Sugar Bowl Picks: Ohio State vs. Clemson

by | Dec 30, 2020 | cfb

Ohio State Buckeyes (6-0 SU, 3-3 ATS) vs. Clemson Tigers (10-1 SU, 5-6 ATS)

When: Friday, January 1, 8 p.m.

Where: Mercedes-Benz Superdome, New Orleans

TV: ESPN

Point Spread: OSU +7.5/CLEM -7.5 (Best Sportsbooks - Get 100% bonuses, reduced odds -105 and same day payouts! Don’t settle for less!)

Total: O/U 66.5

Outlook

The predictability of the College Football Playoff gives us the same semifinal we had last year, which saw Ohio State throw the game away at the end in a true classic. This one might not go quite as well for the Buckeyes, who haven’t really had many tests this season thanks to the Big Ten’s late start to the season and three games getting canceled because of COVID. The teams that pushed the Buckeyes the most were Indiana and Northwestern, which is usually a pretty bad sign for a team’s ability to compete outside the Big Ten.

On the other hand, Clemson has looked virtually unbeatable as long as it has Trevor Lawrence on the field. That was the biggest variable between the Tigers’ mid-season lull and the end of the season, as they got beat at Notre Dame without Lawrence but obliterated the Irish in the ACC championship when they had their full team healthy. Clemson seemed to be on the same page from the opening kick against Notre Dame, and if that’s still the case here, Ohio State could have some real problems with the sudden spike in the difficulty level.

How the Public is Betting the Ohio State/Clemson Game

The public is taking the Tigers’ side here, as 60 percent of tickets have come in on Clemson in this matchup. The money has followed the Tigers as well, with the spread ticking up from -7 to -7.5. The total expects plenty of points, jumping from 65.5 to 66.5.

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Injury Concerns

Ohio State:
Cornerback Lloyd McFarquhar, defensive lineman Aaron Cox, defensive end Tyler Friday, quarterback Jagger LaRoe, tight end Joe Royer, wide receiver Mookie Cooper, wide receiver Gee Scott Jr., offensive lineman Paris Johnson Jr., offensive lineman Ryan Smith, safety Bryson Shaw, linebacker Ben Schmiesing, defensive end Javontae Jean-Baptiste, linebacker Tommy Eichenberg, safety Marcus Hooker, tight end Corey Rau, running back Steele Chambers, wide receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba, punter Drue Chrisman, linebacker Baron Browning and wide receiver Chris Olave are all questionable with an undisclosed issue. Quarterback Justin Fields is probable with a thumb injury, while wide receiver Jaylen Harris, tight end Patrick Gurd, and linebacker Cade Kacherski are out with undisclosed issues.

Clemson:
Wide receiver Drew Swinney (undisclosed), wide receiver Tye Herbstreit (undisclosed), linebacker Jake Venables (arm), and defensive end Xavier Thomas (undisclosed) are questionable. Cornerback Jack McCall (undisclosed), linebacker Matt McMahan (undisclosed), running back Ty Lucas (undisclosed), and offensive lineman John Williams (undisclosed) are out.

When Ohio State Has the Ball

Last year, it was the ground game that got the job done for Ohio State, as J.K Dobbins gashed the Tigers for 174 rushing yards. Dobbins is now wearing the purple and black of the Baltimore Ravens, so Ohio State will instead turn to the combination of Trey Sermon and Master Teague, assuming both are healthy. Teague has been the preferred option for Ohio State, but he only had two carries in the Big Ten title game against Northwestern, as he had to leave the game with an unspecified injury and gave way to Sermon. Whoever gets the carries, Ohio State will expect to get a lot done on the ground.

The passing game gave the Buckeyes a lot last year against the Tigers, but it also cost Ohio State in the end because Justin Fields threw two back-breaking interceptions that allowed Clemson to escape with the win. Fields’ decision-making seems to have shown some regression this year, as he’s already thrown more interceptions in six games than he did in 14 games last season. Worse, he threw all five interceptions against the two teams who gave the Buckeyes the most problems this season, throwing three picks against the Hoosiers and two against the Wildcats. But Clemson’s ground defense has been its strength this year, so Fields’ decision-making might be needed in this one.

When Clemson Has the Ball

Trevor Lawrence took over the game last season, and Ohio State had no answer for the dual-threat quarterback. The Tigers didn’t get a lot out of Travis Etienne when it came to running the ball, but the back shredded Ohio State in the passing game, catching three passes for 98 yards, including the game-winning score.

This begs the question, what do the Buckeyes focus on? They had no problems slowing down Etienne, but that meant Lawrence was able to do whatever he wanted. If Ohio State does try to slow down the passing attack (which might very well be what the Buckeyes choose to do, given that they’ve really struggled at defending the pass and likely remember last year’s game), both Lawrence and Etienne will likely have big holes in which to run through. That’s the biggest problem with facing Clemson: the Tigers can hurt you in two big ways, which is why nobody has held them under 34 points all season long.

Betting Trends

Bowl game betting on Ohio State has been a great choice in recent years, as the Buckeyes have now covered in four straight games in January and five of their past seven bowls. Betting on the Buckeyes against a good team has been a poor choice in 2020, as Ohio State hasn’t covered once this season against a team with a winning record. On the other hand, Clemson started off as a poor choice for gamblers, but the Tigers have hit the gas since Lawrence came back, covering in their past three contests.

The over had been a reliable bet for Clemson at the midpoint of the season, but in the past two games, the number’s been set so high that the Tigers haven’t even approached it, falling more than 10 points short of the total in consecutive weeks. Ohio State had hit the over in three of four before the Big Ten title game, but with Teague on the shelf, the Buckeyes got thrown off their game, ending up with by far their lowest total of the season.

Weather Report

The game will be played indoors, so the weather will not come into play.

Dan’s Pick to Cover the Sugar Bowl Line

I’m not scared of this spread. Ohio State came through a weak Big Ten and didn’t even have to play its second-best team (Iowa). Its best win was over an Indiana squad that looked solid, but never really proved that it was for real. On the other hand, Clemson laid out Notre Dame in a must-win game and has looked virtually unstoppable when the offense is clicking.

I think this is set up well for the Tigers to take control early and force Fields into mistakes. Give me Clemson. Double your Sugar Bowl bet by scoring a 100% real cash bonus on your first deposit of $100 to $500 at GTBets