The Heisman Curse, right? The last three Heisman Trophy winners have gone on to lose their respective bowl games. Will Joe Burrow’s LSU Tigers make it four in a row? Probably not, as LSU is a 13-point favorite against the Oklahoma Sooners in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl, the first semifinal game in this year’s College Football Playoff.
Lamar Jackson’s Louisville Cardinals lost the 2016 Citrus Bowl. Baker Mayfield’s Sooners lost the 2018 Rose Bowl. So did Kyler Murray’s Sooners last year. Maybe Oklahoma turns the tables this year and beats that Heisman Trophy winner?
Again, probably not based on the line and also the early action that came in heavy on LSU. There were some places in Las Vegas that opened LSU as low as -9.5. The number skyrocketed and most of the offshore markets opened somewhere in the 12 or 12.5 range. Bookmaker opened 11.5. At time of writing, the price across the market was 13 or 13.5. At no point has this line hit 14.
The lofty total sits at 75.5 or 76 in what should be a good environment for points. LSU ranked #3 in yards per play with 7.79. Oklahoma was #1 with 8.15, but that is a number that dramatically fell off over Oklahoma’s last five games, as the Sooners only gained 6.33 yards per play in November and then the Big 12 Championship Game in December against Baylor. The two Baylor games are in there, along with a matchup against TCU and also Iowa State and Oklahoma State.
The one knock on LSU is the defense, but it is something of a flimsy case. Georgia managed just 4.2 yards per play in a dominant LSU defensive performance. Alabama and Florida moved the ball with success against LSU, but the Crimson Tide also ranked second in the country in yards per play behind Oklahoma and ahead of LSU. If Oklahoma’s offensive performance down the stretch is any indication, this is no longer a top-five offense. Lincoln Riley does have a lot of time to prepare for Dave Aranda’s defense, though.
LSU played four ranked opponents and allowed 5.44 yards per play. Oklahoma played three and allowed 5.37 yards per play. There is something of a misconception about Oklahoma’s defense that it was really bad this season. From a scoring defense standpoint, it surely wasn’t great, but allowing 5.29 yards per play wasn’t that bad, including 5.25 yards per play in conference games.
The biggest issue for Oklahoma has been consistency and you better be consistent to hang with LSU. Oklahoma had a knack for playing one good half and one bad half during the season. The Sooners had a chance to really put Texas away in the Red River Rivalry, but left a lot of points on the field in the first half. They won by seven. Kansas State scored 24 straight points in the second half before Oklahoma made things extremely interesting late in the fourth quarter thanks to turnovers. The Sooners blew a big lead against Iowa State and got behind early against Baylor. TCU nearly ruined Oklahoma’s CFP hopes in the fourth quarter on November 23.
Oklahoma had a lot of games that were impressive on the stat sheet, but entirely too close for comfort. Pinpointing a cause isn’t easy. Oklahoma did give up points in 93.02% of opponents’ red zone trips, which ranked 126th, but their TD% against in that situation ranked 80th. The red zone will be huge here because LSU was third to Oklahoma and Ohio State with 65 trips and came away with points nearly 97% of the time. Even though Oklahoma had four more RZ trips, LSU had two more touchdowns.
Unlike a lot of bowl games, these two teams have very comparable schedules. LSU played the 10th-hardest schedule and Oklahoma played the 14th according to Sagarin. Both teams played six top-30 teams. With that in mind, how do we look at the full body of work? LSU’s dominance has driven the market action. Oklahoma’s relative lack of dominance and myriad of close games has driven a lot of narratives. Statistically, the team very much looks the part against a similar schedule. In fact, Oklahoma has a +2.86 YPP differential. LSU is at +2.75. We usually see line moves based in the YPP differential between the teams.
Why all the LSU support? It’s a “what have you done for me lately” business. What LSU did most recently was throttle a Georgia team that many felt could win the game. Oklahoma needed overtime against a Baylor team without a QB for most of the B12CG. Oklahoma seemed to be in a sweat every week. At some point, the court of public opinion will say that the stats are not enough. Oklahoma has the resume of a dominant team without being one. LSU has both.
At risk of being made a fool, Oklahoma +13.5 is the lean here, but wait and see if you can catch a 14. This line is just too high based on all the narrative. Oklahoma and LSU are comparable enough statistically to play a close game. Oklahoma has plenty of time off to isolate the issues that plagued the team in the second half of the season. Maybe Jalen Hurts isn’t good enough to keep this close or Oklahoma’s defense is worse than the YPP numbers would suggest.
My line here is LSU -10, so I’d have to trust my numbers with all the data points we have. I don’t really have an opinion on the total, as both teams could have great success moving the ball and then bog down in the red zone or could light up the scoreboard on the fast track in Atlanta. The total is a little bit high, all things considered, but stepping in front of it to play the under is certainly hard to do.
Lean: Oklahoma +13.5 (wait on a 14 if you can and if we get one)