Last Updated Aug 30, 2021, 9:55 AM
LSU vs. Oklahoma
Editor’s Note: Brian Edwards went 3-1 in yesterday’s bowl action, easily cashing winners on La. Tech, Eastern Michigan and the EMU-Pitt ‘over.’ Those three wins beat the closing numbers by 44 combined points. Since Nov. 9, Brian has produced a 32-23-1 record (58.2%, +$1,085 based on $100 plays or +10.85 units of profit!) in college football. His guaranteed plays are on a 10-3 run (76.9%, +6.4 units) in his last 13, so don’t miss out on Friday’s pay-if-it-wins-only selection! If you want to get a nice discount, sign up for all of Brian’s college football winners all the way through the CFP finals.
College Football Playoff Semifinals
Peach Bowl Betting Preview
LSU Tigers vs. Oklahoma Sooners
Fiesta Bowl Preview | Video Breakdown | Playoff Props | CFP Betting History
Venue: at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Atlanta, Georgia
Time/TV: Saturday, December 28, 4:00 PM ET ESPN
Line: LSU -13.5, Over/Under 76
Before making it to Atlanta for its Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl showdown against Louisiana State in the College Football Playoff semifinals, No. 4 Oklahoma lost four key players that’ll be missed against the unbeaten and top-ranked Tigers.
First, SoonerScoop.com reported that three players were suspended on Dec. 18. At his first media event in Atlanta on Dec. 23, OU head coach Lincoln Riley confirmed the suspensions but refused to elaborate on the reasoning behind those players being ‘out’ vs LSU.
The trio of suspended players includes DE Ronnie Perkins, second-string RB Rhamondre Stevenson and backup freshman WR Trejan Bridges. Perkins, a sophomore who has played in all 13 games, has recorded 28 solo tackles, 10 assists, 7.5 tackles for loss, six sacks, six QB hurries and one forced fumble.
Stevenson has appeared in all 13 OU games. The junior RB has 515 rushing yards, six TDs and an 8.1 yards-per-carry average. Bridges is a five-star recruit who didn’t figure to play much vs. LSU anyway. The true freshman has only seven catches for 82 yards.
Making matters worse, SoonerScoop reported on Dec. 20 that starting sophomore safety Delarrin Turner-Yell suffered a broken collarbone at practice. Three days later, Riley confirmed the injury and said, “Right now our expectation is that [Turner-Yell] will not play, but we’ll how see the week goes.”
LSU (13-0 straight up, 8-5 against the spread) dominated Georgia 37-10 to win the SEC Championship Game, easily cashing tickets as a seven-point favorite. Joe Burrow, who won the Heisman Trophy a week later, completed 28-of-38 passes for 349 yards and four touchdowns without an interception.
Justin Jefferson had seven receptions for 115 yards and one TD, while Terrace Marshall Jr. hauled in five catches for 89 yards and two TDs. Clyde Edwards-Helaire had 57 rushing yards on 15 attempts, in addition to catching seven balls for 61 receiving yards.
LSU darted out to a 14-0 lead at the end of the first quarter, hooking up its backers on first-quarter bets as a 3.5-point ‘chalk.’
UGA’s Rodrigo Blankenship briefly stopped the bleeding with a 39-yard field goal to get the Bulldogs on the board, but Cade York extended the Tigers’ lead to 17-3 with a 41-yard FG with 2:22 left until halftime.
York added a 28-yarder early in the third quarter for a 20-3 LSU lead. Then Burrow found Marshall for a four-yard scoring strike with 2:18 left in the third. The Tigers added an eight-yard TD pass from Burrow to Jefferson to make it 34-3, and the blowout was on before the fourth quarter started.
LSU freshman CB Derek Stingley intercepted Georgia QB Jake Fromm twice and had five tackles.
Edwards-Helaire is ‘questionable’ vs. LSU due to a hamstring injury suffered at practice earlier this month, although head coach Ed Orgeron stated Friday that he “believes he’ll play.” Edwards-Helaire has rushed for 1,290 yards and 16 TDs, averaging 6.6 yards per carry. He leads the SEC in all-purpose yards with 1,903.
As of early Friday, most books had LSU listed as a 13.5-point favorite with a total of 76. The Sooners were +425 on the money line. For first half-wagers, the Tigers were favored by 7.5 points.
Back on Dec. 8., the Westgate SuperBook opened LSU as a 12.5-point ‘chalk’ with a total of 76.5. The total dipped as low as 75.5 points about a week ago, before inching back up to 76. The Tigers have bounced around in the -13 to -14 range over the last several weeks.
