Auburn vs. Oklahoma, 1/2/17 - Preview & Prediction
Written by: Nikhil Kalro
Auburn Tigers (8-4, 9-3 ATS) at Oklahoma Sooners (10-2, 6-6 ATS)
Sugar Bowl: Monday, January 2 at 8.30 PM ET, Mercedes-Benz Superdome, New Orleans, Louisiana
The Line: Oklahoma Sooners -4
The No. 14 Auburn Tigers face the No. 7 Oklahoma Sooners in one of the most anticipated Bowl games of the season: the Sugar Bowl. The Tigers have one of the best defenses in the country and the Sooners have the third-best offensive unit. The Tigers finished the season 8-4 and lost two of their last three. The Sooners cruised to nine wins on the bounce to finish the regular season.
All could come down to offense
QB Sean White is so important to the Auburn Tigers that this entire matchup almost depends on his availability. He is expected to be fine in time for the Sugar Bowl against Oklahoma. They have no problems with their defense, though, which averages just 15.6 points conceded per game (fifth in the country).
Carl Lawson has been outstanding throughout defensive coordinator Kevin Steele’s first season. Despite losing two of their last three games, including one against the superior Alabama Crimson Tide, they conceded just 19 points in those matchups.
The questions around this game seem to surround the ability of the Tigers offense to match that of the Sooners. White averages 1644 yards with nine touchdowns. RB Kamryn Pettway has scored close to 1123 yards with seven TDs on 185 carries. The Tigers offense gains 278.5 rushing yards per game, fifth in the country. But just 170.8 yards passing (112th nationally).
Can Mayfield, Westbrook be stopped?
If the Tigers showed their defensive class through the season, the Oklahoma Sooners were even better on the other end. They cruised to nine straight wins to end the regular season on the back of an offensive line that threatens any in the country. Their biggest worry, though? Defense.
QB Baker Mayfield, who has thrown for 3669 yards and 38 touchdowns through the regular campaign, will return to Oklahoma for another season. WR Dede Westbrook has 1465 receiving yards on 74 receptions and 16 touchdowns. Together, they have formed the core of an unstoppable offensive unit. Westbrook, however, did injure himself during the game against Oklahoma State, and his availability for the game is unknown. Stellar contributions from Joe Mixon and Samaje Perin have only helped the Sooners.
The Sooners score an average of 44. 7 PPG, third in the country. They pass for 318 yards a game, 11th nationally and 237.5 rushing yards. Their defense, though, concedes almost 20 points a game, ranking them 75th.
- 5-1 ATS last 6 as a favorite of 3.5-10.0
- 5-0 ATS last 5 vs. a team with a winning record.
no key trends
The Tigers’ defense v the Sooners offense. That could be the most intriguing contest among all the Bowl games. The Tigers are ranked fifth in points conceded in the country, the Sooners are ranked third on offense. However, this game could as well be decided by how well Mayfield and Westbrook are limited. I just don’t see that happening considering their form and technical prowess. The Tigers will score a few too, but the Sooners will cover the spread on this one on the back of more than a few scoring possessions.
The Pick: Oklahoma Sooners -4.5
Oklahoma averages 557.4 yards per game and put up 30 or more points in nine straight games. Ohio State was the only team to slow them down. Auburn couldn’t score against Alabama, but Oklahoma’s defense is horrible against the pass (279pg). Sean White should play well against a shaky pass defense. Oklahoma is 22-6-1 Over last 29 on fieldturf.
Total: Over 62.5
Nikhil has been working with ESPN since the age of 18 and covers cricket for their website ESPNcricinfo. When not writing or editing news, game reports, commentary and analysis stories, he is following American sports. A love for stats and patterns, research and results and plain simple learning with a few years of handicapping experience makes him almost 0.500 reliable. A degree in business administration and a keen eye for volatile industries like the stock market help too.
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