perhaps. He threw for 3,125 yards, 25 touchdowns and eight interceptions with six rushing scores. RB Larry Rountree III rumbled for 1,012 yards and 10 touchdowns, while RB Damarea Crockett chipped in with seven scores on the ground.

    -- Missouri is 5-2 ATS in the past seven outside of the conference, but they're just 1-4 ATS in the past five against Big 12 foes and 1-8 ATS across the past nine played in the month of December.

    -- Oklahoma State is 8-1 ATS in the past nine non-conference tilts, and they're 5-1 ATS in the past six against teams with a winning record. The Cowboys are also 4-1 ATS in the past five neutral-site contests.

    -- The over is 4-1 in Missouri's past five bowl games and 3-0-1 in their past four non-conference battles while going 5-2 in their past seven neutral-site affairs.

    -- The under has hit in four in a row during bowl season, while going 7-1-1 in the past nine games in the month of December. The under is also 5-1 in their past six against the SEC.

    -- Kickoff is slated for 3:45 p.m. Eastern on ESPN.

    **Northwestern vs. Utah**

    Holiday Bowl


    -- The San Diego County Credit Union Holiday Bowl is a matchup between the Northwestern Wildcats (8-5 straight up, 6-7 against the spread) from the Big 10 Conference against the Utah Utes (9-4 straight up, 7-6 against the spread) from the Pac-12 Conference at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego, Calif. in a battle of Top 25 teams.

    -- The Wildcats appeared in just one bowl game before Gary Barnett took them to the Rose Bowl in 1995. One. The late Randy Walker took over and led them to three bowl games in 2000, 2003 and 2005. However, it's been Pat Fitzgerald who has transformed the program into a perennial contender, and they're winning bowl games now, too. In their first 10 bowl games they won just once, in 1948. They topped Mississippi State in 2012 in the Gator Bowl, they topped Pittsburgh in the Pinstripe Bowl in 2016, and they dumped Kentucky last season in the Music City Bowl. This will be their first-ever apperance in the Hoiliday Bowl.

    -- Utah puts a five-game bowl winning streak on the line against Northwestern. They spanked West Virginia 30-14 in the Heart of Dallas Bowl last season, and they have won 14 of their past 15 appearances during bowl season. While they have never appeared in the Holiday Bowl, they won a pair of Poinsettia Bowl appearances in this stadium in 2007 against Navy and 2009 against California.

    -- The Wildcats didn't get off to a great start, going 1-3 SU/2-2 ATS through the first four games, including losses at home to Duke and Akron. However, they ended up winning seven of their final eight contests to win the Big 10 West and make their first-ever appearance in the league's title game. They were overmatched 45-24 against Ohio State to land in this bowl.

    -- The Utes opened with two wins, but they lost to both Washington schools from the Pac-12 to start out 2-2 SU/1-3 ATS. They rebounded with a 40-21 win at Stanford to perhaps save their season, or at least give them confidence again. They topped USC 41-28 on Oct. 20, and they won seven of eight from Oct. 6 to Nov. 24 to easily qualify for the postseason. A 10-3 loss in the Pac-12 title game showed they have plenty of defense, but their offense was a huge disappointment in that one.

    -- Utah ranked 71st in total yards per game (396.6 YPG) and 91st in passing yards (207.2 YPG). They were decent on the ground, ranking 48th with 189.5 YPG with a rather average 28.7 PPG, good for 70th in the land. On defense, they locked down the run game with just 102.9 YPG allowed, finishing sixth in the nation. They were 15th in total yards, too, allowing just 316.2 YPG.

    -- Northwestern managed to finish just 106th in total yards per game (356.8 YPG) and just 119th in rushing offense (117.5 YPG). They also struggled to put points on the board, averaging just 23.7 PPG to finish 106th overall in the nation. Defensively they were also 106th against the pass (258.1 YPG). They're strongest against the run with 132.6 YPG allowed.

    -- For the Wildcats, WR Flynn Nagel (leg) is listed as questionable due to a leg injury.

    -- For the Utes, QB Tyler Huntley (collarbone) is considered probable, but he'll have to do without RB Zack Moss (knee) and WR Britain Covey (knee), two key components in the offense this season.

    -- Northwestern enters the game 4-1-1 ATS over the past six games against teams with a winning overall record, but they're 0-3-1 ATS in the past four non-conference tilts.

    -- Utah is 4-1 ATS in the past five bowl games and they're 6-1 ATS in the past seven against Big Ten foes. They're also 10-4-1 ATS in the past 15 against winning teams, 20-8 ATS in the past 28 non-conference battles and 10-4 ATS in the past 14 neutral-site contests.

    -- The under is 4-1 in Northwestern's past five bowl games, while going 5-2 in their past seven overall and 23-8-1 in the past 32 non-conference contests.

    -- The under is 4-1 in Utah's past five neutral-site games, and 4-1 in their past five against the Big Ten. However, the over is 5-1 in Utah's past six against teams with a winning record.

    -- This is the first-ever meeting between Northwestern and Utah.

    -- Kickoff is slated for 7:00 p.m. Eastern on FOX Sports 1.

    **N.C. State vs. Texas A&M**

    Taxslayer Gator Bowl


    -- The Taxslayer Gator Bowl is a showdown between the North Carolina State Wolfpack (9-3 straight up, 6-6 against the spread) from the Atlantic Coast Conference and the Texas A&M Aggies (8-4 straight up, 8-4 against the spread) from the SEC at Everbank Field in Jacksonville, Fla.

    -- The Wolfpack have won two straight bowl games, and eight of their past 11 in the postseason. This will be their first appearance in this bowl since the Jan. 1, 2003, a 28-6 win against Notre Dame. Overall in three previous Gator Bowl appearances the Wolfpack are 1-2 SU.

    -- The Aggies head into this one on a three-game losing streak during the bowl season, including a 55-52 shootout loss against Wake Forest last season in the Belk Bowl. The las time the Aggies appearance in the Gator Bowl was way back in 1957 when Bear Bryant was the head coach, and they lost 3-0 against Tennessee.

    -- N.C. State fired out of the chute with a 5-0 SU/3-2 ATS mark and a Top 25 ranking heading into the Oct. 20 battle at Clemson. They proved they were quite ready for the big time, getting slapped back 41-7 in Death Valley, and they followed that up with a 51-41 loss at Syracuse to take themselves out of the ACC championship chase. However, they beat Florida State 47-28 for a good one at home, and won three straight to finish up, including a 58-3 whipping of East Carolina on Dec. 1.

    -- A&M also lost to Clemson, falling 28-26 at home on Sept. 8 in a very good showing. They opened with four straight covers, and they were 5-2 SU/6-1 ATS through the first seven contests. They had some difficulty with losses at Mississippi State and Auburn, but they finished up with three straight wins against Mississippi, UAB and LSU to end the season on a high note. That Tigers game was a ridiculous 74-72 which went seven overtimes.

    -- N.C. State had a successful season on offense, ranking 15th in total yards per game (471.5 YPG) with 327.7 yards per game to finish sixth through the air. They had trouble running, ranking 98th overall, but still managed to score 35.6 PPG to finish 20th in the nation. Defensively they were strong against the run, allowing just 109.1 YPG, but they were dinged for 271.2 YPG to finish 121th in the country.

    -- A&M finished 20th in total yards (465.8 YPG), 34th in passing yards (262.0 YPG) and 30th in rushing yards (203.8 YPG) while posting 34.7 PPG to finish 26th. They had some of the best balance in the country on offense. Defensively they weren't as balanced, allowing just 92.0 YPG to finish second in the country, while allowing 262.7 YPG to end up 111th.

    -- For A&M, QB Kellen Mond was sufficient in the pass game, throwing for 2,967 yards, 23 touchdowns and eight interceptions while running for 387 yards and six scores. RB Trayveon Williams piled up 1,524 yards and 15 scores. TE Jace Sternberger is a force with a team-high 804 yards and 10 scores.

