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College Football Bowl Picks and Predictions (PT.6) | NCAA Football Odds & Analysis


Gary Segars:

Welcome in to the BetUS College Football Show. And it is bowl preview number six. That’s right, the final six games of the bowl season are going to be discussed here today. I’m your host, Gary Segars. You can follow me on Twitter @GaryWCE. We are talking college football playoff today. And we are talking about the games that will be occurring on January 2nd. Now, today’s show, of course, is Wednesday, December 28th. If you were watching this on replay, etc., the information that we have right now, it is for today, December the 28th, just so that you guys know.

Let’s go ahead and bring in the experts here. Of course, on the right side of the screen, award-winning professional handicapper, Kyle Hunter. He is @KyleHunterPicks on Twitter. Kyle, I see you got the Buckeye’s hat ready to roll. It is time to talk about some CFP. How are you feeling today?

Kyle Hunter:

I’m looking forward to it. I had to go with the Buckeye’s hat today, I felt obligated. But it’s going to be fun to talk about these. We’ve known the matchup for a long time, and here we are.

Gary Segars:

We gave some early previews back about, what, a month ago, I guess, at this point, three however long weeks ago. And not much has changed, as far as our ideas on the matchups, but we are going to dive deep into these and talk about some numbers, etc. I do want to go ahead and congratulate you, guys, on a nice three-and-oh day on Tuesday in bowl picks that moves us to nine-oh and one in our last 10 picks. So, not too shabby.

Parker, on the left side of the screen here. Of course, Parker Fleming, @statsowar on Twitter. He is our numbers guy. I call him the numerical guru. He’s our analyst, if you will. Parker, numbers are looking really good right now through bowl season.

Parker Fleming:

Yeah, they are. And we definitely have had a nice little run of luck and some really, really fun games as well. I’d like to think that as we’re getting deeper into bowl season and random opt-outs are affecting the results a little bit less, where we’re getting into some stuff, where we’re the opponent adjustments and the numbers actually matter. But a great lineup today, some really, really interesting matchups. And excited to get into the new year six bowls and the playoff, but also sad because I realized that heralds the looming end of college football season, which is just right around the corner as well.

Gary Segars:

You have certainly got that right, for sure. And let me go ahead and tell everybody to like the video, if you would so kindly. Make sure that you were subscribed to the channel. We did break 12,000. So, thank you all for that. We certainly appreciate it. We started out this year at I believe around 2,500 subscribers. We are now over 12,000. And that is nice, nice growth. And it is because of you guys, especially all of you that are in the chat today.

Julius, I see Das Diggity. Let’s see, Fox Mogar, I believe. We’ve got a bunch of guys in here. And you guys are absolutely fantastic for being here. So, thank you, of course, for subscribing to the show. Of course, again, like the video and hit the notification bell. Let’s going to let when we go live again. We will be doing a national championship preview. We will, probably, I believe, be doing a live national championship preview the day of the show as well or the day of the ballgame. So, still quite a bit to come from us along with off-season content, etc. So, make sure that you are subscribed and that you stay tuned right in here. If you cannot be here live, we understand that. You can always make sure and get the BetUS Football Show podcast, any of your favorite podcast apps. Of course, there’s Apple, Spotify, etc. Leave a nice five-star review, and that would certainly help us out.

If you want to ask a question for the Q&A segment after the show, after the games are discussed, go ahead and jump into the chat. You have to be subscribed to get in there, but go ahead and toss any questions in there. We will curate those at the end. And we will go through as many of them as we possibly can.

Now, before we begin with the games, let’s give you a recap of what our records look like thus far this season. We try and be as transparent as possible. Whether we’re winning or losing, it does not matter. We’re going to tell you exactly what we’re doing. So far, on the year, I am sitting at 52, 37, and 3 on the year. Parker is 43, 46, and 1. Kyle, 32, 28, and 1. That gives us an overall record now of 127, 111 and 5. That is 53.36%. And that, my friends, is profitable. Profitable is what we are aiming for on this show. So, not too shabby, thus far.

Gentlemen, let’s dive in. We’re going to game number one. The college football playoff semi-final game one in the Fiesta Bowl in Glendale, Arizona. It’s at State Farm Stadium, TCU and Michigan. The Wolverines, a seven-and-a-half-point favorite. The total sits at 58 and a half right now. TCU, four and one straight up and three and two against the spread in their last five bowl games at Michigan, however, oh and five straight up and against the spread in their last five bowl games. That is not a great number.

Kyle, I’m going to start with you on this one. Corum is out of course the edge. Mike Morris, he had 11 tackles for loss this year. He has been injured. He didn’t play in the Big Ten title game. There’s not really been a lot of news about him. Mazi Smith was arrested on gun charges, and he did play in the Big Ten title game. Who knows what’s going to happen, as far as this game is concerned?

You look at some of these guys that are out for Michigan, and then you realize that TCU, this might be the healthiest they’ve been all year because they finally got a break. They did not have a bi-week since week three of the season. That is just a ridiculously long time to play football games and to really not lose any. They lost the Big 12 title game in overtime, but now they get some rest. They get some guys healthy, etc. How are you looking at this game? How would you break this thing down?

Kyle Hunter:

First, I think this is a really fun matchup. Everybody knows I’m an Ohio State fan, but TCU winning and going through this all would be pretty fun, too, not just because it’s Parker’s team but TCU’s been a great story all throughout the season. I love the way they play with so much heart. I think they have two really good coordinators. They’re offensive and defensive coordinators have really helped them a lot throughout the course of the season. But TCU, an easy team to root for, for sure. And I’m not just saying that because they’re playing Michigan here in this one, either. But Max Duggan a lot of fun to watch.

I think the key in this one is TCU’s pass protection against Michigan’s pass rush. Michigan’s defense has been very balanced. They’ve been very good, a third in PFF and run defense and third in pass coverage as well. It’s really hard to find a weakness on the Michigan defense. They’ve been very good. I think they have had a very good defensive coordinator through this year as well, mixing and matching up their looks. I think Quentin Johnston against the Wolverine’s secondary is going to be must see TV, for sure. Very good secondary. Johnston’s been excellent all year.

Duggan and TCU, you need to be really careful with the football here. Michigan has 12 interceptions and 11 force fumbles this year. I don’t think TCU can afford to be a negative turnover margin and win this game. Even, it might be difficult. So, they really got to be careful there. Michigan’s offense had virtually no explosiveness all year until the Ohio State game when explosiveness is what they had throughout the course of the game. So, I think Ohio State got caught being far too aggressive in that game. We had a lot of cover zeros, things like that at the end of the game. They’re trying to stuff the run, certainly. And they broke through.

This is where TCU is stopping the run, to me, is the single biggest key in the game. If you had to say one thing that would decide the game, TCU 67 in yards per carry allowed, 73rd in rushing place success rate allowed. J.J. McCarthy did what he had to against Ohio State. But if you go back and watch that, really it was just guys being wide open or a mistackle. And it wasn’t J.J. McCarthy being amazing. And if I’m TCU defense, I’m making a conscious decision to say we’re stopping the run, and if J.J. McCarthy beats us with great plays, then he beats us with great plays. They have to stop the run in a game like this. I think that’s what they’ll try to do, load up the box as much as they can.

Michigan is 123rd in tempo, TCU 85th. I honestly think the total’s a little bit too high. And I have a pretty strong lean to the under. I almost played the under here. But tip down a little bit from 60 down to 58 and a half. I’m going to just make this a strong lean. As far as the side guys, I don’t know what to bet on the side here. My number is Michigan minus eight. I think it’s hard to lay this many points against the TCU team that is really battle-tested. Now, you said they didn’t have a week off. They really didn’t have a week off even with an easy win over anybody.

