Auburn vs. Oklahoma Sugar Bowl Expert Picks and Predictions with Betting Odds
by Trevor Whenham - 12/21/2016
Auburn Tigers vs. Oklahoma Sooners, Monday Jan. 2, 8:30 p.m. ET
I have to admit - of all the major bowl games this is, by far, the one I have to work hardest to be interested in. Oklahoma is a very talented team that has major flaws that meant they couldn't win the games that really mattered. And they are facing a major off-field distraction leading up to this game in the whole Joe Mixon incident. Auburn won only eight games, they lost to the four best teams they played, and they come from a conference that was almost depressingly bad outside of Alabama compared to what we have come to expect from them.
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This one just lacks a whole lot of snap, and I can think of a whole lot of pairings I would like to see more. It's still football, though, so let's do our best to persevere and find the silver linings in this dark cloud.
Sugar Bowl Betting Storylines
First, about Mixon. The running back is Oklahoma's leading rusher this year and their second-best receiver as well. Before he arrived at Oklahoma in 2014 he punched a woman in a restaurant. He reached a legal settlement and was suspended by Oklahoma for the 2014 season. Recently, though, video of the incident has come out, and it is ugly. Critics are calling for more punishment, but the school says they have already punished him and he will be playing in the Sugar Bowl - or at least that is the plan as of now. It is understandably a large story, and it is the first thing the player, his teammates, or Bob Stoops will be asked about between now and gametime. We need to wonder about how much of a distraction it will be for the team and how effectively Mixon can shake it all off and still play well.
Mixon is a big part of this offense, but he certainly doesn't have to carry the load alone. After all, this is an offense that had two Heisman finalists this year. QB Baker Mayfield completed an astounding 71.2 percent of his passes and had 38 touchdown passes with just eight interceptions. His favorite target was fellow finalist Dede Westbrook, the senior who finished just a hair short of 20 yards per catch. And then there is Samaje Perine, who is likely to become the second 1,000-yard rusher for the team in this game and who actually scored three more times than Mixon. This offense is a many-headed beast, and they were third nationally in both yards per game and points scored. Auburn was solid against the run but had some real issues against the pass this year, and the secondary was banged up heading into the bowl break. Oklahoma is going to be able to score. Even with the reality of Mixon hanging over them, I don't have doubts over Oklahoma's offensive output here.
So, can Auburn keep up? Well, Oklahoma won't do much to get in their way. The Sooners are not defensively inspiring against the run and are one of the worst teams in the country against the pass. Their defensive incompetence is why, despite this offense, they are playing in the Sugar Bowl and not the playoff. Even facing a pass defense this bad won't make Auburn a good passing team, though - they are almost as bad at throwing as Oklahoma is at defending against a throw. It all comes down to the run, though. Auburn is sixth in the country in rushing yards, and they have multiple weapons to attack teams with and a relentless commitment to the run. They are going to be able to gain some yards against Oklahoma. There is a big problem for them, though, Oklahoma is going to throw a whole lot, and they are going to be successful doing so. When one team is throwing it's often tough to keep up on the ground. The absence of a passing game is a tough handicap in a shootout.
Sugar Bowl Odds and Betting Trends
The game opened with Oklahoma favored by five, and the line has now fallen to the key number of three. More than three-quarters of all bets have been on the Sooners, so the line movement makes it clear that sharp money has hit the Tigers. Given the amount of bets on the Sooners, though, we are unlikely to see the line drop below three or the books would be exposed to the risk of being middled. The total opened at 62.5 and is moving up slightly to 63.5 in early action.
The TIgers are 5-0 ATS in their last five nonconference games and 4-1 ATS in their last five bowl games. They are 7-2 ATS in their last nine games overall. The Sooners are 4-1 ATS in their last five games overall and 5-0 ATS in their last five against teams with winning records, but they are just 3-7 ATS in their last 10 bowl games and 0-6 ATS in their last six neutral-site games.
Auburn vs. Oklahoma Sugar Bowl Expert Picks & Predictions
I don't respect Auburn's ability to play against better teams, I don't like their chances of stopping the Sooners' offense, and I question their motivation in this one after a frustrating season. In short, I just don't think they are good enough here. Oklahoma has a potent offense, and they have won nine straight. I would happily give up a touchdown and take the Sooners, so a field goal is a bargain.
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