Oregon Ducks vs. TCU Horned Frogs, Saturday Jan. 2, 6:45 p.m. ET
If you don't like scoring then you'll want to find something else to do the day after New Year's day. If you like sound defensive play and slow wars in the trenches then this is definitely not the game for you. If things go at all as expected then this will be one of those games where the team with the last possession wins it. It could be a barn-burner - the kind that burns out fuses in the scoreboard. There is always a chance that a hyped game can be a dud that totally fails to meet expectations, but it is quite possible that this could be the most thrilling bowl game of the entire 40-game season. Here's hoping it is, anyway - a classic here would be the perfect way to wind down the long run of games and to set the table for the national championship game.
Alamo Bowl Betting Storylines
TCU has received from very good news and some very bad news on the injury front in recent days. First, the good. QB Trevone Boykin, who looked to be on the fast track to at least being a Heisman finalist until he was hurt in an all-round disastrous game against Oklahoma State on November 7, has been practicing lead up to the bowl and has, by all accounts, looked very good. Barring a setback he should be ready to go - big news for the offense here. Unfortunately, the bad news is quite bad. All-American receiver Josh Doctson broke several TCU school records despite being injured in that same nightmare outing against Oklahoma State and missing the last three games of the season. The hope was that he would be back in time for this game, but he has decided he will not be ready in time - likely at least in part because he is heading to the Senior Bowl at the end of January and doesn't want to risk not being ready for that huge NFL audition. The absence of Boykin and Doctson for those three final games was very significant - the team averaged 41.7 points per game on the season but just 26.7 in the final three games without the two. The challenge for bettors now, then, is to determine how much Boykin can improve things without Doctson. There is plenty of recruiting depth on the team, but you don't easily replace a guy as good as Doctson.
These are unquestionably elite offensive teams. TCU is third in the country in total yards and eighth in points scored. Oregon is sixth in both categories. They averaged a combined 84.9 points per game. Very impressive offenses. The biggest worry for offensive units like this is a stout defense that can get in the way of what they are trying to do. Fortunately, neither offense needs to lose any sleep over that. One defense is bad, and the other is much, much worse. TCU ranks 65th in total yards and 61st in points allowed. That is a long way from good, but Oregon could only dream of being that effective. The Ducks rank a dismal 114th in points scored, and 116th in yards allowed. They have some very good players - defensive end DeForest Buckner being at the top of the list - but as a group there is little that they do well. It's kind of a mess - enough to make up for the absence of Doctson perhaps. There is no reason to doubt that either offense will be just fine. It comes down, then, to whether a finally healthy Vernon Adams or a finally healthy Trevone Boykin can have the bigger day.
Alamo Bowl Odds and Betting Trends
The game opened with TCU favored by 1.5, but it didn't stay that way for long. The game right now is a pick 'em. About two-thirds of the action on this game is on Oregon, so the line movement is as expected. The total has been on the rise and sits now at 78.5.
TCU has gone under the total in each of their last six games played on grass. The under is 8-0-1 in their last nine bowl games. The Horned Frogs are 11-4 ATS in their last 15 against teams with winning records, and 19-8 ATS in their last 27 games overall. The Ducks are 5-1 ATS in their last six games overall, 5-1 ATS in their last six neutral-site games, and 21-5 ATS in their last 26 games played on grass.
Oregon vs. TCU Alamo Bowl Expert Picks & Predictions
TCU is a very different team with Boykin taking snaps. At least that's what I'm going to bank on here as I pick TCU. There is a risk that he will be rusty, but he has the advantages of the long stretch of bowl practices to get up to speed, and the luxury of playing against a defense that will certainly provide him opportunities. When it comes down to it I have slightly more faith in Boykin than Adams and slightly more faith in TCU's ability to make a defensive stop when they really need to. It's certainly not the most comfortable pick I have made this bowl season, but TCU is the play.
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