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2017 Sugar Bowl Odds: Auburn vs Oklahoma Money Line Pick

Auburn Tigers(8-4) @ Oklahoma Sooners(10-2)

  • Where: Mercedes-Benz Superdome. New Orleans, LA (Neutral Site)
  • When: January 2, 2017 8:30 pm EST
  • Spread: Auburn +3 (-105) vs Oklahoma -3 (-115)
  • Moneyline: Auburn (+130) vs Oklahoma (-150)
  • Over / Under: Over 64 (-105) vs Under 64 (-115)

It is hard enough to take on 1 of the best teams in the SEC in a major bowl game. Given the current cloud over Oklahoma football, Monday night could pose an even bigger challenge.

Recently, the story broke that OU receiver Dede Westbrook had been arrested on domestic violence charges. Only a week later, video of star RB Joe Mixon was released in which the sophomore threw a punch that broke a woman’s jaw early in his matriculation. Nationally, fans who would typically cheer for a Big 12 school to whip the Southeastern Conference are finding their loyalty tested by the scandals swirling in Norman.

But for bettors, the dilemma is worse. Teams have fared well in post-season games while controversies raged, such as Texas A&M and Florida State in 2014-15. But turmoil can also cause a total collapse on the field, even if the distraction has left town – such as happened to the Houston Cougars against San Diego State earlier this December.

Which Oklahoma shows up to face Auburn on Monday night, the Power-5 conference champ with a super-charged offensive backfield? Or a dysfunctional program filled with women-hating crooks and cheating administrators? Solving the riddle will save a lot of units for cash players just 48 hours into the new year.

OU – circling the wagons

Auburn vs. Oklahoma PreviewMixon and Westbrook are both slated to play on Monday night. Despite what punishment may be handed down by the NCAA later on, that’s good news for the Sooners. Westbrook has more yards receiving in 2016-17 than the next 3 leading OU receivers combined, while Mixon has rushed for 7 yards per-carry on the season. Junior QB Baker Mayfield was a Heisman candidate in 2016, and has thrown for almost 10,000 yards over his career in the defense-challenged Big 12.

Auburn is much better running than passing, and OU has been wildly inconsistent defending the run. Against West Virginia, the Sooner ‘D allowed over 300 rushing yards to junior RB Justin Crawford on just 24 carries. But in the Big 12 Championship, Oklahoma out-rushed rival Oklahoma State by 100+ yards despite a run-heavy game plan from opposing HC Mike Gundy.

The depth of the front-7 will be tested against the Tigers, however. Former starting defensive lineman Matt Dimon has left the program, and a total of 6 DEs, DTs and LBs from the spring roster are out for the season with injury or suspension. That could spell doom against a powerful Wing-T offense that racks up yards and touchdowns for the War Eagle.

Big 12 defenses tend to struggle against ranked teams, a reason the O/U line is soaring toward 65+ after opening at 62.5.

Auburn Tigers – underdogs on paper only

The Tigers began the year by losing 2 of 3 games, leading to chatter that the Gus Malzahn era might be coming to an end. Then they ended the season by losing 2 conference games – a dreary 13-7 loss to Georgia in Athens and a 30-12 defeat to Alabama in the Iron Bowl.

But in between, the War Eagle blitzed through a 6-game winning streak that included a victory over LSU and a 56-3 thrashing of Arkansas. Malzahn’s patented Wing-T racked up 3300+ yards and 32 TDs on the ground, including 1123 from Kamryn Pettway who paced all RBs as a sophomore.

But the Auburn defense has shined brightest, giving up the 5th-fewest points in the country in 2016-17. In the win over Arkansas, Razorback runners were held to an abysmal 25 yards on 31 carries. In Athens, Auburn held Nick Chubb and the UGA backfield to just over 3 YPC despite the Bulldogs running 76 plays to the Tigers’ 54. All-SEC defensive linemen Montravius Adams and Carl Lawson have been a nightmare for opposing QBs.

The team’s lone weakness has been at quarterback, where injuries have hurt. Backup Jeremy Johnson has been a flaky decision-maker. But 1st-stringer Sean White is probable to return for the Sugar Bowl, another reason the O/U line is rising.

Potential in-play on the under

If Auburn is winning, that means time-consuming drives and lower scoring. Malzahn will want to take their air out of the football if the Tigers carry a 7 or 14-point lead into the break.

But if OU is leading, expect the Sooners to push the tempo. Bob Stoops is a pragmatic head coach who does not have the defense to back up a conservative game plan.

If the Tigers are churning out 1st downs early, place a live bet on the under at Bovada. It is easy to see the Sooners folding late if the scoreboard tilts the wrong way, and Auburn is sure to shorten the game unless a deficit pries the playbook open.

Value in a ML bet on Auburn

Considering White’s return from injury and the scandals in Norman, it is a mystery why Oklahoma is a money line favorite. The SEC is clearly stronger than the Big 12 this season. But even if there were more parity between conferences, Auburn is the style of team that can beat the Sooners on a big stage.

Mixon may scrape out a 100-yard day, and Mayfield will have his moments, but the Tiger front-7 will produce negative plays and force OU punts and turnovers – setting up ground-and-pound scoring drives against an over-matched Oklahoma defense.

Wager on Auburn to win on the ML or ATS at Bovada Sportsbook.

Kurt BoyerThis article was written by Kurt Boyer

A freelance sportswriter from Missouri, Kurt has covered court, gridiron, rink and ring for 10+ years. He muses about High School football on social media as The Gridiron Geek.

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