Sugar Bowl: Oklahoma Sooners-Auburn Tigers Picks Against the Spread

The Sugar Bowl offers a compelling matchup between the high-powered Sooners and a Tigers club that made its living this season with a rock-solid defense. SportsLine analyst Josh Nagel previews the matchup and gives an ATS recommendation.

 

SUGAR BOWL: OKLAHOMA SOONERS VS. AUBURN TIGERS (+3, O/U 63), Mon., 8:30 p.m. ET

Oklahoma and Auburn are both led by coaches known for crafting creative, high-powered offensive units.

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Mon 01/02 8:50 PM EST
Auburn +115 O/U 67
vs. Oklahoma -135 -2
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VIEW FULL GAME ANALYSIS

True to form, the Sooners (10-2) are in the Sugar Bowl almost solely because of their ability to light up the scoreboard, but the Tigers made it there because they found a way to prevent opponents from doing so.

Oklahoma shrugged off losses in two of the first three weeks to win nine straight and capture its second consecutive Big 12 title.

The Sooners scored a minimum of 34 s per game during the win streak, and ended the season with the country?s third-ranked scoring offense (44.7 ppg) and yards per game (557.4).

Quarterback Baker Mayfield repeated as a Heisman finalist, while explosive receiver Dede Westbrook joined him as a late invitee.

Big things were expected from Gus Malzahn's Auburn (8-4) club, but the Tigers ended up with mixed results. They fixed a defense that had long been a crutch, but failed to find consistent offensive production.

They improved their defense and showed it was for real in holding Clemson to 19 points in the season opener, and the 30 points they allowed to Alabama in the Iron Bowl were a season high.

JOSH NAGEL'S TAKE

Auburn's defense was the difference in wins over LSU and Arkansas but its lack of offense was confounding under Malzahn, who is noted for his play-calling genius.

But the primary issue was finding a consistent quarterback for a system that thrives behind a true dual-threat performer.

Auburn should be in good hands next year with Baylor transfer Jarrett Stidham, but this year Malzahn settled for Sean white, who was the most versatile among the three-quarterback carousel that was used in the first few games.  

Oklahoma repeated the same sort of flash and pizzazz it showed in reaching the four-team playoff last year, but its hopes of repeating were dashed early.

The Sooners again showed an alarming trend of folding when things didn't go there way, as they faded in a 33-23 loss to Houston after falling behind in the third quarter, and didn?t show much fight in getting routed at home by Ohio State.

Even so, the turnaround for the remainder of the season was impressive, as Oklahoma avoided further pitfalls by dominating most of its remaining contests.

LINE MOVEMENT

This spread has been all over the place, as most markets opened at Oklahoma -4.5, but the majority went to -6 quickly based on fast support for the Sooners.

However, Auburn supporters punched back at this number, so much that it ended up dwindling below the original opener and settling at -3, which has been the consensus number for more than a week. 

Totals that opened in the 62 range have reached as high as 64 in some spots, but 63 was the most common number as of Friday afternoon.

The line has been dropping like a rock in this game.

SPORTSLINE EXPERTS

SportsLine contributor Emory Hunt has a selection on this game. Get his and all other SportsLine expert picks by clicking here.

SELECTION

I can understand the steam on Auburn, as its defense has the ability to break the will of Oklahoma if it comes up with a dominant performance.

If the Tigers can get a handful of stops early and perhaps force Mayfield into a field-position changing turnover, Auburn could be on its way to pulling an upset.

But the Sooners maintain a significant edge in firepower, and Auburn is unlikely to exploit what has been a vulnerable Oklahoma secondary.

The Sooners are on sale at -3, and I would back them at this number.