LAS VEGAS — It’s a mess at Texas with fourth-year coach Tom Herman, who reportedly explored other job opportunities and wants out. Herman has been on the hot seat and would be history if Urban Meyer had decided to come out of retirement.
The Longhorns are showing no progress and spinning their wheels, so it seems fitting they are returning to the Alamo Bowl for the second year in a row. Herman said his players are “extremely excited” to be playing Tuesday in San Antonio, but who’s buying that line?
The truth is five team captains — including offensive tackle Samuel Cosmi, defensive lineman and linebacker Joseph Ossai and safety Caden Sterns — opted out to prepare for the NFL draft. The only captain who will play is senior quarterback Sam Ehlinger, who has 25 touchdown passes and is a gamer who always gives a great effort. Another positive is Herman’s 3-0 bowl record with the Longhorns, who were 7-point underdogs in a 38-10 victory over Utah last year in this bowl.
In coach Karl Dorrell’s first season at Colorado, the Buffaloes (4-1) beat UCLA and Stanford to emerge as the Pac-12’s surprise team. One team is definitely excited to be in this bowl and it’s not Texas, which has the look of an unfocused bowl favorite. This line opened at 12 before sharp money started showing on the ’dog.
The pick: Colorado +9.
Liberty (+7) over Coastal Carolina (Saturday, Cure Bowl):
The Chanticleers (11-0) upset BYU on Dec. 5 and ran the table in the Sun Belt Conference. Grayson McCall has 23 touchdown passes with two interceptions. It’s hard not to be impressed.
But the Flames (9-1) are getting overlooked in this matchup. Liberty beat two ACC opponents (Syracuse and Virginia Tech) and lost to a third (North Carolina State) by one point. This team is well coached by Hugh Freeze, whose offense gets a spark from quarterback Malik Willis, an Auburn transfer. Willis has passed for 20 touchdowns with four interceptions and leads the team in rushing with 807 yards and 10 TDs. The Flames have covered seven games in a row and are 3-0 ATS as underdogs.
Oklahoma (+3) over Florida (Wednesday, Cotton Bowl): Expect an entertaining, high-scoring game similar to the SEC Championship shoot-out which the Gators lost 52-46 to Alabama. Florida quarterback Kyle Trask is a Heisman Trophy finalist, but star tight end Kyle Pitts has opted out and his next game will be in the NFL. The Sooners, who held off Iowa State to win the Big 12, will go into next season as national title contenders with quarterback Spencer Rattler returning.
Cincinnati (+7.5) over Georgia (Friday, Peach Bowl): Bearcats coach Luke Fickell is in an advantageous position in this bowl because his 9-0 team will be motivated and playing to prove a point against an SEC opponent. Cincinnati quarterback Desmond Ridder is a dual-threat playmaker, but the team’s strength is a defense that ranks No. 7 in the nation in scoring by allowing 16 points per game.
Georgia coach Kirby Smart faces the possibility of several players opting out to prepare for the NFL, with star senior linebacker Monty Rice among those who will not play in the bowl. Fickell is 31-5 straight up and 20-14-1 ATS in the past three seasons, including two bowl wins. The Bearcats should be live ’dogs, especially if the Bulldogs are disinterested.
Last Week: 2-1. Northwestern (W), Stanford (W), UCF (L).