Welcome back for Part 6 of the Bowl picks. It was a tough beat on the Florida game with the late Virginia cover with under a minute to go in the game. Then, Kentucky spoiled our Virginia Tech pick with a touchdown with 15 seconds left. Just ahead of the kickoff of the Texas game, we are 14-11 so far on bowl picks. This article will cover all six games from Wednesday and Thursday, January 2nd.
All lines courtesy of FanDuel Sportsbook.
#18 Minnesota (10-2) vs #12 Auburn (9-3)
Minnesota flew under the radar for a good portion of the season, especially when we consider their conference. The Golden Gophers got off to a sluggish but successful start, beating the likes of Georgia Southern and South Dakota State by a combined total of 10 points. Minnesota arrived in the spotlight during their showdown against fellow undefeated conference foe, Penn State. With the home crowd behind them, Minnesota upended the Nittany Lions for their signature win of 2019.
The Gophers stumbled the following week against Iowa and dropped their finale against Wisconsin, but the team had a very successful season overall. Minnesota leans heavily on the run (43 rushes/game) to set up their play-action, and they are a very efficient team when they throw. Quarterback Tanner Morgan threw for 28 touchdowns and only 6 interceptions at a YPA of 10.3. They make their passes count when they go to the air.
Rashod Bateman and Tyler Johnson are as solid of a receiving duo as anyone in the country as both are over 1,100 yards and each has 11 touchdowns on the season. The Gophers defense ranks 34th in the country, but their strength is in the secondary, where they average 1.3 interceptions per game and only 185 yards passing per game.
Auburn got off to a hot start in 2019, defeating a strong Oregon team on the road to open the season, with a Freshman at quarterback. The Tigers are a run-heavy team (43 rushes/game) and average 211 yards on the ground at a 4.9 YPC average. Auburn’s offensive balance is weighted similarly to Minnesota, but the Golden Gophers get much more out of their passing game. Auburn’s defensive strength is their rush defense. Auburn averages just 3.4 YPC against on defense and they force 1.1 fumbles per game. It’s impressive, given their schedule and the number of run-first opponents they’ve faced.
The clear mismatch in this game of the Auburn rushing attack and the Minnesota rush defense. Minnesota allows 127 yards per game and 3.8 YPC in a run-first conference. It’s not a big mismatch, but it’s the only clear and noticeable one in this game. Auburn has the #14 defense in the country, but I think Tanner Morgan will be able to move the ball through the air.
I don’t expect Auburn to throw the ball much at all, but it should help the Gophers if they can force Auburn into 3rd and long situations. I like Auburn to win here but think Minnesota should be able to keep the game close. I like Auburn by a field goal here, so I’m taking Minnesota to cover.
Pick: Minnesota +7
#13 Alabama (9-2) vs #14 Michigan (8-3)
It’s strange not seeing Alabama in the playoff for once, but we’re all probably better off for it. Bama hasn’t been the same team since losing Tua at quarterback in a blowout against Mississippi State. Alabama doesn’t have the same elite defense we’ve seen over the past decade under Nick Saban. Mac Jones has been pretty good as a fill since the injury (11 TDs and 3 INTs) but he’s nowhere near the talent Tua is, so using the Bama offensive statistics in the research is not really useful with such a limited sample size.
Defensively, Bama is 15th. After watching 8 or 9 of their games this season, I’m not especially impressed. The one big advantage Alabama has is their turnover differential. Bama averages just .8 turnovers per game and 2.2 takeaways per game.
Michigan is a team much different from the one we saw early in the season. Since their loss to Penn State, Michigan is 4-1 and the offense has opened up under quarterback Shea Patterson. In that stretch, Patterson has 13 TDs and 2 INTs. Prior to the last five games, Patterson had just 9 TDs and 4 INTs over his previous seven games.
This team is moving the ball much better on offense as of late, and the result (minus the Ohio State game) has been a much-needed boost for the team heading into the bowl game.
Michigan has been playing much better football down the stretch. I don’t expect a lot from their defense, but I do expect Alabama will struggle to stop Shea Patterson, as Nick Saban has a long history of stopping dual threat quarterbacks.
I think this game will be within a touchdown and Michigan may even have a shot at winning. I don’t see Alabama showing up with much enthusiasm after such a disappointing season by their lofty standards.
Pick: Michigan +7.5
#6 Oregon (11-2) vs #8 Wisconsin (10-3)
The Oregon Ducks are a complete football team. They’re ranked 16th on offense and 7th on defense. Their turnover margin is +13 on the season as the team excels with forcing interceptions on defense (1.5 per game). Justin Herbert was the preseason favorite for both the Heisman and the consensus #1 pick in the draft.
Herbert has been efficient and solid overall, though the Ducks didn’t have to rely solely on his arm to be successful. The Ducks average 186 yards per game rushing the ball at a 5.1 YPC. The Ducks defense has also shown to be very solid against the run this season, averaging just 3.3 YPC to opposing rushers.
