LAS VEGAS — Opting out of bowl games has become a trend for players and teams, either because of COVID-19 or NFL draft reasons. Bob Stoops is jumping back into college football this month for the right reasons.
Stoops, the winningest coach in Oklahoma history, has come out of retirement to lead the Sooners against Oregon on Wednesday in the Alamo Bowl. After former coach Lincoln Riley left for the USC job, Stoops immediately showed his loyalty to a program in need of a shot of positive vibes.
When handicapping this chaotic bowl season, personnel matchups and statistical analysis take a back seat to emphasizing the importance of motivation and location. This will be a special game for Stoops and the Sooners, who want to win for their legendary coach. The San Antonio setting will mean a pro-Oklahoma crowd.
The motivation for Oregon might be lacking. Three days after the Ducks were blown out by Utah in the Pac-12 title game, coach Mario Cristobal took his talents to South Florida for the Miami job. Defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux declared for the draft and could be the No. 1 pick.
The best player on the field should be Oklahoma quarterback Caleb Williams, who won the starting job in October and accounted for 24 touchdowns (18 passing, six rushing). Williams and Stoops will likely lift the Sooners to victory against a lame-Duck team.
The pick: Oklahoma -4.5.
First Responder Bowl, Tuesday
Air Force (+1.5) over Louisville: The triple-option offense is always difficult to defend, and no team runs it more effectively than Air Force. The Falcons’ 341 rushing yards per game led the nation in the regular season. The Cardinals are favored due mostly to Malik Cunningham, one of the nation’s top dual-threat quarterbacks, but it seems the wrong team is favored.
Holiday Bowl, Tuesday
North Carolina State-UCLA (Over 59.5): The Padres showcased an explosive offense during the MLB season, and these teams should put on another show at Petco Park in San Diego. The Bruins follow the lead of Dorian Thompson-Robinson, the most experienced starting quarterback in the Pac-12. Thompson-Robinson and running back Zach Charbonnet helped UCLA average 49.3 points in its last three games. Wolfpack quarterback Devin Leary has 35 touchdown passes this season and packs the firepower to light up the Bruins’ soft defense.
Music City Bowl, Thursday
Tennessee (-5) over Purdue: The Boilermakers won eight games and opened as the favorites in this bowl, but that was before their top two players — defensive end George Karlaftis and wide receiver David Bell — declared for the draft and opted to sit this one out. The motivation and location edges go to first-year coach Josh Heupel and his Volunteers in Nashville.
Last week: 2-1. Western Kentucky (W), Utah State (W), San Diego State-UTSA Under (L), Memphis -7.5 (game canceled)
Matt Youmans is senior editor of VSiN.com