Whether or not you like sports betting, knowing where Vegas stands on any given contest should give you a clear picture on how things are expected to go. Our partners over at DraftKings Sportsbook have released the early odds on some bowl matchups, including everyone in the SEC who is going bowling:
Bowl games have certainly lost their luster over the years thanks to a seemingly endless supply of corporate sponsored exhibitionists and the recent all-consuming zeitgeist of the Playoff but, whether you are pro or anti-bowl game, you can’t deny that there are some interesting matchups to consume in the upcoming weeks. Our partners over at DraftKings Sportsbook provide the lines, I provide the storylines.
Allstate Sugar Bowl - Ole Miss Rebels vs. Baylor Bears
- Favored: Ole Miss (-2)
- Over/Under: 51
If styles make fights then this game is for you. Ole Miss is a Top 10 offense; Baylor is a Top 15 defense. The Rebels are one of the three fastest offenses in the country while the Bears offensive plods along at the 94th-ranked team in pace. Lane Kiffin is a terminally online, bacchanalian offensive master mind while Dave Aranda is a quiet, nerdy, defensive stalwart. This one will be decided by who does the most with their off-hand - Ole Miss’s defense vs. Baylor’s offense - but the matchup of brilliant former coordinators in their second year as the head guy will be a great matchup. And, for what its worth, I do think Ole Miss can win by more than a field goal (if that’s important to you).
Autozone Liberty Bowl - Mississippi State Bulldogs vs. Texas Tech Red Raiders
- Favored: Mississippi State (-9)
- Over / Under: 60
If you’re my age or older Mike Leach first occupied your brain space as the quirky air-raider at Texas Tech. His magical 2008 season with Graham Harrell and Michael Crabtree - paired with his book “Swing Your Sword” and a “60 Minutes” profile with Tech alum Scot Pelley - put the odd curmudgeon at the West Texas school of Flying Tortillas squarely into the College Football Primetime. Then Craig James and his son Adam had an issue (CJK5H) with the ol’ Pirate and Texas Tech fired Leach (possibly wrongfully) to bring an abrupt close to an odd chapter of college football. Leach is definitely the kind of guy to hold a grudge and, even though it’s been a decade since those events, I’m certain he is eager to run his five offensive plays over and over against a mediocre Red Raider team with an interim staff. I’m not sure the Bulldogs cover but I’ll take them to win, at least.
TaxSlayer Gator Bowl - Texas A&M Aggies vs. Wake Forest Demon Deacons
- Favored: Texas A&M (-7)
- Over/Under: 59.5
Oil money vs. tobacco money. Public school vs. private school. 72,982 enrollment vs. 7,591 enrollment. Culty military junta vs. MBA-equipped stock brokers with “IV” tagged at the end of their names. A $13 million per year coach vs. a $3 million per year coach. Lots of interesting bifurcations in this here matchup, but the big one has to be “talent vs. motivation”. Wake Forest has had a banner year, finishing as a divisional champ in their first 10-win season in nearly 15 years. A&M beat ‘Bama but ended up 8-4 and relegated to the Gator Bowl after certainly having much loftier aspirations after the activities of October 9th. The Aggies are way more talented - even with early defections to NFL prep - but Wake is a funky offense to defend and could be an unstoppable annoyance to an A&M squad without much more to prove. I see Wake winning straight up while hitting the under.
Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl - Missouri Tigers vs. Army Black Knights
- Favored: Army (-3.5)
- Over / Under: 60.5
Obviously we all give a crap about this one already. It will be interesting to see how Missouri’s “historically-awful to actually pretty decent” run defense stacks up against a team that only runs the ball with misdirection and debilitating cut blocks. It’ll also be interesting to see what 1st-Team All-SEC Tyler Badie can do against an undersized 3-4 Army defense that excels at erasing the run. Missouri isn’t favored but they will have an athleticism advantage; whether that’s enough to outdo a scheme and tactical disadvantage is yet to be seen.
Goodyear Cotton Bowl - Alabama Crimson Tide vs. Cincinnati Bearcats
- Favored: Alabama (-13.5)
- Over / Under: 58.5
I would love to see Michigan win the whole thing but, frankly, I’m afraid Georgia is going to run away with that game and then beat ‘Bama in the rematch. So the most intriguing matchup of this year’s Playoff is the 1 v 4 game between Alabama and Cincinnati. Alabama certainly has a deeper roster than Cincinnati but a.) that’s true for every team that’s not Ohio State or Georgia, and b.) Cincy has NFL caliber dudes on both sides of the ball. This feels like - unfairly - a referendum on the future viability of G5 teams getting to participate in the Playoff. If Cincinnati keeps it close or even wins the dang thing then the Committee will know that it’s not a complete waste to consider G5s (but they still won’t make it easy). However, if Cincy gets blown out - something that Alabama has done to many teams, including Playoff teams - then I guarantee the Playoff refuses to acknowledge any G5 for future Playoffs. So...no pressure, Bearcats (who will probably cover, btw).