B/R College Football 2021 Betting Locks with Adam Kramer: CFP Playoff Edition

Adam Kramer@kegsneggsNational College Football Lead WriterDecember 29, 2021

Alabama head coach Nick Saban waves to fans after the Southeastern Conference championship NCAA college football game between Georgia and Alabama, Saturday, Dec. 4, 2021, in Atlanta. Alabama won 41-24. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)
Brynn Anderson/Associated Press

We are running out of games, and the reality is starting to set in. 

The good news, of course, is that we still have the College Football Playoff and a slew of fascinating, meaningful bowl games to play. But time is running out, and we cannot (and will not) waste the opportunity.  

For those of us who love picking football games against the spread, the next week offers up the most delightful lineup of football games we'll get all year. Given the uncertainty surrounding these matchups, it's also one of the more challenging times to sort through lines. And I love the challenge. 

After delivering Part 1 and Part 2 of Locks of the Week in the lead-up to this final installment, Part 3 focuses on games on or after Wednesday, December 29. 

Yes, that includes the College Football Playoff and New Year's Six bowls.  

So, let's get after it. More winners ahoy. 


Outback Bowl: Arkansas (-1) vs. Penn State 

BATON ROUGE, LOUISIANA - NOVEMBER 13: Head coach Sam Pittman of the Arkansas Razorbacks reacts during the fist half of a game against the LSU Tigers at Tiger Stadium on November 13, 2021 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)
Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

Amid a myriad of fascinating football tussles, this game remains slightly underrated. Sure, the two teams have nine combined losses, but I am still all about the Outback Bowl. 

And Arkansas is indeed the play. 

The Hogs are about as seasoned as any team in the sport. They played Alabama, Georgia, Texas A&M, Ole Miss and others—finishing the regular season 7-3-1 against the spread. They are balanced, and they have responded well in key matchups under head coach Sam Pittman. I would expect nothing different here. 

Penn State has also played a difficult schedule in the Big Ten. The Nittany Lions closed out the regular season by losing five of the final seven games. Granted, the matchups were tough and oftentimes close.

The losses of safety Jaquan Brisker and wide receiver Jahan Dotson, both standouts for Penn State who opted out, are also massive.

Hogs win one of the best games of the bowl season.


Fiesta Bowl: Oklahoma State (+2.5) vs. Notre Dame 

Tim Heitman/Associated Press

The theme of this game is somewhat simple: defensive coordinators.  

For Notre Dame, it made its defensive coordinator the new head coach. Marcus Freeman quickly replaced Brian Kelly after he left for LSU. Although it's hard to predict how a team will react in a situation like this, from afar it feels like the transition went as smoothly as possible.

Oklahoma State, meanwhile, said farewell to defensive coordinator Jim Knowles. Under Knowles, the Pokes built one of the best defenses in CFB. His departure is certainly an element to consider, although it's one I believe Oklahoma State can overcome.  

The biggest losses in this game are that of Kyren Williams and Kyle Hamilton. Notre Dame's leading rusher and all-world safety opted out of the game, which feels significant given how difficult points will be to come by.

As long as OK State cleans up the turnovers—something that plagued the team in the Big 12 Championship Game—it should be in for a much better effort. 

Pokes cover. Pokes win. 


Citrus Bowl: Kentucky vs. Iowa (Under 44) 

Timothy D. Easley/Associated Press

This is not going to be a pleasant football game. 

Well, let me rephrase. If you love punting, sputtering offenses and more punting, this is going to be a delightful football game. If you don't love that, well, it's still football. 

Iowa's offensive issues are well established by now. The Hawkeyes finished the regular season with the nation's No. 97 scoring offense. Oh, and running back Tyler Goodson, the team's most explosive player, opted out of the bowl game for the NFL. 

Iowa's defense is a different story. The Hawkeyes finished the year with the nation's No. 14-ranked scoring defense despite being blown out by Michigan in the Big Ten Championship Game.

Kentucky, while not as statistically dominant, had a great year defensively. The Wildcats finished with the nation's No. 31-ranked scoring defense. That ranking is likely to get better here.

The game is likely to be close, somewhat ugly and competitive. I would also be surprised, unless special teams or defense finds ways to manufacture points, if the scoreboard is active.

I would be very surprised if this game hit 40 points total. Simple as that.


Cotton Bowl: Alabama (-13.5) vs. Cincinnati 

Brynn Anderson/Associated Press

I'm going to level with you. I don't feel particularly good about betting against Cincinnati.

As I've said time and time again, however, feelings and emotion often get in the way of good gambling. And while I would love to see Cincinnati flip the entire sport on its side with an upset win, I just don't see it happening. 

Make no mistake about it. The loss of wideout John Metchie III is a big one for Nick Saban. I just get a sense that the athletes at so many positions up and down the depth chart are likely to separate as this game goes on.

Cincinnati certainly has talent. Desmond Ridder is a really good QB. The Bearcats have a great running game. Their cornerbacks, Ahmad "Sauce" Gardner and Coby Bryant, are both future NFL players.

But the problem in this game is that Bryce Young, this year's Heisman winner, plays for Alabama. And if he plays a game even remotely close to the one he had against Georgia, there is no college football team capable of stopping him.


Orange Bowl: Michigan (+7.5) vs. Georgia 

AJ Mast/Associated Press

I bet Georgia to win the national championship before the season began. I have tickets ranging between 5/1 and 7/1, and I felt good about these tickets for the majority of the season.

Then, the SEC Championship Game happened. Then, a defense that looked historic for almost an entire year looked mortal. 

Could Georgia still win the title? Absolutely. The defense, while bad for one day against Bryce Young, still is chock-full of talent. The offense, while inconsistent in that game, has plenty of pieces as well.

But Michigan has all of the necessary ingredients to keep this game within a touchdown. No, it doesn't have Young at QB. It does, however, have an offense with loads of weapons, especially at running back.  

It also has Aidan Hutchinson, the best player on the field and perhaps the best player in the sport.

Ultimately, I believe Georgia wins this game. The Bulldogs, despite the most recent outcome, are immensely talented. Michigan should be able to do enough offensively to keep this game close, and I'll certainly play the Wolverines as more than a touchdown underdog. 

That hook feels plenty valuable. Will find out if that's the case soon enough.


Odds via DraftKings and accurate as of Tuesday.

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