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Adam Kramer's College Football Locks and Top Bets for the Bowl Season: Part 2

Adam Kramer@kegsneggsNational College Football Lead WriterDecember 30, 2020

FILE - In this Saturday, Dec. 19, 2020, file photo, Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields throws during the first half of the Big Ten championship NCAA college football game against Northwestern, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/AJ Mast, File)
AJ Mast/Associated Press

The end is near. A season unlike any college football has ever known is moving toward its conclusion. New Year's Day, CFB's closest thing to the Super Bowl, is growing closer. The College Football Playoff is within reach. And your opportunities to wager on football games against the spread are rapidly dwindling. 

Some bowls have been canceled. Others might be in time. But for now, the show goes on with Friday's semifinals, which are poised to consume the headlines in the days ahead.

Around here, nothing changes. Pick winners. Always and forever. That has been the goal of Locks of the Week since it began, and it remains our goal until the end. The results have been, well, largely a mixed bag.

Part 1 of our bowl season installment of Locks of the Week can be found here. When all the outcomes have been decided, we will tally the results for one end-of-year scorecard leading into the Jan. 11 national championship game.

Before then, however, there is work to be done. And it's not just about the playoff. Absolutely not. There is plenty of goodness to go around. (Picking winners is a universal philosophy that carries forward from the worst games to the most meaningful.) 

Here are the bowl and College Football Playoff selections (Part 2), using point spreads provided by DraftKings.

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Ohio State (+7.5) vs. Clemson 

Darron Cummings/Associated Press

Clemson will win. Let's start there. 

The Buckeyes will also deliver a far superior effort to the one we saw in the Big Ten Championship Game against Northwestern. 

The Sugar Bowl is indeed a semifinal rematch from a season ago, and we are likely to see a similar script and outcome. That game was rife with questionable officiating, and Clemson won 29-23 when Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields tossed a late interception.

For the Buckeyes, Fields has to play better than he has of late, and his thumb has to be healthy. I believe both will happen. It's not just Fields, though. Having wideout Chris Olave back after he missed the B1G title game for undisclosed reasons will also be an enormous boost. And perhaps lost in the closeness and ugliness of their win over the Wildcats was that running back Trey Sermon has become a star.

Ball control. Time of possession. Ohio State has the chance to dictate the tone of this game, and it will. 

However, it won't be enough. Lawrence will make a play, and Clemson will win. But Ohio State will keep it close, and these teams will deliver for the second year in a row.

Clemson 34, Ohio State 30.

             

Texas A&M vs. North Carolina (Under 65.5)

Butch Dill/Associated Press

I know. An under. Gasp.

If you've hung around these parts, you know I gravitate toward overs. Here, however, I am taking a stand for a few unrelated reasons. 

For North Carolina, it's about absences. Opt-outs have hit the Tar Heels hard following the end of the regular season, and some of those departures—headlined by star running back Javonte Williams—will loom large.

For Texas A&M, it's about a possible letdown. Missing the playoff stings, and the Orange Bowl, while a lovely consolation prize, is still a consolation prize.

The Aggies also aren't groomed to play in a shootout. That's not what the offense wants to do, nor will it likely be the game plan against a defense that has plenty of holes. A&M will run the ball behind a rapidly improved offensive line. And it should push back with a defense that allowed only 21.1 points per contest this year. 

With plenty of good players still in this game, there will be points. Just not nearly as many as anticipated. 

        

Notre Dame vs. Alabama (Under 65.5)

Matt Cashore/Associated Press

Oh, we're not done. Double gasp. One more under. Let us (hopefully) embrace the lack of points in the other playoff matchup. 

While Alabama has hit the over in seven of 11 games this season, this semifinal could be a tad lower in scoring. To be clear, both teams will find the end zone a good amount—especially the Crimson Tide. But we could also see two quality defenses shine. 

Clemson showcased how to make Notre Dame's offense uncomfortable on Nov. 7. The Tigers forced some early mistakes, pressured Ian Book and kept the ground game in check. Not exactly a mystery formula.

While Florida showed in the SEC title game that Alabama's secondary is still a work in progress, the Irish simply do not have the kind of playmakers catching passes or the type of offense to continually expose those weaknesses. 

Alabama, meanwhile, will do its thing. It will score points. DeVonta Smith will catch passes. Najee Harris will score touchdowns. The norm. But Notre Dame has the nation's No. 14 scoring defense—the highest ranked defense Nick Saban's team will have faced all year.

That doesn't mean this attack will come to a complete halt. Absolutely not. But it'll be enough for this under to cash. 

          

Oregon vs. Iowa State (-5)

Jeffrey McWhorter/Associated Press

My only reservation in picking Iowa State is turnovers. Cyclones quarterback Brock Purdy has delivered a handful of gift-wrapped interceptions this year—including a few against Oklahoma in the Big 12 Championship Game—and that is at least mildly concerning. Seriously, some of his giveaways have been downright maddening. 

If he protects the ball, the Cyclones will win by double digits. The running game and the defense are perfect counters for 4-2 Oregon, which finds itself in the Fiesta Bowl after a brief, up-and-down 2020. 

To the Ducks' credit, the win against USC in the Pac-12 Championship Game was impressive. I still don't know how impressive, given the way USC made almost every win close. But it was a solid victory nonetheless. 

Long term, I'm buying Oregon and coach Mario Cristobal. If he stays there and continues to recruit, the Ducks could become a regular force.

But this game? Give me Iowa State by 10. The Cyclones have, at times, looked the part of an excellent football team. Even in the loss to Oklahoma, a game that they could and perhaps should have won, they flashed. We'll get more of those flashes, hopefully without turnovers, to close it out.

        

Other Plays on the Card

Matthew Putney/Associated Press

West Virginia (-6.5) vs. Army

I am thrilled that Army is playing in a bowl game. This is also a delightful matchup against two good teams. But although West Virginia was crushed last time out against Iowa State, the Mountaineers will close out their year with a resounding win against a quality team.

       

Ball State vs. San Jose State (Over 64) 

The Arizona Bowl is a wildly underrated matchup between two hot teams. I love what I have seen from San Jose State, and Ball State should hold its own on offense. Come on. You didn't think I'd close out the bowl slate without picking an over, did you? Plenty of points here in a game that might not be close. The scoreboard will still be busy.

          

NC State (+3.5) vs. Kentucky 

No wild opinions or contrarian angles. I just like what I've seen from NC State this year, and the Wolfpack align nicely against a program that has struggled on offense in 2020. NC State has covered in seven of 11 games this season, and it'll add one more tally to that list before the season ends. 

                        

Adam Kramer covers college football for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter: @KegsnEggs. Lines accurate as of 4 p.m. ET Wednesday.


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