Kansas State Will Cover Vs. Alabama In The Sugar Bowl

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The line for the 2022 Sugar Bowl is suspect. No. 5 Alabama Crimson Tide (10-2) is only 6.5-point favorites currently vs. the Big XII champion, No. 11 Kansas State Wildcats (10-3), at DraftKings Sportsbook.

ALABAMA’S PLAYERS ARE ACTUALLY GOING TO PLAY IN THE SUGAR BOWL

Reportedly, Alabama’s 2021 Heisman QB Bryce Young, All-American DE Will Anderson Jr. and leading rusher RB Jahmyr Gibbs all opted into the Sugar Bowl. If they all play, how are the Crimson Tide not more than one-score favorites?

Betting Details (DraftKings)

  • Moneyline: Kansas State (+210), Alabama (-250)
  • Against the spread (ATS): KANSAS STATE +6.5 (-105), Alabama -6.5 (-115)
  • Total — 56 — Over: -110, Under: -110

OutKick college football guru Grayson Weir broke down the Sugar Bowl with me on this week’s OutKick Bets Podcast and both wondered why Alabama isn’t bigger favorites.

One possible explanation is the sportsbooks are laying a trap. Clearly they know Young, Anderson and/or Gibbs are on snap counts and won’t play the entire Sugar Bowl.

Alabama Crimson Tide RB Jahmyr Gibbs takes the handoff from QB Bryce Young against the Texas Longhorns at Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium in Austin.
Alabama Crimson Tide RB Jahmyr Gibbs takes the handoff from QB Bryce Young against the Texas Longhorns at Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium in Austin. (Tim Warner/Getty Images)

Even if that’s not the case, shops are booking action on the Alabama-Kansas State with the Crimson Tide only -6.5. Per VSIN, nearly 80% of the action is on ‘Bama but still this spread isn’t going through the key number of -7.

According to Pregame.com, more than 75% of the bets placed in the consensus market are in favor of Alabama. However, the money is nearly split. This suggests that sharp money is coming in on Kansas State.

Either the wiseguys know the Crimson Tide’s stars won’t see much action in the Sugar Bowl or the Wildcats have a real shot in this game. Let’s discuss the latter.

Kansas State’s case for covering the spread

The Wildcats have been a different offense since junior QB Will Howard stepped into their huddle vs. the TCU Horned Frogs on Oct. 22. Howard replaced an injured senior transfer QB Adrian Martinez in the first half of KSU’s 38-28 loss at TCU.

KSU outgained TCU 7.4-6.0 in YPP and had a higher expected win probability based on both teams’ efficiency. But, the Wildcats and Howard made costly mistakes and the Horned Frogs ended stealing that game.

Wildcats coach Chris Klieman randomly started Martinez in KSU’s 34-27 loss at Texas. Otherwise, Kansas State won and covered in Howard’s five starts this season including the Big XII title game.

Howard has a better QB Rating than Young. He has a better EPA/play than both Young and TCU QB, and 2022 Heisman finalist, Max Duggan. Also, Wildcats RB Deuce Vaughn has the second-most rushing yards in the Big XII this season.

Kansas State Wildcats QB Will Howard hands the ball off to RB Deuce Vaughn against the Oklahoma State Cowboys at Bill Snyder Family Football Stadium in Manhattan, Kansas.
Kansas State Wildcats QB Will Howard hands the ball off to RB Deuce Vaughn against the Oklahoma State Cowboys at Bill Snyder Family Football Stadium in Manhattan, Kansas. (Peter G. Aiken/Getty Images)

Vaughn stated publicly he wouldn’t make a decision regarding whether or not to enter the NFL draft until after the Sugar Bowl. This brings us to another factor, which is KSU is more excited to be here.

The Crimson Tide were No. 1 in the AP preseason poll and it’s always “championship or bust” for ‘Bama. The Wildcats didn’t make the top-25 until after Week 4 and this is KSU’s first 10-win season since 20

Kansas State has no opt-outs for the Sugar Bowl nor players entering the transfer portal. Alabama on the other hand has 15 players transferring including five offensive linemen and five wideouts.

Finally …

Fade Nick Saban with extra prep time

Let me be clear: Nick Saban is the GOAT in college football coaching. But, since 2016, Alabama is just 5-6 ATS and this is the weakest ‘Bama team in years.

Also, the Crimson Tide are 0-2 ATS following a bye week with a -19.0 spread differential since the beginning of last season (Young’s first year as the starting QB).

After Alabama’s 2021 bye week, the Crimson Tide had their second-worst yard-per-play (YPP) average of the regular season (4.9) vs. the LSU Tigers. Alabama won that game 20-14 but failed to cover as 29-point favorites.

Alabama Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban looks grumpy in a game against the LSU Tigers at Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
Alabama Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban looks grumpy in a game against the LSU Tigers at Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. (Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)

Earlier this season, ‘Bama lost to LSU following a bye week 32-31. That was the Crimson Tide’s third-worst offensive day by YPP (5.7). It’s not like LSU has Alabama’s number or something.

There’s been two different coaching staffs and quarterbacks in Baton Rouge over the past two seasons. ‘Bama didn’t score in the first quarter in either meeting with LSU in 2021-22.

Young is a gunslinger and it may take him time to get set after a break. Alabama is thin at wide receiver and on the offensive line, which won’t help. Also, the Crimson Tide has been more mistake-prone than the Wildcats this season as well.

Alabama is 130th out of 131 charted FBS schools in penalties per game at 8.5 whereas Kansas State is 38th at 5.3 penalties per game. ‘Bama has a negative turnover differential and KSU has a plus turnover margin.

There is no question who’s the more talented and experienced team. But, between questionable motivation, Alabama’s mediocre bowl game ATS success and this quality Kansas State squad, take the points with the Wildcats.

Sugar Bowl Best Bet: Kansas State +6.5 (-105) at DraftKings

The Kansas State Wildcats' odds vs. the Alabama Crimson Tide in the Sugar Bowl from DraftKings Sportsbook as of Thursday, Dec. 29th at 11:30 p.m. ET.
The Kansas State Wildcats’ odds vs. the Alabama Crimson Tide in the Sugar Bowl from DraftKings Sportsbook as of Thursday, Dec. 29th at 11:30 p.m. ET.

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Written by Geoff Clark

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