Orgeron’s team is 5-4-1 ATS in its 10 games as a double-digit favorite this year. The Tigers have won 10 of their 13 games by margins of 14 points or more. They won 45-38 at Texas, 46-41 at Alabama and 23-20 vs. Auburn in Baton Rouge.
Although those three final scores were the closest games LSU played, Florida probably gave the Tigers their toughest test in Redstick on Oct. 12. When LSU scored each of its three first-half TDs, the Gators answered each one with a TD drive of their own.
With the game tied 21-21 at halftime, Florida took the opening kick of the second half and promptly marched down the field and took the lead. Kyle Trask hit Van Jefferson for a two-yard TD pass and a 28-21 advantage.
Edwards-Helaire scored on a five-yard TD run to get LSU back even. After getting a stop, the Tigers went back in front 35-28 on a 33-yard TD run from Tyrion Davis-Prince with 3:15 left in the third stanza.
After UF came up empty on a red-zone trip when Stingley intercepted Trask in the end zone, LSU went up 42-28 on Burrow’s 54-yard TD pass to Ja’Marr Chase. The final score was 42-28 after the Gators came up short of the end zone on a fourth-and-goal play from LSU’s one with less than two minutes remaining.
LSU posted other wins over bowl-bound teams, winning 55-7 vs. Georgia Southern, 36-13 at Mississippi State, 42-6 vs. Utah State and 50-17 vs. Texas A&M.
Burrow produced monster numbers that led to run-away win in the voting for the Heisman. The grad transfer from Ohio State completed 77.9 percent of his passes for 4,715 yards with a 48/6 touchdown-to-interception ratio. He keeps plays alive with his elusiveness in the pocket, and he’s not hesitant to tuck it and run for first downs. Burrow was especially effective at doing that on several big plays in the second half at Alabama. He has 289 rushing yards and three TDs.
Chase has 73 receptions for 1,498 yards and 18 TDs despite missing one game injured. Jefferson has 88 catches for 1,207 yards and 14 TDs, while Marshall has 37 grabs for 545 yards and 10 TDs. Marshall missed three games with a broken bone in his foot sustained in a 66-38 win at Vanderbilt on Sept. 21.
LSU leads the nation in total offense, is second in passing yards and third in scoring with its 47.8 points-per-game average.
Oklahoma (12-1 SU, 5-8 ATS) is facing an SEC opponent in the CFP semifinals for the third straight season. After coming up short to Georgia in a 54-48 double-overtime thriller at the 2017 Rose Bowl, the Sooners lost 45-34 to Alabama at last year’s Orange Bowl. However, they covered the spread in backdoor fashion as 13.5-point underdogs.
Lincoln Riley’s team is mired in a 2-7 ATS slump, but that factoid has zero relevance since the Sooners are underdogs for the first time this season. During Riley’s three-year tenure, Oklahoma has compiled a 3-1 spread record and collected a pair of outright wins in four games as an underdog.
This is only the second time on Riley’s watch that OU has been a double-digit underdog. As previously noted, the Sooners took the money vs. ‘Bama last year.
Oklahoma won its first five games by margins of 18 points or more. The Sooners improved to 7-0 with wins vs. Texas (34-27) and vs. West Virginia (52-14). They went into Kansas State as a 23.5-point road favorite and found itself down 48-23 after the Wildcats scored on a two-yard TD run by James Gilbert with 12:54 remaining.
OU wouldn’t quit, though. Twenty-two seconds later, Jalen Hurts found CeeDee Lamb for a 70-yard scoring strike. Then with 5:36 remaining, a one-yard TD run from Hurts, in addition to a three-yard pass to Lamb for a two-point conversion, trimmed the deficit to 48-38. The Sooners made it a one-possession game when Gabe Brkic buried a 39-yard field goal with 1:45 left.
OU initially seemed to be in business when it recovered the ensuing onside kick, but replay reviews showed that a Sooner had touched the ball before it had gone 10 yards. Therefore, K-State ran out the clock and captured a 48-41 upset victory.
With one loss, Riley’s bunch remained in the hunt for a CFP berth, albeit with zero room for error. Therefore, Oklahoma fans had to deal with a lot of anxiety when four of its next five games were of the one-possession variety.
After an open date following the loss at Kansas State, OU won a 42-41 decision over Iowa State as a 14-point home favorite. Next, Riley’s team went to Waco to face undefeated Baylor as an 11-point road ‘chalk.’
