A look at the Playoff Semi-Finals from a betting standpoint, and the two best plays on Monday…
Semi-Final 1, The Peach Bowl - The Play: Washington +14. Taking the points against Saban has not been wise this year, as Bama is 9-3 against the spread. And it might surprise you that, while Washington has had their best season in decades, they are only 7-6 ATS this year. Still, I think the two-touchdown spread is a bit high. I liked Washington a lot more when they were getting 16, but I think they will be hungrier than Bama in this one, and will still cover the 14. And Chris Peterson is 6-3 ATS in bowl games as a head coach. My guess is that Washington hangs around long enough to give Bama a scare. Prediction: Alabama 31 Washington 23.
Semi-Final 2, The Fiesta Bowl - The Play: Clemson +2½. Both Urban and Dabo are very tough to beat in bowl games. I give the slightest edge to Urban in winning the game, while the slightest edge goes to Dabo if you are going to spot him 2½ points. As mentioned in the Pencil Storm game preview, Dabo is 5-0 in his last 5 Bowl/Playoff games. On the flip side, Urban’s record against the spread in games when he has had more than a week to prepare for his opponent is insane. Probably better to lay off this one as a bettor, and just sit back and enjoy. Prediction: Ohio State 30 Clemson 28
The Cotton Bowl - The Play: Wisconsin -8.5. The big fear is: “Does Wisconsin want to be here?” It’s their first major bowl game since 2012 and I think Paul Chryst will have team motivated. I think Wisconsin’s front seven will be too much for the ‘Row the Boat’ crew at WMU. And Chryst always has a nice offensive game plan when he has extra time to prepare. The flip side? Heading into New Year’s Eve, Bowl dogs are 24-8 against the spread. Still, I like Bucky here. Prediction: Wisconsin 34-21
The Rose Bowl - The Play: Southern Cal -7. When you have been as hot as Penn State has been, the last thing you want is a long lay-off. I think that’s huge here. Something has to give as, between the two of them, these teams have covered 14 games in a row. The Nits finish games better than any team in the country, but they also find themselves in early holes far too often. I see Penn State again getting themselves in hole, but this time not being able to dig themselves out. USC is the most talented team Penn State has played since Ohio State in mid-October. In the end, the talent difference is too much for the Nits. Prediction: USC 35 Penn State 24.