Submitted by Jim Hurley on Saturday, December 29, 2018 at 12:00 AM
3-0 In Friday's Bowl Games!
Auburn crushing Purdue 63-14! Iowa State (+2.5) vs. Washington State 26-28 and UNDER 56!
IT'S THE COLLEGE FOOTBALL PLAYOFFS - WE PREVIEW CLEMSON VS. NOTRE DAME, ALABAMA VS. OKLAHOMA PLUS, MORE SATURDAY BOWLS AND NFL WEEK 17 GOODIES TOO
THE COLLEGE PLAYOFFS
COTTON BOWL - at Arlington, TX
#3 NOTRE DAME (12-0) vs. #2 CLEMSON (13-0) - 4 p.m. ET, ESPN
Let's face it ... getting to the College Football Playoffs is "old hat" for these Clemson Tigers who are 3-2 SU (straight-up) and 4-1 ATS (against the spread) in a handful of post-season games the past three years (Clemson didn't make the playoffs in 2014 - the first year of this current system). The ACC champs have their own little magic formula this year - it's known as the KO punch as Clemson's won 11 of its 13 games by 20-or-more points while sporting the country's fourth-best offense / third-best defense but it's a stop unit that here won't have star DT Dexter Lawrence who was the biggest of three names on Dabo Swinney's squad to get suspended for a failed drug test. Hey, Clemson still has three other likely first-round NFL draft picks rounding out the rest of this D-line but his absence will be felt against a Notre Dame offense that sports five rushers that gained 250-or-more ground yards including RB Dexter Williams (941 yards rushing / 6.6 yards per carry average / 12 TDs). Irish QB Ian Book (2,468 yards passing with 19 TDs) is quite capable of eluding pass rushers and making the big throw with a moving pocket. Simply put, Clemson's "D" must collapse that pocket and make the smallish Book throw over the top - if WR Miles Boykin (54 catches / 14.9 ypc / 8 TDs) makes three or four "chunk plays" downfield here, the 12.5-point underdog Irish will be "live". Note that Notre Dame's 5-2-1 spreadwise in its last eight games heading in here while Clemson has failed to cover its last four in a row versus non-ACC foes. Key for the Tigers: Get RB Travis Etienne (1,463 yards rushing / 8.3 ypc / 21 TDs) to bust big gainers between the guards and then spot in some QB Trevor Lawrence (24 TDs / 4 INTs) quick hitters and count on Clemson to make some serious YAC (yards after catch). P.S, Clemson is 7-6 spreadwise this year with all of its games as twin-figure favorites.
ORANGE BOWL - at Miami Gardens, FL
#4 OKLAHOMA (12-1) vs. #1 ALABAMA (13-0) - 8 p.m. ET, ESPN
Here's the skinny when it comes to playoff pointspread history for these two super-power squads: Alabama is playing in its fifth straight playoff (that's five-of-five appearances, folks) and the Crimson Tide's 5-2 SU but just 3-4 ATS and that includes non-cover wins in the national championship game against Clemson back in 2015 and last year's 26-23 non-cover overtime win against Georgia in the title tilt. On the flip side, Oklahoma is in the playoffs for a third time in the last four years and the Boomer Sooners are 0-2 SU and 0-2 ATS including last year's twin-OT 54-48 loss to 2.5-point fav Georgia in the Rose Bowl semifinal bash. Now, few folks give Oklahoma a real shot here - the Big 12 guys are 14-point underdogs and that's funny considering that nine different times this year Lincoln Riley's club was a double-digit favorite! Okay, so what might lend you to think OU could hang tough here or even steal this prime-time semifinal affair? Well, Heisman Trophy-winning QB Kyler Murray (4,053 yards passing with 40 TDs and 7 INTs to go along with 892 yards rushing and 11 TDs) might well rank as one of the sport's top five all-time offensive players - and the nation's top-ranked offense has plenty of ammo including WRs Marquise Brown and CeeDee Lamb (2,367 yards receiving between 'em) at the ready ... and Brown (foot) says he's near 100 percent. Alabama, meanwhile, figures to "spy" Murray and not let him escape with big gainers on the ground while bringing in extra blitzers from the blind side. One major stat category here: How many sacks / negative yardage plays can the Tide pile up on this Oklahoma offense? Note that Nick Saban's squad - which has covered five of its last seven games this year - is the first team to beat everyone on its regular-season sked by 20-or-more points since a pre-1900 Yale team but things sure got tight in the SEC Championship Game (see Alabama 35, Georgia 28) before one-time starting QB Jalen Hurts came to the rescue - and Hurts may play a part here if lefty QB Tua Tagovailoa (3,353 yards passing / 37 TDs / 4 INTs) is not all the way back from his recent right ankle surgery.
Jim Hurley's Network of Handicappers and Bloggers have all the College Football Bowl winners this week/weekend featuring the two playoff games today plus there's NFL Week 17 winners this Sunday - just call us game days at the toll-free telephone # of 1-800-323-4453 or go online right here and also cash in with NBA / NCAA hoops.
In other Saturday Bowl Games, it's ...
BELK BOWL - at Charlotte, NC
SOUTH CAROLINA (7-5) vs. VIRGINIA (7-5) - 12 p.m. ET, ABC
The SC Gamecocks love the "tempo" offense but Virginia has seen plenty of that this season ... is that advantage Wahoos? Plus, Virginia lost last year's bowl game 49-7 versus Navy and so gotta believe third-year head coach Bronco Mendenhall will have his club focused on the task at hand. On the flip side, South Carolina has covered four of its last five games this year and QB Jake Bentley (2,953 yards passing with 27 TDs) does lead the country's 24th-best passing attack.
PEACH BOWL - at Atlanta, GA
#10 FLORIDA (9-3) vs. #7 MICHIGAN (10-2) - 12 p.m. ET, ESPN
Lots of missing Michigan guys here - guess they all think they're gonna be first-round NFL draftees next spring but fact is DE Rashan Gary and RB Karan Higdon are among the MIA here - and so it's not exactly a full-strength Big 10 crew in this clash in Hot-lanta. Yet, Michigan's still #1 nationally in defense (262.5 yards per game allowed) and QB Shea Patterson (21 TDs / 5 INTs) has plenty of ammo here even though Florida is ranked eighth in the country in passing defense.
ARIZONA BOWL - at Tucson, AZ
ARKANSAS STATE (8-4) vs. NEVADA (7-5) - 1:15 p.m. ET, CBSSN
The A-State Red Wolves zoom into this bowl bash riding a four-game ATS winning streak but it's Nevada that's been grabbing all the cash here - went from State minus 1.5 points to the Pack by a deuce - and Nevada's gonna be in good shape providing QB Ty Gangi (3,131 yards passing with 23 TDs) is on target right from the start.
NFL WEEK 17 NOTEBOOK
Okay, so everyone knows all the playoff machinations - so no need to get into that stuff - but did you happen to notice that half of the 16 games on Sunday sport pointspreads of a full TD (7 points) or more and that includes Pittsburgh being a 14.5-point fav against Cincinnati thus marking the biggest price on the big board. The last time the Steelers were a 14.5-point-or-larger favorite was way back in 2010 (their Super Bowl-winning season) when Pittsburgh laid 14 and a hook and bested Carolina 27-3.
One other interesting spread note: Seattle is a 13-point home favorite against weakling Arizona - it's the first time the Seahawks have been double-digit betting favorites against the Redbirds since a 58-0 win as 10-point chalk-eaters back in the 2012 season.
NOTE: Catch more Bowl coverage in the next edition of Jim Sez.