So, you look at the other side, Michigan, there’s some layups there in the Big Ten, certainly, on their schedule. And then, in the non-conference they had plenty of those. TCU definitely the better strength to schedule throughout the course of the season. Michigan, the more complete team. Seven and a half, I think, is a fair number. So, leaning in this game is the under.

Gary Segars:

This thing dropped from Michigan favored by nine and a half. It actually got up at one point to 10, 10 and a half at a couple places and has come all the way back down. It is sitting consensus at seven and a half. Of course, over at BetUS right now, seven and a half with 58 and a half the total. I think you’re right about the total. I don’t expect a ton of points here. Joe Gillespie, I’m really curious what he’s got lined up here against this Michigan offense that’s been number 17 at PPA per drive since week number eight.

Parker, we’ll move over to you. I look at some of these numbers. Full season, Michigan is number three in PPA margin, TCU is number 25. But at the same time, how much of that is based on the fact that TCU schedule was just week after week of challenge after challenge? I don’t know exactly how to quantify that when you put it into some numbers like this.

I’ve got questions. It’s a fun running back matchup. You got Edwards against Miller. You got Duggan. Can he run against Michigan’s defense? I can’t wait to see this Michigan secondary against Quentin Johnston, as Kyle brought up there. I’m very curious what your numbers say on this one, Parker.

Parker Fleming:

So, I have this one just inside seven, which is again worrisome, but makes a lot of sense here, especially when you consider I don’t think there’s going to be a lot of scoring. I still would project and under, even as that number has come down. I’m looking at about 55 total points here. And we look at historically in these matchups. A lot of times, it’s pretty clear that there’s some separation in the seating. And this year certainly looks like it by my numbers. The difference between Georgia and Michigan as the top two and then everyone else is a pretty big gulf there. Michigan just very complete, like Kyle said, 11th in EPA per play on offense, third in EPA per play on defense.

I think that the defensive side of the ball is actually what’s more interesting to me than the offense for TCU, given the health. They were banged up all season in and out of matchups, had guys playing in positions that really hadn’t planned on being there, and half three weeks here where linebacker who’s all conference Johnny Hodges is going to be healthy, like he wasn’t in the Big 12 championship game, didn’t play. That’ll be huge for run stopping.

I’m also interested in TCU’s pressures on defense, given that Michigan is not exactly a team that’s going to beat you with the rush. Excuse me, beat you with the quarterback rush, per se. I wonder if TCU can’t cheat a little bit and dare Michigan to beat them and say, “McCarthy, you’re going to have to scramble and you’re going to have to…” If the rush is not there and you’re going to drop back, we’re going to force you to make an accurate pass. Then, we’re going to take our chances of not letting you outside of the pocket, letting you scramble.

So, interested to see what TCU can do there. Overall, the Frogs are 40… excuse me, 52nd in defensive EPA per play and 48th against the rush, but 64th against the pass. Again, definitely some issues with health and with coverage all season. interesting factor here is you’ve seen the graphics about how many four stars and five stars are on each of these teams. The talent differential is actually huge for TCU versus Michigan, especially when you consider that the one five-star on TCU roster has not played significant down all season. Marcel Brooks has been out. And so, there is a huge talent advantage. I do think the narrative of Michigan’s physicality is overstated. I think TCU’s seen lines, like Kansas State and Texas, that are as beefy and maybe not as well-executing as Michigan’s but are as stout as those two teams. And so, those should be some good preparation for this matchup.

The last thing I’ll say is about TCU and their offense. About 45% of their yards come after the catch. They do to throw the ball behind the line of scrimmage at the line of scrimmage and then take homerun shots. Michigan is only averaging six missed tackles a game. So, TCU’s either going to have to hope that they can scheme wide receivers wide open and take advantage of that speed and space or that Michigan shows an uncharacteristic lack of tackling discipline this season or that they haven’t shown this season, if they want to capitalize here.

I expect a low-scoring game. I think I’ve said this before on the show and off air, but I do believe that in the fourth quarter, Jim Harbaugh will look uncomfortable at some point, given this game state and what TCU has. But I do think Michigan pulls out here. Again, my line is just right there at about seven. So, I really can’t recommend, decide. I would lean towards an under in this game as it tends towards more of a heavyweight fight between two teams who really like to rush.

Gary Segars:

I can understand all of that, all of that. My play on it, though, and I hate to do this because everybody knows how much I love Parker. I’m going to ride with Michigan to cover the seven and a half. My number on it since week eight is Michigan minus 12 on this. So, I’ve got this thing around double digits. I think that Michigan is the better executing team. I think that Michigan may be even more fired up, based on what happened in their CFP semi-final last year. Of course, last year has nothing to do with this season, though. We all understand that. But this team for Michigan, five one and one against the spread, seven and oh straight up down the stretch in their last seven games, this team has really, really been impressive. And it’s not just based on one or two guys. It is an entire team effort. I’m really, really curious.

I think the TCU is going to stay in this thing. I don’t think this is going to be some three-touchdown blowout, by any stretch of the imagination. But seven and a half fuel a little too low for me. Now, I do still believe that this is going to be a lower-scoring game. So, under that both of these guys have talked about, I do certainly agree with that. But when it comes to team speed, I think that’s on TCU’s side. I just think the better executing team is Michigan and I think it’ll probably be double digits by the end of this thing. So, we’ll see. I’m going to trust my model here. I’m going to go against the guys, and I’m going to take Michigan to cover the seven and a half. But we’ll see. I expect this to be a fun, fun game. And yes, I do agree with Parker that Harbaugh will probably be uncomfortable at some point in the fourth quarter. So, we’ll see what that looks like for him, because there’s only really been a couple of games where he has looked like that at this point in this season.

We’ll move ahead. We’re going over to the other college football playoff semi-final game. And this one is in the Peach Bowl. In Atlanta, at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Ohio State taking on the Georgia Bulldogs in Georgia, a seven-point favorite, even NCAAF odds, if you want to take the Bulldogs here. It’s 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time on ESPN, of course, on New Year’s Eve. This one opened at Georgia seven. It’s still sitting at seven. There’s been a couple of times that this thing has hit six and a half, and it immediately gets hit by Georgia Backers.

Parker, I want to start with you here. At both TreVeyon Henderson, the running back, and the wide receiver, Smith-Njigba, are going to be out for this game, but both of them have been out for the majority of the season, anyway. So, I don’t know how much of a difference that really, really makes. To me, the biggest question here is whether or not Ohio State can match up with Georgia at the line of scrimmage. Now, based on talent rankings, etc., you would have to say yes. But you’ve seen Ohio State get into some, what do you call slobber knockers, I guess. And sometimes, they don’t necessarily hold up.

Now, the difference that we’ve seen is last year against Michigan, Ohio State just absolutely got dominated at the line of scrimmage. This year, I don’t know that it was so much that they got dominated at the line of scrimmage. I think Michigan just hit some big plays, when you really go back and watch that game. Other than that, I don’t know that there’s been another team that’s even close to Georgia that Ohio State has played at this point in the year.

Parker, I’m looking at numbers. Ohio State’s offense is number 59 in PPA per drive since week eight. That just seems weird. But at the same time, look at who they’ve played since then and it’s been Penn State and etc. They haven’t had to do a whole lot. What do you see happening in this game? What do your numbers say between the Buckeyes and the Dogs?

Parker Fleming:

I have this as a true top four matchup with Georgia being number three and the unweighted EPA per play margin in Ohio State being first. Of course, that’s just because Ohio State’s offensive numbers are so crazy that even when you adjust for garbage time against those bad opponents, they are still running out in front of everyone. I’m interested to see Ohio State’s offensive line. All five starters are 75 or above grade in PFF pass block. And I think that, specifically, in the interior, with Ohio State and how Luke Wypler plays 87.0 pass block grade, really anchoring the middle, a lot of Georgia’s defensive disruption comes from interior pressures. And so, I’m very interested to see how Ohio State and the interior can really shore up their protection, that way, knowing that they’ll be able to spread Georgia out through screens, through horizontal routes, there’s going to be a little bit of a back and forth between Ohio State and Georgia from that offensive defensive side of the ball.