    -- QB Ryan Finley is a beast for N.C. State, posting 3,789 passing yards, 24 scores and nine INTs. On the ground, RB Reggie Gallaspy II posted 1,014 yards and 18 touchdowns, including the game-winner in OT against rival UNC, perhaps his most memorable.

    -- N.C. State is 7-2-1 ATS across the past 10 bowl games while going 4-1 ATS in the past five out of conference. However, they're just 1-6 ATS in their past seven tries against SEC foes.

    -- A&M has covered seven straight out of conference battles while going 8-3 ATS across the past 11 against winning teams. They have covered nine of the past 13 overall, too.

    -- The over is 6-0 in N.C. State's past six bowl games and 8-0 in their past eight neutral-site tilts. They over is also 11-4-1 in the past 16 non-conference contests.

    -- For A&M, the over is 6-1 in their past seven non-SEC games, 4-1 in the past five bowls and 8-2 ATS in the past nine following a non-cover.

    -- This is the first-ever meeting between N.C. State and Texas A&M on the gridiron.

    -- Kickoff is slated for 7:30 p.m. Eastern on ESPN.
    Last edited by Udog; 12-31-2018 at 12:59 AM.

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    Tuesday's Early Bowl Tips
    Joe Williams

    **Iowa vs. Mississippi State**

    Outback Bowl


    -- The Iowa Hawkeyes (8-4 straight up, 7-5 against the spread) from the Big 10 Conference will square off against the Mississippi State Bulldogs (8-4 straight up, 8-4 against the spread) from the Southeastern Conference in the Outback Bowl in Tampa, Fla.

    -- Iowa will be playing in their sixth consecutive bowl game under head coach Kirk Ferentz, and their 16th since 2001 under his leadership. Their past two trips to the Outback Bowl haven't ended well, losing to Florida 30-3 in 2016, and 21-14 against LSU in 2013. This will be their sixth appearance in the Outback Bowl, posting a 2-3 SU record so far.

    -- Mississippi State doesn't have as lengthy of a bowl history as Iowa, but they have had plenty of success when they have qualified. Mississippi State has won three straight bowls, and nine of their past 11 appearances in the postseason. This will be their first-ever appearance in the Outback Bowl in Tampa, although it will be their third consecutive bowl appearance in the Sunshine State. All-time they're 4-3 SU in seven bowl games in the state of Florida, including a 13-12 loss to Duquesne in 1936 in their first appearance in the Orange Bowl.

    -- Mississippi State rolled out to a 3-0 SU/ATS start, holding a Top 25 ranking for the two of those weekends. However, back-to-back losses and offensive fizzles in a 28-7 loss to Kentucky and 13-6 loss to Florida spoiled that start. They lost three of four from Sept. 22 to Oct. 20, with only a win over Auburn to show for it. They finished up with four wins in the final five, with a shutout to National Championship Game participant Alabama as their only blemish. They routed Ole Miss 35-3 on Nov. 22 to secure their eighth victory of the season.

    -- Iowa also opened 3-0 SU/ATS, including a win over rival Iowa State. They lost to Wisconsin on Sept. 22 with a 28-17 setback, but theyripped off three straight after that to get back on track and secure bowl eligibility by Oct. 20. That's a good thing, too, as they dropped three in a row at Penn State, at Purdue and home to Northwestern before wrapping up the year with back-to-back wins against Illinois and Nebraska.

    -- Iowa had difficulty on offense, ranking 79th in total yards per game (389.7 YPG), while checking in 69th in passing yards (227.7 YPG) and 74th in rushing yards (162.0 YPG). Still, somehow they managed to end up 42nd in the country with 31.5 points per game (PPG). Defense was a key to their success, ranking seventh in total yards allowed (289.6 YPG), 21st in passing yards (186.8 YPG) and fourth in rushing yards allowed (102.8 YPG). They also checked in 10th in points allowed (17.4 PPG), which will be key to whether they can win or not.

    -- Mississippi State ranked 69th in total yards (402.0 YPG), while going for 175.6 YPG in passing yards to check in 111th in the nation. They did pound the ball for 226.4 YPG on the ground, finishing 11th overall. Defensively Mississippi State had it on lockdown, ranking first in the country in total yards allowed (268.4 YPG) and points allowed (12.0 PPG). They also shut down the pass with 164.2 YPG, ranking sixth, and just 104.2 YPG in rushing yards to finish 10th in the land.

    -- Iowa RB Ivory Kelly-Martin (undisclosed) is listed as probable for the bowl game, while the FB Brady Ross (leg) is questionable. TE Noah Fant, who declared for the NFL Draft, will skip the bowl game, too. Fant posted 49 catches for 518 yards and seven touchdowns.

    -- Mississippi State DE Montez Sweat, who is expected to go in the first round of the 2019 NFL Draft, will play and not skip the game.

    -- Mississippi State is 4-1 ATS in the past five overall, 5-0 ATS in the past five non-conference games and 9-4 ATS in the past 13 against winning teams.

    -- Iowa is 4-0 ATS in the past four non-conference games, but 1-3-1 ATS in the past five neutral-site games and 1-4 ATS in the past five overall.

    -- The 'under' is 13-3 in the past 16 against teams with a winning record and 19-7 in the past 26 overall, too.

    -- The 'over' is 8-2 in Iowa's past 10 games while going 7-2 in the past nine against teams with a winning record. However, the under is 7-3 in the past 10 non-conference games and 9-4 in the past 13 neutral-site battles.

    -- This will be the first-ever meeting between the Hawkeyes and Bulldogs.

    -- Kickoff is slated for 12:00 p.m. Eastern on ESPN2.

    **Kentucky vs. Penn State**

    Citrus Bowl


    -- The VRBO Citrus Bowl will feature a matchup of the Kentucky Wildcats (9-3 straight up, 5-7 against the spread) from the Southeastern Conference will face off against the Penn State Nittany Lions (9-3 straight up, 7-5 against the spread) at Camping World Stadium in Orlando, Fla. This will be a battle featuring a pair of Top 15 teams.

    -- Kentucky will finish their season in a bowl game for the third consecutive season. They're hoping to snap a four-game losing streak in the postseason dating back to their last win in a bowl on Jan. 2, 2009 against East Carolina in the Liberty Bowl. This will be their second meeting in a bowl against the Nittany Lions since Jan. 1, 1999 when the teams squared off over in Tampa in the Outback Bowl. Penn State won that game by a 26-14 score under Joe Paterno against former UK coach Hal Mumme. The Wildcats are 0-3 all-time in bowl games in the state of Florida.

    -- Penn State is back in the Citrus Bowl for the first time since the game was named the Capital One Bowl in 2009, a 19-17 win over LSU with JoePa at the helm. This will be their sixth appearance in the Capital One/Citrus Bowl game, going 2-3 SU in the first five showings. After a 9-2 SU run from 1993 to 2007, they're just 3-5 SU over the past eight postseason appearances.

    -- Kentucky won their first five games of the season, including impressive wins at Florida, home against Mississippi State and home against South Carolina, all bowl teams. They suffered a 20-14 overtime loss at Texas A&M on Oct. 6, but bounced back against bowl teams Vanderbilt and Missouri the following two weeks. The Wildcats had a chance to clinch the SEC East Division and make their first-ever appearance in the SEC Championship Game, but they fell short against Georgia 34-17 on Nov. 3. They followed that up with an egg-laying in Tennessee on Nov. 10, 24-7. They bounced back with two non-conference wins to close out the year, but questions remain heading into the bowl.

