Eleven of the 14 SEC teams received bowl invitations, with Alabama leading the way as the top team in the nation and one of four to gain entrance into the College Football Playoff. Let’s check out the semifinal matchup between the Crimson Tide and the Oklahoma Sooners as well as the matchups for each and every SEC bowl invitee.
College Football Playoff Orange Bowl Semifinal
No. 1 Alabama (13-0 SU, 8-5 ATS) vs. No. 4 Oklahoma (12-1 SU, 5-7-1 ATS)
Saturday, December 29, at 8 p.m. ET on ESPN
Pick: Alabama -14
Many believe the two best teams in the nation played in the SEC championship game, where Alabama rallied from a 14-point deficit to defeat the Georgia Bulldogs 35-28, thereby maintaining Bama’s No. 1 ranking but bouncing the Dawgs right out of the College Football Playoff party.
It was a storybook finish that could have been scripted straight out of Hollywood as Jalen Hurts did exactly what Tua Tagovailoa did on the same field against the same team last year when he rescued the Tide in replacement of an ineffective Hurts. The 6’2” junior didn’t sulk or gripe, and refused to transfer after losing his starting job to Tua this season but saved the day after Tagovailoa struggled with a high ankle sprain and secured a conference title with a passing and rushing touchdown. The usually unflappable Nick Saban was even choked up in a postgame interview when speaking of the unwavering loyalty shown by Hurts in a poetic case of déjà vu.
But that was then and this is now. The Big 12 champion Sooners come into this CFP matchup with a 12-1 record, yet the best online sportsbooks all which can be found over at Sportsbook Review, are tagging them as 14-point underdogs against the powerhouse Crimson Tide. Not surprising, considering Alabama has defeated every opponent by at least 22 points this season with the exception of their victory over Georgia.
The huge advantage that Bama owns on defense should tell the tale of this one as the Tide has played an SEC schedule yet checks in as the No. 4 defense, allowing an average of 14.8 points per game versus Oklahoma’s 32.4 PPG. This Alabama offense should keep pace with Oklahoma’s dual-threat QB Kyler Murray. The question on everyone’s mind however is who starts for Bama? Whether it be Hurts or Tua, the Tide win and cover this spot.
Baylor vs. Vanderbilt (-4 ½)
Thursday, December 27th at 9 p.m. ET, ESPN
Pick: Vanderbilt –4 ½
The Commodores are 5-1 ATS in their last six non-conference games while the Bears are 0-5-1 ATS in their last six non-conference games. Our deductive reasoning therefore states: When you play in the SEC, all the non-con opponents don’t seem quite as tough. Kyle Shurmur will cap his three-year career under center for Vandy, while unheralded junior tailback Ke’Shawn Vaughn will open eyes after a 1,000-yard, 10 TD campaign.
Music City Bowl
Purdue vs. Auburn (-4 ½)
Friday, December 28th at 1:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
Pick: Purdue +4 ½
Purdue’s freshman speed burner Rondale Moore blitzed secondaries for over 1,100 yards and 12 touchdowns this season. In addition, he tied a school record with his seventh 100-yard game of the season in the regular season finale, a 28-21 win over Indiana for the Old Oaken Bucket and a second consecutive bowl bid.
No. 10 Florida vs. No. 7 Michigan (-7.5)
Saturday, December 29th at Noon ET, ESPN
Pick: Florida +7 ½
The Gators are 4-0 ATS in their last four non-conference games while the Wolverines are 1-5 ATS in their last six non-conference games. The best online sportsbooks featured at Sportsbook Review, are giving Florida backers a 7½ point head start in their bowl battle against Michigan. Watch out for Florida’s defensive stalwart Jachai Polite wreaking havoc in the trenches and the Big Ten’s Defensive Player of the Year, Michigan linebacker Devin Bush.
South Carolina (-5) vs. Virginia
Saturday, December 29th at Noon ET, ABC
Pick: South Carolina -5
The Gamecocks are 4-0 ATS in their last four bowl games but will be without star wideout Deebo Samuel who had 58 catches and nine total touchdowns this season. Samuel is the latest college talent to skip a bowl game in order to prep for the NFL draft. Nevertheless, the South Carolina offense sizzled in the second half of the season averaging over 36 points per game. Meanwhile, the Cavaliers ended their season on a sour note with a loss to rival Virginia Tech and the prospects of withstanding a withering Gamecocks attack make us favor SC.
Missouri (-9 ½) vs. Oklahoma State
Monday, December 31st at 3:45 p.m. ET, ESPN
Pick: Oklahoma State +9 ½
The Cowboys are 8-1 ATS in their last nine non-conference games, while the Tigers are 1-4 ATS in their last five vs a. Big 12 opponent. The 6-6 Cowboys have been a schizophrenic group this season with stunning wins over Texas and West Virginia yet head-scratching losses to Texas Tech and TCU to end the season. Last chance for Missouri’s QB Drew Lock to put a band-aid on a disappointing season ahead of the NFL draft.
NC State vs. Texas A&M (-4 ½)
Monday, December 31st at 7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
Pick: Texas A&M –4 ½
Another example of an SEC team beating up on the non-SEC opponents, at least at the betting windows, as the Aggies are 7-0 ATS in their last seven non-conference games, while the Wolfpack are 1-6 ATS in their last seven vs. SEC opponents. NC State quarterback Ryan Finley will be on display as a potential first-rounder in April, while the Aggies have one of the best tight end in the business in Jace Sternberger.
Mississippi State (-6 ½) vs. Iowa
Tuesday, January 1st at Noon ET, ESPN2
Pick: Mississippi State -6 ½
The Bulldogs’ smothering defense has surrendered a best in the nation 12 points per game led by a pair of potential first-round chaos makers in Montez Sweat and Jeffery Simmons. Iowa will try to counter with Mekhi Sargent running the rock and Ihmir Smith-Marsette as the Hawkeyes’ top target.
Kentucky vs. Penn State (-5 ½)
Tuesday, January 1st at 1 p.m. ET, ABC
Pick: Penn State -5 ½
Penn State will shoot for its third consecutive 10-win season, a feat that has not been accomplished since the 80s. If Nittany Lions QB Trace McSorley has a big day, he could eclipse 10,000 career passing yards to end his storied college career. On the other side of the ball is Wildcats linebacker and Walter Camp Player of the Year Award candidate Josh Allen, who will look to improve his draft stock with another smashing performance. And we do mean smashing.
No. 11 LSU (-7 ½) vs. No. 8 UCF
Tuesday, January 1st at 1 p.m. ET, ESPN
Pick: UCF + 7 ½
Despite the loss of Mr. Everything, QB McKenzie Milton, freshman backup Darriel Mack Jr. didn’t miss a beat and the Knights didn’t miss an opportunity for victory, finishing with an undefeated record for the second straight season, an AAC championship and a shot at taking down an SEC power in a bowl game again. Mack will have to contend with LSU’s Devin White, a supremely athletic and relentless playmaker and lock first-round 2019 pick.
No. 15 Texas vs. No. 5 Georgia (-11)
Tuesday, January 1st at 8:45 p.m. ET, ESPN
Pick: Texas +11
Bulldogs fans are incensed and it’s hard not to understand why. However, two losses on the slate is still one too many despite the fact they nearly beat the top team in the land, Alabama. Longhorns QB Sam Ehlinger makes very few mistakes and went 10 straight games with out tossing a pick. Speaking of talented quarterbacks, Georgia’s Jake Fromm is among the best, but it wouldn’t surprise us if the air has been let out of the Bulldog balloon after getting snubbed for the CFP.