I think it is important to remember that, outside of maybe three or four plays in that Ohio State, Michigan game, Michigan average three yards per play. It was a very good performance overall from Ohio State. Of course, that’s part of football, is making sure you don’t let those big plays turn into touchdowns. And I think that Georgia will absolutely move the ball and score, but I’m worried that Ohio State is also going to score.

Georgia’s defense 22nd in EPA per pass. And guys, I don’t want to, again, repeat myself for the millionth of time, but go watch that Tennessee game. There’s a couple balls that if Hendon Hooker just put it a little bit closer in the right spot, that’s either pass interference for first down or a wide open touchdown. And that game is a little bit different. I don’t think that that means that Tennessee would’ve won that game. And obviously, if every uncaught pass gets caught, a lot of teams are going to have different fortunes.

But that just is to say that Tennessee team who was very, very prolific on offense and very aggressive but maybe not as talented as Ohio State and maybe with not a precision passer, like C.J. Stroud, gives him an opportunity to really challenge this Georgia defense. I want to be consistent and say, of course, we know in the second half Georgia just shut it down. I’m not trying to give Tennessee undue credit there. But simply just to say form of kind, Ohio State certainly has the weapons to attack Georgia here. They’re fourth in EPA per pass compared to 22nd on EPA per pass for Georgia’s defense. And I will point out just the astounding balance of both of these teams. 55th in rush rate over expected for Ohio State, 61st for Georgia. These are teams that can do both sides of the ball really, really well. And the crux here will be when one team adjusts to stop one facet of the ball, who’s going to be able to adapt and make that other side that running, that passing game happen?

One thing to point out that that Ohio State is not very good at and the Michigan game certainly illustrated that Ohio state’s second in quality possession rate allowed on defense, allowing 33.3% of possessions to end with a quality possession, but they’re 54th endpoints per quality possession allowed. So, they are letting you finish those drives. They are giving up those explosive touchdowns. Georgia’s offense, on the other hand, a little bit worse at generating those quality possessions. They’re 12th in quality possession rate, but they’re third in points per quality possession. So, the finishing drives will certainly matter, the explosives will certainly matter. But given that there is a large element of randomness in those explosive plays, Ohio State can make one or two tackles and change the script of this ballgame entirely.

I have this within six. I was looking. I wanted to go with Georgia minus seven here, and I was really hoping we’d get six and a half. But for me, I’m going to go ahead and stay away, just because I think that relying on Georgia’s explosive passes makes me a little bit nervous with this high-octane Ohio State offense and the way their receivers can challenge Georgia one-on-one on the outside.

Gary Segars:

There is a number, and I forget where I heard this. One of the things that could certainly benefit Ohio State is the fact that their defense is number two in the country against running backs and tight ends catching the football. Now, that’s certainly something to pay attention to, because that is Georgia’s bread and butter. But at the same time, you’re going to have AD Mitchell back for Georgia this go-round. We don’t know whether or not Ladd McConkey is going to play. He was injured in the SEC championship game. There’s not been a lot of news about that.

Kyle, I want to take this over to you. If the Georgia defense can get the Ohio State offense behind the chains, Ohio State’s offense number 70 in passing down success since week eight of the season, Georgia’s defense is number 23, but you start looking at some of these other just overall season numbers, Georgia, their run blocking grade is number eight. Ohio State is number six in run defense, overall. This is over at PFF. Georgia’s offense is number one in red zone conversion percentage. Ohio State’s defense is number 131, which absolutely blew me away. I’m really curious here, what does the defensive coordinator, Jim Knowles, have in store for Stetson Bennett? Because we have seen over the years, and we’ve seen a lot of Stetson Bennett football, there are times where he can get really confused, and he doesn’t exactly know where to go with the football. Jim Knowles is a mastermind as a defensive coordinator. I’m really, really curious what he’s going to look like here. Kyle, what do you see happening in this ball game? What’s your breakdown? What’s your handicap?

Kyle Hunter:

Ohio State gets another chance after a terrible second half against Michigan. I know that’s been a lot of the talk, is that this is another chance for them after they look so bad. And obviously, the Ohio State fan base is really rough on the players when they look that way. I think C.J. Stroud has gotten a lot of grief. I would argue that C.J. Stroud didn’t really play that bad in the Michigan game. What did he do wrong in that game? It was more the defense giving up big plays. When he threw the interception late, it was already over, and some of the other balls that could have been caught. I think Strout has had a good year. He’s not been amazing.

But I wanted to break down real quick Stroud’s numbers when kept clean versus under pressure on PFF. Kept clean 92.5 grade, under pressure 34.0. Pretty crazy difference there. When blitz 87.2, when not blitz 87.2, and when blitz 71.5. So, Stroud has been really good when he has time to throw. I think it’s especially troublesome if he gets pressure up the middle, which Georgia certainly has a good defensive interior. Wypler has been a really good pass blocker at center. He’s going to get tested in a way he hasn’t been tested all year. I think that’s a really important matchup here.

I think the way that you beat Georgia’s defense is with some deep balls. And you guys talked about how Tennessee had some chances there. As you look down through the Georgia’s schedule, who else really could throw the ball deep, push the ball down field anything like Ohio State? I don’t see any team on their schedule that has receivers or a quarterback that can throw a deep ball nearly as well as Ohio State. We know LSU threw for 500 yards last game. I know Kirby Smart was really ticked off about that. The thing is, certainly, that was in a different spot and they were playing from way behind, so I don’t want to read too much into that, but I do think Ohio State, even without Jaxon Smith-Njigba, who would’ve been the best receiver there for them, has the best wide receivers in the country. And you got Stroud who can do a very good deep ball.

Ohio State, in general, has been very good throughout the year but didn’t finish the year playing very well. They’re first in U.S. for playing margin throughout the course of the season. The last three or four games, if they play they did the last three or four games, they’re not going to win this game. If they play like they have potential to play, this can be a really close game. I think Ohio State’s talent is plenty good enough. Georgia allowed seven sacks this year. Ohio State allowed eight. So, both offensive lines have been really good. Stroud, if he’s under pressure, then I think will be a lot worse than what he would be if he’s kept clean, certainly. Ohio State now 116th in explosiveness on defense, and that’s pretty much all because the Michigan game that certainly ruined it quite a bit.

Georgia, more than capable of hitting the big play. I think Bowers will be a really tough matchup. I know Ohio State has good numbers against tight ends, but again, what tight end have they played that’s anything like Brock Bowers? Who really else is Brock Bowers? I would expect a bunch of targets for Bowers in this game, definitely.

George’s past defense hasn’t really been tested throughout the course of the season, like I said. I think the Buckeyes have really good wide receivers. I think Cade Stover is a pretty good pass, catching tight end as well. And I think he could play a role here in a game like this.

I think Ohio State comes out and runs some up-tempo stuff here. It would surprise me if they just want to play slowly and gradually through this game. I think they want to on the fast track try to play really quickly, keep Georgia on their heels. So, I think the Buckeyes will get plenty of possessions, plenty of snaps off in this game. I do think Georgia will score a decent amount of points here, too. So, in general, the over… but I’m going to isolate Ohio State team total over 27 and a half. I think the Buckeye’s offense is still really dangerous. They’ve been talked down a little bit here of late, based on how they looked in the second half there against Michigan. But they had almost 500 yards. Michigan’s defense is really good. There could be an argument made that Michigan’s defense is better than Georgia’s defense this year, especially when it comes to secondary.

So, I think Ohio State gets their chances to score here. I think Georgia probably wins this. But certainly, I’m hoping Ohio State wins this. And I think Ohio State scores their points and think this will be a relatively high-scoring game. I’m going to take over 27 and a half for Ohio State.

