Today's Free Picks for
Posted at 11:00 AM EST.
Notre Dame +19½ over Alabama
The Rose Bowl at the College Football Playoff -- AT&T Stadium – Arlington, TX
4:00 PM EST. The 2020 College Football Season was one that was filled with unexpected and unprecedented times. As such, it only makes sense that the Rose Bowl, which is normally played in California, was moved to Texas to overcome California’s attendance ban due to COVID concerns. Despite all of the uncertainty that has marked the campaign and 2020 for that matter, the Crimson Tide has been business as usual, as they find themselves once again back in the College Football Playoff. Alabama playing on New Year’s Day has become a given.
It’s no secret that the price on Alabama is always inflated. That doesn’t mean that we should fade them blindly every week because they cover often. One has to pick its spots to fade teams like Alabama and we’re more than comfortable choosing this one.
In the case of Notre Dame, there are historical recency biases working against the Fighting Irish. For years, a presiding narrative surrounding the Notre Dame base is that Head Coach Brian Kelly could never get his teams over the hump in regular season big games. We can provide you with a laundry list of assailants who contributed to that characterization of the Irish but all of that chatter seemed to be put to rest (albeit temporarily) when Notre Dame knocked off then #1 Clemson in South Bend in November. Notre Dame defeated Clemson in overtime but the Tigers were without the services of quarterback Trevor Lawrence. As a result, the talking heads placed an asterisk on the Notre Dame win and the Irish had an opportunity to substantiate the verity of the victory when the two sides met again in the ACC Championship. Despite the Irish taking back 11½ points against the Tigers, Clemson would rout Notre Dame 34-10. With such a poor showing, the argument then became whether or not Notre Dame deserves a playoff bid.
When we couple Notre Dame’s 24-point loss in its last game with the two instances that we saw Brian Kelly-led Notre Dame teams in a BCS National Championship or College Football Playoff Semifinal, it is hard to imagine the Irish having any appeal. After all, the #1 Irish were steamrolled by a Nick Saban-led Alabama in 2012 in the National Championship Game and the Irish were smoked two years ago by Clemson when it qualified for its first College Football Playoff.
Though some of these anecdotes are ancient history, they are nonetheless prevalent in the conversation as to why the market would be inclined to fade the Irish even if the team that they bode now is perhaps their best in terms of competitive quality.
On the flipside, Alabama has been cashing tickets all season long and taking names as they did so. Even as an inflated favorite, the Crimson Tide kept cashing. We saw the Tide laying a ludicrous number to the Florida Gators in the SEC Championship after the Gators were stunned by a 24½-point underdog in LSU at home to close out the regular season. Despite giving 16½ to Florida at kick-off and no one giving the Gators a chance to even be competitive, Florida hung around with the Tide for four quarters and lost by less than a converted touchdown.
Alabama has played in only two games this year that were in doubt heading into the fourth quarter. On Oct. 10, Lane Kiffin's Ole Miss team had the Crimson Tide tied at 42-42 early in the fourth before a run of Bama scores made it a 63-48 finish. Florida unleashed a second-half charge to draw within one score of Bama on three occasions before falling 52-46. The Rebels and Gators gained a combined 1,109 yards and milked matchup advantages for all they were worth. Florida and Ole Miss have elite offenses, ranking third and ninth, respectively, in offensive efficiency. Despite getting dominated by Clemson on Dec. 19, the Irish still average 35 points per game and 6.4 yards per play. Notre Dame ranks a healthy 13th in offensive efficiency.
It’s not out of the question that Clemson caught the Irish at a very good time last game out since the Irish were considered a lock for a playoff berth and more or less knew that ‘Bama would be its assignment should the Tide hold serve. The Irish could have easily been focused on this game and navigating the tournament itself, while Clemson was fighting for its life to get back to the CFP. However, thanks to the Golden Domes’ lackluster results at championship-level competition combined with Alabama’s elite pedigree and overall impressive portfolio of results both in 2020 and at the highest level of play overall, we get an opportunity to take advantage of a massive overlay. Grab the inflated points.
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Notre Dame +19½ -110 (Risking 2.2 units - To Win: 2.00)