College football’s best playoff bets are on the line, and only one SEC team will cover Friday

Hello and welcome to a special Thursday edition of Football Friday. There will be no afternoon edition of this newsletter tomorrow, but I love you too much to send you in 2022 with no New Years choice. So today I have two bowl choices for your Thursday night, plus picks for the two semifinals of Friday’s college football playoffs.

It’s a lot better than betting on the NBA right now. I watched the Bulls crush the Atlanta Hawks last night, and while I enjoyed that, I also felt like I was watching an NBA team play against a really good varsity team. The Hawks were so short on staff that a part of me couldn’t help but wonder why the NBA even bothered with these games. It’s not fair to anyone involved, and games like this could decide the home court advantage in a playoff series this spring.

I know it’s an impossible situation, but I feel like every decision the NBA has made over the past few seasons was designed to make its regular season less important. Anyway, let’s watch all the latest news and stories from this vast world of sports.

Alright, let’s end 2021 with a few winners. And as a reminder, if you want this newsletter to be delivered directly to your mailbox every day of the week (except tomorrow), register here.

All Eastern times and all odds via Caesars Sportsbook

The hot ticket


No. 10 Michigan State vs. No. 12 Pittsburgh, 7 p.m. | Television: ESPN

Choice: Over 55.5 (-110): Most of the attention on this game has been on who doesn’t, and rightly so. Pitt QB Kenny Pickett rewrote many of the school’s record books, breaking Hall of Famer records set by Dan Marino. He’s not playing tonight because he’s decided to start planning for his future in the NFL. The same goes for Michigan State RB Kenneth Walker, who has accumulated 1,636 yards and 18 touchdowns this season.

It’s two of your top five Heisman voters missing the game, which sucks from a fan and a spectator’s perspective, but also offers an opportunity.

That game’s total opened at 64 and has since dropped by more than one touchdown. While I understand why, I also think this is an overreaction. Pickett is great, but his replacement Nick patti has played 16 games in the past three seasons, including eight this year. He’s not a green freshman. Plus, Jordan Addison still plays for the Panthers, and they will face a Michigan State high school that has been a soft spot for the Spartans throughout the season. While Pitt’s offense is not at full strength, this is an area he can tap into.

And while Walker is amazing, it’s always easier to replace a running back than a QB, so I’m not sure the Spartans offense will decrease as much as this new total suggests. So let’s go against the grain here and take over.

Key trend: The advantage is 15-6 in Pitt’s last 21 games.

Here’s what SportsLine says about the game: I am a simple human. The SportsLine projection model is an advanced machine, incapable of sensing a human emotion that could mar its results. Find out what he thinks about tonight’s Peach Bowl.


College football

Arizona State vs. Wisconsin, 10:30 PM | Television: ESPN
The choice: Wisconsin -7 (-110) –
In bowls, it’s crucial to keep track of teams that are short of players due to churns. Arizona State is the team dealing with most of them tonight. The Sun Devils will be without point guard Rachaad White (1,006 yards, 15 TDs) and number 2 RB DeaMonte Trayanum (401 yards, six touchdowns). On the defensive side of the ball, Arizona State will miss its two starting corners to Chase Lucas (34 tackles, six assists defended) and Jack Jones (three INTs, 42 tackles, one sack and six defended passes). They will also be without starting linebacker Darien Butler (68 tackles, 8.5 tackles for a loss, two sacks, three interceptions).

For a team that relies on its running and defense, missing your two best running backs and three senior starters in defense is a big deal! Yes, Wisconsin’s offense has been hit and miss for most of the season, but the Badgers have had an elite defense throughout the season. I’m not sure how reasonably we can expect the Sun Devils offense to be against this Badgers defense without White and Trayanum. Wisconsin won’t have to score much to cover that gap.

Key trend: Arizona State is 2-7 ATS in its last nine non-conference games.

College football playoff

Getty Images

No. 1 Alabama vs. No. 4 Cincinnati, Friday, 3:30 PM | Television: ESPN
Pick: Alabama -13.5 (-110) –
If there is a blowout in the CFP semifinals, this is the game most likely to deliver it. The gap suggests it, as does Alabama face off against Cincinnati, the first team in the Group of Five to have played for a national championship since the start of the BCS. We have seen this story many times before. This is Alabama’s seventh playoff appearance, and he’s gone 5-1 in his first six semi-finals, with his only loss to Ohio State in 2014. His five wins averaged 20.2 points, with the closest game being a 45-34 victory over Oklahoma in the 2018 Orange Bowl which Bama led 28-0 before OU joined the party.

Will it happen again? There is a good chance! Cincinnati put on a great pass rush all season, which will help against that offensive from Bama. If you allow Heisman Trophy winner Bryce Young to sit in the pocket and let his receivers open, he will separate you. You have to make him uncomfortable and move him to stand a chance. I’m not sure Cincinnati can accomplish this feat as this Crimson Tide offensive line will be better than any line the Bearcats have seen this season.

At the back, Cincinnati has leading defensive backs in Ahmad Gardner and Coby Bryant to slow Alabama receivers down, but no one can cover Jameson Williams for 60 minutes. On the other side of the ball, the Bearcats will need Desmond Ridder to have one of the best games of his life to keep pace with the Alabama offense, and I don’t see it happening. My heart is hoping for a close and exciting game, but my head tells me that there won’t be much drama left in this one in the fourth quarter.

Key trend: Alabama are 5-2 ATS in their last seven games on neutral site

# 2 Michigan vs # 3 Georgia, Friday, 7:30 PM | Television: ESPN
Pick: Michigan +7.5 (-115) –
These teams are so similar that it’s hard to imagine either team pulling off. Both attacks rely on running behind an excellent offensive line that can wear down an opposing defense and break it in the second half. Both neglected the passing attacks carried out by quarterbacks of the “game manager” type. Then there are the defenses. Georgia has an elite Seven Front that has proven to be impenetrable for almost everyone it has faced this year. Michigan has an elite race led by Heisman finalist Aidan Hutchinson and David Ojabo.

I believe that the background of these defenses could make the difference. Georgia’s secondary is the weak point of its defense, even if it is still quite good! – and was exhibited by Alabama in the SEC Championship game. There is some concern over the safety of Michigan’s Daxton Hill which is questionable for the game. Hill has been huge in defense of Michigan, even though he doesn’t get the same level of attention his teammates do. He’s a player who helps against the run and can cover receivers and tight ends like Georgia’s Brock Bowers. If he is unable to play, my level of confidence in that choice drops a bit, but not enough to scare me completely. With or without Hill, I don’t trust Georgia’s ability to walk away from the Wolverines. As I watch this hook on the seven in the spread, I can’t help but go with the Wolverines. If the gap drops below seven before kick-off, I’ll take Georgia. This is how thin that margin appears to be as a razor.

Key trend: Michigan has covered in five straight games.

?? SportsLine pick of the day: The SportsLine projection model also simulated college football playoff games. Find out what he has to say about the Orange Bowl between Michigan and Georgia.

Tonight’s parlay

A simple three-legged college basketball game for Thursday night. This pay +132.

Get picks for these and more games on SportsLine.

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