Gary Segars:

I think a lot of people agree with you on this, Kyle. That total has gone from 60 and a half up to 62 and a half. And I would expected to keep climbing here. The thing that terrifies me, because I was certainly leaning Georgia, and I still do think that Georgia wins the ball game, but man, we saw in the SEC championship game just last year when Georgia has not seen the athletes like what they saw against Alabama to that point in the season, it was a bit of a shell shock for them. Same situation, I believe, this year. I don’t think that Tennessee is nearly as good as what Ohio State brings to the table. They are. They were fantastic this year, especially with Hendon Hooker at a quarterback. But this just looks like a different beast. And yes, Kirby Smart, with a month to prepare, but against them at your own peril. They are six and two against the spread at Georgia since Kirby has taken over in the post season. That’s certainly something to pay attention to. Georgia is three and two against the spread in their last five ballgames. Ohio State is one in four against the spread in their last five ballgames.

It’s another life for Ohio State. They now have a month to prepare. They’re going into Atlanta to face off against Georgia. I’m staying away from it. I like where Kyle is going with this, Ohio State team total over. I expect both teams to be able to put up points here. We will see what ends up happening, but I expect this to be a fun ballgame on New Year’s Eve.

All right, we’re going to move to the first game of the day on January 2nd. That’s right, Monday, January 2nd. New Year’s Day this year is going to be filled with NFL football, which you can get that over at the BetUS NFL show, but we are going to stick on college football here. ReliaQuest Bowl, Mississippi State is now a one-point favorite, with a total of 46 over at BetUS against Illinois. Now, it’s a weird one to even begin to discuss. It’s 12:00 p.m. Eastern Time on ESPN, too, that day. It’s at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa. It’s a stadium with a pirate ship in it, which makes you believe that Mike Leach should be there. Of course, Leach has passed away. Zach Arnett is going to be the new head coach after Leach’s passing. This is a weird spot to play a ball game, but the players voted on this. And they decided they wanted to play this game. They wanted to go out and honor their coach by playing this one. It’s interesting.

Now, there are some that are not going to play in this game. Mississippi State has several opt-outs. The safety, Duncan, the wide receiver, Rara Thomas, the running backs, Johnson and Hargrove, those guys are going to be out. But I don’t think that that equates to what Illinois is losing with their opt-outs, because they’re losing their defensive backs, Witherspoon and Brown, who have accounted for nine of the team’s 22 interceptions on the season. The running back Chase Brown, for a large portion of the season, was their entire offense. He was awesome this year. The defensive coordinator, Ryan Walters, is now the head coach at Purdue. That is a big issue here.

Parker, I want to start with you on this. This thing opened as a pickum. It jumped out to Illinois minus three. It’s now back to Mississippi State minus one. This is a strange game to try and figure out, especially when you look at what the two offenses are because they are not great. Mississippi State, that offense, even with Mike Leach, was number 117 PPA per drive since week eight of the season. The Illinois defense was number two. But when you’re losing players like these two teams are losing, as far as opt-outs are concerned, it gets really difficult to handicap, right, Parker?

Parker Fleming:

It does, particularly because I think the biggest matchup for me here is how Illinois can deny any deep game for Mississippi State on defense. And without Walters, I’m a little less optimistic about that. Will Rogers for Mississippi State, 71.4% completion percent when he’s kept clean, his average depth of target is 6.0. So, quick snappy passes. But when they try to get anything downfield, he gets under pressure 20.2% of the time, 46.3% completion percentage, five of his turnover-ready plays happen there. That’s almost a 4% turnover-worthy play rate there. So, a lot of disruption potential on the offensive and defensive line there for Illinois. But again, I don’t know how much that matters if they don’t have their defensive backs, who it gets the team like Mississippi State probably have a talent advantage. But with both of those guys out, I don’t know that they do anymore. And the schematics don’t necessarily matter against this arid offense, you’re really just going to be fighting for your life, just make the tackle in space and you’re going to be fine.

Mississippi State 95th overall in EPA per play this season and 99th in EPA per rush. So, that does benefit Illinois because they’ll be able to shift a lot of their resources away from that rushed defense to the past defense. One thing that I think might not change overall is Illinois has been very, very good in third and fourth down success on defense fifth in the nation. Mississippi State is 82nd on offense. So, that’s something to struggle for.

One last thing that could, maybe, make you lean Illinois is that Illinois is 26th in starting field position on average this season, Mississippi State is 104 in starting field position allowed. So, certainly, a lot of special teams and turnovers and, maybe, poor offensive drives can set Illinois’s offense up for success. But with the opt-outs and the off-field issues, I do not feel like I have a play on this in any direction at all.

Gary Segars:

My lean would have to be Mississippi State here.

Parker Fleming:

With the talent advantage alone, that would maybe.

Gary Segars:

Yeah. But also, not just the focus, because it’s hard to know exactly what the focus is from either side here, but I think the motivation certainly lies with the Bulldogs on this one. We’re going to get Kyle in here to look at this. Illinois runs the ball 55% of the time since week eight, but they’re number one 20 in PPA per rush. Mississippi state’s defense is number 25. If the state defense can slow down Illinois’s offense at all, I don’t see any way with the guys that Illinois’s losing on the defensive side, especially including the defensive coordinator. I feel like this one just has to have that storybook ending. Kyle, what do you see in this one? Is there a real way to be able to handicap this one?

Kyle Hunter:

I think this is a super tough handicap. I had a lot of thoughts on the first two games we talked about, but this is a tough one. Mississippi State in a very unique position, extremely sad spot to be in, obviously. I’m not terribly good at predicting how college football players will respond to something like that. If this were a game played a couple months ago in the regular season at full strength, I would’ve bet Illinois or bet the under. Chase Brown for Illinois is obviously massive. Chase Brown is excellent. Witherspoon out. He’s probably the best cornerback that people don’t know about. He hasn’t been hyped the way he should have been. Ryan Walters is a massive loss. I think just a tremendous defensive coordinator. Sydney Brown, which I believe he’s Chase Brown’s brother, is out as well, just a massive loss for the secondary for Illinois. And you go up against a team that’s going to throw the ball all over the place.

Illinois’ defense was good all year. Does that mean they’ll be good here? I don’t know. Some of the best guys are out. And then you lose Chase Brown on offense. I have no idea what to bet in this game, just to be honest. So, I guess I would’ve wanted to bet an under, but now Illinois lost all those key guys on defense, I don’t know what to do. So, I understand thinking that Mississippi State in this spot, it just feels like Mississippi State should win a game like this, but I hate betting on what things feel like.

Gary Segars:

I feel the same thing. I think about college basketball last year, Coach K, final game, all that mess. Two different chances to beat North Carolina. You would feel like the storybook ending is a win over his rival. He didn’t get either one of them done. So, you never know about these. But it would certainly feel like the right side if Mississippi State were to get that win there. So, no play, no official play from us on this one. But if I had to lean a certain direction, if you’re having to pick these games, I would go with Mississippi State, based solely on the idea that Illinois’s best players are out and these guys, I think, will be motivated to get a win in honor of their fallen coach. So, rest in peace to Mike Leach. And go, Bulldogs. We’ll see what ends up happening there.

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And of course, if you have not done so already, and once we’re done here, go back and watch yesterday’s show. We do have part four, part five. Part six now, of course, is this one. But any of the games that are going on today through January 2nd, we are discussing all of them. We have already talked about all of them. So, go ahead and go back and watch those and see what we had on those games.

All right, gentlemen, we are headed to the Cotton Bowl. That’s right, Arlington, Texas, AT&T Stadium hosting the Cotton Bowl, which this year faces off Tulane, that’s right, the Green Wave, and the USC Trojans. Now, not a matchup that you would typically see, but that’s what makes it even more fun. Bowl season is awesome. 1:00 p.m. Easter time on ESPN on Monday, January 2nd. Tulane is a two-point underdog to UST, with a total of 62 and a half. Now, this line has not moved much. USC opened as a two-and-a-half-point favorite. They are only a two-point favorite.

