Sugar Bowl: Texas vs. Washington Expert Pick and Prediction – January 1, 2024
SUGAR BOWL: TEXAS VS. WASHINGTON EXPERT PICK AND PREDICTION – January 1, 2024 — Other than Florida State, it’s hard to imagine a more disrespected team than Washington. The Huskies went undefeated in the nation’s strongest conference, beat Oregon twice, and yet they’re considered the underdogs against Texas.
And that’s because the Huskies have been surviving more often than not, although they’ve been doing it against top competition. With the Pac-12 often overlooked, Washington’s gotten no credit for winning when an SEC team like Alabama kept getting the benefit of the doubt.
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Texas certainly knows Washington’s for real, having lost to the Huskies in last year’s Alamo Bowl. The Longhorns are also a team that’s done more surviving than anything else, having won four of their final six Big 12 games by 10 points or less. But they came up big in smashing Texas Tech and Oklahoma State, and they’ve now covered three in a row.
But the Longhorns might have the wrong matchup for this game in Washington’s pass attack. Texas’ run defense has been superb all year, leading the Big 12 at just 81 yards per game. The pass defense, on the other hand, is far more suspect. Texas gives up 240 yards a game through the air and hasn’t seen a quarterback like Michael Penix Jr. all season. If the Longhorns can’t stop the pass, the Huskies likely have another upset win on their hands.
(12-1 SU, 7-5-1 ATS)
(13-0 SU, 6-6-1 ATS)
When: Monday, January 1 at 8:50 p.m. EST
Where: Caesars Superdome, New Orleans
Public Bets: 57% on Washington
Public Money: 50% on Washington
Odds courtesy of DraftKings, as of December 30th, 2023.
Texas vs. Washington In-Season Trends
Washington’s defense is better than you think, and the Huskies are excellent in situations where they’re overlooked. Washington has been an underdog four times under Kalen DeBoer, and the Huskies have won the game outright every time. They’ve also played to the under three straight times because of the defense.
Texas’ totals are difficult to figure out, because we don’t know if the Longhorns’ surge is because of the schedule easing up or the Longhorns themselves surging. Texas played to the over against Texas Tech and Oklahoma State because they almost hit those totals by themselves, but before that, the Horns played under in four of five.
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For the most part, Texas has been an under team, playing under in eight out of 13 games. Ironically, most of the exceptions came in games where they were expected to face a superior defense. Against Alabama, Texas played its best game of the season and cashed on the over by dropping 34 on the Tide.
The Longhorns haven’t exactly been great at covering small numbers. They’ve only been a single-digit favorite three times, and they’re 1-1-1 ATS in those games.
There’s no weather to speak of in the Saints’ dome.
This has to be Penix’s game, because teams usually don’t run on Texas. In the one game the Longhorns lost, Oklahoma did manage 201 rushing yards, but only because the Sooners’ passing attack hit Texas for 285 and forced the Longhorns to open up on defense. The closest anyone else came to beating Texas was Kansas State taking the Longhorns to overtime, and the Wildcats scratched out just 33 yards on the ground in Austin.
Quinn Ewers seems to have a favorable matchup in the Washington defense, but two caveats exist here. Yes, the Huskies give up a lot of yards, but they only allow 59.7% of passes to be completed. More importantly, they led the Pac-12 in interceptions with 16. The Huskies excel at letting quarterbacks think something’s there before slamming the window shut. Ewers has to take care of the football and make his reads.
In the Big 12 title game, I picked Texas to smash Oklahoma State because the Longhorns were facing a team built around running the football. We’ve got the opposite situation here. Washington passes first, although it can run, and the Huskies do it better than just about anyone in the nation.
The disrespect should provide Washington with plenty of fuel, and this game should unfold the way they want it to unfold. The Huskies might win the game outright.