    -- Penn State nearly lost a stunner to Appalachian State in their opener, needing overtime to survive. They opened 4-0 SU/3-1 ATS in the first four before suffering a gut-wrenching 27-26 setback against Ohio State on Sept. 29. They also lost to Michigan State the following week. After a pair of wins they were humbled at Michigan by a 42-7 score. They wrapped up the conference schedule with three straight wins against Wisconsin, Rutgers and Maryland, all 'under' results.

    -- Penn State was 45th in total yards (424.3 YPG) on offense, while posting 215.8 YPG in passing yards to finish 77th. They finished 28th in rushing yards (208.5 YPG) and 30th in points scored (30.6 PPG). The Nittany Lions are strong on defense, finishing 35th in total yards allowed (354.9 YPG), while giving up just 186.5 YPG to check in 19th. They also gave up just 20.0 PPG to finish 21st in the nation.

    -- Kentucky finished 101st in total yards on offense, posting just 366.9 YPG while going 116th in passing yards (164.8 YPG). Their bread and butter is the run game, going for 202.1 YPG to finish 34th in the country. Defensively the Wildcats had it on lockdown, ranking 20th in the nation (327.0 YPG) in total yards. They were 15th against the pass (181.3 YPG) while checking in eighth (16.2 PPG) in points per game allowed.

    -- The one to watch for the Wildcats is RB Benny Snell Jr., who managed 1,305 rushing yards (5.0 YPC) with 14 touchdowns.

    -- For Penn State, RB Miles Sanders (207-1,223-9) did his best to fill the shoes of Saquon Barkley, while QB Trace McSorley passed for 2,285 yards, 16 touchdowns and six interceptions while running for 723 yards and 11 more scores.

    -- Kentucky covered just two of their final seven games overall. They're also a dismal 3-12 ATS in their past 15 non-conference games and 1-5 ATS in the past six on a neutral-site field.

    -- While Penn State is 0-4 ATS in their past four tries against SEC teams, they're 6-1-1 ATS in the past eight non-conference battles. They're also 15-5-2 ATS in the past 22 against winning teams while going 24-9-2 ATS in the past 35 games overall, including 5-2 ATS in the past seven at a neutral site.

    -- The 'under' has cashed in four straight bowl games while going 6-1 in the past seven neutral-site appearances. The under is also 11-3 in the past 14 against teams with a winning overall mark.

    -- The over is 5-0 in Penn State's past five outside of the conference while going 6-1 in the past seven neutral-site battles. The over is 13-6 in the past 19 overall and 9-3 in their past 12 against teams with a winning overall record.

    -- Kickoff is slated for 1:00 p.m. Eastern on ABC.

    **LSU vs. UCF**

    Fiesta Bowl


    -- The Playstation Fiesta Bowl features the UCF Knights (12-0 straight up, 9-3 against the spread) from the American Athletic Conference while facing the Louisiana State Tigers (9-3 straight up, 6-6 against the spread) from the Southeastern Conference at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Ariz.

    -- The self-proclaimed national champion Knights won the Peach Bowl last season against Auburn, 34-27. Overall they're 4-5 SU in their nine bowl appearances, although they won their previous Fiesta Bowl showing on Jan. 1, 2014 against Baylor, 52-42. They're also 2-1 SU in three bowl games all-time against the SEC.

    -- LSU has a lengthy bowl history, although lately their history in bowls hasn't been great. They're just 4-5 SU in the past nine bowl appearances after a 10-2 SU run from 1995 through 2008. This will be their first-ever appearance in the Fiesta Bowl. They're looking to bounce back after a 20-17 loss against Notre Dame in the Citrus Bowl last season.

    -- UCF has won 25 consecutive games dating back to their last loss, Dec. 17, 2016 in the Cure Bowl against Arkansas State. The Knights scored 31 or more points in all 12 of their games this season, including 37 or more in each of the final six. Six of the wins came against teams which qualified for bowl games, including two wins against Memphis.

    -- LSU opened the season with a 33-17 win over Miami-Florida in a neutral-site battle in Arlington, Tex. They opened conference play 22-21 at Auburn to move to 3-0, and headed to Florida 5-0 on Oct. 6. The Gators upended the Tigers 27-19, however, before the Tigers bounced back 36-16 over Georgia and then 19-3 over Mississippi State. Like most, the Tigers were outclassed by Alabama 29-0 on Nov. 3 at Death Valley in an anticlimactic game. They wrapped up the regular season with an epic 74-72 loss in 7 OT against Texas A&M in front of the 11th man on Thanksgiving weekend.

    -- UCF finished third in the land with 545.7 total yards per game and fifth in rushing yards (276.8 YPG). They also posted 44.2 PPG to finish fifth in the country. They slacked off slightly in passing yardage, due in part to a season-ending loss in November of Heisman candidate QB McKenzie Milton (knee). The Knights ranked 86th in total yards allowed (425.5 YPG), while finishing 118th against the run (227.5 YPG). Still, they managed to rank 21st in points allowed (21.2 PPG).

    -- RB Adrian Killins Jr. (lower body), who had 698 rushing yards and four scores and 385 receiving yards and four touchdowns through the air, is listed as questionable.

    -- LSU was so-so on offense, going 80th in total yards (389.3 YPG) while finishing 41st with 31.8 PPG. They posted 174.7 yards per game on the ground, finishing 58th. That might be the key to victory for the Tigers. On defense, the Tigers ranked 29th in total yards allowed (346.1 YPG), while finishing 24th in the land with just 20.9 PPG.

    -- Graduate transfer QB Joe Burrow was adequate, posting 2,500 passing yards, 12 TDs and four INTs while running for 375 yards and seven touchdowns. RB Nick Brossette racked up 14 rushing touchdowns with 922 yards on the ground, while RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire added seven touchdowns with 626 rushing yards.

    -- LSU leading WR Justin Jefferson (undisclosed), who posted 788 receiving yards and four touchdowns, is listed as questionable with an undisclosed ailment.

    -- The Tigers are 2-5 ATS in their past seven bowl games, 1-4 ATS in the past five games in the month of January and 1-6-1 ATS in the past eight non-conference battles.

    -- The Knights have cashed in four straight against winning teams while going 5-1 ATS in the past six games overall. UCF is also 5-2 ATS in the past seven non-conference battles.

    -- The under is 3-1-1 in the past five games overall while going 4-1 in the past five neutral-site contests. The under is 5-2 in the past seven bowl games, too, while hitting the over in five of the past seven against winning teams.

    -- The under is 7-2 in the past nine overall, while going 8-0-1 in UCF's past nine against the SEC.

    -- This is the first-ever meeting between LSU and UCF on the gridiron.

    -- Kickoff is slated for 1:00 p.m. Eastern on ESPN.
    Last edited by StarDust Bum; 01-01-2019 at 03:31 AM.

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    Tuesday's Evening Bowl Tips
    Joe Nelson

    Getting to play on New Year’s Day is still a big draw even if the College Football Playoffs have taken some of the appeal away from the traditional bowl schedule. If that field expended these two matchups would be fitting play-in games as four prestigious programs face off in the Rose Bowl and Sugar Bowl games Tuesday night to wrap up the bowl schedule ahead of next week’s championship game.

    ROSE BOWL

    Matchup: Washington Huskies at Ohio State Buckeyes

    Venue: Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California
    Time/TV: Tuesday, January 1, 5:00 PM ET, ESPN
    Line: Ohio State -6½, Over/Under 57½
    Last Meeting: 2007 Ohio State (-3) 33, at Washington 14

    For the second straight season, Ohio State wound up just on the outside of the College Football Playoffs as the Big Ten champion was left out for the second straight season. The 12-1 Buckeyes didn’t always look the part but wound up with a playoff caliber resume as this was an exceptional season with three prominent undefeated teams. For the second straight season, the caliber of the loss was damaging to Ohio State with a 49-20 defeat against a Purdue team that wound up 6-6 after last season being left out with an ugly 55-24 loss to Iowa cited, though a difference being that last season that was loss #2.