Now, I want to start with Kyle on this one. This Tulane team nearly beat Lincoln Riley straight up last year as a 31-and-a-half-point underdog in Norman, Oklahoma. Now, that was a two-win Tulane team. This one currently is what an 11-win Tulane team. So, it’s a little bit different. Tulane, 11 and two straight up and against the spread this year. They are incredibly profitable. Cheers to Willie Fritz for that. At the same time, you look over at what USC has done, they are five and one straight up, but only three and three against the spread in their last six games. This is a strange one when you look at the numbers because I don’t think these two teams are that far off here. Kyle, what do you see happening between the Trojans and the Green Wave?

Kyle Hunter:

I think it would be easy to say Tulane season was a fluke. You would think, wow, how could a team go from that to what they are this year? But it really wasn’t a fluke. They’re seventh in the nation in yards per play margin and plus 1.57 yards per play. They were 73rd in strength of schedule according to Sagarin. USC was 46, so it’s really not as big of a schedule difference, as you would’ve expected. USC plus 0.89 yards per play, which is 30th in the country. Tulane is basically a full-go in this one. This is a massive game for this program. You couldn’t get a bigger game for Tulane. To go from where they were last year to being in the Cotton Bowl on the huge stage, really big game for them. I think Fritz is a really good coach. No question about motivation on that side.

So, my question is, can USC ever stop Tyjae Spears? It would surprise me if Spears doesn’t have a massive game in this one. Highly doubtful that they’ll be able to stop him. In the last seven games, he’s had at least 121 yards in each game. He has 8.9 yards per carry in that seven-game span, just insane. That seven-game span, five or more of those, he’s averaged 8.4 yards per carry or better. USC is 126 in rushing plays excess rate allowed.

Tulane has explosiveness in the run game. A lot of teams are explosive in the past game. Tulane is really explosive in the run game. USC has allowed 31 plays of 30 yards or more. A lot of plays on the ground, USC has given up a lot of big plays. On the other side, Tulane is eighth in explosiveness allowed. They’re going to try to slow down Caleb Williams and company. Jordan Addison out hurts quite a bit, really good receiver. Is Williams completely healthy is certainly a big question for this game, because if Williams is completely healthy, he’s going to run for a lot of yards and throw for quite a few yards in this one, too.

The Tulane secondary is good. I think the Green Wave secondary is underrated in general 14th at PFF and coverage grade. I think USC will score plenty of points here, but I think Tulane will score plenty of points in this one, too. I would lean over, if I was going to bet aside or I bet a total here, I lean Tulane on the side in a game that I think means more to them. And USC is plus 21 in turnover margin. I’m tired of talking about this, honestly, because every single time it’s like they’re plus 21, they’re plus 23. I guess they lost the turnover margin when they last came. But if they pull the card again where they’re plus four in turnover margin, then obviously they’re going to win and run away with it.

But I don’t think Tulane matches up that terribly on paper in this game. USC, one game away from being in the college football playoffs. And Tulane, this is as big a game as you could get. So, motivational factors, you have to favor Tulane. My lean is definitely Tulane here.

Gary Segars:

My lean would be Tulane as well. I don’t believe that Caleb Williams is just going to pop back from that hamstring injury within a few weeks. That doesn’t look like something that you just come back from very quickly, although he’s saying all the right things. The opt-outs for USC, by the way, Addison, the wide receiver, he’s out. The offensive lineman, Vorhees, the linebacker, Goforth. The center is injured. So, there’s a lot missing for USC here.

PPA margin since week eight, Tulane number 15, USC number 40. Penalties per game, Tulane number five, USC number 80. Net points per drive on the full season, Tulane number 12, USC number 17. When you look at turnover margin, that’s the biggest thing that everybody discusses, USC number one. But Tulane is number 34. It’s not that crazy. This team really doesn’t beat themselves. Giveaways per game, Tulane is number 23 in the country. They don’t beat themselves. Willie Fritz’s team, they turn the ball over 1.1 time per game, but they get the ball back 1.5. So, this team is pretty good.

Parker, when you look at this team, when you look at this matchup, it’s Tyjae Spears or nothing, right? How do you feel about Tulane and USC?

Parker Fleming:

Well, Michael Pratt is certainly a good quarterback who’s got a lot more experience than, I think, a lot of people think. Last year was a little bit under the radar despite being very good. And got a lot of buzz in the transfer portal and still might. I think he announced that he’s staying, so maybe there’s no more drama there. But 21 to four interception ratio, but 64.7% completion on an 8.9 average depth of target. They really do move the ball around. But as you said, they move it around to Tyjae Spears a whole lot. He and Lawrence Keys are an under-over duo, but I think that guys like Duece Watts and Jackson give them just multiple options to really stress test a defense who has struggled this season and a defense that may might not be as motivated in this situation, going from, “Hey, we have a shot at the playoff, all we have to do is win an in,” to, “Hey, we’re going to Dallas to play a G5 team.” There’s certainly an undeniable letdown effect there.

And USC’s offense… or defense, 89th and EPA per pass, 120 sixth in EPA per rush. That’s where Utah really had their successes overall. And Tulane’s offense for all of their passing success have actually been very good at running the ball. They’re 24th in EPA per rush this season. And I think a lot of that gives them an opportunity to match up well against USC’s strengths there. Spears is, what, 192 attempts in the run game as well, so getting him going in pass and getting him going and running. I think that he can be versatile enough to really stretch this USC defense very, very thin. Tulane 11th and early downs EPA this season, USC 118th. So, even as Tulane hasn’t been as good on third and fourth downs, they’ve been very, very good on early downs. I think they’re going to score and give this USC defense all that they want all game.

The offensive side of the ball, I’m interested in, specifically, for two reasons. One, Brett Neilon is the center, and then guard, Andrew Vorhees, has opted out. And so, those misses really set up for a big game for Patrick Jenkins, the big name from the inside on the defensive interior there. Tulane has four or five players with at least 15 pressures. And Jenkins playing in the defensive tackle spot leads the team in 30. And then, you’ve got three or four edge-rushers who can move around.

I really think that, if Tulane can stop the run and then make sure that they play contain on Caleb Williams, instead of flushing it out and getting beaten up, I think they have a lot of time to really practice that and hone that in to say, “We’re not going to let Caleb Williams beat us with his legs.” I think Tulane could make this a very, very annoying game. Obviously, still a huge talent advantage for USC here. But I’m going to go further than a lean with Tulane. I’m going to trust their defensive line against this USC offensive line, and I’m going to trust that their offense is versatile enough to really create a mismatch here against USC. So, I’m going to go the Green Wave to cover.

Gary Segars:

I like it. Let’s make it official, of course. Parker, Tulane plus the two here. I think you can get them at plus one 10 on the money line at BetUS. So, maybe double dip a little bit, toss a little bit on that money line there while you’re taking the two points. This is certainly an interesting little tidbit. USC throws the ball 56% of the time since week eight. They are number four in PPA per pass on offense. That Tulane defense, stopping the pass is what they do best. They are number 19 PPA per pass, number 30 in past success rate allowed. The matchups all certainly lean Tulane. So, it’s why both myself and Kyle are leaning Tulane. But Parker’s just going to dive right in. I like it. I like it. Let’s go with the Green Wave on that one.

All right, moving ahead, we got two more games to discuss. Let’s go to the Citrus Bowl with LSU as a 15-point favorite over Purdue, the Boilermakers. The total here is 56 on this. Of course, latest numbers at BetUS. It’s at Camping World Stadium in Orlando, Florida. And gentlemen, 1:00 p.m. Eastern Time on ABC is this game, same time as the Cotton Bowl. This is an interesting ballgame because we’ve got a bunch of opt-outs here. We got the cornerback, Ward, the wide receiver, Jenkins, the defensive end, Ojulari, for LSU. They’ve got several others that are transferring out. The wide receiver, Bech, I believe, is going to be out as well.