The Wisconsin Badgers are the same team we see every season. They always have an outstanding running back, a conservative passing attack, and a strong defense. This season features perhaps their best running back since Melvin Gordon. Jonathan Taylor is averaging 6.4 yards per carry and has 2,100 all-purpose yards and 26 total touchdowns. Their run game sets up their efficient, safe passing offense led by Jack Coan (8.4 YPA and 17 TDs to 4 INTs).
Defensively, the Badgers are solid all-around. They allow just 3.4 YPC to opposing rushers and only 192 yards per game passing.
Oregon’s rush defense is very, very good. They probably haven’t seen a back as talented as Jonathan Taylor this year, but the Ducks performed well against opposing backs in every game except Auburn (43 carries for 206 yards). I think Wisconsin is very comparable to Auburn and it’s clear this rush defense has turned a corner. I like Oregon here to win a close, entertaining game where Justin Herbert shines.
Pick: Oregon +2.5
#5 Georgia (10-2) vs #7 Baylor (13-0)
Georgia has been offensively inept as of late. They have only eclipsed 27 points just once over their last eight games. Quarterback Jake Fromm was considered a top pick following his magical Freshman season but has cooled considerably since. Georgia’s defense is their strength, ranking 2nd nationally.
As of right now, the Bulldogs have 23 players listed on the injury report, with 18 listed as questionable or out. Georgia’s D’Andre Swift (6.2 YPC) is the engine of the offense, accounting for 1,400 total yards and 8 touchdowns. Swift may be the key to success in this potentially defensive showdown.
Baylor has been a very impressive defensive team this season (16th Nationally). The offense has been equally as impressive (18th) but the offense has, at times, disappeared for stretches this season in games. Baylor maintains a balanced offense, but they’re going to have to probably beat Georgia through the air if they want to have a shot, given Georgia’s 2.7 YPC against on defense on the ground.
Baylor averages 2.3 takeaways per game. If Baylor wants to have a shot in this game, they need to get Georgia behind the sticks in long down to go situations and get pressure on Jake Fromm. It’s unsettling how many players Georgia will be missing in this game and it’s equally worrisome considering last year’s pathetic effort in the Sugar Bowl after the Dawgs crashed out of playoff contention.
I like Baylor to keep it close and for this game to be decided by a late field goal.
Pick: Baylor +4
#21 Cincinnati (10-3) vs Boston College (6-6)
I watched a lot of the American conference this season and saw a few games with Cincinnati. I liked what I saw from their rushing attack and defense. Though they struggled against some high-powered offenses (Ohio State & Memphis), Cincinnati is a team that is very dangerous when they have a lead, due to their defense and rushing attack. The Bearcats force 1.2 interceptions per game, which also helps when preserving leads.
Boston College has had a very rocky season, highlighted by good, book-end wins to open and close the season (Virginia Tech and Pitt). This team is statistically rough (51st offensively & 95th defensively) but they’re also volatile from week to week, which makes them very difficult to predict.
Leading rusher AJ Dillon will miss the bowl as he preps for the upcoming NFL draft. This should be a major blow to Boston College as Dillon was averaging 5.3 YPC and had over 1,800 total yards and 15 touchdowns.
I like Cincinnati in this game and it’s pretty simple. The Bearcats have a very strong pass defense and a good rushing offense. Boston College has a terrible defense and should be exploited both through the air and on the ground, even if the passing game isn’t very good. I expect the Bearcats to run away with this one.
Pick: Cincinnati -7
Indiana (8-4) vs Tennessee (7-5)
Indiana has a good football team. They aren’t amazing at anything in particular, so I suppose you could say they’re well rounded. Whop Philyor may have the most interesting name in college football, but the guy is a stud at receiver. He’s over 1,000 yards with two different quarterbacks this season and averages 14.5 yards per reception.
Running back Stevie Scott may not be the explosive athlete Philyor is, but he’s a dependable, physical back who’s averaging 4.7 YPC and has 10 touchdowns on the season. Quarterback Peyton Ramsey has had quite the season in relief of injured starter Michael Penix, throwing for 13 TDs and 4 INTs and nearly leading Indiana to an upset over Penn State.
Tennessee started out the season with losses to Georgia State and BYU. They lost four of their first five before turning the season around and winning six of their final seven games. Tennessee is somewhat limited on offense. They platoon running backs, but their run game overall isn’t strong. Quarterback Jarrett Guarantano has 16 TDs to 6 INTs at 8.6 YPA but the team doesn’t move the ball very well through the air, averaging just 220 yards passing on the season. Tennessee’s strength is their pass defense, averaging just 191 yards per game and forcing 1.2 interceptions per game.
This is an extremely good matchup on paper. Tennessee is riding the wave of a strong second half of the season and likely has more momentum heading into the game. They’ve also rallied hard behind their coach. I think Tennessee will lean heavily on their pass defense in the game and the big bodies of Tennessee will be an issue for Indiana.
However, I like Indiana’s quarterback and think he’s going to be able to find success keeping the chains moving in the game. I just want to go with the Vols here because of the defense and the momentum.
Pick: Tennessee -2.5