Russell Athletic Bowl betting preview: Oklahoma vs. Clemson

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Oklahoma Sooners vs. Clemson Tigers (+3.5, 52)

Game to be played at Florida Citrus Bowl, Orlando, Florida

The irony of the 2014 Russell Athletic Bowl in Orlando, Fla., is that while neither No. 18 Clemson nor Oklahoma are playing for the national championship, they are only one year removed from defeating two teams that are competing against each other for this year’s crown. The Tigers claimed the Orange Bowl on Jan. 3 by rallying past Ohio State while the Sooners staged one of last year’s biggest postseason surprises by upsetting Alabama in the Sugar Bowl a day earlier. The Buckeyes and Crimson Tide meet each other in this year’s Sugar Bowl in one of the two semifinal games in the inaugural College Football Playoff.

Big 12 Offensive Freshman of the Year Samaje Perine finished his first season with a flurry, amassing 791 rushing yards over the last three games – the most by any player over a similar stretch in Oklahoma history. Included in that incredible total was his FBS-record 427-yard, five-touchdown performance against Iowa State. Perine’s 1,579 yards rushing for the season places him in 10th place on the single-season rushing list in FBS history for a freshman and ranks seventh in school history.

Standing in Perine’s way will be the top-ranked total defense in the country in Clemson, which allows 259.6 yards. The Tigers won eight of their last nine games after their defense began to shut down opponents, surrendering 92.5 yards on the ground and 134.6 through the air over that span. Clemson also leads the nation in tackles for loss (122) and yards allowed per play (4.03) while ranking third in pass defense (161.9) and seventh in rushing defense (97.7).

TV: 5:30 p.m. ET, ESPN.

LINE HISTORY: Oklahoma opened as 3-point favorites and have been bet a half-point to sit at -3.5. The total has dropped from 54 to 52.

INJURY REPORT: Oklahoma – QB Trevor Knight (probable Monday, head), RB Samjae Perine (probable Monday, ankle), WR Sterling Shepard (probable Monday, groin), OL Adam Shead (questionable Monday, knee),  DT Matthew Romar (questionable Monday, undisclosed), DE Geneo Grisson (questionable Monday, knee), DB Quentin Hayes (questionable Monday, ankle). Clemson – TE D.J. Greenlee (questionable Monday, knee), TE Jay McCullough (questionable Monday, suspension), DB Martin Jenkins (questionable Monday, foot), S T.J. Green (questionable Monday, hamstring), QB Deshaun Watson (out Monday, knee), TE Stanton Seckinger (out Monday, knee).

WEATHER REPORT:
It will be partly cloudy with temperatures in the mid 70’s. There will also be a 13 percent chance of rain and a slight five mile per hour wind blowing towards the north end zone.

CHEERLEADER WAR:

ABOUT OKLAHOMA (8-4, 5-7 ATS, 9-3 O/U): Quarterback Trevor Knight, who was named the MVP of the Sooners’ Sugar Bowl win over Alabama after throwing for career highs of 348 yards and four touchdowns, has been cleared to play after sustaining a neck injury in a Nov. 8 loss to Baylor. His three-game absence coincided with Perine’s late-season explosion as the Sooners averaged 97.3 passing yards with redshirt freshman Cody Thomas starting, as opposed to 250.1 yards with Knight. Oklahoma also anticipates a healthy return from leading receiver Sterling Shepard, who missed most of the last five games with a lingering groin injury.

ABOUT CLEMSON (9-3, 5-7 ATS, 4-8 O/U): The ringleader of the Tigers’ defense is two-time All-American Vic Beasley, who leads the ACC in sacks this year with 11 and has a school-record 32 in his career – tied for fifth in conference history. The ACC Defensive Player of the Year was one of four Clemson defensive players to be named to the all-conference first team, joining defensive tackle Grady Jarrett, cornerback Garry Peters and linebacker Stephone Anthony. Senior quarterback Cole Stoudt, who started seven games, will slide back into the starting role after the school announced that freshman Deshaun Watson would not continue to play through the same torn ACL he did in a Nov. 29 win over South Carolina.

TWEET BEAT:

TRENDS:

* Oklahoma is 6-1 ATS in its last seven non-conference games.
* Clemson is 1-6 ATS in its last seven games overall.
* Over is 7-0 in Oklahoma’s last seven games following a SU loss.
* Under is 7-1 in Clemson’s last eight games overall.

COVERS CONSENSUS: The majority of bettors are backing Oklahoma with 63 percent of wagers on the Sooners at -3.5.

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