Today's Free Picks for
Posted at 11:00 AM EST.
Auburn +4½ over Northwestern
Vrbo Citrus Bowl - Camping World Stadium – Orlando, FL
1:00 PM EST. Primarily, this is more a fade of Northwestern, whose stock is hot heading into this bowl game. That said, there is also buy-low potential on Auburn here and we’ll explain both.
This season, Northwestern has been exceptionally kind to bettors, it exceeded expectations, and side-stepped a variety of scenarios where one would expect the Wildcats to produce a ripped ticket or underperform against market sentiment. Thus, we are hard-pressed to get behind the Wildcats here, as they step into this bowl game off a performance that left a mighty favorable impression before a national audience. The last time Northwestern was seen, they were taking the B1G’s juggernaut and College Football Playoff hopeful Ohio State the distance in what was a fist-fight that only saw the Buckeyes get some breathing room in the final minutes of play in the B1G Championship. Though the Buckeyes closed as a -16½-point choice against Northwestern, the Buckeyes would defeat Northwestern 22-10 but Ohio State did not go up two scores until the final four minutes of regulation. The Wildcats controlled most of the game and even took a lead deep into the third quarter. There were many tickets on Northwestern, who came in 5-1-1 against the number and the Wildcats delivered the goods. In fact, they did more than deliver the good. They covered and anyone who got behind them didn’t have to sweat even one bead. We often warn of getting behind a team in the following game after a big cover. No question that Northwestern can cover here but their ship has sailed many times and now is not the right time to get behind them.
One of the narratives we’re reading about regarding this game is the apparent coaching mismatch. You see, Auburn fired its Head Coach Gus Malzahn at the conclusion of the regular season while Northwestern’s skipper Pat Fitzgerald is very quickly becoming a respected name throughout the college landscape. However, the man spearheading the operation for War Eagle is no stranger to the spotlight. Defensive coordinator Kevin Steele has been a fixture of Auburn football for years and it is he who will be running the show. Steele was at one point the front-runner to take over for Malzahn, as he is considered by many to be an influential emotional leader for Auburn. Instead, the Tigers hired Boise State Head Coach Bryan Harsin and Steele’s future with AU remains uncertain, therefore this could be his swan song and there is no question Auburn will come out extremely motivated in support of their coach that was done wrong.
Let’s not forget that the Tigers were ranked in the top-10 at one point but blowout losses against Georgia and Alabama (two games considered the measuring stick of success for War Eagle), along with a defeat against Texas A&M and a shocking upset suffered at South Carolina have left the Tigers unranked with four losses. Nevertheless, the Tigers can atone for a disappointing campaign with a win over a ranked opponent who had perhaps been thinking of the New Year’s Six game but instead will have to settle for the Citrus Bowl.
There is a reason why the #14 Northwestern Wildcats who are 6-1-1 against the spread on the year are spotting a short tag to an unranked 6-4 Auburn. Very simply, despite all of the “coaching edges” and impressive results that the ‘Cats have yielded, the linesmakers are not fearful of the Wildcats spotting what appears to be a beatable price. At the end of the day we’re going to trust that we’re getting an extremely fired up Tigers team while Northwestern is a grind it out team that is better suited taking points as opposed to spotting them.
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Auburn +4½ -106 (Risking 2.12 units - To Win: 2.00)