    The season for Ohio State started with great controversy with the allegations surrounding Urban Meyer. He was suspended for the first three games which Ohio State won, including what at the time looked like a notable win over TCU. Meyer has announced that he will resign following this game and assistant Ryan Day, who led the team in Meyer’s absence, will take over leading the program.

    The Buckeyes posted huge offensive numbers with Dwayne Haskins producing great results in what will likely be his only year as the starter, finishing third in the Heisman voting and with potential to be a NFL draft pick in the spring. Haskins was asked to do a lot this season as Ohio State was not a strong rushing team gaining nearly 1,000 fewer yards on the ground and 1.7 fewer yards per carry compared with last season. Ohio State also allowed 26 or more points in eight different games this season and had close call results with teams like Nebraska and Maryland before the emphatic win over Michigan.

    With three losses out of a mediocre Pac-12, Washington didn’t receive any consideration by the playoff committee, but while Ohio State’s single loss came by 29 points, the three losses for Washington came by a combined total of 10 points. Washington lost two Pac-12 road games against Oregon and California and lost a big season opener with Auburn, ironically a team that just blasted the Purdue team that beat Ohio State. Washington was in position to win all three of those games as it will be a remembered as a season of what-ifs for the Huskies.

    Senior quarterback Jake Browning had an underwhelming season as he has not been able to recapture the success of his sophomore season when the Huskies made the playoffs. He still had steady numbers and the Huskies out-rushed foes by nearly a yard per carry this season led by Myles Gaskin on offense and one of the nation’s better run defenses. While Meyer’s retirement will steal the spotlight with an all-time great resume, Chris Petersen has a tremendous 139-32 record at Boise State and Washington though he has lost three of his past four bowl games including a seven-point loss to Penn State in last season’s Fiesta Bowl.

    Even in the current era where the significance of many bowls games has declined, the Rose Bowl still remains a prized invitation. The past two Rose Bowls have been wildly entertaining games with USC beating Penn State 52-49 two years ago in a traditional Big Ten/Pac-12 contest while the Rose Bowl was a playoff semifinal last season with Georgia holding off Oklahoma 54-48 in overtime. That type of scoring was common in Ohio State games this season but isn’t likely the preferred pace for a Washington team that allowed just over 15 points per game on the season.

    SUGAR BOWL

    Matchup: Texas Longhorns at Georgia Bulldogs

    Venue: Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans, Louisiana
    Time/TV: Monday, December 31, 8:45 PM ET, ESPN
    Line: Georgia -13, Over/Under 58
    Last Meeting: 1984 (Cotton Bowl) Georgia (+7½) 10, Texas 9

    Georgia had a playoff spot on the line in the SEC Championship with Alabama, a rematch of last season’s national championship game. The Bulldogs had a two-touchdown lead in the second half of that game but wound up falling short and ended up the last team out of the bracket. A Sugar Bowl bid is certainly a worthy consolation, but Georgia is a bowl team that has immense potential but perhaps suspect motivation in the final bowl game ahead of next week’s championship in Santa Clara.

    Georgia had a few breaks in that game against Alabama with a 2-0 turnover edge and quarterback Tua Tagovalioa leaving the game for Alabama but for the second year in a row, the Bulldogs couldn’t finish off the Tide in a game they controlled. Georgia’s only regular season loss was a 20-point defeat at LSU in which they had four turnovers and the Bulldogs were a dominant rushing team posting 6.1 yards per carry and 252 yards per game. Georgia allowed just over 18 points per game on defense as well, only four times allowing more than 17 points, though they did so in each of the three most recent games.

    Cornerback Deandre Baker is skipping this game for a big loss for the Georgia defense while defensive coordinator Mel Tucker left the program several weeks ago after being announced as the new head coach at Colorado and he has hired two assistants from the Georgia staff to join him. Georgia didn’t post the eye-popping offensive numbers that some of the other elite teams in the nation did, but Jake Fromm was one of the top quarterbacks in the nation in his second season and Georgia wound up defeating seven bowl teams by 14 or more points.

    Georgia drew a difficult SEC schedule pulling LSU and Auburn from the West and certainly looked the part of a playoff caliber team and would have had a compelling case in most seasons. As this line suggests, Georgia is certainly considered one of the top four teams in the nation even if they didn’t have the credentials to be in the playoff field.

    Tom Herman’s second season in Texas began poorly as he was often named in the investigation surrounding Urban Meyer. Texas then went out and lost to Maryland to open the season for the second straight season. The Longhorns rebounded for a fine season reaching 6-1 before losing a pair of very tight Big XII games, eventually making the Big XII title game where they lost to Oklahoma after beating the Sooners in the regular season. None of the four losses for Texas came by more than 12 points which was the margin in the Big XII championship loss in a game that was tied in the fourth quarter.

    Texas also had several narrow wins however with six wins by seven or fewer points and four of those wins were against non-bowl teams. The Longhorns struggled to run the ball consistently this season, but quarterback Sam Ehlinger did have a breakthrough season in the passing game after inconsistent results last year.

    The Sugar Bowl has not featured many close games in recent years with five of the past six games decided by 10 or more points. The game has featured some prominent upsets however with a pair of Alabama losses in 2014 and 2015 and while it wasn’t an upset by the pointspread, Alabama was the playoff #4 seed defeating #1 seed Clemson last season in this game. This will be a measuring stick game for the Big XII against the SEC with the Big XII winning two of the past three Sugar Bowl meetings with the SEC.
    Last edited by StarDust Bum; 01-01-2019 at 03:32 AM.

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    Alabama-Clemson Part IV matchups
    Associated Press

    SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) Clemson and Alabama are playing in the College Football Playoff for the fourth straight season, and the third time for the national championship.

    The winner Monday will become the first 15-0 FBS champion.

    With the help of SEC Network analyst Cole Cubelic, a former Auburn offensive lineman, a breakdown of some of the key matchups that could decide Tide-Tigers Part IV.

    CLEMSON ON LINE

    There are few one-on-one matchups where Alabama is ever going to be at a disadvantage. Clemson's defensive line might be good enough to capitalize on some small vulnerability even without suspended 340-pound run stuffer Dexter Lawrence.

    Tigers All-America defensive tackle Christian Wilkins against Alabama left guard Lester Cotton is a place where the Tigers can win one-on-one.

    ''Wilkins is a player who has really good quickness inside. Could be very disruptive against a player who was benched in the middle of the season for a younger player that came in and sort of took his spot and is now suspended and not going to play,'' Cubelic said.

    Deonte Brown was suspended for an undisclosed NCAA violation, Alabama coach Nick Saban has said.

    Alabama right tackle Jedrick Wills has occasionally had some problems in pass protection. The Tide might need to provide some help for the sophomore to deal with Clemson's defensive ends, whether it's All-American Clelin Ferrell, Cotton Bowl defensive MVP Austin Bryant or freshman Xavier Thomas, who looks like Clemson's next great pass rusher.

    Clemson leads the nation with 52 sacks, led by Ferrell with 11+ and Bryant with eight, including two against Notre Dame. The Tigers also lead the nation in yards per play allowed at 4.05.

    Cubelic said he would expect Clemson to rely on the defensive line to hold its own against the run and commit more players to coverage. It sounds weird to say of Alabama, but challenging this Tide team to run the ball is probably the way to go.

    ''They're kind of greedy,'' Cubelic said of Alabama's offense, led by quarterback Tua Tagovailoa. ''They know they're really good throwing the ball. They know they have an elite quarterback and elite wide receivers. Why not go out there and pitch it around?''

    Tagovailoa, the Heisman runner-up, has a 205.19 passer efficiency rating, which would break Baker Mayfield's single-season record from last year.

    Senior Albert Huggins played well filling in for Lawrence against Notre Dame, but the junior is more likely to be missed this week.

