AP Photo/Brynn Anderson
Friday, Dec. 30, 2016 | 2 a.m.
One blowout, and one upset.
That’s how the College Football Playoff national semifinals have played out in each of the first two years. The majority of sports bettors are banking on the pattern to continue Saturday when the third four-team playoff commences.
Is Talking Points in agreement with the public sentiment that Alabama will do justice to its two-touchdown spread and down Washington? Or that Clemson is poised to reach a second straight national championship game by winning outright as an underdog in the final four?
Read below to find out in the final bowl pick’em entry of the season. The blog sits at 18-9 picking every game against the spread so far. Lines are the best currently available in Las Vegas on the chosen side.
AutoZone Liberty Bowl: Georgia plus-3.5 vs. TCU, over/under: 49.5
9 a.m. Friday, Liberty Memorial Stadium in Memphis, Tenn. on ESPN
Line has shifted six points since opening at Georgia minus-2.5. Both teams were equally disappointing this season, so would lean towards taking the points either way.
Pick: Georgia plus-3.5
Hyundai Sun Bowl: Stanford minus-2.5 vs. North Carolina, over/under: 54.5
9 a.m. Friday, Sun Bowl in El Paso, Texas on CBS
There’s been a lot of talk about what Christian McCaffrey’s replacement, Bryce Love, could do against a mediocre North Carolina rush defense. It can’t be any worse than what North Carolina quarterback Mitch Trubisky could do against a vulnerable Stanford pass defense.
Pick: North Carolina plus-2.5
Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl: Nebraska plus-6.5 vs. Tennessee, over/under: 58
12:30 p.m. Friday, Nissan Stadium in Nashville on ESPN
Nebraska comes into this game extremely hobbled, including injuries to starting quarterback Tommy Armstrong and leading rusher Terrell Newby, and that’s one reason why the spread has ballooned two points. But Tennessee is beaten up as well, having specifically taken its lumps on the defensive side of the ball all year.
Pick: Nebraska plus-6.5
Nova Home Loans Arizona Bowl: South Alabama plus-14 vs. Air Force, over/under: 57.5
2:30 p.m. Friday, Arizona Stadium in Tucson, Ariz., on American Sports Network
Double-digit underdogs have started bowl season 6-1 against the spread. Not laying a big number in bowl games is one of the oldest rules, and it’s not one that should only be applied selectively.
Pick: South Alabama plus-14
Capital One Orange Bowl: Michigan minus-7 vs. Florida State, over/under: 51.5
5 p.m. Friday, Hard Rock Stadium in Miami on ESPN
Michigan leads the nation in giving up only 3.8 yards per play to opposing offenses. The only comparable defense Florida State saw all year was Louisville, which held the Seminoles to 20 points in a blowout victory. This is an unforeseen opportunity to buy low on Michigan after it went 1-2 straight-up and against the spread in its final three games of the season.
Pick: Michigan minus-7
Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl: LSU minus-3.5 vs. Louisville, over/under: 59.5
8 a.m. Saturday, Camping World Stadium in Orlando, Fla. on ABC
It only feels right that the premier non-playoff game of bowl season has one of the tightest lines of bowl season. The good news is, numbers are split around town so those who like Louisville can find plus-3.5 and those who like LSU can find minus-3. As for those who can’t stick with either side and would prefer to just enjoy the game, well, join the party.
Pick: LSU minus-3
Taxslayer Bowl: Georgia Tech minus-3.5 vs. Kentucky, over/under: 61.5
8 a.m. Saturday, EverBank Field in Jacksonville, Fla., on ESPN
Kentucky ended the season hot, going 5-2 straight-up and against the spread, but let’s for a second pretend it didn’t stun rival Louisville 41-38 as 28.5-point underdogs in the final game. The point spread in this game might be a touchdown, and the Wildcats wouldn’t be receiving most of the action like they are now. The value is on the Yellow Jackets.
