Alamo Bowl: Arizona vs. Oklahoma Expert Pick and Prediction – December 28, 2023
ALAMO BOWL: ARIZONA VS. OKLAHOMA EXPERT PICK AND PREDICTION – December 28, 2023 — The old guard of the Big 12 plays its last game under that flag against the new guard of the Big 12. Oklahoma departs for the SEC next season, while Arizona moves into the Big 12 as the Pac-12 falls apart.
There’s another contrast between the teams: how much was expected at the start of the year. Oklahoma’s bounce-back was expected, as the Sooners had far too much history to stay down for long. Few people saw Arizona’s rise coming, but by the end of the season, the Wildcats had emerged as one of the best teams in a loaded Pac-12. What Jedd Fisch has done in two years has been nothing short of incredible, as Arizona’s gone from 1-11 to a shot at 11 wins.
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The Wildcats’ rise runs straight into Oklahoma’s future. The Sooners get a good look at what they’ll have next year in the SEC with new quarterback Jackson Arnold, who takes over for the opting-out Dillon Gabriel. Arnold’s thrown all of nine passes since September, as the Sooners only used him in blowouts or when Gabriel had a knock. Arizona’s pass defense wasn’t a strength, but the Sooners’ offense is facing totally unfamiliar territory with this matchup.
(9-3 SU, 10-2 ATS)
(10-2 SU, 8-4 ATS)
When: Thursday, December 28th at 9:15 p.m. EST
Where: Alamodome, San Antonio
Public Bets: 80% on Arizona
Public Money: 75% on Arizona
Odds courtesy of DraftKings, as of December 26th, 2023.
Arizona vs. Oklahoma In-Season Trends
It’s almost been automatic this season: if you bet on Arizona, you won money. The Wildcats got disrespected from the start and ended up with some ridiculous spreads in hindsight. In Pac-12 play, they were 20-point underdogs to both Washington and USC. They lost by seven to the Huskies and two to the Trojans.
They didn’t lose another game, closing on a six-game win streak and covering every one save Colorado. The Wildcats played to the under in eight of their first nine games, but they went over in three straight to finish the year because the offense scored at least 34.
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Oklahoma seemed to have put all it had into beating Texas. The Sooners won that day in Dallas, but were never the same again afterwards. They went 2-4 ATS after the Texas State Fair, losing to both Kansas and Oklahoma State. Oklahoma hasn’t played well away from home since that day in Dallas, failing to cover all three games outside of Norman.
Inside the Alamodome, there’s no weather to worry about.
There’s a rule when facing Oklahoma: Don’t give Nic Anderson any open space, because he’ll turn it into a big play. Anderson managed just 31 catches on the season, but nine of them went for touchdowns and he averaged 23.4 yards per catch. Arizona’s biggest weakness is its pass defense, which means the Wildcats have a tough task ahead of them here — if Arnold can get Anderson the ball.
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On the other side, Noah Fifita’s coming off a 527-yard performance against Arizona State in the Wildcats’ regular season finale. Oklahoma’s pass defense was even worse than Arizona’s, and Fifita’s been getting better every time he steps on the field. If the Sooners haven’t fixed things compared to the last month of the season, they’re in trouble.
The Wildcats have surged for the past seven weeks, while the Sooners have stagnated. Oklahoma put everything into winning the last Big 12 meeting between itself and Texas, but it’s not the same team that won that day.
Arizona has its quarterback and ideal conditions for him to throw in, while facing a less than stellar defense. The Sooners will hit a few big plays, but the Wildcats should have the last laugh here.