    ''He's probably one of the best linemen in college football, no doubt, in terms of his production and his performance,'' Saban said. ''He's played really well against us in the past.''

    Q RATING

    If there was a defensive player with a case to the win the Heisman Trophy this season, Alabama's Quinnen Williams was the guy. He has hardly been slowed down and it's doubtful Clemson center Justin Falcinelli, an All-ACC player, and guards John Simpson, Gage Cervenka and Sean Pollard will be a physical match for the future top-five NFL draft pick.

    Williams, an All-American and Outland Trophy winner, plays differently than the recent dominant Tide nose guards such as Terrence Cody and Daron Payne. Williams often lines up in one gap, and then shoots into another gap or works his way from one shoulder of a blocker to the other. Clemson uses a lot of zone- and gap-blocking schemes, where its linemen are assigned to block a particular space rather than a man.

    ''The scheme is not very friendly to handle not only a guy as talented as Quinnen Williams, but the way he plays,'' Cubelic said.

    The 295-pound Williams had 18 tackles for loss, including eight sacks.

    FLUSTERING THE FRESHMAN

    Clemson freshman quarterback Trevor Lawrence has all the physical gifts. From that standpoint, he is ready for Alabama. The challenge against the Tide for Lawrence will be as much mental as physical.

    Alabama's overwhelming talent sometimes overshadows just how well-coached the players are. The Tide doesn't make many mistakes and Saban's defenses throw a lot at quarterbacks.

    ''The windows are going to close faster,'' Cubelic said. ''The pressure is going to be applied more quickly. The decisions are going to have to be made faster.''

    Lawrence has completed 65.5 percent of his passes, with 27 touchdown passes and only four interceptions.

    An underrated part of Lawrence's game is his mobility, but he hasn't used it much until late in the season. He has 86 yards on 10 carries in the last three regular-season games. Swinney said he'd like to see Lawrence take off more.

    ''Sometimes people will drop and play coverage and receivers will have to work and work and work to try to get open and he's confident he can rip it there,'' Swinney said.

    Because Alabama is so good up front with Williams, Raekwon Davis and Isaiah Buggs (team-high 9.5 sacks), it is likely Lawrence will see a lot of seven- and eight-man coverage and get some opportunities to run.

    ''If Alabama is going to give you anything, you damn well better take it,'' Cubelic said.

    Alabama's excellent pass rush has helped bring along a secondary that relies on talented but inexperienced corners such as freshman Patrick Surtain.

    ''I don't know how good the Alabama secondary is,'' Cubelic said. ''And I don't think anybody else really knows.''

    Clemson has a versatile group of receivers with Tee Higgins (11 touchdowns) and Justyn Ross (eight touchdowns) both checking in at 6-foot-4, Amari Rogers (four touchdowns), who is built like a running back, and senior Hunter Renfrow, who has scored four touchdowns in two previous championship games against Alabama.

  8. #38
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    NCAAF
    Dunkel

    Bowl Season


    Monday, January 7

    Clemson @ Alabama

    Game 151-152
    January 7, 2019 @ 8:00 pm

    Dunkel Rating:
    Clemson
    123.114
    Alabama
    121.337
    Dunkel Team:
    Dunkel Line:
    Dunkel Total:
    Clemson
    by 2
    70
    Vegas Team:
    Vegas Line:
    Vegas Total:
    Alabama
    by 6 1/2
    59 1/2
    Dunkel Pick:
    Clemson
    (+6 1/2); Over





    NCAAF
    Long Sheet


    Monday, January 7

    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    CLEMSON (14 - 0) vs. ALABAMA (14 - 0) - 1/7/2019, 8:00 PM
    Top Trends for this game.
    ALABAMA is 58-35 ATS (+19.5 Units) in road games after 2 or more consecutive straight up wins since 1992.
    CLEMSON is 32-15 ATS (+15.5 Units) as an underdog of 3.5 to 10 points since 1992.
    CLEMSON is 60-36 ATS (+20.4 Units) as an underdog since 1992.
    CLEMSON is 6-0 ATS (+6.0 Units) in road games after 2 or more consecutive straight up wins this season.
    CLEMSON is 8-1 ATS (+6.9 Units) in road games when playing against a team with a winning record over the last 2 seasons.

    Head-to-Head Series History
    ALABAMA is 1-1 against the spread versus CLEMSON over the last 3 seasons
    ALABAMA is 1-1 straight up against CLEMSON over the last 3 seasons
    1 of 2 games in this series have gone OVER THE TOTAL over the last 3 seasons

    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------




    NCAAF
    Armadillo's Write-Up

    Bowl Season


    Monday, January 7

    National title game, Santa Clara, CA

    — Underdogs covered last five national title games.

    — Alabama (2-1) is in its 4th straight national title game; Clemson (1-1) its third in four years.

    — Crimson Tide is 2-1 vs Clemson last three years in bowls.

    — Since 2012, Tigers are 4-3 as an underdog; last time they were an underdog was national title game vs Alabama, two years ago.

    — Since 2012, Alabama is 8-12 as a single digit favorite (0-0 this year).

    — Average total in last five national title game is 65.4.

    — Both teams were favored by 10+ points in every game this season.

    — Four of last five Clemson games stayed under; over is 8-5-1 in Alabama games.




    NCAAF

    Bowl Season


    ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Trend Report
    ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Clemson Tigers
    Clemson is 7-2 ATS in its last 9 games
    Clemson is 5-0 SU in its last 5 games
    The total has gone UNDER in 4 of Clemson's last 5 games
    Alabama Crimson Tide
    Alabama is 5-0 SU in its last 5 games
    The total has gone OVER in 10 of Alabama's last 15 games


    ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

  9. #39
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    Clemson vs. Alabama
    Brian Edwards

    Matchup: Clemson vs. Alabama
    Venue: Levi's Stadium, Santa Clara, California
    Time/TV: ESPN, 8:00 p.m. ET


    This rivalry started in 1900 when Clemson beat Alabama 35-0 in Birmingham. Clemson won the first three meetings by a combined score of 78-0 with shutout victories in 1904 and 1905. From 1909 to 1975, Alabama put it on the Tigers 11 consecutive times, dealing out cream-cheese treatment in seven of those encounters, including a 56-0 win in ’75.

    But these storied programs wouldn’t collide again until the 2008 season opener, and that’s when the modern-day version of this rivalry began. I was at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta on that Saturday afternoon, the lid-lifter for Alabama in its second season under Nick Saban and the last year that Tommy Bowden would roam the sidelines at Clemson.

    As a five-point underdog, Saban’s Alabama team took the Tigers behind the woodshed in a 34-10 blowout that wasn’t even that close. Bowden would take a lot of criticism after media reports got out that Bowden had called Saban seeking advice after taking that pimpslap.

    Six weeks later after a loss at Wake Forest in ESPN’s featured Thursday night game, Bowden was handed his pink slip. Some dude named Dabo Swinney was named the interim head coach. Alabama would remain unbeaten until going back to the Georgia Dome, where Tim Tebow led the Gators past the Tide in the SEC Championship Game.

    That loss was the turning point for Alabama in its dynastic 12-year run under Saban. Since that defeat to UF, Alabama is 6-0 in SEC Championship Games, including this year’s 35-28 come-from-behind victory over Georgia.

    The turning point for Clemson during Swinney’s 11 years on the job? That’s easy. It came at the Orange Bowl on Jan. 4 of 2012 when QB Geno Smith led West Virginia to a 70-33 win over the Tigers.

    After serving as defensive coordinator under Bob Stoops at Oklahoma from 1999-2011, Brent Venables was hired away by Swinney to take the same gig at Clemson. Since then, the Tigers have an 86-11 record. They’ve posted double-digit win totals for eight consecutive years, winning 14 times in three of the past four seasons.