The Bears raced out to a 31-10 halftime lead. Oklahoma pulled to within 31-17 on Hurts’s three-yard TD pass to Austin Stogner midway through the third quarter. With 12:58 remaining in the final stanza, Hurts found Theo Wease for a 19-yard scoring connection. Hurts’s fourth TD pass and third of the second half was a two-yard scoring strike to Brayden Willis with 5:25 left to tie the game at 31-31.
Oklahoma escaped unscathed with a 34-31 win when Brkic’s 31-yard field goal was true with 1:45 remaining.
Back in Norman the following week, Oklahoma raced out to a 21-0 lead on TCU. The Horned Frogs wouldn’t go away, though, scoring 10 unanswered point to slice the deficit to 11 by halftime. Then with 10:15 left in the third, TCU got to within 21-17. After Hurts scored on an eight-yard TD run, the Sooners were in front by 11 points.
On the verge of putting the game on ice early in the fourth, Hurts was intercepted for a 98-yard pick-six. With the Frogs trailing by just four points, OU’s defense didn’t allow them to get any closer over the final 12 minutes, holding on for a 28-24 triumph.
Many felt OU would get a tough test in Stillwater in its regular-season finale, but that didn’t happen. The Sooners controlled the second half and pulled away for a 34-16 win at Oklahoma State. They covered the rich spread, too, as 14-point road ‘chalk.’
Going into Championship Weekend earlier this month, Oklahoma needed Oregon to beat Utah and LSU to take care of UGA. Obviously, it had to take care of its own business with a rematch vs. Baylor at Jerry World in the Big 12 Championship Game.
Riley’s team took a 10-0 first-quarter lead thanks to a six-yard TD run from Kennedy Brooks and a 44-yard FG from Brkic. Baylor owned the second quarter, however, despite losing starting QB Charlie Brewer to a concussion. The Bears took a 13-10 advantage into intermission.
A pair of 24-yard FGs from Brkic and an 18-yard TD pass from Hurts to Nick Basquine put Oklahoma ahead 23-13 with 10:31 left. At this point, another QB injury had Baylor using third-string signal caller Jacob Zeno, a true freshman who had only appeared in one game previously and is being redshirted.
With 9:41 remaining, Zeno found Trestan Ebner for an 81-yard TD pass to trim the deficit to three. When John Mayers hit a 27-yard FG with 3:25 left, Baylor was back even at 23-23. The game would go to overtime.
In the first extra session, Stevenson found paydirt on a five-yard TD run. Then the Oklahoma defense got a stop to conserve a 30-23 victory and give the Sooners the No. 4 slot in the CFP.
For the season, Hurts has connected on 71.8 percent of his throws for 3,632 yards with a 32/7 TD-INT ratio. He paces the Sooners with 1,255 rushing yards and 18 TDs, averaging 5.7 YPC. Hurts was one of four finalists for the Heisman.
Hurts’s collegiate career has been legendary. He led Alabama to the CFP finals as a freshman and a sophomore, scoring the go-ahead TD on a run at crunch time vs. Clemson as a freshman, only to see Deshaun Watson throw a game-winning TD pass with two seconds remaining just moments later.
Then as a sophomore, Hurts was yanked to start the third quarter of the CFP finals against Georgia in Atlanta. He didn’t pout and played the role of the ultimate teammate as Tua Tagovailoa led the Crimson Tide to a 26-23 comeback win over UGA in overtime. As a junior in 2018, Hurts was relegated to Tagovailoa’s backup, but he continued to be a great teammate and was ready when his number was called at last year’s SEC Championship Game.
When Tagovailoa was injured late in the third quarter, Hurts was the catalyst in leading Alabama back from a 14-point deficit to beat UGA 35-28. That propelled the Tide to another CFP berth, but they lost 44-16 to Clemson in the finals. Atlanta was the venue where he lost his job in January of 2018, and it was the place of his resurrection of sorts 11 months later. Therefore, it’s only fitting that his fourth career appearance in the CFP comes against an SEC foe in a familiar city, The ATL.
For his career, Hurts has a 65.6 completion percentage, 9,260 passing yards and an 80/19 TD-INT ratio. He has 3,231 rushing yards and 41 TDs, in addition to five receptions for 40 yards and one TD.
Lamb is his favorite target, hauling in 57 receptions for 1,206 yards and 14 TDs. Chareston Rambo has 42 catches for 734 yards and five TDs.
