Auburn Tigers (8-4 SU, 9-3 ATS) vs. Oklahoma Sooners (10-2 SU, 6-6 ATS)
Date/Time: Monday, January 2, 2017 at 8:30PM EST
Where: Mercedes-Benz Superdome
By Loot, NCAA Football Handicapper, Lootmeister.com
Betting Odds: AUB +3/OKLA -3
Over/Under Total: 63.5
The Auburn Tigers meet the Oklahoma Sooners in the Sugar Bowl on January 2 at the Superdome. It's an appealing matchup between good SEC and Big 12 teams. The Sooners lost their season opener and two of their first three games, before ending the season on a nine-game win streak. They look to close the season in style over a good Auburn team. The Tigers didn't end the season on the most positive of notes, dropping games to Georgia and Alabama in two of their last three games. But a 6-game winning streak preceded that, five coming in the SEC. They were imperfect this season, but showed good signs moving forward and should give the Sooners a good game.
Oklahoma perhaps vanished from most people's radar screens after a 1-2 start where they lost conclusively to Houston and Ohio State. But they righted the ship and are now firmly on the winning track with 9 straight wins to end the regular season. In doing so, they had one of the more-prolific offenses in the country, ranked third overall with 44.7 points per game. In allowing an average of 30 points per game, their defense has been dicey on occasion, but not bad enough to stop them from ending the season in style.
The Sooners offense is stocked with weaponry, as evidenced by two of their stars being at the Heisman ceremony. Baker Mayfield has completed nearly 72% of his throws with 38 TD throws on 3669 yards passing. They have a two-headed monster at running back with Joe Mixon and Samaje Perine. The pair has combined for 2157 yards on the ground. Mayfield has added 6 rushing touchdowns. Through the air, Mayfield relies on one of he best in the country with Dede Westbrook, who has 1465 yards and 16 touchdowns. Mixon has been big aerially with 449 yards and 5 touchdowns. Big 6'5" receiver Mark Andrews has also been a valuable weapon at times. This offense has a variety of different ways they can produce.
Again, the Sooners defense is hardly a good one. It's amazing they were able to win 9 games in a row to end the season with a pass-defense that is ranked 119th in the country. They were OK against the run, but not that great, either. At the same time, the bigger point-totals they allowed came earlier in the season. In their last five games, no team got into the thirties in scoring against Oklahoma. But there were times where they gave up gobs of points. Up-front, Ogbonnia Okoronkwo was a fierce presence. Linebacker Jordan Evans was the key playmaker on this unit, leading the team in tackles, with four picks and two scores. Safety Steven Parker made a lot of plays in the secondary this season.
Auburn lost a close one at Georgia and at Alabama, sandwiching a meaningless win over Alabama A&M, to end the season. Those are a pair of pretty rough road games and maybe judging them off of those showings would be harsh, though they weren't really embarrassed. After a 1-2 start, things didn't look that good, but the Gus Malzahn-led bunch came back with consecutive wins over LSU, LA-Monroe, Mississippi State, Arkansas, Ole Miss, and Vandy. Not among the conference elite perhaps, but Auburn had a successful season by most people's measure.
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The Auburn offense features a run-heavy approach with a nominal amount of production aerially. Quarterback Sean White was efficient and tossed only three picks this season. His main weapon was Tony Stevens, but again, they didn't produce much through the air. Doing most of the heavy lifting for this offense was a two-pronged approach at running back in Kamryn Pettway and Kerryon Johnson. The pair combined for nearly 2000 yards with 19 touchdowns. With five other players scoring multiple touchdowns on the ground for the Tigers, they had one of the better rushing attacks in the nation this season.
The Auburn defense was pretty clutch this season, in addition to being a well-balanced group. On the season, only four teams allowed fewer points than Auburn, as they allowed an average of just 15.6 points per game. In the secondary, Tray Matthews, Johnathan Ford, Stephen Foster and Joshua Holsey made a lot of plays. They got a good pass rush from standout end Carl Lawson, with some help on the inside from Montravius Adams. The 30 points they allowed to Alabama was a season-high. Nine times this season, opponents didn't even crack 20 points. They will be facing one of the better offenses in the nation in this bowl game. They will also be facing a defense they can potentially exploit.
I think the break hurts Oklahoma more, having disrupted their continuity and with a more-complex aerial approach that is reliant on repetition. We saw they were better this season once they got rolling and established some momentum. That momentum has cooled down with the long break leading to this matchup. Auburn's offense doesn't compare to Oklahoma's, but the Sooners' "D" doesn't compare to the Tigers. And in a game like this, I'm going with defense and running the ball. I'll take the points.
Loot's Prediction to Cover the Point Spread: I'm betting on the Auburn Tigers plus 3 points. Tired of your credit card not working for sportsbook deposit? End that problem today and bet the Tigers vs. Sooners game from the comfort of your own home by signing up at Bovada Sportsbook where your credit card WILL work and where you'll receive a generous 100% sign-up bonus!