Pick: Georgia Tech minus-3.5
Chick fil A Peach Bowl and College Football Playoff National Semifinal: Washington plus-14 vs. Alabama, over/under: 52.5
Noon Saturday, Georgia Dome in Atlanta on ESPN
Alabama coach Nick Saban has told anyone who would listen that Washington would be the best team the Crimson Tide have faced all year. Someone in Las Vegas listened. Maybe several people listened, and all of them were equipped with large bankrolls. Despite the majority of the money coming in on Alabama, the line has moved toward Washington. The Crimson Tide got as high as minus-17, before now mostly hanging as a 13.5-point favorite. There’s a common denominator in Alabama’s losses over the last few year: The opponents exploit them by throwing deep. That’s easier said than done this year with Alabama having perhaps the best pass rush of the Saban tenure, but if any team is capable, it’s Washington. Sophomore quarterback Jake Browning was on pace to break the all-time record for passer rating three-quarters into the season before tailing off on the end. But his body of work, 42 touchdowns and seven interceptions, remains impressive. He might not be able to lead the Huskies to an outright upset, but he can keep them close. He can keep them closer than anyone else so far this year.
Pick: Washington plus-14
Playstation Fiesta Bowl and College Football Playoff National Semifinal: Ohio State minus-3 vs. Clemson, over/under: 59.5
4 p.m. Saturday, University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Ariz.
Approximately two out of every three tickets are coming in on Clemson with the consensus forming that Ohio State wasn’t on its level at the end of the season. The Buckeyes did only beat Michigan and Michigan State by a combined four points in their last two games, but that rationale ignores a couple other key factors. Ohio State won 62-3 in each of the two games before that. And it’s not as if Clemson was a wrecking crew down the stretch. The Tigers were only 1-3 against the spread, 3-1 straight-up in their final four games. Clemson came through in a similar situation in last year’s semifinals, beating Oklahoma 37-17 as a 3.5-point underdog that the public mostly supported. But facing Ohio State coach Urban Meyer with a month to prepare is a bigger challenge than Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops. Meyer is 10-2 straight-up and against the spread for his career in the postseason. His last loss did come to Clemson coach Dabo Swinney, whose Tigers beat the Buckeyes 40-35 as 2.5-point underdogs in the 2014 Orang Bowl. Swinney has done well in bowls himself, going 5-4 straight-up and 6-3 against the spread. But that’s not quite Meyer.
Pick: Ohio State minus-3
Outback Bowl: Florida minus-3 vs. Iowa, over/under: 40.5
10 a.m. Monday, Raymond James Stadium in Tampa on ABC
Iowa won and covered in its final three games of the season, destroying Illinois and Nebraska after also edging Michigan. The Hawkeyes were playing much more efficiently than the Gators, which rank 100th in the nation at gaining only 5 yards per play against Football Bowl Subdivision opposition.
Pick: Iowa plus-3
Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic: Western Michigan plus-9 vs. Wisconsin, over/under: 52.5
10 a.m. Monday, AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas on ESPN
Western Michigan’s P.J. Fleck is one of the best coaches in the nation, and has recruited more like a Big Ten school than a Mid American Conference school. That’s led to four straight covers against Big Ten teams for the Broncos, including against both Ohio State and Michigan State last year. So it would therefore be inaccurate to say Western Michigan hasn’t encountered any team as strong as Wisconsin under Fleck.
Pick: Western Michigan plus-9
Rose Bowl: USC minus-7 vs. Penn State, over/under: 60
2 p.m. Monday, Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif. on ESPN
The excitement on the Trojans has gone overboard. Yes, they looked outstanding in winning their last eight games while covering in all but one. But the Nittany Lions have an even more impressive streak, winning their last nine with an 8-0-1 against the spread record and earning a conference championship. Penn State sophomore Trace McSorley is just as exciting of a young quarterback as USC freshman Sam Darnold.
Pick: Penn State plus-7
Allstate Sugar Bowl: Auburn plus-3 vs. Oklahoma, over/under: 63.5
5:30 p.m. Monday, Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans on ESPN
Auburn dropping two of its final three is more forgivable upon realizing the extent of the injuries it was dealing with, including most notably to quarterback Sean White. The Tigers should get White and many others back to face the Sooners, a team it’s just as good if not better than at full strength.
Pick: Auburn plus-3