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Sugar Bowl: Preview, Prop Pick and Prediction


The Sugar Bowl featuring Washington and Texas promises to provide a showcase for a pair of frisky offenses.

The winner is certain to cause headaches for its opponent in the College Football Playoff national title game a week later.

We have a couple of bright ideas when it comes to betting strategy for this semifinal matchup.

No. 2 Washington Huskies vs. No. 3 Texas Longhorns

Date, time: Jan. 1, 8:45 p.m. ET.
Site: Caesars Superdome, New Orleans.
Line: Texas -4.5; total 62.5 (FanDuel).

The way the Texas Longhorns are scoring creates the belief that the Washington Huskies will have to create turnovers and consistently flip field position.

Coach Steve Sarkisian has the Texas offense humming. The Longhorns have run up 106 points in the past two games.

Quarterback Quinn Ewers, who engineered the Longhorns’ road upset of Alabama Sept. 9 by throwing for 349 yards, has put up 3,161 yards despite missing two games this season. He’s NFL prospect good, and is eager for a national spotlight game to sling it against Washington.

The Huskies have allowed 20 or more points in nine of their past 10 games and must find answers if they hope to play in the CFP title game.

The answer to the matchup issues is to keep pace with the Longhorns’ potent offense, and Heisman finalist Michael Penix Jr. showed he’s up to virtually any task.

His NFL-bound top target, Rome Odunze, can beat anyone at the college level and must provide a couple of splash plays.

The wild card in the Washington offensive deck is running back Dillon Johnson, who looked like Texas legend Earl Campbell at times over the past five games as he averaged more than 135 yards on the ground.

The added dose of Washington optimism comes from converting red-zone opportunities into touchdowns. Texas, which is far north of 100 among FBS schools in that metric, must be better.

The Washington offense is No. 19 in the country with a TD conversion rate of more than 70%.

Sarkisian is an offensive whiz, but Washington’s Kalen DeBoer deserves the great deal of respect he’s earned. He was, after all, voted the 2023 Eddie Robinson Coach of the Year.

He pulled the trigger on a risky 4th-and-1 from his team’s 29-yard line in the Apple Cup against Washington State – when tied at 21 with 1:07 remaining in the fourth quarter.

The play call worked. Odunze’s designed run picked up 23 yards and led to a game-winning field goal. The unbeaten season was intact.

Sarkisian, who was Alabama’s offensive coordinator in 2019 and the CFP title season of 2020, keyed the Texas resurgence. His experience in employing a game plan with a full month to prepare allows Texas a narrow edge.

Texas opened as a 3.5-point favorite and has been bet up a point. The total of 62.5 reflects the talent of two of the nation’s top 20 offenses, but these defenses can be a challenge.

The likely focus on establishing a running game to move the clock would adversely affect the chances of this game going over.

Washington is in a familiar spot facing a favored, nationally ranked power. But the Huskies, driven as big underdogs, did turn back the favored Oregon Ducks in the Pac-12 title matchup.

This time, we believe the oddsmakers and public are on the right side of the point spread.

Just to be sure … we’re going to hedge the ‘Horns and play with the total, too.

Ewers and Sarkisian prove too much for Penix Jr. and DeBoer, but even carrying a double-digit lead late in the Sugar Bowl isn’t enough to feel comfortable against the quick-strike Huskies comeback potential.

No one needs a nasty backdoor cover on New Year’s Day, so we’ll use Texas on the moneyline and parlay it with the idea that the clock will move too fast for these teams to hit an inflated over.

Two-leg parlay: Texas moneyline (-188) parlayed to the under 72.5 (-310) for a plus-money Sugar Bowl wager (+102, FanDuel).

–Field Level Media

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