Our prediction system is off to a good start in predicting bowl games this year. Because of coaching changes, players opting out, distractions, etc. We don’t usually expect our Savvy Index system to be much better than betting lines that struggle to stay above 50% in predicting winners. As it stands now, they are 4-4.
So far in 2021, our Index is 6-2 after it defied betting lines twice to pick Utah State over Oregon State and Western Kentucky over Appalachian State.
Half of the PAC-12 made it to bowl games this year, but only one is projected to come out as a winner.
Oregon State (7-6) in the L.A. Bowl
(Utah State won 24-13)
As we mentioned last week, Utah State (11-3) would betray the oddsmakers and notch a win over Oregon State (7-6). Although our system got it right, the margin of victory was 11 points instead of one. We projected that the Beavers would struggle if they were forced to the air, which is pretty much how things went. The Aggies bolted into the Oregon State backfield and came away with four sacks and six tackles for loss.
UCLA (8-4) in the Holiday Bowl
The Bruins were 4-1 playing away from home in 2021, so this trip to San Diego sets up well for them.
However, their opponent is North Carolina State (9-3), which won’t sit well.
The Wolfpack is a legitimate top 20 team with one of America’s most lethal passing attacks. The aerial heroics are led by quarterback Devin Leary who broke Phillip Rivers’ school record of 34 touchdown passes while throwing just five interceptions.
UCLA scored 148 points in its final four games and should be able to move the ball on the ground with its top 20 rush attack. But the problem for the Bruins is that they were winless against ranked teams.
The Bruins are close to national prominence, but this game will remind us that they’re not quite there yet. Perhaps the addition of spectacular UCF transfer quarterback Dillon Gabriel will get them there in 2022.
Our Index shows N.C. State winning this by two.
#22 Oregon (10-3) in the Alamo Bowl
Both #22 Oregon (10-3) and #11 Oklahoma (10-2) will be without their regular season head coaches, so anything can happen in this one.
I don’t think many would disagree that Oklahoma had better credentials throughout the 2021 season. The Sooners started the season with nine straight wins and played more ranked opponents than the Ducks.
Oklahoma has sensational freshman quarterback Caleb Williams who finished the season as the nation’s eighth most efficient passer and second-leading rusher. Oregon struggled with true, dual-threat quarterbacks, so Williams promises to be a handful.
Further complicating things for Oregon is the loss of defensive end Keyvon Thibodeaux from a defense that was already suspect. Add to that a lack of team discipline and selfish penalties, and there isn’t much reason to think Oregon will beat the Sooners.
If there is a bright spot for the Ducks, it is that of Oklahoma’s ten wins, six were by a touchdown or less.
Our Index sees Oklahoma winning the Alamo Bowl, 34-27.
Arizona State (8-4) in the Las Vegas Bowl
Regrettably, ASU players have endured extensive chaos that has swirled around the coaching staff. The kids deserve better.
The Sun Devils were heralded by many in the preseason as a program with the talent to win the PAC-12 and finish in the top 10 nationally. But inconsistency on the field and a notable lack of team discipline thwarted what should have been a challenge for the PAC-12 South title.
Not only did the Sun Devils end the season in a three-game struggle with lesser opponents, but their performance trends for the season ended in the negative, a situation that is unbecoming a Power Five conference contender.
The Sun Devils didn’t come close to beating either of their two nationally-ranked opponents (Utah and Brigham Young), and now they face #19 Wisconsin (8-4).
The Badgers won seven of their last eight games, and they have the top rush defense in college football (2.2 ypc). Neither of those bode well for ASU because the pitchfork boys run the football a whole lot more than they pass it, and they have scored nearly three times as many touchdowns on the ground as they have through the air.
Both teams are in the bottom 20 for holding onto the ball, but Arizona State compounds its problems by committing more penalties than all but four teams in FBS.
Betting lines are calling it for Wisconsin by 7.5. Our system says Wisconsin, 26-21.
Washington State (7-5) in the Sun Bowl
Washington State is the lone bright spot in our predictions for the PAC-12 bowl season as it faces Miami Fl (7-5) in the Sun Bowl.
Both teams have experienced coaching changes, but WSU can expect more continuity since Jake Dickert took over the Cougar program in mid-October and led the Paladins of the Palouse to a second-place finish in the PAC-12 North.
Betting lines like Miami because of wins the Hurricanes posted over two nationally-ranked opponents (North Carolina State and Pittsburgh). Still, our system shows late-season trend lines fading for Miami while Washington State lines were rising under Dickert.
Vegas says Miami by 2.5. Our Index says Washington State by one.
#7 Utah (10-3) in the Rose Bowl
The Rose Bowl hosts one of just four matchups between top ten teams as #6 Ohio State (10-2) is favored by nearly everyone to put an end to #7 Utah’s (10-3) six-game winning streak.
Both teams are in the top 15 for offensive line play as well as defenses that bring pressure. Both are in the top three in the nation for yards-per-carry rush offense. Both have outstanding quarterbacks, but C.J. Stroud of Ohio State reckons to be the primary difference-maker.
Stroud is not nearly as mobile as Utah’s Cameron Rising, but he ranks second in the FBS for passing efficiency (182.2), whereas Rising doesn’t appear in the top 50. Rising also lacks Stroud’s long ball effectiveness.
One thing to note here is that Vegas has set the total points over/under at more than 65 points. Our system has been excellent all season (+72 games) in calling out total improper points, and this one is just too high. The final should come in at around 60 points.
Other bowl games . . .
We went against the oddsmakers twice last week and won both, so let’s see if we can find some more upsets in the bowl games that remain.
In Dallas, Texas, we’ll begin with the Cotton Bowl, where most of the oddsmakers favored #1 Alabama (13-1) to take down #4 Cincinnati (13-0) in a playoff semifinal.
Indeed, the Crimson Tide has played a much more demanding schedule than Cincinnati, and they won the SEC championship game by an impressive 17 points over Georgia.
However, because of Cincinnati’s late-season up-trends and Alabama’s late-season down-trends, our system is projecting a one-point win by Cincinnati over defending national champion Alabama.
In the other playoff, #3 Georgia (12-1) and #2 Michigan (12-1) face each other in the Orange Bowl. Neither of these teams had a familiar opponent in 2021, and they haven’t played each other since 1965, so history won’t be an ally in comparing the two.
Our Index is predicting a 28-24 win for Georgia because the Bulldogs give up just 2.6 ypc and only two rushing touchdowns in 12 regular season games and because Michigan’s scheme is the try to run the ball 42 times a game.
In the Fiesta Bowl, we see #5 Notre Dame (11-1) prevailing over #8 Oklahoma State (11-2), but any prediction is precarious because Notre Dame has a first-time head coach.
We agree with most of the betting lines, but we don’t agree on the following, so here are the upsets:
Alabama by 13.5 over Cincinnati. Our Index says Cincinnati by 1.
Auburn over Houston. Our Index says Houston by 1.
Boston College over E Carolina. Our Index says E Carolina, 30-24.
Miami, FL over Washington State. Our Index says Washington State wins.
Miami, OH over North Texas. Our Index says North Texas by 1.
W Michigan over Nevada by 3.5. We say Nevada 37-27.
Texas A&M over Wake Forest by 4. Our Index says Wake by 1.
Virginia over SMU by 2. Savvy says SMU, 34-30.
Wyoming over Kent State by 3. We say Kent State by 2.
To see all of our bowl predictions, please visit us at savvygameline.com.