We’re trying to figure out who’s going to play quarterback for LSU at this point. Nussmeier was 15 out of 27 for 294 yards against Georgia. He had two touchdowns and one interception there. We’ve had plenty of time now. Daniel’s going to play at quarterback. This LSU offense since week eight, number 11 PPA per rush. The Purdue defense in that same time span is number 80. The issue is all around for Purdue in this ballgame, which is why the line has just skyrocketed.

Parker, we’re going to start with you on this one. That number, it opened as LSU minus six and a half. And it’s up to 15 now. But the biggest reason, of course, is because the Purdue head coach, Jeff Brohm, is now at Louisville. Brian Brohm, his brother, will be the interim coach for this ballgame. But the opt-outs are a huge, huge reason for it. The quarterback, Aidan O’Connell, he is out. The wide receiver, Jones, the quarterback, Trice, the offensive lineman, Holstege, the running back, Lewis, all of them have opted out of this ballgame. This is a strange, strange matchup to try and handicap without knowing exactly who the players are that we’ll be playing in the ballgame. The Purdue offense number 99 PPA per drive since week eight. This LSU defense, not that much better, number 85 there. Parker, how do you even begin to look at a game like this and try and come up with a number on it?

Parker Fleming:

I feel like I’m going to sound like Kyle here, just saying like, how can you bet on Purdue in this game? There’s nothing that would make me want to do that. But on the flip side, 15 points for LSU. Obviously, talent advantages in LSU’s favor. And LSU’s run game has been so good on defense, which has produced defensive strength as they’ve gotten a little strung along in the past 44th in EPA per rush, 61st in EPA per pass. But a ton of that rushing value comes from Jayden Daniels’ legs. So, without him, I’ll be diplomatic and say that Garrett Nussmeier probably would lose a foot race to Jayden Daniels. And so, that definitely changes the dynamics of that offense with all of the opt-outs.

An interesting just artifact of how both of these teams are run. Both themes are pretty good at generating quality possession. LSU is 49th in eco rates, Purdue is 20th. But they’re both very bad at finishing. LSU, 82nd averaging only 3.91 points per quality possession, while Purdue is allowing 4.66. So, big explosive play potential there. You have to think that LSU, with the talent advantage, would be able to exploit that, especially with the opt-outs. But on the other side of the ball, again, LSU 55th in EPA per pass, 51st in EPA per rush, not certainly expiring. They do match up really, really well against Purdue in that they don’t allow finishing drives. They allow 3.25 points per quality possession. That’s 12th in the nation. Purdue is only averaging 3.42, which is 105th.

So, we’re talking about fractions of field goals there, but we’re talking about huge differences over the course of the season in finishing drives there. Both teams have passed a lot. I actually expect that to come down a little bit with the backups playing, and this be more rush heavy game. And so, I don’t know how many points will be scored here, but I definitely can’t pick a side with the uncertainty. The point of the line this point if Daniels is going to play, that line’s going to go to what, 22? The information is going to be really hard to incorporate. So, this one’s pretty rough. It’s like Wisconsin, Oklahoma State for me where it’s just like I’m not sure that I know what 22 players are going to be out there at any given time.

Gary Segars:

That’s the biggest issue here, is who exactly is going to play? And even at that point, LSU at full strength against a team like Arkansas who did not have a good defense, only put up 13 points on the board. So, how can you bet them by 15 in a game against a decent Purdue team that who knows if they’re going to be fired up or not?

The quarterback for Purdue, it looks like it’s going to be Austin Burton. And he had some success in his only real game this year against FAU, but that was against FAU. This LSU secondary is relatively weak. But these numbers are crazy. Kyle, we’ll move it over to you. Predicted points added margin here since week eight. LSU is number 30, Purdue number 101. LSU number 37 net points per drive on the full season, Purdue number 71. And then, points per play margin on the season. LSU number 53, Purdue number 91. This Purdue team got by with a lot of things this season, and they were still really good because they had a good quarterback, etc. Without their coach, their play caller, without their quarterback, did the number get up to a point now to where you would still, maybe, bet on Purdue at this point?

Kyle Hunter:

If you were one of those people that grabbed the LSU minus six and a half or minus seven, then tap yourself on the back. That was a great grab, for sure. At the current number, things are a lot different. So, minus 15, I definitely understand and agree with the line move going significantly. 80% of the bet’s on LSU, so far. Why wouldn’t they be? It’s one of those where the public does poorly in bowl season, but in this spot we fully understand why the bets are on one side. So, that’s something to consider. Having said that, Jeff Brohm’s gone. Aidan O’Connell’s opted out. Payne Durham, who’s a tremendous tight end. Charlie Jones, the once feared Purdue passing attack, probably not very feared in this one.

If you look back at Austin Burton’s numbers from the Florida Atlantic game, I remembered when I was looking back through this that I had Purdue in Florida Atlantic over as a bet here on the show. And as soon as Aidan O’Connell was out, I’m like, “Oh, man, this is really bad.” And I remember watching the game, and it was a pretty painful watch. So, Florida Atlantic against them. Austin Burton, a 62.2 PFF grade. And his aDOT throughout the season was 4.9. So, I’m not taking a lot of shots there. Let’s just say that the downgrade from O’Connell to a Burton is a really significant downgrade.

And I think, Parker to the then Jayden Daniels and Garrett Nussmeier race, Daniels would win the race if he was hurt. And if he was healthy, it’d be a blow-away, that’s for sure. Nussmeier, I couldn’t believe when I looked at the stats from the Georgia game, and obviously they were way down, but his aDOT in that game was 17.2. So, he had just taken shots down field every single time. It’s just insane. I think that probably could work against Purdue here, too. Nussmeier wouldn’t surprise me if LSU can score quite a bit as well. LSU has a bunch of defensive players opted out. If it would’ve been a different team, I would’ve expected somebody to take advantage of their run defense because LSU is not great on run defense, to start with. But Purdue isn’t that team that’s going to take advantage of a bad run defense.

So, I don’t know. What do you bet in a game like this? Super hard. I really have no lean on a side or a total. Like I always said, I try to be a straight shooter. This is one where if somebody told me you have to bet the game, I would really be nervous. I don’t know what I’d bet here.

Gary Segars:

I’m in the same boat. I don’t even know which direction I would lean. So, we have no official play on this one. I guess, if I absolutely had to, for a bowl, pick or something along those lines, I just don’t believe there’s any way you can back Purdue in this spot. Maybe, I’m nuts, but LSU, I think, wants to win this game. Purdue, maybe there’s something to Drew Brees being an assistant coach right now. Maybe there’s some kind of magic that old Brees can pull out there, but I ain’t seeing it. So, we’ll see what ends up happening here. No official play from us on this one.

We will move ahead. We’ve got one more game to discuss before we do Q&A. The Rose Bowl on Monday, January 2nd. All that tradition just wiped out by having to play the game on January 2nd instead of the 1st after the Rose parade. 5:00 p.m. Eastern Time on ESPN Utah, a two-and-a-half-point favorite, juiced at minus 15, of course. The total sits at 52 and a half over the Penn State Nittany Lions here. Pasadena, excuse me, Pasadena, always a beautiful place for a ballgame.

This is a strange one. We’ve got some opt-outs here. Kyle, I do want to start with you on this one. The Utah opt-outs, the running back, Thomas, the tight end, Dalton Kincaid, the cornerback, Clark Phillips, is going to be out for this one. For Penn State, their cornerback, Joey Porter, Jr. is going to be out. The wide receiver, Parker Washington, is injured. He didn’t play the last two games. It looks like he’s not going to play in this one as well. This is a very interesting matchup to me. Kyle, how would you break down between the Nittany Lions and the Utes here?