Brooks has 976 rushing yards, five TDs and a 6.7 YPC average. He suffered a head injury vs. Baylor earlier this month, but he’s good to go vs. LSU and will have to carry the load on the ground.
The ‘under’ has cashed in four straight games for the Sooners to improve to 7-5-1 overall. This is OU’s fourth-highest total of the year and its highest since an Oct. 12 win over Texas. When Oklahoma topped the Longhorns 34-27, the 61 combined points dropped way below the 77.5-point tally. Totals have been an overall wash (2-2) when the Sooners have had totals in the 70s. In its season opener, OU had its highest total in a 49-31 win over Houston that saw the 80 combined points push to the 80-point number.
The ‘over’ is 8-5 overall for LSU, but the ‘under’ has cashed in back-to-back games. This is the highest total the Tigers have seen in 2019. The previous high was 72 points in a home game vs. Utah State, which ended up being their third-lowest combined score. LSU beat the Aggies 42-6, with the 48 combined points falling ‘under’ the 72-point tally.
Kickoff on ESPN is scheduled for Saturday afternoon at 4:00 p.m. ET.
B.E.’s Bonus Nuggets
-- Mississippi State starting QB Garrett Shrader is ‘out’ of the Music City Bowl vs. Louisville due to an eye injury. According to multiple reports, Shrader and junior LB Willie Gay were involved in an altercation that caused the injury. Further testing on Shrader’s eye revealed damage to his orbital bone, although he isn’t expected to need surgery. Nevertheless, he’s ‘out’ against the Cardinals and senior QB Tommy Stevens will get the starting nod. The Bulldogs are favored by four points at most books. Gay, who was suspended for eight regular-season games due to an academic issue, is expected to play.
-- Justin Wilcox announced on Dec. 23 that nine California players won’t play vs. Illinois in the Redbox Bowl. Three of those players are starters and a fourth was going to start against the Fighting Illini. Fifth-year senior safety Ashtyn Davis is ‘out’ after undergoing what Wilcox dubbed as “minor surgery.” In 11 games, Davis had 33 solo tackles, 24 assists, four passes broken up, two forced fumbles, two interceptions and one tackle for loss. Starting WR Jordan Duncan has been “excused” from the team to handle personal matters, according to Wilcox. Duncan is a two-year starter who has 25 receptions for 364 yards and two TDs. Junior LB Telvin Paul (28 tackles, three sacks) and safety Trey Turner III (32 tackles and four PBU) are the other starters who are ‘out.’ Illinois is dealing with a slew of injuries, too, most notably starting QB Brandon Peters and Butkus Award semifinalist Jake Hansen. The Golden Bears are favored by six or 6.5 points at most spots.
-- The ‘under’ is on a 7-1-1 run for Kansas State in its last nine games. The Wildcats face Navy with a total of 52 points.
-- Miami, Fl. fired OC Dan Enos today. Reports of his pending dismissal surfaced hours before yesterday’s Independence Bowl in Shreveport, where La. Tech dealt out cream-cheese treatment to the Hurricanes in a 14-0 win as a seven-point underdog. The Bulldogs cashed money-line tickets in the +220 neighborhood.
-- Eastern Michigan improved to 24-5-2 ATS in its last 31 games as an underdog in last night’s gut-wrenching loss to Pitt at the Quick Lane Bowl. The Eagles lost a 34-30 decision when Pitt took its first lead of the game on a TD with 47 ticks left. Nevertheless, the Eagles easily took the cash as 12-point underdogs. They fell to 0-3 SU but 3-0 ATS in bowl games during Chris Creighton’s tenure. EMU hasn’t won a bowl game since 1987.
-- Arkansas head coach Sam Pittman has hired FSU’s Kendal Briles as the Razorbacks’ next offensive coordinator. That’s two quality coordinator hires for Pittman, who also scored former Missouri HC Barry Odom as his new DC.
-- Reports out of Gainesville indicate that Florida Gators star DE Jabari Zuniga has been practicing and will play vs. Virginia in the Orange Bowl. Since Zuniga suffered a severe ankle sprain at Kentucky in Week 3, he’s tried to make comebacks in key games at LSU vs. UGA, only to suffer setbacks each time. When healthy, Zuniga is one of the nation’s top pass rushers.
-- Florida, a 14 or 14.5-point ‘chalk’ vs. UVA, is 5-0 ATS as a double-digit favorite this year.
Follow Brian Edwards' sports gambling opinions on Twitter at @vegasbedwards.