Auburn (8-4) vs Oklahoma (10-2)
When: Monday, January 2nd 2017
Where: Mercedes-Benz Superdome, New Orleans, LA
Time: 8:30 ET | TV: ESPN
The Sugar Bowl in New Orleans will be the backdrop for the final Bowl game of the season when the Oklahoma Sooners take on the Auburn Tigers on January 2nd. Both teams started the season 1-2 and Auburn used a six game winning streak in the middle of the year to get back on track for this New Year’s Six Bowl contest. Quarterback Sean White missed the last two games with a shoulder injury after playing through pain the previous two games, but coach Gus Malzahn told reporters on December 14th that White “looks ready to go, didn’t miss a beat” as Auburn began its bowl preparations. Kamryn Pettway, the Tigers’ big sophomore running back, missed two games late in the season with a quad injury and didn’t record a carry or reception in two others, but still has 1,123 rushing yards and seven touchdowns on the season. He returned for the regular-season finale against top-ranked Alabama and was held to 17 yards on 12 carries in the 30-12 loss. Kerryon Johnson has been a great fill-in and change-of-pace running back for the Tigers, accumulating 862 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns during the season. Auburn isn’t as talented at the receiver positions, but the Tigers do have plenty of options as eight different players caught from 10 to 29 passes this season. Defensively, they get stronger as the game rolls on, allowing only 35 points in the fourth quarter all season.
The Sooners are riding a nine-game winning streak and could be one of the best teams not to make the playoffs and will look to beat a ranked opponent for the third consecutive time following lopsided wins against West Virginia and Oklahoma State. Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield finished third in the Heisman Trophy voting after throwing for 3,669 yards and 38 touchdowns with eight interceptions, and has a terrific target in Dede Westbrook, the Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year. Westbrook enters the game with 74 catches for 1,465 yards and 16 touchdowns. The Sooners also have a pair of running backs who can get the job done, but it might be interesting how they use Joe Mixon (1,183 yards, nine touchdowns), who gained national attention after the release of a 2014 video that showed him punch a female Oklahoma student, an incident which led to a misdemeanor assault charge. Samaje Perine, who missed three conference games with a leg injury, combined for 499 rushing yards in the last three games, putting him within 26 yards of going over 1,000 yards for a third straight season. Linebacker Jordan Evans and cornerback Jordan Thomas were selected to the all-Big 12 first team and lead a defense that ranked just 88th in FBS in total defense and 118th against the pass. Evans posted four interceptions on the season, returning two for touchdowns, and Thomas broke up a conference-leading 16 passes on the season.
Joe Mixon distractions aside, this OU team is flying high and should be able to handle an Auburn offense that struggles to get points when behind. I expect the Sooners to strike quickly and hold on for an easy win.
Pick: Oklahoma -3