    These teams are facing each other in the College Football Playoff for the fourth straight year and the third time in the CFP finals. In the first meeting, Alabama won 45-40 in a thriller, but Clemson took the cash as a six-point underdog thanks to a Deshaun Watson touchdown pass with 12 ticks remaining.

    One year later, Watson found Hunter Renfrow for a two-yard TD pass with one second left to lift Clemson, a 6.5-point underdog, to a 35-31 win and the school’s first national title since 1981. Then in the CFP semifinals at the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans last season, Alabama won 24-6 behind a sensational defensive effort.

    Maybe Monday’s game at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif., is just Chapter 4 of a novel in its infancy? Perhaps Clemson and Alabama will meet in the College Football Playoff for three or four more seasons in a row? Maybe Saban's run at The Capstone has 3-4, maybe even five, years left in it?

    With Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailo and Clemson signal caller Trevor Lawrence both returning in 2019, there’s a strong chance these schools will meet again next year.

    But you never know with these things. Maybe Saban wins his seventh career national title and his sixth at Alabama and then decides he wants to go out on top? Perhaps the competitive urge to try it again in the NFL will emerge and, with the chance to coach Aaron Rodgers, he won’t be able to turn down a lucrative offer from the Green Bay Packers?

    In that scenario, Swinney would instantly become Alabama’s top candidate to replace Saban. Remember, Swinney was born and raised on the color crimson and played at Alabama under Gene Stallings. Maybe Swinney would return home, or perhaps he’d elect to stay put because it rarely works out when you replace The Legend (ask Ray Perkins about that one.)?

    When I was making my weekly appearance on The Out of Bounds Show with Qualk and Kelly this past Thursday on 105.1 The Roar in Clemson, Qualk posed this question (or something very close to it) to me: “Are you tired of the Clemson-Alabama matchup? Is it a bad thing for college football when two teams meet in the playoffs four years in a row?”

    I was borderline shocked. Is that some sort of theme across the country? If so, it’s nothing but bitterness and spilled milk from fan bases of schools consistently failing to make the CFP. Don’t like it? Do something about it. Beat Alabama when you have a 14-point lead in the second half. Seal the deal when you’re up 10 early in the fourth quarter at Death Valley with Clemson playing a third-string redshirt freshman at QB.

    If anything, this showdown between the nation’s premier programs should be coveted by college football fans. Again, it might be Chapter 4 with many more remaining, or this could be it. Whatever the case, it’s likely the defining game for this rivalry and for Swinney, who with a win could claim his second national title and a 2-2 record against Saban (only Steve Spurrier has been better vs. Saban).

    With an Alabama win, it would make Clemson the Joe Frazier of his rivalry with Muhammad Ali – the runner-up compared to the champion. It would further establish that there’s not a program on the Tide’s level these days (only Clemson is worthy of being in that conversation, anyway).

    So no, hell no I’m not tired of these teams squaring off in the CFP. Why would anyone dread watching two unbeaten heavyweights slug it out with everything on the line?

    As of Sunday afternoon, most betting shops had Alabama (14-0 straight up, 8-6 against the spread) installed as a five-point favorite with a total of 58 or 58.5. The Tigers were +180 on the money line (risk $100 to win $180). For first half-wagers, most spots had the Crimson Tide listed as a three-point favorite (with a -120 price tag) with the total anywhere from 28.5 to 29.5. Clemson had +160 odds to be leading at intermission.

    Bettors can get down on the first quarter as well. The Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook had ‘Bama as a one-point ‘chalk’ in the opening stanza, but most books had the Tide at minus one-half point (with -120 to -130 juice). The Tigers were +135 to go into the second quarter with the lead.

    Remember, Alabama went 10-0 ATS for first-half bets until failing to cover in its last two regular-season games and against Georgia in Atlanta. However, it bounced back to improve to 11-3 ATS in the first half when it took a 21-point advantage into intermission vs. OU.

    Saban’s team raced out to a 28-0 lead less than two minutes into the second quarter of last Saturday’s CFP semifinal showdown vs. Oklahoma at the Orange Bowl in Miami. From there, all that was in doubt was the spread cover and whether the game would go ‘over’ or ‘under’ the closing total of 80.5 points.

    OU didn’t fade away into the South Florida night, however. The Tide had surged into a lopsided lead with a flurry of haymakers that started with Damien Harris’s one-yard plunge into the end zone with 11:54 remaining in the first quarter. Before ‘Bama was done with its early onslaught, Harris had found paydirt again from one yard out and sophomore QB Tua Tagovailoa had hit Henry Ruggs III and Josh Jacobs on scoring strikes of 10 and 27 yards, respectively.

    Finally, the Sooners stopped the bleeding on Trey Sermon’s two-yard TD run with 11:48 left in the second quarter. They added a 26-yard field goal from Austin Seibert midway through the second to get within 28-10, but it was a red-zone trip that was in dire need of a TD. With 25 ticks remaining until intermission, Alabama countered with a 38-yard FG from Joseph Bulovas to get the lead back to 21.

    Lincoln Riley’s team once again settled for three with 9:42 left in the third on Seibert’s 26-yard FG. But with 3:03 left in the third stanza, OU’s Kyler Murray evaded Alabama’s pass rush and got out of the pocket. He spotted a streaking WR and launched a perfectly-thrown 49-yard TD pass to Charleston Ramo. Suddenly, the score was 31-20 and we had a two-possession football game with more than 18 minutes left. Most important for our purposes, the Sooners were back ahead of the number for the first time since late in the opening quarter, and the ‘over’ had a pulse once again.

    Alabama would answer, however, as Tagovailoa found Devonta Smith for a 10-yard TD pass with 13:08 remaining. Again, OU would counter with Murray connecting with CeeDee Lamb for a 10-yard scoring strike with 8:31 left to make it 38-27. (My gosh, how good was Lamb in that game?!)

    Alabama surged back ahead of the number again on Tagovailoa’s 13-yard TD pass to Jerry Jeudy at the 6:08 mark. Barring a turnover or successful onside kick, Tagovailoa-to-Jeudy basically ended all hopes of an epic comeback win from OU. But there was still plenty of business left to take care of.

    The backdoor was wide open and a TD and FG could hook up ‘over’ supporters or burn bettors supporting the ‘under.’ When Murray scored on an eight-yard TD run with 4:23 remaining, the Sooners were back in front of the number again as 14.5-point underdogs. The ensuing onside kick had a chance but an OU player touched the ball just before it went 10 yards.

    This gave Alabama great field position and time to get a front door cover, and it nearly did just that. In fact, it could’ve but once a first down set the Tide up with first and goal with just under two minutes remaining, Saban opted to go into Victory Formation. In doing so, OU backers got paid and the 79 combined points slithered ‘under’ the 80.5-point total.

    On Dec. 28 the day before the game, most books had the total in the 77-78 range so for those who bought ‘over’ tickets at that time, they were also rewarded with greenbacks. Even though Alabama led by double digits nearly the entire game, this was a 60-minute battle and the Tide had scars to prove it.

    Senior LB Christian Miller sustained a hamstring that has his status (officially listed ‘questionable) vs. Clemson in major doubt. Miller has produced 36 tackles, 12 QB hurries, 8.5 sacks, three tackles for loss and one pass broken up.

    One concern Alabama fans don’t have to fret about is the health of Tagovailoa, who was brilliant in the victory against the Sooners. Despite undergoing ankle surgery in early December, Tagovailoa looked sharp from start to finish, completing 24-of-27 passes for 318 yards and four touchdowns without an interception. The Heisman Trophy runner-up has now connected on 69.5 percent of his throws for 3,671 yards with a 41/4 touchdown-to-interception ratio.

