Today's Free Picks for
Posted at 11:00 AM EST.
Ohio State +7 over Clemson
Allstate Sugar Bowl at the College Football Playoff -Mercedes Benz Superdome – New Orleans, LA
8:00 PM EST. Forget Clemson for a second and let’s begin by focusing on Clemson’s quarterback, Trevor Lawrence. There has been a sweepstakes brewing in the NFL this year between the Jets and Jags for the exclusive right to draft him first. For months, Trevor Lawrence’s name has been at the front of football news everywhere. There is no doubt that the entire football world is anxious to watch him play in prime time on a Friday night to begin the new year. This is one of the most overhyped first overall picks in a very long time simply because sports was dead from March until June and the media needed something. There is no question that there is a price to pay to get behind Trevor Lawrence and Tigers. It may work out for you but we’ll take out chances with the inflated points.
In the previous two years, no team has navigated the labyrinth of the College Football Playoff better than the Clemson Tigers, as they have appeared in two consecutive national championship games and routed Alabama in one of those appearances to win their second title in three seasons. Dating back to Clemson’s first participation in a national championship matchup in the 2015-2016 season, the Tigers have either won and/or appeared in four of the last five national championship bouts. That is more than any other team, including Alabama. It is narratives of this kind that catapult the Tigers ability to enchant the market to endure the premium inflicted to wager upon them here.
Clemson is an 11-1 team with pedigree, history, success in big games and more game experience. The Tigers belong here while the Buckeyes were queried as to whether or not they are actually a bonafide College Football Playoff team. Ohio State only played five regular season games and therefore, special considerations had to be made for them to qualify for the B1G Championship Game due to several matches being cancelled due to COVID-19 concerns. In Ohio State’s six matches this season, the Buckeyes did not look the part of a national title contender. The Buckeyes pounced on five dregs and narrowly escaped Northwestern in the B1G Championship to obtain their bid to the College Football Playoff. When we toss in the recent results in the series between these two sides along with Clemson’s credentials, the number presented here may actually appear a bit soft but it goes even deeper than that.
Overall, the Buckeyes have played only six games this season and therefore had only six loss opportunities. The Tigers had 12 loss opportunities. When coaches from other teams jockeying for a playoff bid pointed that out, they most definitely had their own self-interest in mind, but they weren't technically wrong.
The freshmen on OSU’s depth chart are still freshmen, while Clemson's are, from an experience standpoint, damn near sophomores. Buckeyes quarterback Justin Fields has been mostly Fields-like, but his pocket clock and awareness levels aren't fully calibrated yet, and he's making more mistakes.
The SP+ Ratings are a college football ratings system derived from both play-by-play and drive data from all 800+ of a season's FBS college football games (and 140,000+ plays). The components for SP+ reflect the components of four of what Bill Connelly has deemed the Five Factors of college football: efficiency, explosiveness, field position, and finishing drives. (A fifth factor, turnovers, is informed marginally by sack rates, the only quality-based statistic that has a consistent relationship with turnover margins.
Clemson's SP+ rating is +30.0, meaning the Tigers are 30 points better than the average FBS team. After six games, however, it was just +27.2. Ohio State's SP+ rating is +28.1, better than six-game Clemson's but worse than the 11-game iteration. It's easy to see a scenario in which the Buckeyes would grow into themselves over another few games, but they won't get that chance. Still, when we look at Clemson’s résumé, we see an easy path to this contest. Outside of beating Notre Dame, a team they also lost to, what was Clemson’s next best win? Miami? Pitt? Va Tech? Frankly, the Tigers did nothing impressive this year other than pile up points against teams that aren’t every good.
You don’t think that the Buckeyes don’t hear or read that “they don’t deserve to be here”. Of course they do and it’s bulletin board material. Nothing can silence skepticism for Ohio State more than a victory over the gold standard of college football. There is no reason to suspect that the Buckeyes don’t have the ability to do so. After all, these two sides met last year in the 2019 College Football Playoff Semifinal at the Fiesta Bowl and this very Ohio State team blew a 16-0 lead. The deficit could have actually been larger for Clemson to overcome had it not been for Buckeye miscues. Despite the Tigers rallying, Ohio State could have taken a double-digit lead into the fourth quarter if the stripes hadn’t interjected and called back a Ohio State scoop-and-score touchdown that clearly was a Clemson fumble when it was overturned and ruled an incomplete pass. We would be willing to wager that if you asked the Ohio State players who they would prefer to encounter in the College Football Playoff, their top choice would undoubtedly be Clemson, as they are eager to get another shot against a team that they had beat. We’re tempted to play OSU on the money line and probably will throw them into a parlay or two but there’s just so much value in the points that we’re going to have to grab them.
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Ohio State +7 -104 (Risking 2.08 units - To Win: 2.00)