By Charles Jay
As we move along with WagerWAR, we are of the firm belief that the more information you have about a team, the better you can judge whether you have some value in the numbers that are being presented to you. And we might have such an instance in the Peach Bowl, which functions as the semi-final game in the college football playoff, with the Oklahoma Sooners lining up against the LSU Tigers in again that begins at 4:20 PM ET at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta. It will be televised by ESPN, and for those of you who sign up with our friends at BetAnySports, you can place wagers while this game is in progress. So don’t worry about missing the opening kickoff, there’s plenty of action as you take advantage of two different live options – Sports Betting Ultra and Live Betting Extra.
Oklahoma (12-1 SU, 5-8 ATS) has been to the playoffs three times, coming up empty each time. However, they have had the last two Heisman Trophy winners and supplied a finalist for that award this season with Jalen Hurts, the transfer from Alabama who has been on this stage before, taking part in three different national championship games. The Sooners lost only one game this season, a 48-41 decision at the hands of Kansas State, and you can also say that they were somewhat fortunate to come out with victories over Iowa State, TCU, Texas and twice against Baylor.
Lincoln Riley is looked upon as the new “genius boy,” and is being mentioned prominently as a possible future NFL coach, maybe as soon as next season. He brought aboard Hurts as a graduate transfer, and it worked, to the tune of 72% completions, 32 touchdowns, only seven interceptions, 1255 yards rushing and, between the air and the ground, 50 touchdowns. Oklahoma was second in the nation in Total Offense and averaged 43.5 points per game. There are some explosive receivers on board, including CeeDee Lamb, who averaged 21 yards a catch, and Charleston Rambo. They supply a ground game as well, with Kennedy Brooks rambling for 6.7 yards per carry.
And what has to be noted is that there were improvements in the defense this season. Last year, Oklahoma was ranked 129th out of 130 FBS teams in passing defense, and they have elevated themselves the 23rd this year. And they were tested by some good quarterbacks in the Big 12, which is known for playing a rather wide-open game.
The big story with LSU (13-0, 9-4 ATS), of course, is the Heisman Trophy-winning season they got out of Joe Burrow, whose numbers were simply astronomical. Burrow completed 77.9% of his throws, with 4715 yards and 48 touchdowns and only five interceptions. He’s got plenty of white receiving talent, including Ja’Marr Chase and Justin Jefferson, who combined for 161 catches and 32 touchdowns. Chase was the winner of the Biletnikoff Award, emblematic of being the top receiver in college football.
So here you have two offensive powerhouses who will undoubtedly be throwing haymakers at each other.
In the college football playoff betting odds we are using in WagerWAR for this Peach Bowl, LSU is the double-digit favorite:
LSU Tigers -12
Oklahoma Sooners +12
Over 75 points -110
Under 75 points -110
You could say that the guy who made all the difference in the LSU offense this season was a former NFL assistant named Joe Brady. Under head coach Ed Orgeron and offensive coordinator Steve Ensminger, this had been a rather plotting offensive unit, largely dependent on pounding the ball between the tackles. But “Coach O” decided that it was time to go to a more wide-open spread-type offense, and Brady, who had worked not only with the New Orleans Saints but also under RPO guru Joe Morehead, who was offensive coordinator at Penn State (now the head coach at Mississippi State), came in and completely transformed Burrow, who could not crack the starting lineup at Ohio State. So Burrow went on to win the Heisman and Brady captured the Broyles Award, which is given to the top assistant coach in the country. He will also likely be the top-paid assistant in the nation next season, that is, unless some huge offer comes along for head coaching job.
LSU’s defense played in the shadow of its offense, for the most part, but they did some outstanding things. In the rough-and-tumble SEC, they gave up just 3.7 yards per carry and ranked 10th in the nation in pass efficiency defense. There are some who believe they might, in fact, have the best secondary in the nation. That might just be the truth. Safety Grant Delpit and cornerback Derek Stingley are All- Americans, and the only thing preventing Stingley from being a first-round NFL draft pick next year is the fact that he’s only a freshman.
These teams were actually very similar in some key categories. Their third down conversions on offense and defense were almost identical. Same for the sack totals. Where we see a big difference here is in red zone defense. While LSU allowed the opposition to score points only 73.5% of the time, Oklahoma allowed points on 93% of red zone trips. For what it’s worth, there’s a difference in turnover ratio, as LSU has a substantial advantage there (+8 against -7).
Oklahoma had a lot of close calls, and could very easily have been left out of this four-team playoff if the ball hadn’t bounced their way so much. Meanwhile, LSU beat FIVE teams who were in the Top 10 at the time, and only Auburn and Alabama came within two touchdowns of them. Oklahoma was held to 34 points or less (almost two touchdowns below their season’s average) against Texas, TCU, Oklahoma State and Baylor twice. So are they really that much of an offensive juggernaut?
The reality is, LSU is the better team on this field, and rates a small play from us, but we’re also cautious about that because, let’s face it, it’s a big number. And one thing you would have to admit about Oklahoma is that they at least have enough offensive capabilities to come through the back door on this.
Whether that happens or not is another question entirely.
Were looking in a different direction for our bigger play in WagerWAR for the Peach Bowl, however. We think that Clyde Edwards-Hilarie is probably as good as almost any running back in the nation. But the LSU star, who averaged 6.5 yards a carry, had 50 receptions and piled up 1290 yards on the ground, is most likely going to be limited to an extent by a hamstring injury. Behind him, LSU has a trio of freshmen. Oklahoma is missing defensive players, to be certain, such as defensive and Ronnie Perkins and safety Delarrin Turner Yell (the former with a suspension and the latter with a collarbone injury), but what may be more significant is the marijuana-related suspension of running back Rhomondre Stevenson, who was actually more explosive than Brooks, averaging 7.9 yards a pop.
Public perception always figures into the placement – and subsequent movement – of a pointspread or total, and I think the perception is that you have two very explosive offensive teams, and the respective defenses haven’t necessarily been given enough credit. I think that Hurts is somewhat limited as a passer, so I’m not sure how much business he’s going to do against these LSU defensive backs, who, as we mentioned, are among the best in the nation. Of course, that may play into an LSU cover, and we’re on that, for sure. But with us, it also promotes the idea that this will be a little more of a defensive battle than the oddsmakers have indicated. Yes, the offenses have overshadowed the defenses, and in this case we can take advantage of it. I’m going UNDER the total of 75 points.
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(The preceding information has been furnished for news matter only)