    Clemson (14-0 SU, 8-6 ATS) has been an underdog eight times since Week 4 of the 2014 campaign. On that weekend in Tallahassee when reigning Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston was suspended, the Tigers took the cash as 10-point underdogs in a 23-17 overtime loss at FSU. Since then, they’ve produced a 7-1 spread record with five outright victories when listed as underdogs.

    Swinney’s squad advanced to this year’s CFP finals by trouncing Notre Dame 30-3 as an 11-point favorite at Jerry World last Saturday night. The 33 combined points ducked ‘under’ the 58-point total.

    After trading field goal in the first quarter, Clemson took over in the second quarter with three TD passes from Lawrence, who first found Justyn Ross for a 52-yard scoring strike with 12:50 left in the stanza. Then with 1:44 left until halftime, Lawrence hit Ross against for a 42-yard TD connection. With two ticks left in the first half, Lawrence threw 19 yards into the end zone to Tee Higgins. Travis Etienne’s 62-yard TD dash late in the third quarter closed out the scoring.

    Clemson enjoyed a 538-248 advantage over the Fighting Irish in total offense. Lawrence completed 27-of-39 passes for 327 yards and three TDs without an interception. Etienne rushed for 109 yards and one TD on 14 attempts, while Ross had six catches for 148 yards and two TDs. Renfrow had four receptions for 62 yards.

    For the season, Lawrence has a 65.3 completion percentage, 2,933 passing yards and a 27/4 TD-INT ratio. The true freshman has also rushed for 157 yards and one TD. Etienne has 1,573 rushing yards, 22 TDs and an 8.3 yards-per-carry average.

    Clemson has won 12 games by margins of at least 20 points. The Tigers had just two close games, winning 28-26 at Texas A&M (before Lawrence was the starter) and rallying to nip Syracuse by a 27-23 count (after trailing by 10 early in the fourth quarter and with Lawrence out of the game injured) at home. Meanwhile, Alabama won its first 12 games by at least 22 points before beating UGA and Oklahoma by seven and 11 points, respectively.

    The Aggies and Louisville represent the only common opponents for these schools. Alabama dusted U of L 51-14 in the season opener in Orlando and dropped Texas A&M 45-23 as a 24-point home ‘chalk.’ Clemson blasted the Cardinals 77-16 as a 38-point home favorite.

    If there’s a bone to pick with Clemson’s resume, it would be its strength of schedule (No. 59 compared to No. 6 for 'Bama). The Tigers faced Pittsburgh in the ACC Championship Game and won 42-10, but the Panthers finished the season with a 7-7 record. Only The ‘Cuse (10-3) and N.C. State (9-4) had quality seasons out of the ACC, but the Wolfpack got smoked 52-13 by Texas A&M at the Gator Bowl.

    Clemson is ranked third in the nation in total offense, 24th in passing yards, 10th in rushing yards and fourth in scoring with its 44.3 points-per-game average. The Tigers are ranked fifth in the country in total defense, 16th at defending the pass, fourth in run defense and first in scoring ‘D’ (12.9 PPG).

    With the exception of a 35-point outburst by South Carolina in the regular-season finale, Clemson has held eight straight opponents to 16 points or fewer and seven have been limited to 10 points or less. However, junior DT Dexter Lawrence won’t be in uniform vs. ‘Bama due to a suspension. Lawrence recorded 37 tackles, six TFL’s, seven QB hurries, 1.5 sacks and three PBU.

    Clemson leads the nation in sacks with 52. Clelin Ferrell paces the Tigers with 11.5, followed by Austin Bryant (eight) and Christian Wilkins (5.5). Alabama’s offensive line has given up just 14 sacks this year (to rank 10th in the country) but it won’t have starting sophomore OG Deonte Brown, who is also suspended along with two other reserves.

    Alabama is ranked fourth in the nation in total offense, sixth in passing yards, 35th in rushing yards and second in scoring with its 47.7 PPG average. The Tide is ranked 13th in the country in total defense, 22nd in pass defense, 19th at defending the run and fifth in scoring ‘D’ (16.2 PPG). They are fifth in the nation in sacks with 45.

    The ‘over’ is 8-5-1 overall for Alabama with its games averaging combined scores of 63.9 PPG. The ‘under’ is 3-2-1 in its past six outings. The ‘over’ went 4-2 in the Tide’s six games that had totals closing in the 50s.

    After going 4-1 in its last five games, the ‘under’ is 8-6 overall for Clemson. The Tigers have seen their games average combined scores of 57.2 PPG.

    Kickoff is scheduled for Monday night at 8:00 p.m. Eastern on ESPN.

    **B.E.’s Bonus Nuggets**

    -- Sportsbook has the following adjusted lines: Alabama -13.5 for a +220 payout, Clemson -3.5 for a +250 return, ‘over’ 68.5 for a +220 payout and ‘under’ 52.5 for a +210 return.

    -- In four games against Alabama, Renfrow has 22 receptions for 211 yards and four TDs, including the game winner two years ago.

    -- How many times has Clemson lost by more than five points in the last 61 games? Once, by a 24-6 count against ‘Bama last year in The Big Easy.

    -- Alabama is +8 in turnover margin, while Clemson is +5.

    -- Since clubbing Michigan by a 41-15 count at the Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl in Atlanta on Dec. 29, four additional UF players have joined safety Chauncey Gardner-Johnson in declaring for the 2019 NFL Draft early. Those players include OT Jawaan Taylor, LB Vosean Joseph, RB Jordan Scarlett and DE Jachai Polite. On the bright side, WR Van Jefferson, RB Lamical Perine, LB David Reese, WR Tyrie Cleveland and DE Jabari Zuniga have announced they’re returning to school. Also, the Gators landed a huge commitment Saturday from Long Beach, Calif., CB Chris Steele, who chose UF over Southern Cal, Oregon, Oklahoma and South Carolina. Steele is a 5-star at Rivals.com and a high four-star at the other recruiting publications. UF opens the 2019 campaign against Miami in Orlando at Camping World Stadium.

    -- Former Georgia QB and 5-star recruit Justin Fields has elected to transfer to Ohio State. Four other UGA players have announced they’re heading to the NFL Draft early, including RB Elijah Holyfield, WR Riley Ridley, TE Isaac Nauta and WR Mecole Hardman.

    -- West Virginia has hired Troy head coach Neal Brown to replace Dana Holgorsen, who chose to leave WVU for a pay raise at Houston. When Bleacher Report first indicated that Houston was making a move on Major Applewhite in order to hire ‘Holgo,’ I tweeted that he was doing the Mountaineers a favor by leaving. And with Brown now hired, I think WVU is the big winner with a solid upgrade in the head-coaching department (Disagree? See ‘Holgo’s clock management on the final drive in this year’s loss at Oklahoma State)

    -- Buffalo QB Tyree Jackson made news by placing his name in the transfer portal a week ago. He would’ve been a good get for a Power Five program. However, Jackson announced Sunday that he’s headed to the 2019 NFL Draft.

    -- South Carolina QB Jake Bentley has announced he’s coming back for his senior season. The Gamecocks are still awaiting word on WR Bryan Edwards.

    -- Auburn DT Derrick Brown announced he’s returning to school on Sunday. Brown garnered second-team All-SEC honors this season.

  10. #40
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    Three reasons to bet big on Clemson
    Jason Logan

    Despite not playing in the same conference, nor holding any long-running non-conference series, the Clemson Tigers and Alabama Crimson Tide have a classic college football rivalry brewing. These high-power programs meet in the CFP Playoffs for the fourth straight season, and play for the CFP National Championship for the third time in those four years.

    Oddsmakers opened Alabama as a 6.5-point favorite for Monday’s matchup with Clemson in Atlanta, and money on the Tigers has dropped this pointspread as low as Bama -4.5. It would seem plenty of the college football betting action likes Clemson’s chances of keeping this game close – especially after covering as underdogs in the previous two national title meetings with the Crimson Tide.