Kyle Hunter:

A really fun game. I’m looking forward to this one a lot. Penn State with just two losses on the season against Michigan and Ohio State. Penn State’s had a really good season this year, I think quietly. Penn State’s 11th in net yards per play margin. Utah is 22nd, nearly identical strength schedules. Joey Porter Jr. is a massive opt-out for Penn State, obviously, in the secondary. Parker Washington a key missing guy as well. Shut down corner star wide receiver both out. Utah without Dalton Kincaid, who was banged up last game. And understandable why he’s not playing here. Tavion Thomas opted out, too.

I think Utah though was really deep at running back. And I don’t know that Tavion Thomas’ absence is a huge deal. Clark Phillips, the cornerback opted out, and that is a bigger deal. Utah is not hurting nearly as bad as last year when they had backup running backs trying to defend Smith and Jakebro, which ended up beating them in that game. But cornerback is still a relative weakness for them. Utah has plus 29 in sack margin, first in the country. They allowed just nine sacks all year. Penn State had 36 sacks. So, I think that’s a really fun strength-on-strength matchup there with the Utes’ offensive line and Penn State’s defensive pass rush.

Both teams were really good from a turnover margin standpoint. Utes plus eight and Penn State plus 10, I will say. And the Utes’ losses, Cam Rising had some really bad games. I still don’t know exactly what I’m going to get from Cam Rising. If you look at the last few games, the last five games for Cam Rising, he had a PFF grade of 58.9 or lower in four of those five games. The one that he didn’t have a low grade was Colorado. And that barely counts. It’ll start counting when Coach Prime is there, but it’s not counting at this point. So, I think Cam Rising is probably overrated by some people. I assume, if you just asked a bunch of people who had the better quarterback here, most people would say Cam Rising. I don’t know if that’s the case or not.

Weather shouldn’t be an issue here at the Rose Bowl. We’ve seen a lot of high scoring games here, a fast track for being outside, at least. I think there’s a path to success for both offenses. Both offenses top 15 in the country and red zone touchdown percentage. So, I lean pretty strongly to the over here. I didn’t quite pull the trigger. I want to think about this one a little bit more. But I also think that there’s a possibility we see a couple more opt-outs. So, this one’s a little ways out compared to the other games that we’ve talked about. So, I want to see as it gets closer, I lean pretty strongly to the over in this one.

Gary Segars:

That does make sense. The line movement certainly shows that 48 and a half was the opening total up to 52 and a half here. So, yeah, everything seems to be moving that direction. When I look at some of these numbers here, Parker, we’re going to move over to you, Penn State number six in net points per drive. Utah, number seven. Turnover margin, Penn State number eight, Utah number 21. Points per play margin, Penn State number six, Utah number 11. These are two pretty equally matched teams, but the opt-outs can certainly change some things around here. What do you see between these two?

Parker Fleming:

Because of the opt-outs, I’m just inclined to wonder about the depth of talent in both sides of the ball and team talent composite. Penn State is 15th, Utah is 33rd. They’re actually behind even TCU in terms of total talent. But obviously, with Kyle Whittingham, that means what it means. And certainly, they have talent suited for what they want to do. I do think, with some of the opt-outs on Utah, a lot more pressure on Cam Rising, which if I’m an opponent playing Utah, I want him to have to do a lot against me and put a lot of pressure on him, especially as he’s struggled down the stretch.

On the other side of the ball, for Penn State, they’ve been very good in the past game, 33… excuse me, 33rd in EPA per pass. Utah’s defense is 23rd. But Penn State has not been able to rush the ball with any kind of efficiency at all. They’re 85th in EPA per rush, 100th in rush in success rate, where Utah, on the other hand, absolutely shuts the rush down in terms of explosiveness. They’re 46th in EPA per rush. But they do allow some success, allowing 39.4% rushing success rate, which is 70th in the nation. So, will Penn State be able to get any rushing success there, which they haven’t been able to do this season? It’s interesting to see, that’ll be a good battle in the trenches.

Again, Penn State’s offense worries me because they are 55th in early downs EPA, but they’re 42nd and 34th down success. So, when you lean a lot on those late downs, I’m a little bit worried about that ability overall to translate into continued success. Utah is seventh and 34th down success on defense. So, that matchup certainly flavors the Utes. But the opt-outs here, I really can’t lean aside. Again, motivation’s going to matter. And I think Penn State has been slightly underrated this season simply because they just won the games they should have and lost the games they should have. And somehow, that gets pegged as a knock against them. But pretty quietly solid for them, overall. And if they can get any rushing success, I think they can make this a pretty interesting matchup.

Gary Segars:

I tend to agree with you, I think it is incredibly equally matched. But I’ve held everybody in suspense long enough. I am going to side with Penn State here. And it’s based solely on end of season trends, etc., based on opt-outs and whatnot. You talked about those early downs for that Penn State offense and how they lean more on the late downs. You look at the numbers. And this Penn State offense number 24 in standard downs PPA since week eight, Utah’s defense number 81 just since week eight. So, there’s a sizable advantage there for Penn State. Along with that, this Utah offense, they lean heavily, heavily on the run, number five PPA per rush since week eight. But Penn State defense is number 13. They are number one in stuff rate since week eight, number one in offensive line yards allowed since week eight. This is a spot that I really believe Penn State is going to be motivated. I think they want to be out of the Rose Bowl. And obviously, Utah wants to be there as well.

But I think the more talented team that has been playing better towards the end of the season, I know that everybody gets fired up because they just saw Utah just hammer USC in the Pac-12 title game. But that’s where I believe we have an advantage here. There’s value in this number because I think Penn State should be favored. But instead, I’ve got Penn State by four based on data from week eight on. The strength of schedule’s a little bit different, but overall, on the season, we’re looking at Utah number 47, strength of schedule, Penn State number 30.

There’s not a huge difference there, but this Penn State team has been playing fired up towards the end of the year. I like them in this spot. I like them, plus the two and a half. I’m going to have some on the money line as well on that one. So, yes, I do feel good about that. All right, so official play there, Penn State plus two and a half for me.

We do have some odds boosts over at BetUS. Let me go ahead and tell you about those for today’s games. In the Liberty Bowl, Arkansas to win both halves against Kansas. It was plus 135, it is now plus 185 over at BetUS. So, go and check those out. And for the later game, the Texas Bowl, Ole Miss to win the game against Texas Tech by 13 points or more. That one was plus 250. It is now plus 300. So, if you want to take advantage of that, go and check them out, of course, over at BetUS.

Gentlemen, it’s time for us to dive into the Q&A. Let me remind everybody, go ahead and like the video for us, if you would so kindly. Subscribe to the channel. Share it out. Tell your friends about it. And if you’ve got any more questions to toss in the Q&A, certainly do that. We appreciate everybody that’s in the chat. We’ll start with this one. Just sliding comes in and says, J.J. McCarthy rushing yard is at 14 over or under. What do you guys think? Kyle, player props, etc. A very interesting way to look at these college football playoff games. How would you feel about J.J. McCarthy rushing yards?

Kyle Hunter:

I think Parker might be better to ask this question, too, based on his knowledge of TCU and how they would do against a quarterback scramble. But I don’t think McCarthy is the type of guy that’s going to run very many times. The question is whether he breaks one or two long runs. So, I guess, if I had to bet, I’d bet the under, but I don’t have a strong feeling on that.

Gary Segars:

Parker, we’ll toss it over to you. What do you think here?

Parker Fleming:

Do sacks count in the rushing? They don’t sack adjust your rushing yards, right? So, the sacks are encountered as negative rushing yards.

Gary Segars:

They do. They do count in your rushing yardage.

