Last Updated Aug 30, 2021, 9:55 AM
Saturday's Best Bets
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Saturday's going to be all about the playoff games in college football, but those aren't the only two in town. Memphis/Penn State and Iowa State/Notre Dame are served up as the appetizer. There is some potential there to have a mighty good early meal, at least better then expected.
After trying out this formula's for Friday's slate, no reason to change for Saturday's four contests. Opinions and feelings about the playoff games aren't likely to change now, and it could turn out to be a great day of football when it's all over with. Starting with the favorite again because it's the only team laying chalk on Saturday that I'd consider to back.
Camping World Bowl (ABC, 12:00 p.m. ET)
Iowa State vs. Notre Dame
Favorite to Back: Notre Dame -3.5
Can't be tremendously proud about saying the Irish are the only favorite on the board I'd lay it with considering you've got Penn State, LSU and Clemson in the rest of that group. Penn State is never shy about hanging a number on anyone, and the other two are graded out as the top two teams in the country given they are laying points at a neutral site. But yes, it is the Irish who are the best to back as chalk on Saturday, as I'm not sure Iowa State should be here.
The Cyclones can be a tough out every year, but they win the big game in October or early November, not this time of year. And Notre Dame still finished 10-2 SU, but they were out of the national picture for so long – they suffered their 2nd loss of the year @ Michigan October 26th – that there is still the sense they aren't nearly as good as they project to be. This line seems awful short in that regard, and I'm not sure at any point in the regular season had this game been played then that the Irish wouldn't be laying double digits.
Iowa State is a team that's got a great reputation as upset pullers, but most of those come against Iowa or conference rivals, foes they see every year. But more specifically, after nearly knocking off Oklahoma at the beginning of November, this Cyclones team effectively ran out of steam, unable to pull away as expected against opponents. The 0-3 ATS run to end the year was rough for Iowa State, who still has the same issue that many Big 12 defenses do; keeping people out of their end zone.
If Book and company are there to play for the Irish – and Book would love to improve his draft stock – they'll put up their share of points on this Cyclones team. From there, the better defense the Irish have will get a stop or two to take control of the game, as this game turns into a double-digit win for the Irish.
Peach Bowl (ESPN, 4:00 p.m. ET)
Oklahoma vs. LSU
Total to Back: Oklahoma/LSU Over 76
Need everything to go right for the most part here, but outside of trading turnovers after sustained drives, this game likely plays out as a race to 40 points.
A nice 0-4 O/U run to end the year for the Sooners may have actually pushed this number down from where it could have been, as LSU's defense has been lights out the last two weeks as well. Which is why this number staying so constant this high is telling from the perspective that they feel any lower and it's much more wrong. Interesting concept when you think about, especially with both sides not allowing 30 points against in each of their past three games.
But this should be a track meet when it comes down to it, as LSU shouldn't have any issue putting up points, and Oklahoma will do what they do, and that's put up plenty of points as well. It's been awhile since LSU faced a team that can really chuck it around like the Sooners can, and Oklahoma QB Jalen Hurts has seen what LSU brings first hand. That's only going to help Hurts and Oklahoma's offense, as they keep this game as close as they can for as long as they can.
Oklahoma has still allowed 45 points or more in each of their playoff games the past two years, and while that's undoubtedly been a point of improvement this year for the Sooners, I doubt they can handle Burrow and company in their still improving state. Oklahoma's 6-2-1 O/U run in their last nine as an underdog attests to that, as Oklahoma will just hope to score Td's on nearly every possession and maybe force a turnover or two. From there they got a chance.
Nearly all the scenarios that land on Oklahoma upset wins suggest a game that both sides reach the 40's, while a good portion of LSU's wins see a similar thing. Yes, playoff game bringing more conservative and defensive minded approaches is a minor concern, but not particularly all that much with these two teams.
Fiesta Bowl (ESPN, 8:00 p.m. ET)
Clemson vs. Ohio State
Underdog to Back: Ohio State +2
Based on earlier statements, I could have put any of the other three games in this spot, but Ohio State is the easy choice of the three for one simple reason : they are the most likely to win the game outright.
All those points with the Sooners seem juicy, but I'm not sure an Oklahoma ATS win will be anything but a holding on late or a backdoor score late to sneak into an 8-13 point loss. Beating LSU outright is not something that's easy to see the Sooners do.
Memphis, they can use their offense to get by Penn State for sure, but if they don't find success early things tend to get tougher and tougher for them. Penn State loves to bury teams when they can, and do probably win the game outright more times then not, so why mess around with trying to stay within a TD. That is because Ohio State/Clemson is about as close to a coin flip game as it gets, and when you can get a Buckeyes team at plus-money and/or taking points when they've been the ones to get slighted here is something you've got to do.
Ohio State went from the #1 team in the country to #2 and lined as underdogs vs #3 all because they had a sub-par 1st half vs Wisconsin in the Big 10 title game. 30 minutes of losing football, and these guys see their names drop from #1 to #2, and essentially feel like the #3 team as they are the underdog vs Clemson. That's about as motivating as it gets for 18-22 year olds, and even with QB Fields still a little banged up, the Buckeyes have other ways to win.
I'm not one to rag on the ACC a lot, but it really does feel like Clemson lucked out a bit in not getting severely tested like teams from other conferences do each week. It had that feel after the 2017 season when they returned as the defending champs and the #1 seed, only to lose 24-6 to Alabama in that semi-final. This really was an easier year for the Tigers and they still had that big time scare against UNC. Recent numbers for Clemson would suggest they've fixed those leaks in their game, but Ohio State can make new leaks on anyone, and the more battle-hardened team with extra chips on their shoulders now come away with the outright victory.