    If you’re on the fence about who to bet in the CFP Championship betting odds, here are three reasons to side with the underdog Tigers Monday night.

    Reason No. 1: No Fear

    Big bad Alabama has a psychological edge over most opponents before the whistle even blows. The program’s storied history, talent-rich roster, and imposing head coach Nick Saban can weaken the knees of just about any opponent. Except for Clemson.

    This is the fourth straight year Clemson has taken on the Tide, and if anyone knows how to tame an elephant, it’s Clemson coach Dabo Swinney. The Tigers covered as underdogs of similar size in both national title appearance – defeating Alabama for the championship in 2017 – and even have a measure of revenge sprinkled into this contest after getting rolled 24-6 by Alabama in last year’s Sugar Bowl CFP semifinal.

    The Tigers enter Monday’s matchup undefeated with an average margin of victory of more than 31 points per game. Clemson has covered in eight of its 14 games, including a 7-2 ATS run in its last nine games. If anything, the Tigers look more like an “Alabama” team than the Tide do at this point – even more so after locking down Notre Dame during a 30-3 victory in the Cotton Bowl Classic.

    Reason No. 2: Dominant Defense

    In a reversal of roles, compared to the past three meetings between these teams, Clemson enters this clash with Alabama as the dominant defense. The Tigers topped the college ranks in terms of points allowed per game, at just 12.9, and budged for just under 281 yards against an outing.

    Some would argue that Alabama’s stop unit is superior – having played a tough slate of opponents in the SEC – but the Tide have shown cracks in their last three games against top-tier competition, most notably allowing 24 second-half points to Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl.

    Clemson has gotten better as the season has trekked on, holding seven of its last nine foes to 10 points or less. The Tigers have an incredible blend of size, speed and athleticism – especially in the front seven – which matches up well against an up-tempo Alabama offense, allowing them to close in on runners and limit yards after contact and after the catch.

    That will be key to shutting down Alabama and getting them off the field on third downs. The Crimson Tide are among the top offenses in keeping the chains moving, picking up the first almost 54 percent of the time on third down. However, the Tigers allow opponents to convert on third down at just under a 28 percent clip and will bring the heat on third down blitz opportunities, boasting a pass rush that recorded 52 sacks on the season – No. 1 in the country. It had six sacks in the Cotton Bowl blasting of the Fighting Irish.

    Reason No. 3: The Future Is Here

    "Freshman" used to be a bad word when it came to big games, but as we’ve seen in the past six years and with Tua Tagovailoa’s arrival in last year’s title game, talent is talent. And the Tigers have talent oozing from their roster.

    Of course, first-year quarterback Trevor Lawrence is the first name to come to mind when talking fabulous frosh. Since taking over the top spot, and chasing Kelly Bryant out of Clemson, Lawrence has played beyond his years. The stoic 6-foot-5 blonde bombshell has injected this offense with life, passing for 27 touchdowns and only four interceptions. While he’s key to Clemson covering this spread, it’s not all on his broad shoulders.

    Lawrence is supported by a talented (and towering) group of receivers – including fellow freshman standout Justyn Ross, who has emerged as a big weapon with 148 yards versus Notre Dame in the Cotton Bowl – as well as a tricky spread option rushing attack, anchored by RB Travis Etienne.

    He’s a back-breaker with a nose for the end zone and will decimate this Alabama defense with a handful of big plays Monday night – thanks in large part to one of the best offensive lines in the country. The pass protection is elite and this o-line paves the way with massive gaps in run blocking, setting up 98 plays of 20-plus yards (second most in the country). Clemson is tops in the FBS in plays of 50 or more yards, with 21 and we’ll see at least one of those home runs Monday night.




    Three reasons to bet big on Bama
    Andrew Caley

    If you’re on the fence about who to bet in the CFP Championship betting odds, here are three reasons to roll with the Crimson Tide Monday night.

    Reason No. 1: Tua Tagovailoa

    Realistically, Tua could be the only reason you need to bet Alabama in the National Championship Game. The Heisman winner, wait. What? He didn’t win the Heisman? There must be some mistake. No? Well, those who voted for the award got this one wrong. Very wrong.

    All Tagovailoa did this year was throw for 3,671 yards with 41 touchdowns compared to just four interceptions while completing almost 70 percent of his passes. He also added another five scores on the ground. Oh, and he barely played a fourth quarter. He faced much tough competition than Kyler Murray. Sorry, Heisman rant over.

    The point is, Tua is the best quarterback in the country. His detractors will say he struggled against better teams, but his knee had been bothering him since before the LSU game and was clearly affecting his performance. Now, he's fully healthy as you could see in the Orange Bowl versus Oklahoma, where he went a ho-hum 24-for-27 passing for 318 yards and four touchdowns with no picks.

    On top of everything else, Tua has the experience on college football’s biggest stage. For those who don’t remember, Tagovailoa came it at halftime of last year’s national title game after starter Jalen Hurts was proving ineffective. All he did was throw for 166 yards and three touchdowns, including the walk-off winner on a beautiful 41-yard bomb to Devonta Smith. The bright lights of this game aren’t too much for Tua.

    Reason No. 2: Underrated Defense

    Everyone is going to tell you (my counterpart in this task, Jason Logan, included) that Clemson actually has the better defense in this time around. That the Tigers have the “Alabama-type" defense and that they will ride that dominant defense to a victory (or at least a cover) in the national championship. That’s all well and good. But let me let you in on a little secret: Alabama still has an “Alabama-type" defense.

    This has been a different type of season for Crimson Tide. Obviously, they were going to have another strong recruiting class per usual, but the special quarterback, Tagovailoa, and the offense was supposed to carry the Tide for once. Heck, the defense was welcoming in yet another coordinator and had to replace last year’s top six tacklers in the secondary, plus three of five at linebacker and three of six on the line. So, a drop off wouldn’t be shocking.

    But, what happened? Well, Alabama ranks in the Top 10 in just about every major category you could think of, including scoring defense (16.2 points allowed per game), opponents red zone scoring percentage, opponent’s yards per rush (3.3), and opponent’s completion percentage (51.9). And it’s sounding like as many as three members of the Tide’s defense will be going in the first round of the NFL draft - led by breakout defensive tackle Quinnen Williams, who could go No. 1 overall.

    Also, don’t tell me Alabama had a soft schedule this year. They Tide have beaten the No. 4, No.5, No. 11, No. 18, No. 19 and No. 23 teams according to the final CFP rankings. Clemson beat only three in the Top 25 and just one in the Top 18.

    Clemson’s offense is good. But they haven’t faced anything as good as this Bama defense. And don’t say Notre Dame. They didn’t play anyone good either.

    Reason No. 3: Gluttony of Talent

    The old Alabama formula was this: an almost pro-level defense with usually a game-changer or two on offense. A Julio Jones, Amari Cooper or Derrick Henry. But this season it isn’t just one or two guys. There are potential pros all over the offense.

    The Tide will not be deterred by the fact that the Tigers boast one of the best run defenses in the nation. They will attack you with their three-headed monster of RBs Damien Harris, Najee Harris and Josh Jacobs. All three had over 100 carries, averaged over five yards per run and had nine, four and 11 touchdowns respectively.

    But where the Tide can really attack the Tigers is on the outside. Alabama is legit five deep at wide receiver. Jerry Jeudy, Jaylen Waddle, Henry Ruggs III, Irv Smith Jr., and Devonta Smith can all hurt you. They all have at least 36 catches and 600 yards, six touchdowns and average over 16 yards per catch.

    If Clemson does have a relative weakness, it’s in the secondary. That unit ranks 23rd in opponent’s passing yards per game and yards per attempt. And that has come against a lot of bad teams. The Tigers’ secondary hasn’t face a quarterback like Tua. And they certainly haven’t faced a quarterback like Tua with an abundance of weapons like this in both the pass and run game.

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