The much-anticipated 2018 Orange Bowl and College Football Playoff matchup between No. 1 Alabama and No. 4 Oklahoma features two Heisman Trophy finalists and record setting quarterbacks. Alabama is a 14-point favorite as the game approaches, and the Crimson Tide are a slight preference of the early public though action on both sides remains relatively even. What’s even more intriguing is that the majority of the money streaming in on the TOTAL is siding with the UNDER.
2018 Orange Bowl
No. 1 Alabama Crimson Tide (13-0) vs. No. 4 Oklahoma Sooners (12-1)
Saturday, December 29th – Miami Gardens, FL 8:00pm ET (ESPN)
Betting Line: Alabama -14 (77)
This college football semi-final contest features the nation’s top two scoring teams. Oklahoma averaged 49.5 points per game and Alabama scored 47.8 points per game against FBS opponents. Fans that enjoy offense and efficiency should enjoy watching two of college football’s greatest quarterbacks. No college football quarterback has ever finished the season with a passer efficiency rating over 200. Yet Oklahoma QB Kyler Murray (205.72) and Alabama QB Tua Tagovailoa (202.30) are both enjoying record-setting seasons.
If you’re wondering why the 2018 Orange Bowl betting total is so sky-high, you have your answer. The next question is whether or not it’s worth taking the over or the under.
Record Setting Sooners Offense
The Sooner’s 8.6 yards per play is a record and a full yard better than Alabama (7.6), which was second best in the country. Murray passed for 4,053 yards at 11.9 yards per pass with 40 touchdown passes and 7 interceptions. He added 11 more rushing touchdowns on 892 rushing yards to spearhead the Big 12’s No. 1 rushing attack.
Oklahoma had some close calls beating Texas Tech, West Virginia and Oklahoma State by 5,3 and 1 point. The offense produced yards and points week after week, but Oklahoma was not a money maker for their betting backers going 5-7 ATS with most getting a push in their regular season final win at West Virginia, 59-56. Two running backs combined for 1,949 rushing yards and 24 touchdowns and a pair of receivers combined for 132 receptions for 2,367 yards and 20 touchdowns. Those stats are all in addition to Murray’s remarkable numbers and production.
Oklahoma produced those offensive fireworks against a schedule of opponents with a combined win percentage of .510. The Sooners went 7-1 SU and 4-4 ATS against eight bowl opponents, and out-gained them by 70 yards per game.
Alabama Dominates 12 of 13 Opponents
Alabama QB Tua Tagovailoa was leading the Heisman Trophy chase the entire season before suffering a high-ankle sprain in the SEC Championship game and going to the sidelines in the second half in favor of QB Jalen Hurts, who led the comeback. But Tagovailoa has been efficient and accurate in leading the ‘Tide offense to an average of 524.1 yards per game versus FBS opponents. His 3,353 yards at 11.4 yards per pass with 37 touchdowns and just 4 interceptions are unheard of for an Alabama quarterback. Tagovailoa has been practicing with the team since Dec. 14 and getting rehab on his ankle. He told the media he’s “80-85%” and will start in the 2018 Orange Bowl, much to the relief or Alabama backers in general.
Alabama won each of their first 12 games by more than 20 points, and then had to come from behind to escape against Georgia in the SEC Championship game, 35-28. Despite facing three SEC teams with elite defenses like their own, and a schedule of FBS opponents with a win percentage of .541, the Crimson Tide continued to roll week after week. Alabama went 8-0 SU and 5-3 ATS against bowl teams outgaining them by an average of 212 yards per game.
The separation between these two teams is on defense, as Alabama allows 298.0 yards per game and 14.7 points per game against FBS opponents. Oklahoma’s defense was torched for 448.1 yards per game and 32.4 points per game.
ATS Notes: Favorites of 8 points or more in the College Football Playoff are 3-0 ATS outscoring opponents 161-27.
Can’t imagine Oklahoma slowing the Tide, who should roll up at least 50 points in victory. Oklahoma will have to try and keep pace with their opponent’s record setting offense. While the spread might be too big for the taking no matter which side you support, one thing I can tell you is that there will be some early fireworks for New Year’s in the 2018 Orange Bowl. Take the OVER, sit back and enjoy the show.
2018 Orange Bowl College Football Playoff Pick – Over (77)
Fairway Jay is a professional handicapper based out of Las Vegas. He focuses primarily on the four majors along with college football and college basketball. You can follow him on Twitter @FairwayJay.