Parker Fleming:

So, that would make me think that the under would be… because he has no rushing upside. Sorry, that’s too mean. He is not known for his rushing upside. And TCU’s Dylan Horton has been after. And they’ll send. Ideally, again, the most similar game for TCU and Michigan, and if you want me to talk about this way longer, listen to Purple Theory podcast, I’ll keep this quick. It’s going to be Texas. That’s going to be the most similar game for TCU. And in that game, one thing that they did really, really well is because of the way that Texas offense worked, and it’s similar to Michigan’s in certain ways, they said to Johnny Hodges and Jamoi Hodge who are very good linebackers but not very good past coverage, “Guys, pin your back. Go kill somebody.” And they were super disruptive in that game.

So, I’m inclined to think TCU is going to behave more like that, which means that the only yardage you’re going to see is going to be sack yardage, negative yardage, or close to zero. So, I’d say under, but also if Michigan’s offense is going well, which I think it should against this TCU defense. McCarthy shouldn’t have to do much at all. So, I think under is probably the smarter play there.

Gary Segars:

I think that does make sense, because looking back through these numbers for J.J. McCarthy, he’s averaging 4.23 yards per rushing attempt. He did have 50 yards rushing against Colorado State. He had, let’s see, 57 against Penn State. He had 50 against Michigan State. Other than that, he had 14 against Purdue. He had 27 against Ohio State. He had 18 against Illinois. But he ran the ball numerous, numerous times. Against Nebraska had negative eight. He had six against Rutgers. You start looking at some of these at Iowa, -14, JJ.

McCarthy, I think he was known more as a mobile quarterback early. But once he became the guy, I don’t expect them to run him very much because Cade McNamara is now gone. So, I don’t expect a lot of rushing from J.J. McCarthy here. I would probably certainly lean towards under on that one.

Sean Oakley jumped in. He said, “Hey, guys, which game will have more total points? Arkansas, Kansas, or UNC Oregon?” Well, that is a fascinating question. I would tend to lean the Arkansas, Kansas game because I think that there’s more guys that will be playing in that one as opposed to opt-outs. The North Carolina, Oregon game has a chance to have one side that doesn’t put up a ton of points. Kyle, how do you feel about this question? Arkansas, Kansas more points or North Carolina, Oregon?

Kyle Hunter:

It’s a really tough question, honestly. I think both of them could be really high scoring. I’m going to lean North Carolina in Oregon, thinking that Oregon just scores a huge amount. It’s a little bit windy for the Kansas, Arkansas game. The question is Arkansas’s defense, there are some guys playing defense for Arkansas that you don’t even really know who they are because they’re third-stringers. So, I think both of them will be super high-scoring games, but I’m going to lead North Carolina in Oregon.

Gary Segars:

That would make sense. Faster track and everything. That should be a little bit easier. Parker, what about you? I think the fact that Arkansas likes to run the ball a lot more… That’s wrong. Oregon likes to run the ball a lot as well. So, you know what? I’m going to let you talk. You tell me what you think on this.

Parker Fleming:

Can you rephrase the question, Gary?

Gary Segars:

I’m confused [inaudible 01:09:14].

Parker Fleming:

Working at 73rd in rush yard over expected. North Carolina at 31st, Arkansas is 120th, Kansas is 89th. So, definitely, a lot more running in the Arkansas, Kansas game. And Kansas, specifically, wants to do… That’s misleading, but they’ll do a lot of RPOs, but they want to run a lot more than they pass. So, I think that the clock is going to be a lot shorter in the Arkansas, Kansas game. But there’s no defense, all four, Arkansas is the only team that has a defense that’s not worse than 100 out of these four teams. There’s not going to be a lot of defense.

My inclination would just be that because UNC likes to pass so much and Oregon is slightly more pass-heavy than Arkansas and Kansas, that the clock is just going to roll a lot longer in Arkansas, Kansas. So, I’d be inclined to say Oregon UNC. I do think that Kansas, Arkansas is going to be a more enjoyable football game and Oregon UNC is going to be a more hilarious football game, if that influences your interpretation either way there.

Gary Segars:

That does make sense. I like that. More enjoyable, more hilarious, whichever way. They will both be entertaining, we’ll say that. The polo jumps in. Kyle, who’s going to have a better season next year, Purdue’s Hudson Card or Iowa’s Cade McNamara?

Kyle Hunter:

You know what I’m answering on this, Hudson Card, definitely.

Gary Segars:

Graham Harrell, the new coordinator.

Kyle Hunter:

I think Purdue. Although we were talking about Purdue having a rough spot to play in here, they’ve had a fantastic off season. I know Brohm leaving is a bummer for them, but Walters is fantastic, Card going there, like you said, offensive coordinator, really good. And who’s going to trust Iowa and their offensive scheme to make anybody look good?

Gary Segars:

Do we expect a coaching change at Iowa? It hasn’t happened, yet. No, I don’t think we’re going to see anything change from Iowa. Parker, what about you? Do you think Hudson Card with Graham Harrell?

Parker Fleming:

You have to think that Cade wouldn’t do that unless he had some inclination. Unless he’s just gotten so brainwashed to the point of like, oh, it was all Spencer Petras was a bad quarterback, which it certainly was part of it. But got to believe there is just some rotten stuff there on the offense. I actually like Graham Harrell, excuse me, with Hudson Card. I think Harrell did a poor job with JT Daniels, specifically in designing an offense to suit what JT Daniels could and couldn’t do, not what we expected JT Daniels to be able to do and not be able to do.

And when Garrett Greene came in, they were doing a lot of fun stuff. And I think Hudson Card is certainly a little bit more of a gamer, a little bit less of a traditional pro style quarterback. It gives you a little bit more flexibility. So, I’m high on that, just because I think that the style of play is less extreme and the options are a lot more open. So, there’s certainly a higher variance, which would be positive for Purdue. So, I’d lean towards Hudson Card there by a good margin.

Gary Segars:

I tend to feel the exact same way. All right, gentlemen, we are going to close up shop on the mail bag for today. But again, anybody that’s in the chat, anybody that is watching this later on, if you’re listening to the show on podcast, feel free to reach out to us on Twitter. You can always jump into the comments on YouTube as well. Anything that you guys would like to ask, we will do our best to give you a nice honest answer. Maybe, not always nice. We’ll just give you an honest answer for whatever the questions are. Make sure to toss them in either on the comments or on Twitter as well. We will do our best to make sure that those get answered. All right, let’s go ahead and dive into our best bets for today’s show. Parker, tell us what you’ve got today.

Parker Fleming:

Riding with the Green Wave, man. Tulane’s plus two in the Cotton Bowl.

Gary Segars:

I like it. I am going to take the Michigan Wolverines’ minus seven and a half against TCU. And hey, I’m doing all Big Ten today. It looks like Penn State plus two and a half against Utah, I think this Nittany Lions team is being undervalued here. Kyle, what have you got for us?

Kyle Hunter:

I’m just going to take Ohio State team total over 27 and a half today.

Gary Segars:

We are expecting points in the Peach Bowl, my friends. All right, that is going to wrap this thing up. We will have a show either next Tuesday or Wednesday, we’re not entirely sure which yet. But we will be here to discuss the college football national championship game next week. So, we still got stuff to do. We still got stuff to discuss. So, hopefully, all of you will join us next week, as we go along. Hopefully, everybody is subscribed. If you’ve not already, go ahead and do that. Like the video for us and share the show out. Tell your friends about it. We hit 12,000. That is certainly a good thing, and we appreciate you guys for it. With that said, jump through the notes. Let’s see. Jump in the comments, let us know what your picks are. If you missed some of the games that will be going on today, tomorrow, etc., go back to preview number four, preview number five, etc., that’s where you will find those games.

All right, well, that’s it. Remember to checkout our sportsbook website. I think it’s time for us to get out of here. What a wonderful, wonderful season it has been. You guys are wonderful. All the guys in the chat, all the guys that have watched this, if you have subscribed, you are one of our best friends. And we appreciate you for that. For BetUS, where the game begins. God bless college football. We’ll see you all again next week.


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