Today's Free Picks for
Posted at 4:15 PM EST.
Outback Bowl - Raymond James Stadium, Tampa
Arkansas -3½ +105 over Penn State
12:00 PM EST. Most joiints have the yRazorbacks at -3 with extra vig so we'll put that to rest right away and sell a half point to take it up to -3½ while taking back a small tag.
Penn State has a great defense. They finished seventh in scoring defense and sixth in yards per play but it’s not a stretch to suggest a lot of those numbers are skewed because they played a slew of grind it out games with like-minded teams like Wisconsin, Illinois, Iowa, Michigan and Rutgers for example.
They Nittany Lions employed a bend-but-don’t-break style, which is just another way of saying, fuck, did we ever get lucky. Penn State ranked 107th in time on field and 118th in number of plays faced. Penn State is today’s most beatable team.
Before we discuss the Razorbacks, it’s worth mentioning that defensive Coordinator Brent Pry was hired to be the new head coach at Virginia Tech, As for personnel on the field, things have gotten worse with three of their top four tacklers having opted out and the status of DE Arnold Ebiketie, their leading sack man, is up in the air. These losses are significant in both production and leadership.
What will the SEC West look like in 2022? For a division that has routinely had so much depth in recent years, it's difficult to immediately settle on a challenger to Alabama. Ole Miss has been improving quickly, but they'll need to find a replacement for Matt Corral at quarterback, and they got run off the field when they faced the Tide this year. Auburn and LSU, both trying to navigate transitional periods for their quarterbacks and head coaches, are in no position to contend right away. Texas A&M loses the best pieces of its offense, while Mississippi State keeps theirs but needs to put them together for once. It's a division with a lot of talent and a bright future, but nobody seems ready right now. Except Arkansas.
Arkansas is quietly turning into a juggernaut. Sam Pittman has led them from the disgrace of back-to-back 0-8 records in the SEC to a chance at nine wins for the first time in a decade, all in just two short seasons. Part of the reason that rebuild has been so impressive is that it's come during instability at the quarterback position; Nick Starkel and Ben Hicks led the 2019 team, then Feleipe Franks transferred in for a one-and-done 2020, and former four-star KJ Jefferson finally got his shot to start after two seasons on the bench this year. But for once, the Razorbacks know what they have under center for 2022: Jefferson is returning after a fantastic season (9.4 yards per attempt, 21 TD, 3 INT, 554 rushing yards) to lead the way again. Arkansas has an explosive offense that is completely legit, as it outgained 8 of its 12 opponents while Penn State got lucky week after week after week and they pretty much lost to every good team they played anyway.
The Arkansas offense will also have a key advantage, as TE coach (and former NFL OC) Dowell Loggains spent last season as an offensive analyst for the Nittany Lions and their offense is not that complex to begin with. Arkansas by 21 or more is the call.
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Arkansas -3½ +105 (Risking 2 units - To Win: 2.10)